Though a lifelong Democrat, lately I’ve been spending time working actively with Republican friends I have known and respected for decades. My friend Mick Ringsak and I have been conducting joint interviews and meetings advancing the cause of political civility in this age of tribalism.
My most recent column about my Republican friend Wade Dahood, Delegate to Montana’s Constitutional Convention, also focused on civility and respect. I’m working with my GOP friend Bob Brown, former President of the Senate and Secretary of State, to honor Montana’s Constitution on its 50th Anniversary, a cause I share with many other notable GOP friends. And Marc Racicot, my friend of nearly 50 years, and I have been discussing our concern with how our politics has gone astray.
The other day, in an act of political conscience, courage and integrity, Racicot, also a former Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), wrote to current RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel about how wrong the RNC has been in its “search for power for its own sake and its obsession with winning at any cost.” Racicot focused on the RNC’s censuring of GOP Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for pursuing the truth about the January 6, 2021, insurrection/assault on the people’s Capitol Building.
Racicot noted that Cheney and Kinzinger were “two GOP members of the United States House of Representatives, who, consistent with the Constitution, their oath of office and their conscience, have been performing their assigned Congressional duties with honor and integrity …”
Racicot also took on the political fabrication the RNC has embraced that former President Trump lost the 2020 election because of massive voter fraud. In direct Montana language, Racicot noted that “Although it is ever so neat and tidy to blame the defeat of the former president on the existence of decisive and widespread fraud, there is not even a scintilla of evidence, anywhere, to support such piffle.”
Racicot calls on the GOP to instead join the “many intensely loyal Republicans, more polite and less dangerous than those who breached the Capitol … [in] persistently looking for alternatives in the form of political movements and candidates of conscience, character, conviction and courage.” Those loyal Republicans aren’t suggesting, Racicot said, “a return to simpler times. They’re calling … for a return to simple, timeless and enduring values.”
Racicot closed by suggesting that McDaniel steer the RNC toward rescinding the censure resolution that referred to the assault on the capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” Our former governor tells McDaniel that the Oath of Office “presumes not just faithfulness to the actual words of the Constitution, but faithfulness to its spirit as well. A spirit recognized and requited by humility, respect for others and the rights of others, honor, decency, integrity and self-discipline.”
My friend Marc and I more often than not disagree on policy matters. But we are and have been unified in our understanding of the values of this “Last Best Place” and the people that are the source of those values. We agree that we must find ways to return to the “Montana handshake” ethic where we respect each other, trust one another, and seek the common good through consideration, conciliation, and compromise where it can be done.
We want less tribalism and more relationships. We want, as Racicot told McDaniel, our ultimate loyalty to be to each other, to our state, and “a shared loyalty to the nation and the Constitution [where] every citizen agrees to that premise as a condition of the social contract between the people and their government.”
Racicot telling the RNC these things was an act of conscience, courage and integrity – one which I think most Montanans would agree with, even ardent Republicans if they take the time to reflect.
Our elected leaders should reflect those Montana values by following the courage and lead of Governor Racicot. I am looking to Sen. Daines, Rep. Rosendale and Gov. Gianforte to not sit silently on the sidelines, but to join the call of Governor Racicot for the RNC to rescind their resolution of censure and start on the road back to a better political world. This is also a test of their courage. Will it be silence or support?
Evan Barrett lives in historic Uptown Butte after retiring following 47 years at the top level of Montana economic development, government, politics and education. He is an award-winning producer of Montana history videos who continues to write columns and commentaries and occasionally teaches Montana history.