The Republican Civil War on Full Display On Video in Ravalli County

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.”

Still, the tool matters and some prominent Republican legislators like Manzella believe it influences votes and right-wing special interest groups like the Montana Family Foundation endorse it.

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.

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.

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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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  • Watching a group like that in full operation is like watching a monkey trying to make love to a football. Lots of activity, lots of noise, not much satisfaction. But you have to admit, it is entertaining ……… in a Jerry Springer sort of way.

  • Your “reality caucus” are frauds who should be arrested for defrauding the public in an election.

    If Nancy Balance doesn’t like her report card she should have performed better. She has shown her true colors and having a liberal hack like you defending her is all the proof anyone should need.

    • I think when your starting position is that a politician should be arrested for voting a way you don’t like, you’ve shown yourself to be outside the world of reason. And should probably check that.

      The “report card” you cite is a fraud. It selectively chooses votes to generate a measure its creators believe is the measure of being a conservative.

      • You think?? Maybe not.

        You obviously do not understand what fraud is.

        The authors report card you are bemoaning tell everyone exactly what they measure.

        Everyone who is paying attention knows you are a liberal yet you’re backing Republicans only because they turn their backs on their constituents and saddled the people of Montana with a new tax bill.

        What makes that a win? Able bodied adults not working g to pay their own way, who wins there?

        The people who actually can’t do for themselves having to wait in line behind these freeloaders? I think not.

        • “Everyone who is paying attention knows you are a liberal yet you’re backing Republicans”

          Yup, Don was right. You’re not dealing in either reality OR the world of reason.

        • “….only because they turn their backs on their constituents and saddled the people of Montana with a new tax bill.”

          What an ideological whore you are. Defiantly thinking about the great “bigly” orange tax cut you focks gave to the top 1%. Hows that going? What did you spend your “bigly” return on? 50% 50%, as an ass clown, you probably paid more this year. But hey!! As long as you can wave the flag around and mumble MAGA its all good 🙁

    • Rep Ballance should regard that “report card” as a resounding tribute to her effort (belated and surprising as it was) to achieve results for the benefit of Montana as a whole.

      • You are delusional if you believe that. Do you know anything about the unfunded Medicaid expansion these dorks just laid on the people of Montana?

        Nancy Ballance, Llew Jones and the rest of these traitors sold out and they are being called out for their actions.

        If what they did was so great why do they throw such a fit?

        She knows she is done in Ravalli County.

        • Tim – I know lots about the Medicaid Expansion in Montana – and it ISN’T unfunded, as you say. Also, since when did able-bodied working adults not have the right to healthcare? Many of these people work multiple jobs just to get by, and none of those jobs provide health insurance.

          You are obviously entitled and uninformed on this matter.

        • Almost as much fun as watching the monkey with a football is listening to the Ayn Randian pseudo-libertarians explain how everyone should be proudly independent and never rely on a civil society for anything. Of course, Ayn Rand, when she turned up with cancer, immediately assumed a false identity and signed up for government-assisted medical assistance. Now that’s “proudly independent” wouldn’t you say?

          • Yup! Anything for the short gain. In the sequel, Reardon’s red metal, causes brain cancer and green venereal warts. But, hey!, as long as we made a quick buck along the way, and can mouth some words ’bout freedom ‘an liburty, its A-OK. Must do you guys proud to see the POTUS say its cool to take info from a hostile foreign power.

  • Nancy Ballance is NOT a Republican and should admit it.

    Not only that, the PEOPLE OF MONTANA, in a legal election, VOTED NO on Medicaid expansion. But she, in her arrogance, thought she knew better what Montana needed/wanted.

    And if this newspaper calls itself fair and balanced it needs to rethink that. This article was so slanted in it’s laughable.

    • Montanans voted against a hike in tobacco taxes tied to Medicaid expansion, largely because Big Tobacco poured millions into the state.

    • You don’t have your facts straight Patty! The Big Tobacco misinformation campaign is what defeated a means of paying for Medicaid Expansion – NOT the plan itself.

      Intelligent Montanans were able to prevail and keep this important health coverage relatively intact.

    • Ha ha ha!! Poor old thing thinks this is a “paper”. No wonder the poor old dumb cow is so susceptible to the propaganda ’bout the evil commie libruls/RHINOS trying to take ‘Merica over.

  • I bet these right-wing extremists have Teddy Roosevelt rolling in his grave. I quit the Republican Party after 30 years when I saw the GOP start deliberately flirting with extremism and Fascism, so glad I did.

    During WWII Vice President Henry Wallace warned that Fascism would come from within America itself after the war, he historically defined “Fascism” in 1944 and today it seems he was describing the modern Republican Party.

    “The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their propaganda carefully cultivates every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” – VP Wallace, The Danger of American Fascism

    • “The Danger of American Fascism”, by Henry A Wallace, should be required reading for everyone. Pretty scary when you read through and start drawing parallels. We are in very dangerous times.

      “a fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”

      “willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world.” ….. Bearing in mind dear leader says its cool to take “info” from hostile powers.

      “His method is to poison the channels of public information….(and) American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery. ”
      Yup. Fake news and all.

  • “I know, I’ll share some videos of Republicans acting like children,” Manzella thought to herself, “That should really help the party’s image.” What an idiot (but an entertaining idiot).

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