By Justin Robbins
The great myth of the 1% in America is that, in this land of opportunity, any one of us could get there. Our history is chock full of examples from Henry Ford to Bill Gates, from Jackie Robinson to Derek Jeter, from Clara Barton to Oprah Winfrey or from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. From whatever socio-economic, geographic, ethnic or cultural background you hail, we have an iconic American story that proves you can succeed. That idea constantly tickles the mind of every American citizen, and every other poor bastard dying to be one.
With that established, please allow me, or better still join me to take a long, hard, honest look in the mirror. If you’re anything like me, your circumstances in life are a little better than those of your parents; largely because of their efforts. You are better educated, make more money, and enjoy more luxuries (if only in entertainment options) than mom and dad. They would have it no other way. If you have children, you not only understand your parents’ priorities and sacrifices, but have dedicated yourself to ensuring the pattern continues.
Now, keep looking, and maintain the honesty of your assessment. It is incredibly unlikely you will be in the 1%. The odds are literally astronomical…there’s around a 1 in 750,000 chance you or I will be even a millionaire, let alone billionaire.
My argument here is not one of class warfare. I am neither crying foul, nor claiming status as a victim of anyone or anything. It is merely a summons to stand free of illusion and face reality; unflinching, unforgiving and unwelcoming reality…warts and all. I ask you here because it is only from a firm grounding in reality we may see the world as it is rather than as we would have it be.
For example, my preference would be a world wherein the people who seek elected office in my state would do so out of a sense of duty or service rather than of personal reward. Where education and independent thought are valued, and ignorance is not virtuous. Where conclusions are supported by evidence, and a course of action is chosen by reasoned debate, rather than revelation.
In reality, there are very wealthy, powerful elements in this country looking at the State of Montana the way…frankly, the way wealthy, powerful elements look at anything. They recognize the abundance of natural resources (be it oil, fish and game, or lakefront property), and the very limited means of the average Montanan to engage in meaningful protection or preservation of those assets. Then they see Montanans like Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat author the opinion that protects our access to our streams and rivers. They can’t have that.
They realize the important role the Montana Supreme Court plays in protecting the rights and privileges of Montana’s hunters, fisherman, hikers and rafters. How one pivotal seat can mean the difference between a public stream access, and their gated, riverside subdivision.
Enter candidate Lawrence Van Dyke…but, just barely. The Montana Constitution requires a Supreme Court candidate to have been admitted to practice law in Montana for five years prior to the election. Van Dyke was inactive in Montana from 2006 to 2013 while working in DC and Texas. Nonetheless, he is on the ballot, and has some pretty professional, expensive literature floating around the state.
While the literature trumpets dedication to the law and the interests of the people, it avoids mentioning what law and which people. As mentioned previously on this site, Van Dyke has an established set of conclusions about the world, informed in large part by a flat earth, creationist ideology, and a back pocket full of Koch. He also has a record of starting with the desired result, and then figuring out how to use the law justify it. We, the people, will not see nor hear him debate his opponent, nor even do a live interview; but he will confide to friendly crowds that he will be the voice on the Court “of right thinking people.” If you still have that mirror handy, look and see if he means you.
You see, in reality, the biggest threat to Montana’s outdoor heritage isn’t “the government” coming door to door to collect your guns. It’s the private fence around the place your dad taught you to hunt. It’s your public lands sold to the highest bidder. It’s a mine clouding up the Smith River, and a pipeline bursting in the Yellowstone River. It’s Lawrence Van Dyke.