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Divisive rhetoric drives Montanans apart

by Jesse Mullen
| June 21, 2023 12:00 AM

Newspapers recently ran a column written by right-wing Montana politician, Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, hitting the standard left/right divisive talking points about “woke” politics and tying any Montanan further left than Rep. Matt Rosendale to liberal philosophies.

It’s a game Montanans are weary of participating in.

Hertz is a member of a loud minority within his party, more focused on political maneuvering than providing substantive change for our state. There’s no issue, from potholes to ballot integrity, that Hertz won’t avoid addressing cooperatively by throwing out irrelevant or false accusations of “woke.”

Rather than discussing the difference between left and right tax relief, he presents his tax suggestions as an alternative to the “woke liberal agenda” and national politics. Presenting his thoughts on small business reform, he contrasts it to an imagined “woke” national agenda. In his 2nd Amendment thoughts, he ignores a considerable divide within the Democratic Party on the issue. Instead, he pretends “woke” alternatives from Democrats as if the party is a monolith.

More frustrating is his abuse of assistance from the cooperative middle ground. Hertz ignored Democrat support of his tax proposals while claiming all Democrats oppose him. For Hertz and his ilk, there is no need for cooperation, coordination or compromise to benefit Montana. They’re playing a game driven by a win-at-all-costs mentality, and the goal isn’t to fix your roads or ensure freedom. The goal is to win, even if it means compromising their integrity.

Last month, I wrote a column decrying the all-Republican PSC board for considering significant rate increases for Montana households while canceling a rate increase on large corporations, many of which are headquartered in other states. It constitutes a justifiable critique aimed at the entirety of the all-Republican PSC board. If a Democrat were a member of that board receiving a six-figure salary for one day of work each week, they would be as open to criticism as any other party figure. The lack of critique for Montana Democrats by commentators and politicians in the middle isn’t a statement of support. It directly results from the Democrats having little power in this state.

The massive middle in Montana didn’t comment on cat litter in classrooms because it wasn’t real. The middle isn’t condemning drag shows on military bases because most rational people understand adult soldiers willing to fight and die for their country should be allowed to do what they want in their free time.

Montana is a state made great by the cooperation of Montanans of every ilk. We came together to fight against the copper barons and write a constitution. Similarly, we come together in every town to support families who have lost loved ones or strangers stuck in snow banks. Hyper-partisanship is not a quality trait.

Jesse Mullen is on the board of BrandMT, a non-partisan nonprofit focused on election education.