GOP extremism is backfiring

George Ochenski
Friday, September 24, 2021

By now people have plenty of examples of the GOP’s idea of governance, which consists of opposing everything that doesn’t fit their myopic ideology. Here in Montana we’re headed back toward Lockdown City thanks to the utter failure of our Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches of government. But evidence is quickly mounting that GOP extremism is backfiring badly — socially, economically and politically — on a much wider scale.

On the national scene the Republicans’ sudden re-discovery of “fiscal responsibility” is poised to send the federal government — and the states — into a fiscal tailspin due to their opposition to raising the nation’s debt limit. Thanks to their stonewalling, it’s possible the federal government could default on its debts.

There’s no question the cost of trying to keep our citizens alive with a roof over their heads during the pandemic has contributed greatly to the problem. But let’s not forget the former Republican-dominated Congress freely threw the nation into fiscal chaos with trillions in un-needed tax breaks for the already wealthy. And now, it’s backfiring to the point of threatening a government shutdown.

Closer to home Montana’s GOP geniuses decided it should be illegal to allow businesses to decide what level of COVID precautions to require. The result? Montana is nearly back up to where we were in December — and ninth in the nation for new infections per capita. Hospitals throughout the state are now in crisis mode and rationing care as the GOP’s anti-vaxxer, anti-masker ideology results in more illness, death, and negative economic impact — the exact opposite of their goal.

Or take the legislature’s brutal laws allowing the mass killing of wolves. Given that the state’s elk herds are over population in nearly all districts, and the losses to livestock are tiny and compensated, there’s no scientific reason to exterminate the wolves. In fact, scientifically wolves may be the best defense Montana has against the increasing prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s treasured deer and elk herds.

But again, by going to extremes the GOP has created a tremendous backlash, given Montana a black eye nationally, and the result is the acceptance of a new petition to re-list the wolves under the Endangered Species Act — the exact opposite of their goal.

Likewise the GOP’s denial of the mounting climate catastrophe — and inane embrace of coal and fossil fuels — is producing exactly the opposite effect. Continuing to burn coal ensures our wildfires and a host of other climate impacts will only get worse. Championing deforestation, under the rubric of “management,” removes trees, nature’s best, cheapest, most reliable mechanism for filtering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and makes the problem worse.

One thing seems clear — “red” state governors are blowing it big time. Florida, Texas, Montana and Idaho are all in crisis mode thanks to GOP-backed resistance to proven safety measures. And it’s the children who are now paying the cost.

Those costs are not going unnoticed. As the crushing defeat of the GOP’s effort to recall California’s Democrat governor over mandatory mask and vaccination orders just showed, voters have had it with Republican anti-science extremism — once again achieving just the opposite of the GOP’s recall goal.

If there’s any upside to the GOP’s inanity, it’s that even their own members are beginning to question the wisdom of continuing down their losing path. The evidence? The number of Republicans in Congress who are eschewing involvement in last weekend’s nutty attempt to paint the prosecution of the Jan. 6, insurrectionists as political prisoners. Nothing could be further from the truth except, well, the entirety of the GOP’s extremism.

(George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page.)

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