Republican leader Derek Skees said that the privacy guarantees in the Montana Constitution should not allow abortion. And he went broader by saying “we need to throw out Montana’s socialist rag of a constitution.” He was saying out loud what has been whispered in some Republican circles for some time.
There is honest and ethical disagreement on when life begins. But Skees seems to prefer to win that argument by throwing out one of the best state constitutions to guarantee individual liberties.
Where will that end? Government invasion into our bedrooms to prosecute behavior it finds unsuitable. Government determination into what is acceptable as a sexual or gender identity? Government banning speech and thoughts it finds disagreeable or critical of the government itself?
The unprecedented attacks on Montana’s independent judiciary by the Republican leadership also look like attempts to undermine and maybe “throw out” the Montana Constitution.
And Republicans have routinely forbid citizens to pass legislation affecting themselves in their locality, thereby maintaining tight control at the state government level.
As it has for decades, the anti-abortion agenda provides cover for Republicans’ true agenda: to serve corporate interests, even if it is at the expense of average Montanans.
One small example is House Bill 379 which repeals individual protections from auto insurance companies charging higher rates based solely on gender and marital status.
More profound was Senate Bill 159 which further cut the income tax for the wealthy. The Republican majority passed this despite overwhelming evidence of 50 years of tax cuts for the rich doing nothing besides impoverishing governments and making the rich wealthier. Despite cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, the majority failed to provide major property tax relief for average Montanans.
And there are many other examples. The Republican Party agenda is coming into clearer view: undermine individual rights, and advantage corporations and the wealthy.
Skees calls the Montana Constitution a “socialist rag,” but there is very little socialist about it. Conservative politicians like Skees waive their hands and cry “socialist!” at any policies they don’t like, without even attempting to define what they mean by that. It’s a form of dishonesty that has more in common with authoritarian dictatorships than it does with democracy.
Democratic socialism, by contrast, seeks to have workers exercise democratic control of the enterprises they labor in, and seeks to have true citizen control over the economic decisions that deeply affect all of our lives.
Democratic socialists know how a too powerful government can ride roughshod over people while serving the interests of the powerful. We stand proudly by the Montana Constitution for its guarantees to protect citizens from authoritarian government.
Mark Anderlik is co-chair of the Western Montana Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
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