The last worst place?
What comes to mind when you hear Montana referred to as the “last best place?” Do you think of the pristine, relatively untouched Smith River? Do you think of the vast Golden Triangle where family farms still operate and pass down the value of hard work to their children? Is it your hometown gathering where neighbors come together to celebrate the 4th of July?
Maybe it’s the feeling of your local high school winning the state championship. Or maybe it’s the fact that you can bag an elk in the Missouri River Breaks without having to pay an enormous fee to private landowners.
As Montanans we know that we are lucky to live here and value our way of life. For decades we have prided ourselves with a “live and let live attitude” where we don’t involve ourselves in how many guns you have in your gun safe as long as you do the same when it comes to our personal medical decisions. Montana has been a relatively purple state for years and most would agree that a healthy split of Republican and Democrats is good for Democracy.
But that Montana is slipping away. The current legislative session has proven we are no longer maintaining our role as the Last Best Place, but rather:
“The worst place to pick on queer kids” (SB 99)
“The worst place to tell parents how to parent” (HB 359)
“The worst place to imprison teachers” (HB 234)
“The worst place to politicize the independent judiciary” (SB 302, SB 154)
“The worst place to find an available nursing home” (GOP axed increased funding for HB 649)
“The worst place to strip cities and towns of their funding and election autonomy” (HB 865, HB 774)
“The worst place to find affordable housing” (GOP voted down HB 574, SB 194, HB 233)
“The worst place to suffer from mental health issues” (GOP removed funding from HB 649)
“The worst place to be left in the dark on environmental impacts” (HB 971 and SB557)
Montanans are pretty straight-forward people. We support our schools, we like our privacy, and we love our neighbors. The current GOP supermajority doesn’t support any of the latter. Montana is having a major identity crisis.
Will we allow the extreme GOP to make Montana in the image of Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida? Or will we cling to the values that made us truly one of the most remarkable states in the union?
If you’re concerned about the direction Montana is headed, we urge you to vote for “live and let live” values and candidates the next time around.
Gil Jordan, Kimberly Pinter
Coram, as well as a host of others