Job of Majority to Govern

Republicans now run all three branches of the federal government and the Montana Legislature

By Mike Jopek

I spent some of the sunny morning outside spreading leaves to mulch bare land, protecting it from the cold season that’s approaching the fields. The earthworms were busy under the leaf piles.

The outdoors makes it easier to tolerate the federal political babble that has permeated social media like Twitter and Facebook. It makes for great theater, yet clearly elicits a certain feeling.

Next month, with the presidential inauguration and seating of the next Legislature, it will no longer feel like theater. It will become very real.

Republicans now run all three branches of the federal government, the Montana Legislature, and the offices of the Public Service Commission, secretary of state, state auditor, public instruction and attorney general.

It’s the Republicans’ time to govern. Expect some national media to still lay blame for stuff not getting done on Democrats’ feet. As somehow it’s the job of the minority party to govern.

That’s not how it works, mostly. The majority party sets the agenda, just like in the last state Legislature and Congress.

When Congress works on policy that helps more than it hurts Montanans, hopefully leaders like Sen. Jon Tester vote “yes.”

When it comes to privatizing public services like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Veterans Affairs, Post Office or selling public places, leaders like Tester should just vote “no.”

Tester has a long track record of helping the locals of Montana. Tester is routinely ranked nationally as one of the most willing members of Congress to work with the opposing party.

Tester should mostly confirm the next administration’s cabinet-level nominees. Yet speak out strongly when the president-elect does things like nominate ardent ideologues for the Supreme Court.

It’s the privilege of Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Ryan Zinke and their GOP majority to govern. That’s the honor of the majority party. Hopefully Daines and Zinke will moderate public policy moving forward.

A Newt Gingrich-era Congress passed the NAFTA trade agreement and imported lumber flooded the market. Canada exports some 70 percent of its lumber to the U.S.

Congress might consider how cheap imports deluge our food or timber markets. That’s tough on some farmers and foresters. If Congress wanted to help farmers it would re-label our beef as grown in the U.S.A.

We Montanans are independent voters. We care less about ideology and more about getting a fair shake. We’re OK with change, but don’t scare us. We like levelheadedness and expect results. Montanans know how to move forward.

Outside it felt like snow is coming. It’s a good calm, ending the season and year. There’s plenty of over winter work readying the farm to sow seeds come next year.

Last spring’s Free the Seed event was held at the Flathead Valley Community College. It proved a tremendous success. Over 1,600 people turned out to swap garden seeds and attend the multiple growers’ workshops.

Organizers have posted March 4 as the next seed and start fair. There are details available at www.freetheseedsmt.com.

Maybe people like Tester, Daines and Zinke will attend the upcoming seed swap. These leaders can learn plenty about the real enthusiasm that exists for local gardening and farming, here in the Flathead.

The last federal Farm Bill made much good policy headway toward assuring that America’s farmers can better produce food and products for local eaters. Many farmers do not export product, rather serve the local market.

There’s work ahead to level the playing field of cheap imports from worldwide places that still pay workers down to $5 per day. Better access to crop insurance and infrastructure is key.

The day’s mail just landed on my worktable. Fortunately the 2017 Seed Savers Exchange and Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogs offer renewed optimism into next year.

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