MT GOP: changing the rules to stem defections?

by Jay Stevens 

The notorious Mark T pointed this out on the new Montana Netroots blog, but Republican state senator Dan McGee (Laurel) is planning on introducing new legislation that would force a public official to stand for reelection after switching political parties.

Mark thinks this has to do with Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. So do I.

I’d add that it’s another example of the Montana Republicans’ inability to intellectually or strategically deal with the changing political landscape in the state.

This legislation is a bad idea. First, it’s confrontational, childish, and bitter. (Which, I admit, may be the new strategy of the Montana GOP.) Maybe it’s just me, but I think making politics more negative, divisive, and partisan after an election in which voters expressed violent disdain for negativity and divisive partisanship is self-defeating to say the least.

Would the bill also affect those legislators who caucus with another party? Like the Constitution Party’s Rick Jore who’s planning on voting with the GOP in the 2007 session? If not, the bill would seem hypocritical. After all, Jore’s constituents voted for him in large part because he isn’t a Republican. How would do they like it he’s become a CINO (pronounced chee-no; “Constitutionalist in name only”)?

Add to that the fact that this bill could very well come to haunt the Republican party in the future – what if a Democratic legislator wants to switch parties next session? – and this stunt is a very poor tactical maneuver.

The only possible reason I could see for this bill is to discourage more Republicans from jumping ship. Seriously, why else would you write something like this? And based on Sales’ recent bullying comments towards his own party member, Corey Stapleton, over education funding (“Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying ‘I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation’”), that’s probably a genuine concern. How many moderate Republicans are going to chafe at their party’s new obstructionist tactics? Opposition to education funding and a property tax rebate?

While I admit I’m happy to see the Montana GOP self-destruct, it’s going to mean an ugly, ugly session in 2007. I’m not looking forward to that, even if it means that the Republican party is going to alienate the state’s voters and leave itself in the hands of a few bitter partisan extremists.

Update: I just saw this over at Matt’s but McGee has also drafted legislation that would overturn the recently passed ballot initiative increasing the waiting period that legislators must endure before becoming lobbyists.

What can I say? He wants to overturn the will of Montana voters and roll back lobbying reform? The snarks write themselves.

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  1. Big Swede

    Wow, nothing gets by you guys!

  2. I don’t wish to sound overly cynical here, Jay, but I think it’s worth considering that maybe, just maybe, there is a large faction in this state that didn’t vote against partisan bickering; a faction that enjoys it, wants it and will suckle it until they get thier full blown smackdown against the hated enemy. It’s easy to believe that they won’t win elections in the future; reason suggests that they won’t. But this kind of partisan divide isn’t reasonable, and hasn’t been for some time.

    My favorite religious studies prof suggested that one of the stronger motivators of identity was opposition; that we feel empowered by the strength of our enemies. Modern psychology posits that as a character disorder. I see it as almost the norm in this state, almost as much as racial identity is often the devisive standard in the south.

    Welcome to the jungle, baby.

  3. I don’t think the voters approve of political paybacks from State Employees to Gov. Schweitzer do you?

  4. And so my case is proven. Thank you, Eric.

  5. Anytime, just like Jesus taught, a doctor doesn’t call on the healthy!

  6. We’ll be sure to send the doctor over, Eric.

  7. Big Swede

    Your right Wolfie, the majority of us didn’t want partisan bickering, we just wanted a Rep. Majority House. I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways!

  8. citizen1

    I think that the bill is a good idea. Many people do vote based on the party that you claim to represent. When you change it right after an election you have decieved the voters.

  9. citizen1, the change occured two years after Kitzenberg’s election, and after Kitzenberg faced a primary against a challenger who was supported by the GOP. Kitzenberg supporters had to be aware they were voting for a moderate centrist not in step with the GOP.

    Your line of argument is misleading. If Kitzenberg had stayed in the GOP but voted with the Dems on every vote — including for Dem leadership — that’d be okay? It’s only about party affiliation?

    In the end, despite that fact that voters may actually vote purely by party affiliation, they are really voting for the candidate. If a voter hasn’t educated himself on their candidate’s politics, that voter has no one to blame but himself.




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