The disappearing public

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To the editor:

I was glad to hear that the President of the United States might be coming to the great state of Montana, if only for a cat fight.

While he’s here, he could hold an old-time Montana town meeting, where everybody’s invited, not just cheerleaders. He can set an example for a problem we’re having now with one senator and our representative. Jon Tester is the only man not afraid to hold open call meetings with his constituents. Granted, Montana is full of outspoken, rough-sawn individuals, but our people are very tolerant and respectful in meetings, in my experience.

I’ve been a town councilman in two towns — Libby and Ward, Colorado — and have never seen an uncivil exchange. The Ward marshals threw their badges on the floor but we resolved it with a referendum. Greg Gianforte and seldom seen Steve Daines will probably never face the public and if they get away with it the public has just lost its seat at the table.

Prove me wrong. You will get hard questions but no assaults. We have good security and courteous people. If Gianforte had spent the four days in jail like a member of the public he would’ve learned that how you’re received in an unknown group depends on your comportment.

Fred Whiteside withstood the last onslaught of money on Montana’s democracy when he exposed the copper king William A. Clark for buying votes in the legislature to make him a U.S. Senator. Whiteside, representing the Flathead, got booted out of the legislature for his trouble, but persevered, following Clark to Washington and getting Congress to send Clark home on the bribery rap. Eventually, after failing in a scheme to be named as his own replacement, Clark was elected to the Senate by the Montana legislature, serving one term.

On the heels of this scandal, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, giving the public the right to choose their own senators. It’s fitting that such a fundamental power for everyone in the U.S. would be won in Montana against a rich man.

—Ron Carter,

Libby

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