by William Skink
It didn’t take long for Montana’s Special Session to devolve into a partisan shit show. This should come as no surprise. Last month George Ochenski offered this prescient warning to Montana lawmakers:
While it’s understandable that Democrats would want to preserve the spending priorities they feel are important to their constituents, it’s extremely naïve to believe the Republicans wouldn’t want to do the same thing. In this case, their goal would be the core Republican belief in shrinking, not growing, government — exactly as Sen. Jones has already said.
For those who have been through special sessions and know their pitfalls, the Democrat legislators asking the governor to call a special session are asking for more trouble than they know — especially given they don’t have to votes to control the agenda, let alone the outcome and it could backfire horrendously on the very priorities they hold most dear.
While Ochenski assumes naiveté on the part of Montana Democrats I’m not so sure. Maybe Democrats are just allowing Montanans to get what they deserve.
Think about it. Montana Democrats have been getting their asses handed to them in recent election cycles, so why continue to fight when the electorate is clearly choosing to elect politicians who explicitly state their intentions to take a machete to the safety net of government social services?
I don’t think Democrats in this state are that naive. It was apparently obvious during the legislative session that revenue estimates were grossly inflated, meaning the triggers for cuts if revenue marks weren’t met should have been anticipated as a near-certainty. Yet Bullock signed the bill and legislators went home as their budgetary time-bomb ticked.
Now that it’s about to blow, Bullock and Montana Democrats have initiated a process they knew they couldn’t control. What we are seeing now is the shit show Ochenski predicted could happen.
And maybe that’s the point. Maybe Democrats, realizing how powerless they are to stop the Republican agenda, decided to feed enough rope to Republicans so they can make their noose to strangle government.
Montana voters have chosen this path, have they not? So why keep trying so hard to stop the inevitable pain from the brutal cuts Bullock will be forced to make? Why not just give Montanans what they apparently want?
When the cuts happen, and the pain begins to be felt, Democrats can say I told you so. This is what you get, they can say, when you vote for the Republican agenda.
The other interpretation is that Democrats in Montana really are just naive and clueless. Did they really think Republicans would listen to families and service providers about the resulting pain of cuts to services for the most vulnerable in our communities? Did they really think Republicans would stick to the Governor’s script for the Special Session?
I don’t know what’s worse, Democrat naiveté or Democrat complicity. In the end it doesn’t really matter because the result will be the same: already difficult living situations for Montana’s most vulnerable citizens will become unlivable. Hospitals, jails and other institutional environments will become more burdened by increasingly desperate need. And vile Republican extremists will continue turning this critical legislative process into a circus.