I still remember the story from 1999.
Brian Schweitzer was running for U.S. Senate. He wasn’t a Democratic Party insider. No one in Helena knew him and few outside it did either.
To remedy that, Schweitzer started off his campaign “with a flamboyant move that let everyone know he would be an unusual kind of candidate.”
It happened during a day the legislature was in session. Schweitzer went to the Capitol rotunda and dumped $47,000 in cash on the floor. This was done to “illustrate the amount of campaign contributions that Burns had accepted from tobacco companies.”
Schweitzer made sure that everyone knew he wouldn’t be in bed with special interests.
He made a splash, and the media ate it up. By the time the 10 o’clock news had wrapped up that night, a lot of people in Montana knew who Brian Schweitzer was.
Contrast that with what we saw in Helena yesterday.
That’s Raph Graybill.
And that’s his campaign kickoff.
No one is there. No one cares.
There was nothing ‘flamboyant,’ nothing to get excited about. If ever there was a time for a political do-over, this would be it.
Might even be time for Raph to give Brian a call.
A year ago a writer on Vox asked, “Can Boring Win in 2020?”
I don’t think so, but then I didn’t read the article - it was too boring.
Maybe it had too many facts. I know voters don't really care about facts. They're too boring.
Mostly, voters want to be entertained. Montana voters want to be entertained especially bad.
We saw that quite clearly one week last year.
That's an image of the Missoula Trump rally next to one showing a Tester/Williams rally.
I think you get the picture.
Boring won’t cut it for Montana Democrats next year, and maybe that’s why none of the current AG candidates are talking about the issues.
I guess it's too early yet for any of the AG candidates to have an issues page on their site (but they will ask you for money).
- Graybill: https://www.raphgraybill.com/
- Dudik: https://www.dudikformontana.com/
- Bennion: https://www.bennionforag.com/
Political types are sure interested in those sites. I put the links to them up on Twitter last night and by this morning, 33 people had clicked on them.
I doubt we’ll see any issues pages from those candidates until next year. Chances are good those issues pages won’t go up on one site until they’ve first appeared on another.
Issues really aren’t important anyways. Voters don’t get excited about them, we know that.
I remember when I ran for city council two years ago. I went to a candidate ‘forum’ - there were five of us and about thirty in attendance - and I had a whole list of things the city had ‘wasted money on’ over the previous year.
I read the whole list of 20 items, and afterwards this guy comes up to me and says he was really bored by that and that he started to tone me out.
Voters don’t get excited about the issues, and the details bore them.
Voters do get excited about candidates.
“He clearly is aggressive, bold and irreverent,” UM political scientist Jim Lopach said of Schweitzer during his first term. “He makes a good story. He’s colorful to the point of being flamboyant or even brash.”
With colorful utterances about President Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security – he “likened the president’s pitch to a magic show featuring a rabbit in a hat. He compared it to a bull auction hawking lousy studs” – the national media knew they could get “good, provocative copy” from Montana’s governor.
Asked if he worried about the national media painting him in a way that might hurt him with common Montanans, Schweitzer said, “Who in the hell cares what they think in a newspaper on the East or West Coast. I don’t read ‘em.”
The public actually ate it up, especially when Schweitzer mentioned that he had to "wash the stink off” every time he left the nation’s capital.
Less than six months into his term, Schweitzer had an approval rating of 57%, higher than both of his predecessors during the same time in their tenure (Racicot was 44% and Martz had 47%).
Schweitzer must have done something right. He won in 2008 with 65% of the vote, a pretty impressive number for conservative Montana.
Still, he only got into office by barely breaking 50% back in 2004 (Racicot got his second term with 79% of the vote and Schwinden got 70% his second time, though both men only saw the low 50% on their first gubernatorial win).
And that stunt on the Capitol rotunda floor with the $47,000 in cash? Well, Schweitzer lost that year by 14,000 votes.
Still, Montana Democrats might want to think about Schweitzer’s approach to politics, especially those pondering their own senate or gubernatorial runs.
Currently, no Democrats in Montana want to run for either of those two offices. I don’t blame ‘em - chances are good they’d lose and they’d lose big.
But we do still have people jockeying for various offices.
I’m sure Casey Schreiner is going to run for something. I feel the same way about Andy Shirtliff. I even put up a poll about him yesterday.
I think Shirtliff will run for something next year. Personally, I think he might appear on a gubernatorial ticket, perhaps as Mike Cooney’s running mate.
Probably his best shot is going the way of another that lost his PSC bid, and that’s Galen Hollenbaugh, who now heads up the Department of Labor and Industry.
Still, it’d take a Democrat winning the governor’s race again for that to happen, and after 16 years of Dems in the top statewide seat, I think voters are ready for a change.
It really will be a GOP year for that race. Dems know this and that’s why no one wants to file to run for that seat.
I think it’s the same story with Daines’ senate seat. Dems know that their chances of flipping it are slim to none, and that anyone who does throw their hat in the ring will be nothing more than a sacrificial lamb. That didn’t work out too well for Amanda Curtis.
Democratic voters seem a bit out of touch with the rest of the country, and what they’re looking for in a candidate, well...I don’t think these traits will win it in 2020.
For instance, an NBC poll of 900 adults conducted in February told us that 92% of Democrats want a black man as the top 2020 presidential candidate, 91% want a woman, and 79% want someone that’s gay.
A gay, black woman would probably sweep the primaries next year. And then in November Democrats around the country would be shocked beyond belief that this candidate lost and lost big time.
Democrats are wildly out of touch with America and Americans. Many long-time Democratic voters no longer feel the Party represents them or their interests.
A 2016 poll of over 2,000 adults told us that 61% of voters feel this way, and that 54% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats agree with that. In 2014, only 53% of voters were saying that.
Having boring candidates is another issue, and it turns people off.
Boring candidates mean people won’t vote.
There are lots of reasons people don’t vote, but the biggest ones are that people are too busy and not interested.
I think both of those are just symptoms of how boring politics is for most people. If they wanted to, people would make time to vote. They made time to see the Avengers last week.
Reasons given for not voting?
- "I feel like my voice doesn't matter.”
- "People who suck still are in office, so it doesn't make a difference.”
- "I don't believe it is actually effective to vote as a main method of accomplishing political change.”
- "What good does it do, though, when they'll promise you anything and then it's a lie.”
- "I just don't think my vote matters.”
- "I don't even know who's running.”
For young people, turnout is often so low because they don’t know how the political process works, they don’t know the in’s-and-out’s of voting, and they were never taught in school or by their parents.
Another issue is that many young people relocate to areas where they didn’t grow up, and since they feel it’s not ‘their home,’ they tend not to vote.
A few years ago, the biggest reason young people didn’t vote was because they were too busy. 33% said that, and the second reason was that they weren’t interested, coming in at 17%.
So 50% of young people are too busy or too bored to vote.
This isn’t a problem with the voter; it’s a problem with the candidate.
Candidates are too boring for most people in the country to give a damn about!
So they don’t vote.
Last September NPR took a look at why people don’t vote. For the midterms, the youth voter turnout rate was 20%, while older adults came in at 50% turnout.
“In over a dozen interviews, NPR heard similar reasons from young nonvoters for why they don't participate in politics: they don't feel their vote matters, they don't care, they're busy, or they don't feel like they know enough to vote.
But in some cases, they're also particularly eager to choose individual candidates instead of a party label. In 2016, many said they felt uninspired by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”
And because they were uninspired, they didn’t vote. Just 58% turned out in 2016 for the presidential election.
Nathan Kosted gets at this in his latest Montana Post article, citing the higher levels of turnout we saw in 2008 and back in the Johnson years of the 1960s.
To his way of thinking, we just need candidates like Obama and Johnson again and everything will be alright.
I’m not so sure.
When Obama took office in 2009, Democrats had control of 27 state legislatures, but when he left office they only controlled 13. That comes to over 950 legislative seats that were lost to Democrats, something that’s devastated their ability to produce legislation, hamstrung their ability to produce a bench of electable candidates, and has given them little in the way of Democratic-sponsored legislation to run upon.
On top of this, Democrats lost 12 governorships while Obama was in office.
But then it’s not really about getting more Democrats elected. It’s about finding Kosted a job on 2020 presidential campaign here in Montana. I’m sure Josh Manning would join him, if he’s interested in working, that is.
But who knows. Kosted is nearly up to 100 Facebook likes and shares with his last post. Perhaps things like shares and likes and tweets and blog posts are how you win elections in Montana these days. I just don’t think so.
It'd probably do more good to be open with your thoughts and damn the consequences. That approach worked pretty well for Schweitzer. Trump draws huge crowds in Montana with that approach, while Tester and Williams can barely fill a room with theirs.
Fortune favors the bold, not the boring.