Anyone who’s ever had a social studies class with me knows my political views. To put it lightly, I am liberal and proud. So, if I were to lock myself in a room with a Republican, a recently-elected, Tea Party Republican for an hour and a half, one could expect no less than fireworks. In fact, I did just that, and surprisingly, the fireworks remained dormant.
My interview with House District 4 representative Derek Skees will remain in my mind as one of the most interesting and insightful conversations in my political experience. I listened attentively for 90 minutes to the thought process behind the conservative ideology. While I disagreed with 95 percent of Mr. Skees’ opinions, I walked away with a much better understanding of the Republican Party. Mr. Skees exemplifies what democracy should be — a government run by a well-informed and educated people.
Since not everyone has the opportunity to pick the brain of a representative, I intend for the majority of this article to uncover and disseminate the views of Mr. Skees and the parties he represents. Hopefully, readers will follow Mr. Skees’ example and form their own well-informed opinions.
Now we have elected Mr. Skees as our voice in the Montana House. Who is he? He is a father, a husband, a Republican, a Tea Party advocate, a Constitutionalist and, as he proudly states, “a grass roots kind of fellow.” In fact, grass roots activism is Skees’ only political experience. He has represented the Republican Party since 1988, often giving much of his time to knock doors for other candidates and get to know the people of Montana. Skees didn’t even consider running until his 16-year-old son asked him a question that knocked him off his feet: “What are you doing to make my life better?”
With that simple motivation, Skees began working to win a seat in the House, and now that he has, he has a lot on his plate.
“It feels phenomenal to win.” he says, “Now I need to learn my job, and figure out how to be the best legislator I can be.”
Once he has sufficiently educated himself, Skees wants to focus on making Montana a business-friendly state, especially the Flathead Valley.
“We need to model our business policy after North Dakota and Wyoming,” he says, referencing North Dakota’s 100 oil drills for every three we have in Montana.
The Flathead Valley sits on one of the biggest natural gas pockets in the Northwest, and Skees wants to take advantage of that. He firmly believes that getting rid of the controversial business equipment tax will bring big businesses into Montana, providing a whole new source of revenue.
Conversely, he claims that bringing oil companies into the Flathead Valley will provide high-paying jobs and a greater source of income tax, and if we tax the oil companies heavily, we can better fund our schools. Local drilling will also help us become independent of foreign oil.
“I want gas in my truck to be less than a dollar,” he says.
Skees is also a firm believer in nuclear energy.
“If France and China can do it, why can’t we?” he says, “They’re no smarter or better than us.”
Skees feels the dangers of nuclear energy are minimal since reactors are 200 to 500 feet underground.
For those who argue that nuclear energy and oil drilling will damage the natural beauty and small-town feel of the Flathead, Skees responds, “The people want to get back to work, and (employment) far outweighs a small-town feel.”
Furthermore, Skees prides himself in being a conservationist and not an environmentalist. In other words, Skees believes in “responsible growth.” However, he’s not at all concerned about the threat of finite resources.
“There is no such thing as peak oil,” he says, “If the Gulf oil spill proved anything, it’s that oil is not a fossil fuel — it’s a naturally reoccurring process.”
As far as alternative energy sources are concerned, Skees feels that solar and wind energy are not practical since they rely on undependable sources. He has no problem with the pursuit of alternative energy as long as it can survive without tax subsidies. With what he calls a “businessman’s perspective,” Skees believes that something “should be allowed to pass or fail in the free market totally by itself.” He is firmly against environmentalism, seeing it as a road block to economic development, while he sees conservationism as a happy medium.
“Green is the new red,” he says, and goes on to quote the famous Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, who called environmentalists “useful idiots.”
Continuing with his philosophy on the strength of the free market, Skees feels that “the Federal Reserve is our enemy.” The Federal Reserve is a government-run bank that controls the economy by raising and lowering interest rates. He believes there should have been an 11th amendment added to the Bill of Rights, stating, “The government has no ability or authority to borrow money.” In other words, he believes the Federal Reserve should not exist.
Skees explains, “Our dollar is only worth something because our government tells us it is,” and he believes that even though the rest of the world works that way, it doesn’t make it right. He says, “(We) are slaves to the Federal Reserve and to the dollar.”
The Federal Reserve can control inflation, making the dollar worth less, and Skees believes inflation is a hidden tax. Instead, he proposes that our currency be based off gold, as was done by the Byzantine Empire, which had the most stable currency for 800 years.
Skees’ passion is freedom, so it only makes sense that he wants to break away from the control of the Federal Reserve. His passion is also what makes him such a strong believer in the Tea Party movement. Skees does a very good job of explaining what the Tea Party is all about.
“The tea party is the middle class railing against their death.” He explains that the lower class is supported by government spending, and the upper class can always find a way out of paying taxes, so it’s the middle class that gets abused. Now that we are in a borderline depression, the middle class is getting squeezed into poverty. Before, they were apathetic, but now they are waking up.
Skees also feels that since the Founding Fathers were looking for a middle ground when they wrote the Constitution, that Tea Partiers are not hard right-wing, but moderates. Skees says that if we go too far right, we will end up in anarchy, but if we go too far left, we will face totalitarianism.
“If we are firmly rooted in the Constitution,” he says, “we will be okay.”
While Skees appreciates and has even befriended Will Hammerquist, his opponent during the House District 4 race, he uses him as an example of someone who he believes is too far left. He says that Hammerquist is a socialist because all of his policies advocate a government solution. On the other hand, Skees’ policies favor the private sector. Quite simply, Skees believes that those on the far left are Socialists and “they are just afraid to say it.”
When it comes to social issues, Skees believes America is facing tyranny from the homosexual community.
“What I don’t like about the gay community is that they are very organized, and want to modify laws to suit them,” he said.
He believes gays invented the idea of “hate language,” therefore modifying the Constitution. He feels that “equal protection under the law” means there should be no such thing as hate crime. He sees hate crime as the government telling him what he can and cannot say. In other words, it is tyranny. He believes it is society’s job to ostracize him for being politically incorrect, and not the government’s.
As for the issue of gay marriage, Skees says that “love is love” and we should have a way for them to get rights without marriage. However, the Montana Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and Skees is after all a Constitutionalist.
Despite his passion for the Montana Constitution, Skees voted yes on the ballot initiative for a constitutional convention in the most recent mid-term election. He believes some parts of the Constitution do need to be changed.
Skees says he is not nervous to dive into his new job. On the contrary, he describes himself as “indefatigable,” stating that a man’s greatness is measured by what dismays him. His courage and ambition is admirable. Mr. Skees feels that one should do his civic duty to educate himself, and then make his own choice.
Mr. Skees advises, “Get your book of Communist information, get your book of freedom-loving information and read them both and make your own choice. Don’t listen to anybody else.”
And of course, “get good grades.”
Jessie Mazur is a senior at Whitefish High School and editor of the Bulldog Breeze.