This time the civil war between Montana Republicans was captured on video, courtesy of Representative Theresa Manzella. At a contentious meeting of the Bitterroot North Valley Pachyderms yesterday, the schism between the reality caucus and those who believe vaccines are a plot by illegal aliens to infect us with socialism was on full display.
The centerpiece of the meeting was a presentation by former Senator Ed Butcher and Lonny Bergstrom, who presented their badly skewed, inaccurate Legistats tool which purports to evaluate the “loyalty” of Montana Republicans. The site, which often rates incredibly conservative Republican legislators as Democratic loyalists has the veneer of accuracy and fairness, making it the perfect tool to fool low-information voters. That’s true even though, as the Montana Free Press notes, even prominent Republicans call it “about as consequential as a large bug being hit by a semi at 70 miles per hour.”
And that’s where the fight began. After the presentation, Representative Nancy Ballance stood to demand clarification, rightly explaining that Legistats jukes the stats to produce the results its operators want. At that moment, the defenders of liberty who wave their pocket constitutions around all the time starting yelling that Ballance didn’t have a First Amendment right to speak at the meeting. The yelling begins at about the 45-second mark.
During her remarks, Ballance noted that Legistats is “being misused” and that the selectively chosen “200 votes out of the 1300 votes” do not represent the real views of the Republican caucus and its members, who, by any objective analysis, are still quite conservative in their views and votes.
And, while Ballance was too polite to point it out, it’s worth mentioning the kind of person who has given himself the task of evaluating legislators. Butcher has an incredibly checkered past as a member of the Legislature perhaps best known for calling students receiving special education services “vegetables.” Or for making racist remarks towards a fellow member of the House. Or for claiming that Indian people on reservations are “unwilling or incapable of working like normal outside people do.”
Or for inviting Chinese investors to Montana to build a plant to slaughter horses. Or for arguing that the only way to protect Montana’s sovereignty was for the US to pull out of the United Nations. Or for his bedwetting, racist, inaccurate claims that President Obama was a Muslim Socialist bent on the destruction of America.
And let’s not forget that Butcher was one of the legislative candidates who illegally coordinated with Western Tradition Partnership back in 2008 in the infamous “meth house” case.
One would think a sitting legislator and a Republican local club would be embarrassed by the decision to bring someone like Butcher to their meeting, but instead, Butcher’s style of paranoid, fact-free ramblings are increasingly powerful inside the Republican grassroots in Montana and across the nation. When your worldview holds that Nancy Ballance is some kind of socialist, you’ve slipped free from reason.
Does anyone in the leadership of the Montana Republican Party have the courage to bring reason back to the party or is this the future of being a Republican in our state?
Note: There are more videos from the meeting available here.