Monday, September 12, 2016
I guess I should be used to folks taking the work that I do out of context. It comes with the territory when you are a scholar engaged in the public realm. Normally, I shrug it off because both sides can be guilty of it. But I take particular exception when the work I do to help inform the public and to elevate the public discourse gets twisted beyond all recognition to score cheap political points that bear no relation to the facts.
Back in the spring, MTN agreed to move Face the State to a weekly format through the election. I thought it would be wonderful to use this opportunity to hold debates on the show for the statewide offices receiving less attention: Auditor, Secretary of State, OPI, Attorney General, and Supreme Court. I reached out to all the major party candidates offering the opportunity to debate. Nearly everyone was excited for the opportunity to share their candidacies with Montana on statewide television.
In late August, Mike Dennison and I taped a Face the State segment with Jesse Laslovich, the Democratic candidate for state auditor. You can watch it here. That segment was supposed to be a debate. We had invited Matt Rosendale, the Republican candidate, to join us. He chose not to attend or offer other dates/times that would work with his schedule, which disappointed us. Laslovich was one of the first candidates to agree to debate back in June. Given Mr. Rosendale’s decision not to debate, we gave Mr. Laslovich the whole half hour to share his vision for the state auditorship with Montanans.
Today, the Montana Republican Party sent out a press release calling Laslovich a “socialist” (I actually laughed out loud when I read this) and, using a clip from our interview on Face the State, intimated that he supports single-payer healthcare as “evidence” of their claim. Mr. Rosendale sent out a tweet with that same clip saying Mr. Laslovich supports more big government to destroy healthcare.
First, Mr. Laslovich did NOT say he supported replacing the Affordable Care Act with a single-payer option. He said our existing healthcare system was still broken despite the positive gains made by the Affordable Care Act, and that the single-payer idea should be taken seriously in any future discussions of healthcare reform. That’s it. He did not say he supported single-payer. He did not advocate for it. He simply said a candid discussion was necessary.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most distressing, single-payer healthcare already exists in the United States and has received support from the Republican Party. It’s called Medicare—you know, that single payer plan providing healthcare for elderly Americans. If single-payer programs are socialist, then any Republican supporting Medicare must be a socialist, too. At least, if we are to simply employ the “logic” expressed in the Montana Republican Party’s press release.
Montanans deserve a fair and vigorous debate between their parties, both of which have different ideas for moving our state forward. That means candidates should debate one another, their views should be publicly scrutinized, and the conversation should be based upon facts rather than distortions. The Republican Party’s characterization of our interview with Mr. Laslovich is simply unfair and mischaracterizes Mr. Laslovich's position. They should issue an immediate retraction and apologize.