Posted: January 28, 2013 at 6:54 am

Conservatives Staying Home?

There is an unmistakable lull in the world of firebrand conservativism right now in the Montana legislature.  When the legislature was last convened in 2011, right-wing bills were getting big crowds of proponents lining up to testify, to rage against the machine, as it were.

champ edmunds
Champ Edmunds

This year, not so much.  I read in the IR this week that Democrats proposed getting rid of Montana’s so-called anti-sodomy law which criminalizes homosexuality, and that only two people came in to oppose it.  A bill to allow the state to require all state workers to submit to drug tests received no support at all from any citizens.  A bill requiring the teaching of creationism similarly did not get a single citizen testifying in favor of it.  Several other GOP bills have met with similar indifference, with few if any conservative citizens attending the hearings.

Clayton Fiscus
Clayton Fiscus

This muted expression by the Tea party and the Right Wing presents a marked contrast to the frenzy of conservative activism witnessed in the previous legislature.  So what’s going on?

It might be that the Republican grassroots are simply exhausted or demoralized by the 2012 election results, that conservative activists are licking wounds and have retreated.  Or it might be simply a continuation of the enthusiasm gap we saw at the polls–the GOP struggled to turnout the base in November and perhaps they are having trouble turning people out for hearings now. After all, it’s not a stretch to say that many right-wing voters have lost faith in the Republican party, believing that the moderates have taken over and betrayed conservative true believers. They aren’t coming to Helena to support the nutjob bills because they don’t trust the less right-wing GOPers to move them forward. This internal rebellion was reflected in the leak of nasty e-mails between House and Senate GOP leaders, and also in the large Libertarian turnout in November ( a record 7%).

And finally, I’ve heard a few insiders claim that the GOP has told it’s supporters to stay home or has deliberately not turned them out, so that the circus atmosphere of 2011 is not repeated, so that the Bat Crap Crazy phenomenon will not present itself for commentary by media and blogs.  But I would caution against buying into this.  It’s not who you turn out to testify; it’s what you propose that makes you extremist.

At any rate, it’s a far different scene from 2011. A major GOP enthusiasm deficit. 

20 comments

  1. MTNativeEyes

    Don’t be fooled. The arcana of other, more utilitarian bills will still reflect a decided conservative bent. Get some environmental poison buried while everyone’s asleep at the switch. Take a chip out of insurance laws to protect landowners while everyone else is scanning the horizon for fetuses. Apathy is a big problem in the public sphere. We’ve been conditioned to pay attention only when “bat-crap-crazy” proposals are floated and we become complacent otherwise. It’s complicated, it doesn’t directly affect me, so who cares? And people wail that they don’t know what young people think, even as the resist the use of social media.

  2. Jan Thomas

    I also agree, the nutty bills are just as crazy, the regular bad bills are just has harmful- and just because hoards of baggers aren’t showing up to testify doesn’t mean these bills won’t sail through.

  3. Montana Mom

    It seemed to me that the election served up a HUGE majority of bat-crap crazy right wingers. Perhaps all of their voters just figure they elected the ones they want, so they don’t have to worry, their voices are heard now in Helena. This is the same complacency the Dems dealt with for a while on a national scale after Obama was first elected. Only in this case, they just might be right! The legislators from my district are certainly following through on what they said they would do, which is “Sheriffs First,” “Coordination,” and taking federal lands for the state. Why would conservatives feel like they need to bother to show up to testify? They WON! We’re in deep sh**.

  4. Publius II

    We still need to be ever vigilant, as the ‘sleeper’ bills out there as noted, while we get ‘spun up’ on an issue, the GOP and ‘baggers’ are ‘workin’ it behind our backs, slowing chipping away, like on zoning bills and other arcane ones less dramatic. Having testified, I admire OUR courage of conviction and the ‘baggers’ should present themselves likewise, as legislators who were elected with majority do
    mind the constituents, but BEING there and sending e-mails and messages via the legislative message center DO matter.

  5. Jim Fleischmann

    Perhaps the right-wing faithful (like everybody) have suffered so much economically, at the hands of a congress that is bent on giving away the nation’s wealth to corporations, that they’re losing some zeal. Maybe they’re tired of responding to every social issue dog whistle while their families’ economic circumstances deteriorate.

  6. Norma Duffy @Ilikewoods

    When Immigration sails through, and by the time the next election falls into presidental line, I have a feeling Craig, people like you will be wetting your pants about how large and powerful the Unions become because of Hispanic empowerment. I can hear the Mariachi’s Playing while the spirit of these fine people dance on to the demise of the Republican Party.

    The Democrats can use this new blood!

    You need to stop Marginalizing the Unions. they made this country, they made the middle class!

      • Norma Duffy @Ilikewoods

        Gosh I feel sorry for you Ian. You probably never been out of the conservative underground and traveled, or lived any where in the USA. You probably never dare read past Brietbart, or turned the channel past Fox and friends, or Sponge Bob. What a sad little man, to say Hispanics are Parasites…When you live in a state named the Spanish word for Mountains– Montana.

        The white man was the last to color in this state, and because of his ignorance, the most murderous, destroyer within its borders.

        Your stupidity, to other races is noted!

  7. AB Thomas

    I think more people would attend the meetings if we lived closer and had flexible working hours. However, I think that MSU-Billings just started a program so that residents can attend the off site meetings via video conferencing. If they could set this up all over the state, I think we’d have far more participation. Does anyone know other towns doing the same? I think it’s fantastic to reach out to constituents this way. The libraries are other possible sites.

  8. Kenneth Kailey

    I think the answer has already been proposed by many people – Why do you need a lot of testimony when you have a solid majority to see the bill passed? The only question at this point isn’t whether a bill is argued in committee. It is whether the Montana legislature has enough votes to overturn a Governor’s Veto.

    We can wail against the stupidity of these bills all we want. It doesn’t change the fact that Montana sent another crop of batshit crazy to Helena (and a larger batch than last time). We are likely to end up with at least some batshit legislation. I won’t get too excited about committee testimony. Let’s see how the votes go and how much we can depend on Bullock to attempt to defeat the batshit crazy.

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