It’s campaign season in Montana (again). Our mailboxes are filling up with political postcards from candidates, PACs, and those that represent themselves as the voice of political parties. One recent piece of propaganda given to me is from a group that calls themselves “Flathead Republican Women” and purports to provide “Republican Voter Information.” The flyer appears to be legitimate at first glance. But a deeper look tells a different story. Notably absent is a candidate who has both chaired the Republican women’s group and the local Republican Central Committee no fewer than three times. This candidate is also a woman. Clearly, the flyer is nothing more than propaganda and doesn’t represent anything Republican in nature. The lesson, of course, is to look beyond the banner and critically examine the content of any information distributed from groups seeking to promote their own fringe agenda under the banner of the Republican Party.
It’s incredibly difficult nowadays to discern legitimate informational mail from propaganda created by fringe groups, or issue-oriented political action committees. The goal of these groups is to confuse the public into believing they are legitimate information sources; they adopt names that they believe give them legitimacy – whether using a political party name, or “family values” or “Montanans for [blank].” I like getting information directly from the candidates themselves, but with social distancing and the admonition to not gather in large groups, the opportunity to learn about a candidate directly from the candidate is limited. But we do still have the telephone, and email. Since the junk we are getting in the mail isn’t from legitimate sources, I recommend calling the candidates or emailing them directly to get answers to your questions and learn directly where each candidate stands on the issues. Short of taking the time to contact the candidate directly, local newspapers are a great source as they ask all candidates the same questions and offer all candidates the opportunity to answer. Since we can’t rely upon fringe groups to refrain from using local political party names to pursue their biased agenda, local news interviews and letters to the editor signed by reliable and respected community members are great resources.
How our state addresses the funding shortfalls associated with this pandemic will directly affect all of us. If we elect folks based solely upon propaganda and name recognition, we will get nothing more than talking-head, rubber-stamping, character-flawed elected officials. We need humble, down-to-Earth representatives who are keen negotiators, consensus builders and true public servants. The only thing in the mailbox worth paying attention to politically is your ballot; take the time to make an informed decision and vote because Montana’s future depends on it.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.