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Ryan Zinke Issues a Problematic Debate Challenge, Displays More Ignorance

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Congressman Ryan Zinke has decided that it’s time for some debates in his race against Denise Juneau, issuing a press release yesterday calling for five debates.

There are just a few little problems with Zinke’s challenge, which came with a gratuitous shot suggesting that Ms. Juneau wasn’t willing to face Montana voters.

First is that Juneau issued her challenge—to have six debates—almost a month ago and the Zinke campaign never responded. I’d argue that it’s probably not the best messaging for a deeply sexist candidate to ignore a female candidate’s challenge and then take credit for the proposal to debate himself, but it makes sense: profound sexism may be the only issue Zinke has consistently embraced in his short political career.

Bizarrely, Zinke’s debate challenge included specific moderators and media outlets as well. While we are all well-aware that the Congressman has 72 confirmed captures or kills on his resume, it seems presumptuous to demand that reporters and right-wing hacks appear at the Congressman’s demand for debates.

Worst, though, is that Congressman Zinke, who represents the interests of Montana’s Indian tribes in Washington, doesn’t seem to understand one of the most basic elements of federal Indian policy. His press release is titled, in 60 point font, “ZINKE CALLS FOR FIVE DEBATES, TWO IN INDIAN COUNTRY.” Bizarrely, though, the debates he suggests are scheduled for Hardin, Helena, Kalispell, Fort Peck, and Great Falls. None of those towns are even on Indian reservations—and none are located in “Indian Country.”

It’s not a small point. The Congressman who thinks “Crow” is spelled “COAL” absolutely should know the definition of Indian Country, because it drives federal policy affecting the tribes almost every day, and he should have enough interest in the lives of Montana Indians to understand that.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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