The Rage of Today’s Republican Party: A Play in Two Tweets

It’s probably a mistake to put too much stock in Twitter commentary, even if our nation’s foreign policy negotiations are apparently being conducted through it these days, but an exchange on Saturday helped reveal just how dangerous the unhinged wing of the Republican Party is to the few remaining “reasonable” Republicans left in the party.

On Saturday, Attorney General Tim Fox offered up an anodyne Tweet of support for continued negotiations for the locked out workers at the Imerys Talc plant:

Given the total silence of the rest of Montana’s Republican politicians, even those who live less than a thirty-minute drive from the plant like Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte, it was a welcome, if not bold, statement about the value of Montana workers.

Not according to the Trumpistas who have taken over the Republican Party, though. Almost immediately, Fox was called a “DemoRat” and “Rhino” (sic), accused of “selling out” Montanans for his apparently unMAGAlike suggestion that a hugely profitable multinational should sit down with its Montana workers to negotiate a contract both sides can accept.

It would be easy to write off Mr. Hartly (and the other conservative responses critical of Fox’s tweet, but this isn’t an isolated case.

Read any story online, any press release posted by a candidate on Facebook, and you’ll soon become overwhelmed by the number of grammatically challenged, ill-informed, and above all, violently angry comments from Trumpistas who seem to believe that any moderation or effort at consensus is nothing short of a scheme to empower the globalists bent on destroying Montana with one more nefarious scheme to built a lane for bikes.

The Republican Party has created this mess for itself, by not only refusing to check those worst impulses but by actually encouraging them. A party that gives major leadership roles to militia-supporting legislators like Jennifer Fielder and Theresa Manzella, pushes for legislation that demonizes the federal government, and includes conspiracy theories about Agenda 21 in its party platform can hardly be surprised when the fringe they welcomed in starts to define the party and determine its agenda.

It’s a party that can’t seem to nominate anyone who looks like what a Republican looked like a generation ago for statewide office because every Republican primary is a race to appeal to that hyper-engaged, but desperately ill-informed, cadre of fringe voters who make up the loudest voice and most faithful voters in the party.

A generation ago, Tim Fox would be the unquestioned leading Republican candidate for governor in 2020, but the shift in the Republicans from a party more interested in business and conservative social values to one driven by Know-Nothing nativism and reflexive hatred of government, schools, workers, and the environment calls that into question. In today’s Republican Party, it’s all too easy to imagine Fox, a lifelong conservative, being flanked on the right by someone willing to play to the extremist base the Republicans have welcomed into the fold and nurtured.

And that should worry all of us, DemoRATS and RINOs alike.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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