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2 former Montana governors discuss constitution, shape of democracy

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Former GOP Gov. Marc Racicot smiles Thursday as former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock talks during the 50th anniversary of the Montana State Constitution.

marc racicot mugshot

Marc Racicot

Steve Bullock mug

Steve Bullock 

Two former Montana governors on opposite sides of the political spectrum brought down the closing curtain of the 50th anniversary of the Montana Constitutional Convention, urging respectful dialogue in times intense discourse.

Former GOP Gov. Marc Racicot and former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday discussed “Hope and Vision for Future Generations under the Montana Constitution.” Former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer spoke at the event on Wednesday.

The Racicot and Bullock discussion, held in the state House chambers, capped a two-day celebration of the crafting of a new Montana Constitution. Racicot served as governor from 1993 until 2001. Bullock was governor from 2013 to 2021.

Racicot has recently spoken about a lack of decency in public debate and has said there are serious warning signs the country is at risk. 

He repeated many of those comments Thursday.

“Democracy is a voluntary association,” Racicot said. “And to quote a famous movie producer, if they don’t want to come you can’t stop them.”

He said democracy is a dynamic institution that is always changing and can deteriorate and rot as quickly as it can improve.

Racicot said he was surprised that a recent poll found about 30% of the people who replied said that on occasion there is justification for violence against government.

“We chose to abide by the rule of law simply by living in the United States of America,” he said, adding it requires everyone to limit personal ambition.

“And it calls out for and expects greater service to our country than to ourselves or to our party or to any other constituency.”

“We need to take care of this document. We need to take care of the balance. We need to take of its spiritual metaphysical expectations, and if we don’t proceed with the right state of mind as leaders and citizens it will vanish,” Racicot said, adding that a bit of insight was provided by the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

He said what happened in 1972 with the state constitution happened because people listened to each other.

“But there is turmoil and tumult in this country,” Racicot said, adding there is concern by “great middle of America” with what is going on in the United States.

“Power is not in control,” he said. “Power is in ideas.”

He urged the crowd to get involved and require more from those who serve the public.

Bullock said it must have been amazing to be among the delegates sitting in the committees. He also mentioned how the delegates sat alphabetically rather than by party.

He said the delegates dwelled on the possibility of what the new constitution ought to be, “taking the experiences but knowing you can build something that 50 years later will still be equally as relevant."

Bullock described Montanans as “libertarians who give a damn about each other.”

He said Montanans have a healthy and reasonable distrust of government, but “we would do anything for our neighbors.”

Bullock said the constitution keeps government in check.

He said it is a “head scratcher” to hear people now in government say the constitution has not stood the test of time. He said they are the same people who, when told that proposed legislation was not constitutional, still tried to get it passed. 

He agrees it is a perilous time for democracy.

But he said democracy is not an outcome but a process.

Bullock said people need to ask more of policymakers no matter what side of the political aisle they are on. 

“The constitution was not a liberal thing. It was not a conservative thing. It was actually outlining what we don’t want government to do to us,” Bullock said. “We still have to dwell in the possibility of our state and our country. There are risks and the risks are real, but that doesn‘t mean that if the better angels are also pushed by the electorate and others that we can’t do a hell of lot better than we are today.”

You can watch the panel discussion on the Montana Public Affairs Network at The discussion is toward the end of the recording. 

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.


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Assistant Editor/Reporter

Phil Drake is the assistant editor and reporter at the Independent Record.

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