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Why Are So-Called Fiscal Conservatives Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte Not Questioning Trump’s Vanity Parade?

Tomorrow, the President of the United States is going to finally get one of his fondest wishes granted: he’s going to get a Soviet-style military parade, transforming the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial into backdrops for his personal vanity and political ambition.

And he’s making us—like Mexico was once going to do with that wall—pay for it.

While the Trump Administration won’t tell us how much the event will cost, the one he wanted in 2018 was estimated to cost $92 million dollars. The event once again demonstrates Trump’s contempt for the law and institutional norms in the United States, as both his political campaign and personal finances will handsomely benefit from his childish desire to play soldier, a role he ran away from with some alacrity in the 1970s.

For Montanans, the parade will certainly come with additional costs. The Washington Post reports that the National Park Service is diverting $2.5 million from park improvements to cover costs for the Trump Rally:

The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration Thursday on the Mall, according to two individuals familiar with the arrangement.

Trump administration officials have consistently refused to say how much taxpayers will have to pay for the expanded celebration on the Mall this year, which the president has dubbed the “Salute to America.” The two individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed the transfer of the Park Service funds Tuesday.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m struck every time I visit Yellowstone by the number of signs that indicate that certain trails are in need of repair and are, as a result, inaccessible. The signs often don’t indicate that the trails are going to be repaired, just that they are in bad condition.

It’s a massive problem across the system. The National Park Service says that the system faces an $11 billion tally for deferred maintenance, and the money Trump is diverting for his ego trip is precisely the money that is used to ensure that our family trips to the treasures of our national parks are the best they can possibly be.

So you’d think fiscal conservatives and proponents of limited government would be outraged that Trump is putting himself ahead of the national interest, but two members of our delegation, Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte, who routinely call themselves fiscal conservatives have remained silent about the waste of resources, the violations of law, and the personal enrichment that President Trump will enjoy.

Is their silence rooted in their disregard for working people who holiday in the parks rather than private hunting ranges? Probably. Is it rooted in a disregard for the will of their constituents? Almost certainly.

But more powerful than either of these motivations is a far more insidious force: Daines and Gianforte have so fixed themselves to the Trump grift that they lack the courage to question any of his decisions, no matter how crazed, self-serving, or simply idiotic they are. They know their tenuous hold on the Trumpistas they’ve cultivated over the past two years after offering such lukewarm support in 2016 will fade if they ever question the Dear Leader, and so they’ve put aside what little regard they have for the people of our state, turning their offices into little more than loudspeakers for the Trump agenda.

It’s craven, but it’s worse than that. Members of the Montana Congressional delegation have always bucked the yokes of party leadership and the President in Washington, whether it was Mike Mansfield challenging LBJ or Conrad Burns occasionaly resisting President Bush. We’ve lost that independence with Daines and Gianforte, who so fear the fickle, irrational Trump wing of their party that the idea of challenging even something as absurd as tomorrow’s parade would never occur to either.

And don’t we deserve political representatives who will stand for our parks? Our tax dollars? The norms that have governed our country for generations?

We deserve better than this parade, and we certainly deserve better than these two sycophants who refuse to question the child who demanded it.

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 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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  • I also noticed that Daines voted against the bill that would have required Congress to approve going to war with Iran, basically giving our unstable president the green light to unilaterally start a new war in the Middle East — another unforgivable vote by Daines.

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