Monteau: Republicans and the politics of exclusion

Montana State Representative Ed Butcher (R-Billings) should have stuck his gavel in his mouth before he stuck his foot in it. However, given some of the previous venom that we have heard from his mouth, he may have room for both.

Representative Butcher should not be allowed to chair any committee of the State Legislature. He has shown, once again, that his lack of good character, his arrogance and his penitent for the politics of exclusion surpasses that of National Republican Leadership who learned a hard lesson in the recent Congressional Elections. Drunk with power, the Republican Leadership took on an attitude of 'we can do anything we want, say anything we want, attack anyone we want, any time we want' because we have the power. That arrogance and lack of affinity cost them the reins of power in Congress and will eventually cost them the White House.

The Republican Party has a history or relying on the politics of 'exclusion' in order to play to its largely Anglo conservative power base. It is exactly the reason that you don't find many Native American, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latino Americans in the Republican Ranks. It is exactly why the gay, lesbian, handicapped, disabled, poor, immigrant and non-Christian people in American Society feel alienated from the Republican Party. The message of the Republican Party is crystal clear; if you are an Anglo Christian Conservative come on in the front door and join the party. If you are not, come on in the back door and be prepared to be treated as a second class party member because you are not eligible for full, membership, unless of course by some miracle, you become just like us.

American Indians actually agree with some of the tenants of conservatism, especially as it pertains to Congressional policies of Tribal Self-Determination and Self-Governance. Republican Administrations and Republican members of Congress have made possible several landmark federal acts that have facilitated the self-reliance of American Indians and their sovereign nations. However, the reason that we don't favor the Republicans with our votes, especially at the state and county levels, is precisely illustrated by the behavior of Representative Butcher. Until the Republican Party stops excluding people from full membership because they are different (racially, religiously, nationally, physically, genetically, femininely and sexually), we will continue to vote Democrat. We are quite aware of what happens when the leadership of a country or group of countries relies upon the politics of exclusion, which plays upon people's fears and prejudice, in order to consolidate power. It invites scorn, scapegoating and, eventually violence against the excluded segments of society. Ultimately it can lead to an acceptable policy of annihilation.

Native Montanans live with the hope that the prejudices of the previous generations of Anglo Montanans will not be passed on to the next generation. That hope was illustrated by some of the comments made by Native American Legislators who commented on the insensitive statements of Representative Butcher. When we hear such venom from the mouth of an Anglo male who was elected to a role of 'leadership' by his constituents, we wonder if the constituents harbor the same attitudes and prejudices indicated by his statements. We wonder if they endorse his attitudes and prejudices.

Unless the Montana Legislature and the Montana Republican Party endorses the statements made by Representative Butcher, which serve to belittle, scapegoat, cast aspersions upon, or invite scorn upon certain segments of Montana's population, they will remove him from his leadership position and formally reprimand him. To do otherwise would be a greater insult to Montanans who are 'different.'

Harold A. Monteau, a Chippewa Cree lawyer practicing federal Indian law, resides in Missoula, Montana. He is a founding partner in the law firm Monteau & Peebles. He is also a columnist and commentator for various nation-wide Native American media outlets on Indian law and policy.

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