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Ron Waterman: After the circus has left town

Mar 07, 2024Mar 07, 2024

Posters appear on poles: “The circus is coming.” One morning a large tent is erected. There are exotic animals. People in costumes appear. Some in coveralls, others in tight pants, red top coat and hat. Women in tights and sequenced regalia.

A few days later the tents are down, the animals caged. The performers return to ordinary dress.

The circus is gone.

The community is left with the residue. Some missing property. Bad checks. Trampled grass where the big tent once stood. Posters to take down. A mess to be cleaned up.

The Legislature has left town. Now what? The citizens of Montana have been left with the harm done to this state, its reputation and its culture.

The problems identified going into the last session were never addressed. New problems were created. Women have fewer choices to control their own bodies. There is a ban on abortion, 10 weeks, since the only method of abortion after 10 weeks had been banned. Ultrasound scans are also required of everyone seeking an abortion, for no medical reason, raising the costs for the poorest of citizens.

Montana has banned the sale or use of the app TikTok, supplied by Google, Apple and Microsoft. Go figure how to enforce this ban. This is a federal issue our Legislature has decided to waste taxpayer money on. Montana is open for business.

Not quite.

The constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment has simply been ignored. The citizens now have to live with this action, pay the costs to try to defend the unconstitutional legislation and also live with its consequences, dirtier air and water.

This is the residue. With circuses, a way to prevent this turmoil in the future is to not allow circuses to return. This is not an option for Montana, however. We must have a Legislature to pass a budget and keep government functioning.

Now is the time to reduce the impact the Legislature has on citizens in future years. The state Republican Party follows the dictates of the national party. Instead of focusing on important subjects, the national party is turning to culture wars as a distraction. Women face the dilemma of being unable to obtain medical treatment for their pregnancies and other health needs. All citizens are impacted by the decisions denying climate change.

Our summers are getting hotter, wildfires are more prevalent. The air is smokier. As the air warms, the snow and glaciers melt. The waters in rivers and streams warm. Fish die. We have legislation about transgender children, banning treatment, defying medicine, denying parents the right to make scientific decisions about the well-being of their children.

The larger problem is numerous unconstitutional bills have been passed. The Legislature will spend millions defending litigation challenging their work.

What we need are legislators who understand and will abide by and defend our constitution, as they are sworn to do. What we need are legislators have read the constitution.

We must find candidates who want to restore Montana’s reputation. Who believe in science, who support constitutional rights. Who will use common sense in making decisions. Who will work for the common good of all citizens, not just the wealthy few.

Once these candidates are identified, work to support them. Give your time. Knock on doors. Host gatherings so voters can meet them, ask questions and support them. Give them financial support.

Evaluate the incumbents. If they have spouted lies during the last session, confront them over these distractions. Don’t vote for them. Tell everyone why the Republican incumbents are bad for Montana’s future.

We are only 15 months away from the next election where we will have both national races for the president and Senate and also a contest for governor, for all of the state House seats and half of the state Senate. If we reelect the current incumbents, a supermajority of Republicans, the very integrity and spirit of Montana will be lost.

The circus has left town and we have to clean up the mess left behind.

It is time for concerned citizens to rise up against the ultra-conservatives holding office in Montana.

Ron Waterman is a retired attorney who moved to Helena in 1970 and has been involved with numerous social service agencies since then. He continues to serve on local, state and national social service and art boards.

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