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Horse traders, used car salesmen and politicians

Clara Caufield

There was a time in the west when horse traders, used car salesmen and politicians were lumped into the same category. That is, dubious characters who often stretched the truth, were in the game for their own benefit in the process violating the codes of the west that call for honesty, fairness and trustworthiness.
Now, in these days when democracy is being shaken to the core, not even horse traders or used car salesmen who have any sense want to be lumped into the same category as politicians, especially Donald Trump.
Excuse me, Trump is not really a politician. He is a demagogue stooping to Nazi-like tactics to maintain power. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who grew up in the aftermath of WWII in Austria recently posted a video pointing out the similarities in tactics between the Nazis and Trump whom he thinks will go down in history as the worst American President. The former California governor congratulated Biden and pledged his loyalty while condemning Trump and called upon Americans to put country, rather than party lines, first. His video is worth viewing.
In my view, many politicians have turned vicious – on both sides of the isle. Sure, there are still some who have integrity and respect. In Montana, for example, you couldn’t find a more reasonable, compassionate or honest Senator than Jon Tester, Democrat, like Jefferson a farmer and man of the land. Be we also have two louts who have clearly sided with Trump: Senator Steve Daines and Representative Rosendale, both Republicans. Thank goodness many Montanans find their behavior reprehensible. Reason apparently got ahold of them while they were cowering under chairs during the attempted Capital coup, fearful for their lives at the hands of the intruders. Sort of like a deathbed conversion.
Although Trump fanned the embers into a blaze, the trend of putting party above the interests of the country has been developing for many years. This country must demand that our politicians straighten up and look to the whole, rather than the partisan parts.
For years, I was a die-hard Democrat. That was because of the influence of early Native political activists in Montana. People such as Crow Tribal members Jeannine Windy Boy Pease and Henry Realbird who organized some of the first voter registration projects on Montana Reservations and actively recruited Native candidates and get-out-the-vote efforts. Eventually the Indians from Big Horn County (which includes half of the Northern Cheyenne reservation and nearly all of Crow) took over the county Democratic Committee. I got an officer’s spot there, the token Northern Cheyenne.
Then I went on to serve as the first Indian on the Montana state-wide Democratic Executive Board. Largely because I was in the right place at the right time, a group of Democrats figuring it was time to have a native voice at the table. During that time, I met the former Senator John Melcher. Later also because I was in the right (should I say wrong?) place at the right time.
John was a very conservative Democrat, maybe even secretly a liberal Republican which was necessary to achieve a two-decade career as a Montana congressional representative, Montana ever being conservative. It was not then unusual for a bi-partisan coalition to work together to gain passage of legislation of common benefit to their states. In John’s case that included agriculture, education, gun control and Indian Affairs. For example, Senator John McCain, R, AZ and Melcher worked together on many tribal issues to good effect and were the staunchest of allies and friends. Though from time-to-time the two Johns went to the mat in verbal debate on the Senate floor that was always followed by a cup of coffee or cocktail. They knew you cannot win them all and there would come another day when cooperation would be necessary. “Reaching across the aisle” is what they called it. I also find Senator McCain a political servant of great integrity.
As a congressional staffer, it is necessary to follow your bosses lead on political issues and I did that. But, as the years have passed, I have inched more into the independent zone, agreeing with the Republicans on gun control, right-to-life and fossil fuels development. On the other hand, I agree with the Democrats about many other issues, especially environmental concerns, rights of women and minorities, tribal rights etc.
That’s ok. What is not ok is the efforts of politicians to cram an agenda down our throats, especially when that agenda is based on lies, reinforced through outright crowd mongering and illusions of personal grandeur. Too many politicians are dividing this country into the “us and they” camps where the vision of America as a whole can get lost.
I do have some good friends who are Trump supporters, though in the last week they are a little less forthcoming about that. One of them, my 95-year-old cousin said, “It’s a shame what “they” have done to Trump, ruining his legacy.” I guess by that she means other Americans who are not like-minded.
All I know for sure is this: If there were a horse traders union, Trump would not gain admittance of be kicked out. Horse traders, after all have some standards as do a certain number of used car salesmen. Politicians I’m not too sure about.

(Clara Caufield can be reached at acheyennevoice@gmail.com)

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