Over the past few weeks, I have excoriated Senator Steve Daines–on Twitter, on Facebook, and on this blog–for his cowardice. After a long period of reflection this evening, I realized that perhaps I’ve been unfair and that I might even owe an apology.
Because, as Kenny Rogers once sagely observed, even the coward of the county reaches a moment where he must find his courage, an event that seems increasingly unlikely for Senator Daines, who has followed to years of slavish devotion to the President with silence and stonewalling now that his Dear Leader’s unfitness for office has become obvious to everyone other than those who believe Brian Kilmeade from Fox and Friends should be dictating American foreign policy.
Daines’s cowardice was perhaps most acutely on display over the weekend, when he hid from the people of his hometown during MSU’s homecoming parade. It’s a longstanding tradition for Montana politicians to meet with people, walk the streets, and shake some hands, but Senator Daines spent the weekend in hiding, hoping some empty words on Twitter would suffice while his tiny band of volunteers braved the imaginary threat of the genial Bozeman crowd.
One of the best responses was a Daines-modified version of the MSU fight song:
Stand up and cheer,
I won’t be here For dear Montana State
For today we dodged The blue and gold to hide
From rather then answer to
Those who strive for truth
We’ve got the vim,
We’re here to win
But not for dear Montana State!
And now is not the time for cowards who lack the courage to walk a parade route.
While Daines hides from his responsibilities, President Trump is destroying American credibility in the Middle East, empowering our rivals, allowing ISIS terrorists to run free, and ignoring the deaths of our Kurdish allies.
While Daines retreats from the press, President Trump’s backers at a high-end campaign event at one of his resorts were enjoying a horrific video showing the President attacking the media, President Obama, and others. No calls for civility after that from Senator Daines.
While Daines cowers away from Montana farmers, the President’s destructive trade war with China threatens more family farms on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile, Daines posts on Facebook about the National Day of the Farmer.
And while all of these are happening, Senator Daines, who has been on a recess from the Senate to work with and meet with his constituents, has been running, dodging the light of accountability. While I’m sure the proprietors of cafes in Montana towns with fewer than 400 residents appreciate his frequent visits, don’t the people of Great Falls and Missoula deserve some face time with their Senator? Don’t the people of Bozeman deserve more than seeing him scurry through the airport?
As the shoddily-constructed edifice of Trumpism begins its final collapse, Daines is like a rodent caught in the lights: too terrified to make a sound, he’s hoping his paralysis will keep anyone from noticing that he’s quivering in fear: fear of his constituents, fear of the press, fear of being held accountable for his shameful role helping enable a President who has neither the intellect nor moral wisdom to lead our country in complex times.
In Montana, we have strong opinions about our politics, and if Senator Daines ever found the courage to burrow out of the hole he hides in when he visits Montana, he’d certainly face tough questions, just like Jon Tester does when he holds town halls.
What Daines seems not to know about us, though, is that we can abide–even respect–political differences in our state, but what Montanans can’t respect is a politician who is so afraid of his record that he’d rather scurry under a rock than take a few tough questions.
For now, Senator Daines works for us, not President Trump. He owes it to his employers to answer our questions. Does he support the abandonment of our allies that has been condemned by nearly every foreign policy and military expert in the country? Does he support the President’s reckless trade policies? His authoritarian attacks on the press?
Courage, Aristotle taught, was like any virtue: a person can only acquire it by practicing it. If Senator Daines can’t find the fortitude to face the friendly folks of his hometown, how can we ever believe he’ll find the courage to check this President when his behavior gets even more erratic and dangerous?
It’s hard to believe he ever will, and that’s precisely why we need to vote Senator Daines out of office so he can hide in peace while others lead.