Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Where are Flathead Republicans?

| January 24, 2024 2:00 AM

The story about Braxton Mitchell announcing his candidacy for the state Legislature in House District 5 is both comforting and disturbing. Comforting is the fact that he will no longer be representing me and many of my Columbia Falls friends and neighbors as he is seeking re-election to the Montana House of Representatives in a different district. Disturbing is knowing his campaign in a Republican-majority district will likely return him to the state capital in 2024. 

What’s more disturbing is his candidate’s statement to the HHN in which he bragged: “I was able to spend some of this past weekend with [indicted, impeached, defeated and disgraced former] President Donald Trump, and he told me to stick with it and keep fighting, and that’s what I’m going to do for the people of Montana.” (In case it’s unclear, those bracketed words are my additions to Braxton’s statement.) 

It’s important to acknowledge Braxton’s willingness to serve in the Legislature. The future of the country and Montana depends upon young people becoming politically active. In 2022 Democrats worked to elect a different millennial only three or four years older than Mitchell when Andrea Getts challenged Braxton for his HD3 seat in the Legislature. While I believe, rather I know, Andrea would have been a better legislator, Braxton nevertheless deserves credit for continuing to engage in the political process. 

What’s disturbing about his candidacy is not his conservatism or the reactionary legislation he boasts about. Those specifics will be scrutinized and debated if Democrats can field a candidate in the deep-red HD 6. Or perhaps a more moderate Republican will challenge Braxton in the primary to challenge his stated devotion to MAGA politics and Donald Trump.  

In our two-party system we desperately need a healthy, functional, compassionate Republican party, nationally and locally, to engage in rational debate over different ideas the two parties pose to solve problems. Unfortunately, in the era of Donald Trump, that has all but disappeared. On the same day Braxton touted his devotion to Donald Trump, one of the few remaining fact-based, common-sense, critical-thinking Republicans resigned from the Republican party’s presidential primary. 

In announcing the suspension of his candidacy former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the following: “Anyone who is unwilling to say that he (former President Trump) is unfit to be President of the United States is unfit themselves to be President of the United States.” 

I would amend that statement to say, “Anyone who is unwilling to say that former President Trump is unfit to be President of the United States is unfit themselves to be a candidate for any elected office.” I doubt we will hear Braxton, or any Republican candidate for the Montana state Legislature in 2024, say Trump is unfit to be president. 

Until one does, I fear the Republican Party, nationally and locally, will be dysfunctional. And so, too, our state and nation.

Roger Hopkins

Columbia Falls

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