Tough words for Montana Democrats, from one of their own.
Will they fall on deaf ears?
I think they will.
Despite that, Harper Lawson went on to say this to Democrats earlier this week:
“In Montana, Democrats have a choice to make: We can adopt the messaging and ideology of national democrats – and continue to lose almost every statewide race. Or, we can be Montana Democrats again – and show the rest of the country how Democrats connect to win in red and rural America. Democrats who just claim to have ‘Montana Values’ won’t cut it. A new generation of independent-minded Montana Democrats who personify those values in all 56 counties are the only way out of this newfound wilderness.”
Never heard of this guy? Me either.
He’s a Dem that’s worked for the DGA, the DSCC, and the Senate Majority PAC. Yep, a corporate, east coast, swamp-creature Dem...and one that’s telling us that approach doesn’t work in Montana, and probably never did.
He should know. Before becoming a swamp creature, he worked on Schweitzer’s campaign and staffed for McCullough, so knows a thing or two about getting a Dem elected statewide.
Few do anymore. We saw that clearly last week. It’s why Harper wrote that letter to the editor.
Will Dems take heed?
I doubt it. Oh, regular Dem voters that read that letter probably nodded and agreed with it and hope someone with some power listens.
But I feel the people with the power also read it, nodded, and thought to themselves, ‘Damn, we better pull the wool over the voters’ eyes just a bit more, because too much of the truth is shining through to ‘em!’
I’ve explained to you for years on this site that it doesn’t matter if Dem candidates win or lose in this state - the consultants get paid bank; the campaign staff gets paid bank; the hangers-on at Dem Party HQ make bank.
These hacks get paid tens of thousands of dollars each month...to lose. What’s especially sad is that it’s been going on for years.
The candidate campaigns aren't much different. They're just pissing money away! Thank God they only raise around 10% of it in Montana and the rest out-of-state! The assholes on the coasts can afford to piss their money away; we here in the Treasure State cannot.
We make so little of it, and that was a big point of Harper’s letter - common Montanans that vote Democrat can’t identify with the issues that Democratic candidates talk about because those issues don’t have any bearing on their 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday work week lives...and all anyone wants to do on the weekends is get what little rest and free time they can before they have to start it all over again on Monday.
Dems seem blind to this, and deaf to anyone that tries to tell them about it.
They’re in their 'la-la-land' of dark money, public lands, and women’s rights.
None of those things help pay my kids’ tuition, or figure out how I’m going to buy a home, or even pay this month’s power bill.
Dems in Montana don’t seem to understand this. I’m not sure they ever did.
There was a good comment from Brenda on the ‘Dem aftermath’ post that ID put up last week, and I thought it said a lot:
I think Brenda’s referring to Brad Martin, who served as the executive director for the Montana Democrats from 1997 to 2005. He left to go work for the DNC in Washington.
Minnesota’s Jim Ferrall (originally of Delaware) took over for him, a job that lasted for two years, and which ushered in the current trend of only having someone in that position for 2-3 years. Once Martin left, Institutional knowledge was something Dems just no longer seemed to prize.
I don’t know why the shake-ups came, but I can’t help but think some of the taint Max brought from D.C. was to blame. Or perhaps it was Schweitzer, who nabbed the governor’s office for the Dems in 2004 for the first time in sixteen years.
I dunno. Most Dems voting today don’t either. Most have no idea who these people were, what their values were, or how they wanted to help Montanans.
It’s the same with Montana Dem candidates today.
Now, you know who else I think of when I read Brenda’s comment? Jim Elliot.
From 2009 to 2013 he was the state chairman of the Dem Party.
A big reason he got that position was because of the ideas he had a decade earlier.
Back in the late-90s, Elliot had the idea of “Conversation 2000.” I referenced this over five years ago, after another devastating year of statewide losses, back when I was still a Dem and still tried to tell them that they needed to find a new way of doing things. My was I attacked and shamed and ultimately shunned for doing so.
Elliot is now back in obscurity in Trout Creek, but here are the ideas he had twenty years ago:
The newspaper piece was called “Ex-Legislator Elliott discusses party’s ills.”
In it we hear from Jim Elliot of Trout Creek. We’re told he was concerned over “the party’s failure to deal with its poor showings in recent years.” Because of that he started Conversation 2000.
Conversation 2000 consisted of “meetings in 16 cities, with a total of 130 invited Democrats of varying backgrounds participating.”
Elliot wanted to “hear out Democrats across the state,” though I’m not sure the party brass at the time would have approved. I guess they must have, for the thing went off without a hitch. Whether 20 years later it has anything to show for it I’m not sure.
“We realized something needed to be done to resuscitate the Democratic Party in Montana,” Elliot wrote of the tour. He decries the fact that the 200 years-worth of “ideas and principles of the Democratic Party” have not been reflected in Montana.
Elliot points out that “he and many others have a tendency to think that ‘those in important positions in the party intuitively know what the public is thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth.’”
Elliot went on to tell Chuck Johnson that “the party needs to visit with people around the state who identify themselves with the Democratic Party and see what they expect from the party, what are their goals and what issues do they want raised.”
“A Political party in power a long time goes on auto-pilot as long as it wins elections,” Elliot said, and Johnson pointed out that “Democrats are no longer winning.”
Elliot mentions that “the Democratic platform says what you stand for, it doesn’t say what you’re going to do about it.”
Elliot mentioned that “Democrats have ‘neglected entirely’ the business community, which provides the jobs” though he added that “businesses must treat employees responsibly.”
Democrats must “encourage a diversity of viewpoints in the party” he tells us. “Democrats who are for a sales tax and against abortion, both contrary to party positions, ‘feel effectively driven out.’”
“If there is no debate on the issues, there’s no discovery of common ground, and Democrats have a lot of common ground.” Elliot pointed out that these common ground areas are:
- Fighting for the little guy;
- Protecting the environment “and physical health of Montana and the United States;”
- Advocating “pay-as-you-go government rather than borrow-and-spend.”
And that was Jim, twenty years ago.
‘It’s the economy, stupid!’...and it’s still true nearly 30 years later.
The GOP knows the self-created problem the Dems are having, and they’re taking advantage of it.
On the same day Harper wrote his letter to the editor, the Montana Free Press put up their story asking various politicians why the bloodbath took place.
“Jake Eaton, a GOP strategist who worked on the Gianforte campaign, said he believes Republicans won by such large margins in part because their message was compelling to independent voters and the party was effective at getting its base to turn out and vote.
Internal polling data, Eaton said, indicated Montana voters were worried less about the health care issues Democrats focused on than about their livelihoods, particularly given the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic.
Other Republicans and some Democrats concurred, citing a perception that the Democratic Party has become increasingly disconnected from low- and middle-income people and communities.”
Here’s what a legislator from Great Falls things of the Montana Democratic Party:
“They don’t really represent the working class voter anymore...it’s kind of become the party of the narrow elite, highly educated people from university towns.”
I think many will agree with that.
So what is the plan going forward? You’d think the high-priced staffers pulling down over $1,000 a week at Dem HQ in Helena could come up with a plan.
We know they won’t, not because they’re incapable of doing so...but because win, lose or draw, they’ll continue to get paid those hefty sums.
There is no incentive to change.
Doesn’t help us much though, does it?
Doesn’t do a damn thing for all those disgruntled and frustrated voters that voted Dem only to see every single statewide office go to the GOP, all three branches of government now firmly in their hands.
And it doesn’t do anything to help the Dems still holding power, all of whom are in the legislature.
Here are the Montana Democrats that will hold power come January:
6 (Maybe 7?) Recently Elected
- Mike Fox (SD 16)
- Jen Gross (SD 25) won by just 200 votes or so
- Chris Pope (SD 31)
- Ryan Lynch (SD 37)
- SD 38??? (recount coming)
- Mark Sweeney (SD 39) won by just 149 votes
- Ellie Hill (SD 46)
49 Currently in Office
- Debo Powers (HD 3)
- Dave Fern (HD 5)
- Marvin Weathermax (HD 15)
- Tyson Running Wolf (HD 16)
- Frank Smith (HD 31)
- Jonathan Windy Boy (HD 32)
- Rynalea Pena (HD 41)
- Sharon Peregoy (HD 42)
- Kathy Kelker (HD 47)
- Jessica Karjala (HD 48)
- Emma Carpenter (HD 49)
- Laurie Bishop (HD 60)
- Jim Hamilton (HD 61)
- Ed Stafman (HD 62)
- Alice Buckley (HD 63)
- Kelly Kortum (HD 65)
- Denis Hayman (HD 66)
- Jim Keane (HD 73)
- Derek Harvey (HD 74)
- Donovan Hawk (HD 76)
- Sara Novak (HD 77)
- Rob Olsen (HD 79)
- Mary Caferro (HD 81)
- Moffie Funk (HD 82)
- Kim Abbott (HD 83)
- Mary Ann Dunwell (HD 84)
- Katie Sullivan (HD 89)
- Marilyn Marler (HD 90)
- Connie Keogh (HD 91)
- Tom France (HD 94)
- Danny Tenenbaum (HD 95)
- Willis Curdy (HD 98)
- Mark Thane (HD 99)
- Andrea Olsen (HD 100)
- Susan Weber (SD 8)
- Tom Jacobsen (SD 11)
- Carlie Boland (SD 12)
- Mary McNally (SD 24)
- Margie MacDonald (SD 26)
- Pat Flowers (SD 32)
- Jen Pomnichowski (SD 33)
- Jon Sesso (SD 37)
- Janet Ellis (SD 41)
- Jill Cohenour (SD 42)
- Dick Barrett (SD 45)
- Sue Malek (SD 46)
- SD 48 is now empty with Missoula Dem appointment coming
- Diane Sands (SD 49)
- Bryce Bennett (SD 50)
So there you have it - Montana Democrats hold 55 to 56 offices in the legislature and nothing else in the state.
Dems lost eight House Districts this election: 23, 24, 25, 26 (Great Falls) as well as 28 in Havre, 50 in Billings, 78 in Deer Lodge, and 96 in Missoula.
Chances are good they'll lose SD 25 out of Billings and SD 39 out of Anaconda in 2022. If Biden becomes president, the chances of that happening only go up.
If you read those names, chances are good you haven’t heard of most of them.
Who the hell is gonna get excited about those people? Most are old with gray hair, most are retired lawyers or teachers or bureaucrats that spent their whole career making their money off of other people’s taxes.
Who’s gonna get excited about that?
Statewide, none of those names have a chance of gaining any traction whatsoever...and Dems know this.
Their Party is losing.
So now what?
And why the hell am I the only one talking about this? I don’t want the Dems to win - they made it clear to me half a decade ago that they hate my guts.
I want them to lose, and they need no one’s help to do that.
But what if they wanted to win?
I just gave you a lot of ideas from people smarter than me - jobs, income, property taxes, business interests.
And getting away from the national politics of the green new deal, identity politics, black lives matter, and defunding the police would also be a no-brainer.
Alas, for Democrats in Montana...it’s not a no-brainer. In fact, the things I just listed as bad ideas? Dems think those are good ideas.
And they lose because of it, and they’re going to continue to lose.
The Democratic bench in Montana has been annihilated. The only people the Dems have left now are a few dozen legislators, the most well-known of whom are going to be termed-out soon.
For the next couple of years, the main fight that Dems will be waging is against themselves. They’ll be fighting over who can jump up to the Senate, and who in turn can jump back down to the House. It’s all they have left.
Statewide, it's a bunch of out-of-state transplants like Cora Neuman that want to be the face of the Party. Good luck with that.
That’s not a recipe for garnering attention to the people that you need running for statewide office in four years (two if you count the U.S. House race).
Deep down, Dems know this...and they’re scared.
Now would be a wonderful time for Montana Democrats to begin thinking about this, and more importantly, talking about it.
Or did you just want me, someone that you drove from the Party years ago, to do it for you?
I doubt it, but I'm confident that's all that'll we'll see happen.