Roger Koopman

In party primaries, the goal is not to be a voter, but to be an informed voter.  Casting an uninformed vote is far worse than not voting at all. But especially in Republican primaries, becoming truly informed – not miserably misled – is a real challenge these days. It requires that you, the voter, become a skillful code-breaker of the language of the left, which is retrofitted to many GOP candidates and campaigns.

It’s a shame that we must go through these gyrations. But think of it as a war, and Big Government as the enemy. In WW2, code-breakers had to discover where the enemy would drop its bombs. In the Republican Party, the bombs are the statist, government-knows-best candidates who are dropped on unsuspecting GOP districts when we’re all asleep at night.

Later, looking over the devastation of yet another “Republican” legislature where taxes rose, government grew and conservative legislation died in committee, we wished we’d seen the bombs before they had made new craters all over our free society.

Here in Gallatin County, a classic example of an undetected “bomb,” is the (thankfully) term-limited Senator Walt Sales. An affable chap with a locally popular last name, Sales has skated through every election in his heavily red district, while achieving one of the most liberal, big-spending voting records of any Republican legislator.

His last-session conservative rating from Montana Conservative Alliance was just 11%.  Walt even cast the deciding vote that killed a great parental rights bill (SB 337), voted against community school choice and against requiring warrants to remove children from their parents. Business subsidies and corporate welfare were among his specialties.

With a GOP primary voter base that’s likely 90 percent conservative, how do these Big Government bombs remain undetected by their constituents?   We fall for language over reality, dazzled by a magic show that transforms political liberals into looking like conservatives, and conservatives into looking like demonic radicals.  We haven’t trained ourselves to break the codes!

Actually, political code-breaking isn’t as hard as you may think.  Here are some prominent examples of codes that, once broken, are easy to recognize:

CANDIDATE CODE: “My opponent is a far-right, extreme conservative.”  ACTUAL MEANING: “My opponent is a conservative and I am not.”

CANDIDATE CODE: “I go to Helena to get things done.”  ACTUAL MEANING:  “I want more laws and bigger government.”

CANDIDATE CODE: “I stand for Montana values.”  ACTUAL MEANING:  “I don’t have anything of substance to say.”

CANDIDATE CODE: “I am a conservative, I am a conservative, I am a conservative…”  ACTUAL MEANING: "I am a moderate, not a conservative.”

CANDIDATE CODE: “I work with the other side of the aisle.”  ACTUAL MEANING:  “I belong on the other side of the aisle.”

CANDIDATE CODE: “I’m for tax reform.”  ACTUAL MEANING:  I’m not for tax reduction, only for tax shifting.”

NEWS MEDIA CODE: “Hardliner” or “ultra-conservative.”  ACTUAL MEANING: “A true and principled conservative.”  (Note: have you ever once heard the media label a Democrat with the pejorative term “hardliner?”  Who wants to vote for a hardliner?)

I’ve been paying special attention to three GOP legislative primaries this time around: HD 55 (Barker vs. Horman), HD 76 (Fitzpatrick vs. Kesler), and HD 77 (McMurray vs. Gillette.)  In each case, the moderate/liberal candidate – Barker, Fitzpatrick and McMurray – has been making exactly these kinds of truth-obscuring coded statements.

Barker and Fitzpatrick have even taken the unusual step of attacking the messenger (me) throughout their campaign, calling me – you guessed it – an “extremist.”  McMurray, who has all the earmarks of a Walt Sales clone, takes no clear positions, assaults Gillette as a “conservative extremist,” and talks only of “tax reform.”liberal

GOP Code-Breakers unite!  Only as we cast informed votes, can we be assured that we are nominating genuine conservatives, not liberals dressed up as conservatives, that advance a Big Government agenda.

A former Bozeman small businessman, Koopman is president of Montana Conservative Alliance.  He served four years in the Montana House of Representatives and eight years as a Montana Public Service Commissioner.