Opinion | A Plan B for Responsible Americans Living in Red States

Opinion | A Plan B for Responsible Americans Living in Red States

Mr. Buchanan described that vote as the moment “when embarrassment became shame.” It’s worth noting that our right-wing governor, Greg Gianforte, was so offended by the invasion, he started immediately divesting the state’s Russian assets, proclaiming, “Montana stands with Ukraine.” It’s such a near-unanimous position that even I will stand with my journalist-clobbering governor, though I will be 10 yards away wearing my dad’s welding helmet.

Pondering Representative Rosendale’s peculiar record (he was also in the minority when the House voted 394-18 to support Sweden and Finland joining NATO), Mr. Racicot summarized his disapproval: “These aren’t necessarily moral judgments. These are almost mathematical judgments.”

Though I voted for Dorothy Bradley in 1992, I do find Mr. Racicot, as a former R.N.C. chair who publicly endorsed Joe Biden for president, to be a reliable sherpa in ascending to the ideal of country above party.

“I don’t care about the things that are debatable, that thoughtful people can argue about and come to different conclusions,” he told me. “What I care about is betraying the country and betraying the democracy.” Because of fidelity to the Constitution, he argues that “a lot of people are to the point where they can finally say: ‘You know what, I’m not a Democrat first. I’m not a Republican first.’”

A man in a bar recently asked Mr. Buchanan if he’s an F.B.I. agent or a Mormon. He looks like he served as Montana’s first Department of Commerce director in the early 1980s. Sounds dull, yet those were desperate years, when much of the old Montana up and died — the Butte copper mine, the Great Falls refinery and the Anaconda smelter shut down, and the farm crisis incited hundreds of farmers in Montana and the Midwest to take their own lives. Mr. Buchanan oversaw “Build Montana,” a program focused on beefing up what’s now the economic pillar of tourism. He created the still ubiquitous “Made in Montana” label to promote homegrown products, a marketing ploy I fall for every time I face life’s jelly and jam dilemmas. Endangered fossil fuel towns might appreciate his experience with tough transitions. And his fealty to the right to privacy in the Montana Constitution, which guarantees abortion rights (for now), provides an alternative to Representative Rosendale’s rigid opposition.

Mr. Buchanan told me that when he’s out campaigning in the eastern district, he meets Montanans who have never heard of the category of independent, but they instantly see themselves in that word. More than 40 percent of Americans identify as independents, according to a Gallup poll — the biggest bloc in the country, outnumbering either party. That figure should shame both parties’ leaders into deep self-reflection.

When I saw photos of Mr. Racicot and Ms. Bradley standing beside Mr. Buchanan for endorsement, my first reaction was relief that there might be a plausible home remedy to Representative Rosendale and his ilk. Last month, in Livingston, I noticed about a dozen Buchanan yard signs and zero for his major party opponents. I know hardcore liberals in Helena and the Shields Valley who plan to vote for him.

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