Racicot’s Letter

Marc Racicot: Letter to the Montana Republican Legislative Leaders and Party Executive Committee Members (12 March 2023, in the Missoulian)

It’s not that the Constitution does not contemplate differences of view. It is that it also, simultaneously, calls for disagreement without vilification, self-restraint, a willingness to compromise and a promise to serve the common good. These values are an inseparable component of the Rule of Law, which the Republican Platform specifically claims to embrace.

Repudiation of these constitutional virtues weakens the bond that holds us together, inexorably leads to civil disorder and ultimately threatens the dissolution of our union. You need only look to the January 6th insurrection to see how that movie ends.

Republicans have recently experienced the resignation of a twice-elected, young Republican legislator because of the party’s coercive efforts to control the exercise of her discretion in voting for what she thought was right. You have also censured two Republican members of the Legislature for not voting the way you deemed appropriate and have witnessed the defection of growing numbers of Republicans in your caucus, and across Montana, who feel bound to their conscience and their constitution more than their party.

Increasing numbers of Montanans of every political stripe, have growing and grave concerns with the party’s absolutist ideology, its unsparing demands of allegiance, its relentless pursuit of power and its reckless compulsion to disassemble the Constitution with the intent of controlling all three branches of government.

Arrogantly comfortable with the Republican “super majority,” you do not appear to even remotely comprehend the risk of your frontal assault on the Constitution, nor to remember that as the world turns, every Montanan will inevitably end up reaping what you now sow.

The Republican Party Platform states that the Constitution is “a unique and binding compact,” which as a citizen or elected leader, you have pledged to faithfully “support and defend.” Yet your unrelenting legislative encroachment of the judicial branch violates Article III of the Constitution and mocks your solemn oath.

It’s all a part of a quiet, multi-year national effort initiated before the 2021 Legislature convened. By the end of that session, 26 states had introduced at least 93 bills that would politicize or compromise the independence of state courts. Montana was one of those states.

In the 2021 Legislature, there were numerous bills focused on: the Judicial Standards Commission; another allowing a judge to be impeached for not following the Legislature’s preferred method of statutory interpretation; another allowing citizens to initiate investigations of judges; another to elect Supreme Justices in gerrymandered districts rather than statewide; and another giving the governor the power to directly fill interim judge and justice vacancies without a vetting of the candidates by the Judicial Nominating Commission. In all, there were 18 bills introduced by Republicans in the 2021 each directed at remaking the judiciary in their own likeness and image.

This legislative session, Republicans have been even more ambitious, submitting 61 constitutional amendment proposals, nine of which concentrate on the judiciary, and one of which gives the governor the power to appoint Supreme Court justices in substitution of election by the people. In addition, there are another 42 bill drafts that specifically focus on the judicial branch, including one requiring Supreme Court Justices to run for office on a partisan ballot; another to enable the Legislature to appoint and confirm Justices and District Judges; another to decrease the size of the Supreme Court; and another to create a judicial inquiry commission to investigate citizen complaints against judges.

And the list goes on and on and on. All of it designed to diminish and circumscribe the independence of the judiciary, the most vulnerable of the three branches of government as emphasized by President Reagan on Constitution Day in 1987: “…the genius of our constitutional system is its recognition that no one branch of government alone could be relied on to preserve our freedoms. The great safeguard of our liberty is the totality of the constitutional system, with no one part getting the upper hand. That is why the judiciary must be independent.”


Racicot, M. (2023, March 12). Marc Racicot: Montanans Will Reap What GOP Sows. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from https://missoulian.com/opinion/columnists/marc-racicot-montanans-will-reap-what-gop-sows/article_667c28b6-bd37-11ed-9a42-2f56ce98cf6e.html.