Darrell Ehrlick

When independent Congressional candidate Gary Buchanan of Billings entered the race for Montana’s second U.S. House seat, he said the impetus was because Montana had been embarrassed by Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Republican.

And Montanans hate to be embarrassed.

In fact, Buchanan may be interesting insofar as the reasons for his run weren’t about a particular purity test or issue – those were open for discussion and debate.

Instead, the concern was that things have become so partisan and dysfunctional that Rosendale’s sole political trait, it seems, is to oppose everything, and then do it in the name of Montana. Or freedom. Or liberty. Or some other sentimental word Rosendale coos to his supporters to cure their resentment or frustration.

Buchanan is no rookie and he is no hack. He has a long, distinguished career of getting things done around Billings and Montana. And as much as I suspect that no state likes being embarrassed by its leaders, Montanans are particularly sensitive to the notion that we are a bunch of redneck frontier people who wear big hats but don’t have much going on beneath the brim.

Rosendale has made a series of decisions from opposing support of Ukraine to voting against medals for fallen police officers to opposing Juneteenth.

Yet, as we learned from Election Day, Montanans in central and eastern Montana seem particularly pleased with Rosendale’s reflexive “no” on everything, even his opposition to the leadership of his own party, Kevin McCarthy.

In a stunning letter co-signed by Rosendale and 12 other Republicans, including such moral luminaries as Matt Gaetz and Ralph Norman, the man who demanded “Marshall law” after the 2020 Election, Rosendale continues with his tiresome pattern of playing the part of sleepy toddler, saying “No” to everything.

Rosendale & Co. designed a laundry list of grievances in their latest missive, including the FBI colluding with Big Tech to suppress free speech, the National Institutes of Health conspiring with “big healthcare,” and federal agencies so vast and widespread they couldn’t even be bothered to name the “alphabet soup of other federal agencies (which) abuse their power to target and harass the American people.”

In a six-sentence paragraph, the letter uses the word “assault” five times – so many that I fear the tin foil hats they’re wearing aren’t allowing proper ventilation.

The omnibus spending bill, a large, common and typical piece of legislation that has been used for decades, is now apparently an (checks letter) “assault” on the American people and the separation of powers, even though passing a budget is one of the few jobs assigned to Congress specifically by the U.S. Constitution.

“It is an assault on basic civic decency,” the letter cries on its way to a threatening crescendo.

Funny how we’re getting lectured on civic decency from a man who made a name for himself by shooting drones for no apparent reason and who allegedly gave the finger to a Butte crowd of union supporters within a couple of months of being on the job.

It appears that as much as these Republicans don’t like President Joe Biden for his “purposeful refusal to secure and defend our borders,” their venom is saved for fellow members of the Republican Party, whom they vowed to defeat if they lend any support to the omnibus bill:

“If any omnibus passes in the remaining days of this Congress, we will oppose and whip opposition to any legislative priority of those senators who vote for this bill – including the Republican leader. We will oppose any rule, any consent request, suspension voice vote, or roll call vote of any such Senate bill, and will otherwise do everything in our power to thwart even the smallest legislative and policy efforts of those Senators.”

Well then.

Not content to just oppose any fellow Republican bill, which seems a convenient cover to continue his longstanding tradition of opposition to everything, Rosendale and the rest made a new threat: “Kill this terrible bill or there is no point in pretending we are a united party, and we must prepare for a new political reality.”

Sounds like the Republicans may not be so Republican after all.

The only way for Rosendale to engage in a “new political reality” is if he would start supporting something other than perverts (Gaetz), bigots (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene) and insurrectionists (Norman).

For the nearly 6-out-of-10 voters who voted for Rosendale: I think you’re letting him off awfully easy. We send our leaders to Washington to get things done. Policy debates and disagreements are not proof of dysfunction, but evidence of democracy in action. Instead, Montana voters seem to be content giving Rosendale a taxpayer-shuttle to head back to somewhere near his original home in Maryland while not expecting results.

It’s not that half of Montana is being represented by an outsider who embodies the most strident beliefs of a Republican Party that has shrunk the size of its tent, and requires a purity test that’s as comprehensive as the bar exam.

We’re getting ripped off, Montana. We’re sending Rosendale to D.C., and we have reaped the fruits of Rosendale Republicanism –  a party loyal to nothing and against everything.

This column first appeared at the Daily Montanan.