Montana Politics

How Eager Are Progressives to Elect Senator Rehberg?


I’m troubled by a piece written by JC over at 4and20 blackbirds attacking Jon Tester for allegedly betraying a series of promises he made to Paul Richards in order to earn the latter’s endorsement in 2006. It’s part of a troubling, developing

Every piece self-righteously attacking Senator Tester for his perceived flaws and failure to live up to each progressive’s notion of right and wrong only decreases his chances of winning election in 2012.

Are progressives really willing to let absolutist litmus tests lead to the election of Senator Rehberg?

 trend in which progressives seem a lot more interested in tearing down a moderate-left Senator like Tester than in attacking a troglodyte-right candidate like Representative Rehberg—and it’s dangerous.

JC’s post rests on two ideas: that Paul Richards had huge importance in the 2006 election and that Senator Tester lacks integrity.

Let’s look at the Richards myth first.

JC writes:

And we start the story with a poll: John Morrison +1%.

That was the number that was staring at Democrats a few weeks before the June 6th, 2006 Democrat primary for Senate in Montana. Coupled with that number were other polls that showed Morrison at a serious disadvantage compared to Jon Tester in a one-to-one matchup against 3-time incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns.


The rest is history. Jon Tester won a deciding primary victory over John Morrison. Paul Richard’s supporters, while relatively few in number, were a very active and participative group of people. They knew how to organize and talk policy. How to motivate people to register to vote, turn out and vote Dem. They were a politicians dream: willing to give funds, time and energy to a campaign when it was most needed.

JC’s piece depends on two narratives unsupported by the fact: 1) that Paul Richards somehow swung the 2006 primary to Jon Tester and that 2) Paul Richards somehow shifted the general election from Burns to Tester, swinging Democrats into power nationally.

The first is demonstrably false. Paul Richards’s endorsement had absolutely nothing to do with Senator Tester’s victory over John Morrison. Of Richards’ 4,000 supporters, half still ended up voting for him, and Tester eked out a margin of almost 30,000 votes over Morrison. As important as Paul Richards wanted to be in that race, his role was absolutely minimal. A better ground game and staff for Senator Tester, combined with ill-timed revelations about his opponent, sealed Tester’s victory before Richards’s endorsement, which came less than week before the election, could matter at all.

The second narrative, that Richards supporters were the reason Tester won the general, also doesn’t hold water. Am I to believe that these progressives were going to stay home and let Conrad Burns win another election? That this tiny group of people had such a disproportionate impact on the election? It’s just hard to accept and unsupported by anything other than self-aggrandizement, and this from someone who admired Paul Richards.

On the broader issue of the progressive left’s attacks against Senator Tester, I just don’t get it. I can’t shake a stick in a forest without hitting a copy-pasted post from Matt Koehler attacking Senator Tester for his Wilderness Bill; I can’t stop hearing about how Senator Tester is personally going to be responsible for the extinction of wolves in Montana, and I can’t stop reading about how Senator Tester has somehow betrayed progressives.

The fact remains that Senator Tester is who he represented himself to be, not the person we progressives want him to be all the time. Montana’s not going to elect Bernie Sanders; it’s not going to elect Russ Feingold (hell, Wisconsin doesn’t even elect Russ Feingold anymore). What we can do is to support a Senator who looks out for the working class, did his best to create a Wilderness Bill that balanced environmental protection with political and economic reality in the state, and who has worked to protect small businesses and family farms here in Montana.

He’s a good Senator and a good man. It’s easy to let passion obscure those simple truths.

He’s not a perfect Senator. I have disagreed with his position on a number issues, from the DREAM Act to unemployment, but he’s largely on our side, and certainly a better choice than the alternative. Every piece self-righteously attacking Senator Tester for his perceived flaws and failure to live up to each progressive’s notion of right and wrong only decreases his chances of winning election in 2012.

Are progressives really willing to let absolutist litmus tests lead to the election of Senator Rehberg?

JC writes:

And now Tester’s supporters want to make the 2012 election all about the left not criticizing their incumbent senator, and rallying together and being polite–rallying around some mushy and mythical center created by the teabaggers attempting to pull politics and politicians as far right as possible.

No. This Tester supporter thinks that criticizing policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes is not only everyone’s right, but responsibility. But there is a profound difference between policy disagreement and character assassination, between observation and obsession.

Progressives who want a Senator we can agree with most of the time would do well to remember that.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


  • and so it continues…

    Pogie, if JC and Matthew don’t represent a significant number of people that matter, which is what you are clearly implying, then why enter the fray? you say:

    This Tester supporter thinks that criticizing policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes is not only everyone’s right, but responsibility. But there is a profound difference between policy disagreement and character assassination, between observation and obsession.

    if you think two bloggers, who are very upset a rider has now set the precedent for circumventing the ESA, and for being called extremists, are somehow profoundly obsessed with assassinating Tester’s character to the degree that it will decrease Jon’s chances against Denny, then obviously you are concerned they are making valid points that could sway people from supporting Tester. don’t you realize this and other attempts to marginalize their criticism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    and you can’t criticize them for character assassination while at the same time endorsing Rob’s LitW post laden with tantrum-esque swipes, the same Rob who has shown an eager willingness to play dirty at 4&20, including character assassination.

    i mean, you can, but it sort of undermines your moral high ground.

    • Come on. I think Rob did raise an important question–and one that has been on my mind for some time. I know you and Rob have an ongoing fight, but I’m not really into that. I just want to talk about how we elect the best people we can.

      I know my post was passionate, but I am upset, too. I don’t, however, think this is a personal fight. It’s a question of tactics.

  • Not much point in being disturbed by a ‘left’ faction that demonstrated, by its actions, that it preferred George Bush to Al Gore. (Not saying anything personal here about JC, whom I do not know.)

  • Don, a few minor quibbles.

    First off, my post does not rest on the two points to which you refer. I make no assertion that directly ties Richards’s endorsement to Tester’s primary victory. You may say so, but your assertion to the opposite lacks any veracity as well. If you think that Tester’s victory was sealed before the endorsement, then explain the poll a few days earlier showing Morrison at +1.

    Secondly, you can minimize the impact of seasoned activists on the outcome of the general. But those were people who are trained to motivate people to support causes. Many of those people are the sorts to either leave blank check boxes in political contests without good candidates, or to stay home, or to vote third party. I take your assertion that in a contest with a margin of victory of some 3500 votes, that an endorsement and active campaign by a strong block of organized and dedicated activists is meaningless to be weak speculation. But again, I did not make the explicit statement that Richards’ supporters won him the election. I said “those 2% who swung from Paul to Jon celebrated along with the others a sweet victory.”

    And finally, while you accuse me of character assassination, and make the statement: “The fact remains that Senator Tester is who he represented himself to be”, I have to ask you these questions:

    Did not Jon Tester break his promise with Paul Richards? Was it not Jon Tester who has introduced and passed legislation that went against his word?

    I take your comment about character assassination as just shooting the messenger. If there has been character assassinated, it is Jon Tester himself who has done it.

    Oh, and to your comment about me writing more about Rehberg, I have written plenty, and most likely will do so. I just don’t think that writing bad things about a horrendous republican politician on a lefty blog with a few right wingnut commenters really accomplishes much more than preaching to the choir.

    On the other hand, offering up some tough love to a democrat senator on his home turf in the hopes that he’ll start hearing the message on what many of his constituents thinks can only make him a better candidate–if he choose to listen and respond.

    Of course I realize that those close to him and are ardent supporters of democrat politics are going to feel stung and respond back to me. WHich is why I refer to the comments of Steve Kelly–do the dems really want a base war? Is the issue really me and others criticizing Jon Tester? Are you guys really ok with a candidate who reneges on his word when it is politically advantageous?

    Or do you want to see Jon Tester stake out some turf that isn’t halfway between a mushy ill-defined middle and the teabagger far right loony bin, and alienate past constituents by doing so?

    • I think you’re presenting false dichotomy. The choice isn’t mushy middle or teabagger. Tester is a moderate Democrat.

      As a whole, I am pretty pleased with Senator Tester, even though certain votes have disappointed. I think I am calling for a little perspective.

      It’s cool if we disagree–and I certainly didn’t mean to offend. Just a difference in point of view–and I certainly don’t question your commitment.

      • No offense taken.

        And I have been pleased with much of what Tester has done too. It just happens that a large part of my career involved single issue campaign work. And he happened to run afoul of two of my big ones. So I rock the boat.

        It’s not necessarily the votes that have disappointed. It’s the introduction of legislation (FJRA), and use of riders (wolf) that have raised the hackles of enviros. The way he handled the public option debate by being vague, noncommittal and uninvolved was uninspiring. Tester has cast many good votes. But he doesn’t need to resort to name calling and resort to triangulation in order to position himself in some nebulous center.

    • In case you missed one of my points, Jon has winnowed his congregation by labeling past supporters “extremists”.

      And you want those extremists to preach to his choir? Odd. Very odd. I’ve heard of doing penance, but I don’t think that is relevant here. It is not we who have sinned…

      • And you want those extremists to preach to his choir?

        Actually, yes. Look, I just think we’re way better off with (a) ‘Jon’s been good overall, and could be even better if he rethinks his positions on (issues) because (substantive bases for policy)’ rather than (b) ‘Jon’s a lying sack of shit who sold us out’ and either (i) ‘there’s no real difference, American democracy is an illusion’ or (ii) ‘it goes without saying that the other guy is way worse, so I’ll not bother saying it.’

        The thing is going to come down to turn out. I think deflationary rhetoric hurts turnout.

        It not a question of who has sinned. It’s a question of what result you want in a universe of very limited choices.

  • It’s not the criticism we mind, JC and liz. It’s the loud proclamations that you no longer support Tester, and the emphasis on criticizing him that 4&20 has had of late. I just scanned the front page, and there are 5 posts attacking either Tester or Democratic Senators including Tester, and nothing regarding Rehberg. The race is going to be between Tester and Rehberg, and you are essentially running Rehberg’s negative ads for him. Indeed, at some points you’ve been no better than the Latinos for Reform ads encouraging Hispanics not to vote. Your progressive ‘tough love’ will do about as well as all the Britons who voted Lib Dem only to see David Cameron become their prime minister.

    • Where have I ever loudly “proclaimed that [I] no longer support Tester”? Must I couch my criticism in terms that meet your criteria? Only on sundays, and followed with a “mother may I”? Who are you to chastise me? Have you ever worked on a Montana statewide campaign? Sat with gubernatorial, senate, house, and psc candidates and worked out positions and policy statements? Written briefing papers? Authored state legislation? Worked on citizen initiatives? Excuse me, but I have.

      As I explained to Don above, it is not my intent at 4&20 to turn it into another of a series of Dem sites preaching to the choir about Rehberg’s evil ways. There are plenty of those. And running Rehberg’s negative ads? Hilarious. As if any of the people who read what I write are going to vote for Rehberg because of it. You should see the real negative ads I have produced in the past. I venture to say that those who read 4&20 are not swayable in their opinions. I write what I do because I know people inside Tester’s campaign pay attention and realize they have a serious credibility problem, and the sooner they do something about it, the sooner they can get their candidate on track. The election is 19 months out. Nothing I write at this point in the campaign is going to sway a single vote. But it can help his campaign and his inner circle realize that if they are going to attempt to rely on key elements in his base that helped to elect him, they are going to have to do some serious damage control. Or not. Their choice.

      • Where have I ever loudly “proclaimed that [I] no longer support Tester”?

        “I happen to think that a man who labels me as an “extremist” does not deserve my vote, even though I donated to his last campaign and worked for his election.”

        You are an extremist, JC. Embrace it. It puts you in the company of Tom Paine, John Brown, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther (King Jr.). All great humans, all changed the world, none of them electable. They needed Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, Johnson, and Frederick III of Saxony to implement their plans. The former group will go down as pure of heart; the latter will be recorded as men with flaws and compromises. And some scrutiny of Tester is called for. But you are never going to be elected, and no one who conforms to your outrageous standards will be elected to statewide office in Montana.

        As to why progressives choose to attack Tester instead of Rehberg, I’d suggest considering another quote from your site:

        ““For it is a strange thing, but apparently true, that those who speak speak rather for the pleasure of speaking against than for the pleasure of speaking with, and the reason for that is perhaps this, that in agreement the voice cannot be raised quite so high as it can in disagreement.” ~Samuel Beckett

        • PW, I am returning for this one comment only because the discussion here is mostly about “issue.”

          Look at the labels chosen here to describe those that criticize Tester: “self-righteous, absolutist, extremist.” That is the language of party politics designed to deligitimize and stigmatize those that hold critical opinions. JC gets it right about how a blog becomes just “…another of a series of Dem sites preaching to the choir about Rehberg’s evil ways. There are plenty of those. ”

          JC and I have had some vicious encounters but I do respect his courage to speak truth to power and measure Tester against his notion of progressive ideals. One of many of JC’s pieces:

          I also have tremendous respect for Matthew Koehler who stands up for his ideals over blind party fidelity. Tester just will not address the facts of FJRA that Matt has laid out, rather Tester’s response is to deligitimize and stigmatize with the disparaging epithet, “extremist.”

          Now, it strikes me a bit odd and irreconcilable that those hurling the political pejoratives at those that don’t recite from the catechism of party loyalty, turn around and label themselves as “progressives.”

          One thing I’ve learned is that politicians will always break your heart. All that’s left is staying true to one’s values and ideals. If the choice presented here is to accept being stabbed in the back by a friendly or facing the opposition head on in a fight over values and beliefs, think hard over which struggle a person is willing to lose their own blood.

        • “does not deserve my vote” does not equate “no longer support” no matter how you try to make it so.

          How can you demand that a politician who labels a once supporter an “extremist” should still deserve that person’s vote? That’s insanity.

          That I may choose, as a political matter, to ignore the ostracization and epithets thrown my way, and choose to support Tester by voting for him is still my prerogative. But because anybody here or elsewhere days so.

          ANd there’s thousands of others in my shoes. You going to go out and have a temper tantrum about all of them too, that they may choose to not vote for JOn because of his infidelity to his word and slandering of one time supporters and allies?

          JOn created this mess. Asking his one-time supporters to clean it up is really poor politics.

          • OK, JC, is this more clear:

            Sayonara Senator Tester.

            Ye shall reap what ye sow, and all that sort of rot… Once an extremist, always an extremist. So don’t come a callin’ when it’s election time. ”

            “Any ideas on how to motivate and organize opposition to Tester? Want to run for Senator?”

            That is loudly stating your opposition to Senator Tester.

            As to lizard – I’m sorry liz, I forgot to note that recently you did say you supported Tester if Rehberg was the alternative. You still have been speaking loudly in opposition to his policies, but I failed to make the distinction between opposing the politics and opposing his actual campaign. I thought I remembered you saying you were done voting for national candidates from major parties, but I can’t find that so maybe I am remember wrong.

          • Oooh, gothcha.

            Yep I was pissed when I wrote that, if in fact that is what I wrote. But you know, kick a hornet’s nest, and you’re going to get stung.

            And while you obsess over my choice of words, and analyze every little nuance of my stream of consciousness babble, you have totally avoided speaking to my main issue here.

            What do you think of Tester’s choice of words for his constituents?

            And what do you think about him going back on his word for a gentleman’s agreement he made with them in exchange for their support and votes?

            Because as much as you want to make this about me, and further a base war, the topic I have raised is Jon Tester’s actions and words–a topic you have yet to make a single comment about here.

          • Actually, JC, this isn’t your blog. The topic was raised by Pogie, and that is this – are progressives who talk like you do about Jon Tester furthering progressive causes in so doing. Tester may have erred in his choice of language, but frankly he is doing what he has to do to appeal to most Montanans. I’m only obsessing over your word choice because you are denying saying the things you said.

          • Well, I’m not interested in arguing what is or isn’t a progressive or a progressive cause. I was just defending myself here. If you want to have the discussion as you see it, carry on–without me.

            That’s about as unproductive of a discussion as can be had: “I’m a progressive” “no you’re not, i’m a progressive…”. I’m not interested in dems and/or liberals and/or progressives get into an ideological semantic pissing match.

            Oh, and I fail to see how this:

            “I’m only obsessing over your word choice because you are denying saying the things you said”

            has anything to do with the topic at hand, as you just defined.

            Be that as it may, I don’t have a photographic memory, nor do I reread all of my posts and comments before I address an accusation. When you put my words front and center, I’ll respond to them as I did.

            And what is wrong with asking a politician if he is interested in getting into a primary against Tester, which is what I was saying to Steve Kelly?

            You against primary-ing Tester too? Others have thrown out the challenge, as mockingly as it may have been.

            It really seems as if you just want to suppress dissent PW. Are you really going to hold it against me for calling for a primary opponent to Tester? Haven’t I already proved with the story I wrote that I’ve been all about forming coalitions during primaries to unseat corrupt incumbents? Look at Obama and Clinton. Without the pain of that primary, the two factions would never have been able to get over their differences and work together.

            And didn’t I back off my statement by calling it hyperbole? Must I sit on every statement I want to write in a comment for 24 hours before I post it so as to be PC? Steve Kelly called me on it and I fessed up.

            As it is, I’d love to see someone primary Tester. I’d think it would be good for him, and for his campaign. Especially given that Rehberg most likely will not face a primary. What better way to keep the limelight on your candidate than to have a primary?

            For what it’s worth, Paul Richards didn’t officially announce his candidacy until 3 months before the primary, though it was know 6 months before that that he was interested.

            Oh, and as a parting shot, and you’re attempt to narrow the focus of the debate here, the reason I came here to debate my article was because Don politely invited us to do so with his comment on my article:

            “I published a more lengthy rebuttal over at my site,”

            Which I took as an invitation to continue the dialog here. Sorry my bad, if I was confused. I’ll shut up now if you want (and thanks for the invite Don, it’s been a nice discussion).

          • Hehehe

            JC: “You against primary-ing Tester too? Others have thrown out the challenge, as mockingly as it may have been.”

            The JC doctrine: “I win because I’ve failed so bad!’

            You know, it’s funny to me, JC. Not once have you shown the sack to even propose that Paul Richards should or would run again. But you’ll pompously sneer at anyone who asks what alternate you have to offer. You have nothing, and that’s not my fault or my problem. It’s yours.

          • And just for the record, you’re not having a dialogue, JC. Just as before, you’re whining that people don’t agree with you. Polish Wolf has been nothing but polite if even in disagreement. Yet you flee into accusation and whimpering that no one really wants to hear what you have to say … even though it’s been well heard, and sounds kind of ridiculous. I will write it one more time that you can offer it as evidence that you are so very picked on. NO ONE IS TRYING TO SHUT YOU UP. It would simply facilitate dialogue if you would get over yourself enough to actually, I don’t know, engage with a small degree of honesty? My opinion, of course, but I have little faith that will happen, ever.

          • hey rob, i want to hear what he has to say.

            much more, in fact, then the lovely stuff you finger-fuck on your keyboard.

          • Ok, JC, if you’re willing to see this discussion to the end –

            I’m sorry if I offended, and I suppose I became more interested in the particulars of the argument than the substance.

            My question is this, and I can see both sides – is a strong primary challenge to Tester good?

            On the one hand, if could energize the base, get people interested in the election earlier, perhaps give Tester a chance to explain himself to his party.

            But on the other hand, it will force him to the left, force him to make statements that sound good to the party and then sound damn ominous when played over a black and white picture of wolves eating a sheep during the generals. It seems to me that the cons outweigh the pros, but I’m not an expert. I’m just afraid of making Jon Tester our version of Christine O’Donnell.

          • Lizard: ‘hey rob, i want to hear what he has to say.”

            Hey lizard, why should I give a give a shit what you want before speaking my peace? The man just whimpered his diaper off about how we meanies want him to shut up, when no one has even alluded to that, and here’s you weakly telling me to shut up. How about “No”. Does that work for you?

          • well rob, you said no one wants to listen to JC. i countered that stupid claim.

            i’m beginning to wonder if you drink alcohol while you blog.

          • “Ok, JC, if you’re willing to see this discussion to the end”

            I was… until I started to get trolled by Rob Kailey. I’m done here. Thanks for the opportunity to let the discussion get as far as it did.

    • you are absolutely wrong. does reality even matter to you? I’ve stated twice now that i plan on voting for Tester. would you like me to compose a love poem to him?

      what i still have a problem with, which Don has failed to address, is his endorsement of Rob’s antics at LitW while coming down on JC for character assassination. i guess foul language and character assassination is ok as long as it adheres to the right ideological position.

  • Great post Don. I’m not sure what JC and Matt K are really expecting. Have they ever bothered to see the part of the state that Tester comes from? They are not going to get a Bernie Sanders out of him… and and expectation that he should vote that way is ludicrous. There is a middle ground and Tester comes from it. This is a reality. I wish some progressives would get it.
    An analog to this is the extreme right wing candidate. Generally, Montana doesn’t accept the fringe. I wonder if these “true progressives” ever bother to see what the core of our state is made of.
    They would cut off their nose, to spite their faces I guess.

    Do they really want Rehbergt to take the seat? or Hill? Really? This is not “winning”.

  • “Generally, Montana doesn’t accept the fringe.”

    Nice closed-minded reply. Then why did Tester ask for, and accept our terms in exchange for our assistance and votes? After all, we’re just the fringe.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I grew up not far from Jon. 3rd gen Montanan. Nor would I ever ask of him to be a Bernie Sanders style independent. I’m not stupid.

    • How is that close minded? There is a middle in this state. There is a middle in nearly all states!
      So, by your logic the progressives “own” him then. (our at least your particular brand of progressiveness?)
      The notion that because Jon accepted money from the special progressive caucus, that since accepting that money his votes should follow their particular agenda ONLY is a stretch.

      I suggest you look at his voting record when he was in our state legislature to get a better idea of what Tester is all about. And how he might vote.

      I have never worked on a Montana statewide campaign, sat with gubernatorial, senate, house, and psc candidates and worked out positions and policy statements… but I have the basic grasp that in a two party system with voters that tend NOT to be pigeon holed into one neat political category or another that to survive you have to trend to where your potential VOTERS might be… not where your donors are. The voters did elect him, right?
      But, off course, since I don’t have nearly as much experience as you in politics, I’m just spit balling here…

      I am a 4th generation Montana who grew a stones throw from Tester… I, like many people in that area farmed and had democratic friends just like Jon. Maybe he isn’t the brand of Democrat you need, but knowing where he is from and how he conducted himself in state politics, this is no surprise.

      • I don’t care where you, or the press or the polls think the middle is. Did you read the opening bit to my article at 4&20? Go read that and come back and have this argument.

        And if the middle does move to the right–because democrats have this way of allowing republicans to continure pulling politics rightward–does not mean that I’m going to move with it.

        4th gen. Huh, guess you’re a better Montanan than I.

        • I read your bit. I agree with Don’s take regarding Richards supporters and Testers election. I just don’t see how a small minority “did it” for Tester. And I certainly don’t see how Tester owes them. One thing to run a campaign, yet another to govern.

          So, your choice is to ensure the voters see an even more polarized choice? It’s either Wingnut Republican or an Uber Liberal Democrat?
          Unlike you, I think the public tires of the extremes and will gravitate to a choice that might mimic more of their thinking… which is generally a moderate one. And we’re talking the general election here.

          Not trying to imply a generational pissing contest. Just letting you know that like you, I’ve got roots and history in this state and something in common with Tester. Sorry you took it the wrong way.

          • Fine, you can slide to the right with the mythical middle if you so choose.

            I have no desire to be a pragmatic centrist. I like where I am.

            But you still have ignored the whole thesis upon which I based my article:

            Is a politicians word worth anything, anymore? And if it isn’t, then what is the worth of the politician?

          • “Fine, you can slide to the right with the mythical middle if you so choose.”

            Because being in the middle makes you a righty.. Awesome logic. Anything to the right of you deserves that label, I totally get it now.

            No, I didn’t ignore the whole thesis. I do like Robert Reich. However, I don’t vote for a politician to be led. I vote for one that conforms with my beliefs and whose votes might best reflect my own philosophy. I don’t need a politician to be waving a flag wildly telling me, “look here! look here!” to “lead” me to their side.

            That’s just me. Of course, I don’t want a politician to constantly sticking his/her finger in the air to see where to go. But, I don’t see Tester doing this. You do. Maybe Tester disappoints you most because he’s not “leading” the progressive cause to the heights you desire. And to that, I say I think you misplaced your idea of who Tester was at the onset.

          • “I vote for one that conforms with my beliefs and whose votes might best reflect my own philosophy”

            Well, that’s what we thought we were doing when we sat down with Tester and came to an agreement. We thought he shared our principles and would vote that way in Congress.

            Except not so much. It was just a bunch of hyperbole meant to garner votes and support.

            What If Jon all of a sudden quite conforming to your beliefs and his votes in Congress no longer reflected your philosophy? What would you do then? A little buyers’ remorse, maybe?

          • “What If Jon all of a sudden quite conforming to your beliefs and his votes in Congress no longer reflected your philosophy?”

            That’s just it JC. He’s still an acceptable person to represent me in the senate. Has he been perfect? No. But good enough for me? Yes. But clearly not good enough for you.
            That’s fine. But what is the alternative here? Burn down the barn? See if we can install a true slime-bucket republican that will be harder than hell to knock out of there, once in office?
            Because that’s what it’s beginning to look like. Madness.

            You know, the first few articles I saw from you, Lizard, the bear, and Matthew K… I thought, “well, you have to pay the price with that part of your base, Tester”….
            but it continued…
            and continued.
            Then it ceased to be a reminder (and a justifiable one) to Tester that he violated some of his base’s desires, but more of an obsession to point out what an unacceptable senator he really is to the “true progressive.”

            So I have to wonder what your alternative is? Why NOT just go nuclear and see if we can malign Tester enough to ensure we get a shitbag in office? Is that the strategy?

            I think Don’s point is just that. What do you want here? What is your intention? Who is your alternative to Tester… since he has failed you so? I guess, that doesn’t matter.

  • @JC:

    I hope you didn’t take my post too personally. It was a matter of being the last straw for me, rather than your post creating particular offense. I do hope we can have a dialogue about this.

    I do think the Richards people have a slightly inflated perception about his importance in 2006. This post, on the Richards site, by Bob Campbell, kind of exemplifies this,

    The weakness of the Morrison supporters would not stand the blast of Paul Richards, which hit after the last poll was taken showing the Morrison-Tester vote was too close to call.

    I also think that your suggestion that there were terms that Tester has somehow violated is simply language that is too strong. Of the six items you post, how many has Tester explicitly violated? I’d argue he’s made real progress on some of those issues, especially voting for a better healthcare system, even at the cost of political capital.

    Sorry if it seemed like I was suggesting you didn’t work against Rehberg. That was more of a broad claim than one directed at you.

    Anyway…I’m off to teach. Thanks for the discussion.

    • “a slightly inflated perception”

      Isn’t politics all about inflated perceptions? It sure isn’t about reality most of the time. But my article is not about the importance–or lack of importance–of Paul Richards and his supporters, as much as you want it to be. Because that’s something that is an easy debate to have, and just diverts the discussion from the real topic at hand. I gave the narrative to set context, not reach conclusions–or at least tried.

      And as I’ve asked each and every other individual here who wants to make my article about other than it’s main theme–the elephant in the room here–what do you think about my main points?

      Is a politician’s word worth anything? And if it isn’t, then of what worth is the politician?

      And what about a politician who one day shakes a supporter’s hand in agreement over principles and actions and on another calls him an extremist? This is what he did to Paul Richards.

      What are we to think of that sort of behavior? I’m used to being labeled a radical, an extremist, once-upon-a-time eco-terrorist. Paul and others like Stu Brandborg don’t deserve this, nor does anyone else who has a policy dispute with him. As I’ve been rightly accused of shutting down dialog by my inarticulate use of pejoratives in my comments, so too has Jon Tester shut down the possibility of dialog with those whom disagree with him on policy. A senator does not talk or negotiate with extremists. HIs words were a clarion call heard loud and clear by those who once supported him, to paraphrase: “you no longer matter to me because I have cast you into the political oblivion of extremists.”

      This is what it comes down to for me. A matter of integrity. Jon Tester ran on integrity and character. His actions have belied that integrity. Do any of you care about that?

      If Tester’s core supporters and base can’t deal with the fact that their senator and candidate has a problem with integrity–words and gentleman’s agreements mean something in Montana (or at least they used to)–then by ignoring the question I pose (as inarticulately and spiteful as you may accuse me of) you enable him to continue this behavior. And thus continues the slide of a man who ran on his character to a character who runs on illusions.

      Out of the 7 items, Tester has explicitly violated two. He never came out as a strong supporter of even the public option, much less his agreed-upon “Medicare-for-all” alternative. There was a proposal on the table to offer those 55 and older to buy into Medicare which I was a huge supporter of. Jon did not support that proposal.

      In addition, he violated his gentleman’s agreement with Michael Garrity to not use environmental riders to pass legislation.

      There’s an easy way for Jon to deal with all of this, if he wanted. Politicians are allowed to change their minds and constituencies, or fess up to bad behavior (though I know that many of you would encourage him to use more of the same against us “extremists”). They do it all the time. He just needs to address the issue and we can put all of this behind us. Or not. HIs choice. It’s a matter of leadership… and character.

  • Hello Don,

    Funny, but what you view as my “attacking Senator Tester for his Wilderness Bill” is actually the process of bringing up very substantive concerns and issues related to the actual language and ramifications of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Funny, but Senator Tester and the “collaborators” never seem to muster up the energy to actually begin to address these substantive concerns. Funny, neither can you or any of the other bloggers out there who are riding to Tester’s defense. Yep, about all you can offer in response to our substantive concerns and legitimate issues is pointing out the fact that sometimes I simply cut-n-paste the language, instead of figuring out creative ways to say the same thing slightly different ways. Good for you Don!

    You can claim these are part of “self-righteously attacking Senator Tester,” however, as any issues activist knows, self-righteousness has nothing to do with it…it’s all about the substance of the issues. And in the case of the FJRA it’s true that basically everyone outside of Team Tester and outside of the “collaborators” has similar substantive concerns with the FJRA. Heck Don, for fun, just take a look at the official comments submitted during the Senate hearing. If you dig in those documents you’d fine hundreds and hundreds of substantive comments that mirror the same exact concerns we’ve been expressing locally. Not only are these concerns from interested citizens around the country, but they are from mainstream environmental groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, etc.

    Moving on to Sen Tester’s wolf-rider…sorry, Don, but I can’t recall anyone (except you) claiming that “Senator Tester is personally going to be responsible for the extinction of wolves in Montana.” Again, you exaggerate to try and make your point. If you’ll take a close look at what’s actually being said you’ll see plenty of people, yet again, wanting to focus on the substance of the issue here, mainly that Senator Tester, for the first time in the 38 years of the ESA, just simply had Congress remove a specie from the list. Sure, I called this rider tactic “shameful and undemocratic” but referring to a tactic with such words does not a “character assassination” make.

    What’s really funny about all of this is that Don states, “This Tester supporter thinks that criticizing policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes is not only everyone’s right, but responsibility.”

    I obviously couldn’t agree more. That’s why on issues I care deeply about (and honestly know more about than the average person) I do criticize policy decisions and push for more progressive outcomes. This was true during the Clinton years and Newt’s “Contract on America.” It was true during the dark days of the GW Bush/Mark Rey Administration and it remains true today.

    Don, if you have some actual examples of where I’ve engaged in “character assassination” against Senator Tester I’d like to see them. If you have actual examples of where I’ve leveled “attacks against Senator Tester” that weren’t focused on the substantive issues and concerns associated with actual pieces of legislation or policy (basically abiding by your stated support of “criticizing policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes”) I’d also like to see examples of those. (P.S. Mentioning Senator Tester’s name in connection with his own bill isn’t “an attack against Senator Tester.”)

    Perhaps instead of focusing your ire at the people who have knowledge, passion, expertise and gumption to criticize bad policy decisions and push for more progressive outcomes you’re ire would be better directed at the people who are actually the ones pushing for (or in some cases passing) these bad policy decisions.

    What’s so funny (yet sadly ironic) about all of this is that if it was Rep Rehberg pushing a mandated logging bill (and attaching that mandated logging bill as a rider to the failed Dec ’10 omnibus spending bill), the left would be so unified in opposition it might actually be a 2012 Campaign issue.

    If it was Rep Rehberg who attached a rider to a bill preventing a gov’t shutdown to remove wolves from the ESA, the left would have responded the same. Yet, now, since it’s our Senator Tester doing these exact things, the progressive left should shut up? Oh, that’s right…there’s an election in November 2012. Dang…it’s gonna be a long 19 months.

    • Look, you obviously don’t think I have the knowledge, passion, expertise, or gumption to discuss this with you, but I see someone who seems so angry at Senator Tester that he has lost perspective. Tester has no doubt disappointed you, but he is fundamentally a better choice than Representative Rehberg and THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN DEFEAT HIM in 2012.

      I absolutely agree that you should criticize decisions with which you disagree, but I also think you need to consider electoral reality.

      How many posts on the same issue or a slight variation are needed?

      • Once again Don, you fail to acknowledge, or even delve into, the substantive issues here with FJRA or the wolf rider. I’m not saying that Tester may not be “better” than Rehberg on a whole, and I don’t believe I’ve ever said that. So again, please stop putting words in my mouth. I’m simply pointing out substantive concerns with policy and legislation. What’s so wrong with that? Or should progressive activists not be allowed to raise substantive concerns with policy and legislation within 2 years of an election? How about three years? Thanks.

        • Sorry my discourse isn’t quite as elevated as yours, Matt. Perhaps I’ll just post some full-text articles and then disavow the embarrasing parts when I am caught contradicting myself.

          While the straw man you are presenting (that I am saying we can’t criticize Democrats) is cute, the real issue is that your criticism is entirely unbalanced and lacks any semblance of perspective.

          • Once again Don, you fail to acknowledge, or even delve into, the substantive issues here with FJRA or the wolf rider. And, please, again, stop putting words in my mouth.

            I never said anything about the elevation of your discourse. And please, stop with the example of my simply providing a copy of Howie Wolke’s essay on population and Wilderness at LiTW as somehow in your mind an example of how I “disavow embarrasing (sic) parts when I am caught contradicting myself.”

            Seriously Don, that’s your strongest point in this little debate here? My goodness….

  • Tester won by a plurality in 2006. Had not Stan Jones been on the ballot as a Libertarian, Burns, by then visibly losing vigor and acuity, would have won. He therefore fears moving to the left lest he offend more conservative voters, And although a Democrat, he’s never been that much of an economic progressive. So although his positions on wolves and wilderness are not to my liking, I’m not surprised by much of what’s he’s done.

    Now he faces Denny Rehberg, a far more formidable opponent than the doddering Burns. And he faces a dilemma: move to the left to present a clear choice, or move to the right to co-opt Rehburg’s positions (Rehberg is now moving to the left)? The former risks alienating moderates, the latter risks presenting an echo, not a choice.

    I think he’s a stronger candidate (and better Senator) if he runs as a proud New Deal Democrat, a powerful defender of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and a strong helping hand from the government for those who need it. He’s weaker if he runs as a deficit hawk and friend of Wall Street. And he’s roast goose if the election turns on wolves wilderness.

    • James Connor: “And he’s roast goose if the election turns on wolves wilderness.”

      Which raises the very question Pogie posits in this post. When does ‘criticizing’ become campaigning against?

      • When the person issuing the criticism either says “vote for Rehberg” or combines his criticism with praise of Rehberg that constitutes the functional equivalent of an explicit endorsement of Rehberg. So far, there’s been little or none of that.

        A related question: does leftist criticism of Tester’s positions and action weaken his candidacy? And if so, how and how does one know? My thought is that criticism from the left helps him by solidifying his reputation as a moderate, or even as a pale blue dog.

        • Campaigning against doesn’t mean explicitly campaigning for the opposition. By setting it that way you ignore the tactics of voter supression.

    • It may be hard for Tester to run as a “New Deal Democrat” when he just voted in January 2011 to cut the workers contribution to Social Security by 33%.

      How does changing Social Security from a pay-as-you-go system to being dependent on support from the general fund square with being a “New Deal Democrat?”

      It’s hard to run as a defender of Social Security while voting to put it on shaky ground.

      I know Rehberg and the Republicans want to eliminate all vestiges of the New Deal, but i still haven’t heard why Tester is helping them do it.

      Until I hear from him why he did this, I’m not committing to vote for him.

      • Social Security is on anything but shaky ground for the next few decades. Increasing workers contribution is not what is necessary – why take more money from workers now, when they need it most? If social security is in danger, fix the ACTUAL problems – raise the retirement age to reflect increased life expectancies and retirement spending, and increase immigration to make our age structure more sustainable.

        • Workers will need the money most when they retire, not now while they are younger and working. But since they haven’t fully funded their own accounts, why would they be entitled to receive the full amount when they most need it?

          Decreasing workers contributions to their own Social Security retirement is what Tester voted to do.

          It presumably won’t change their payout because they will be funded by general fund tax dollars, like welfare, LEAP, and other non-entitlement discretionary funding programs. Workers retirements are now on welfare instead of self funded. Tester voted to end Social Security as we know it.

          Since it’s inception it’s been self funded and pay as you go – until now.

          I want to know why he voted to switch Social Security from a pay as you go system to a system that’s dependent on the politics of the moment.

          The system was purposely and intentionally set up to be a self funded pay as you go system. This was done so that a government shutdown, a change in administration or a change in the party in power in congress wouldn’t determine what retirees received.

          Now that those protections have been dismantled, the whole system is open to dismantling, little by little.

          I want to know why Tester voted for this. I think it’s very bad policy and I want him to tell me why I should accept this and vote for him. I’ve written him twice about it, but his answer had nothing what so ever to do with my question.

  • PW: Where do you get this notion that some “progressives choose to attack Tester instead of Rehberg?”

    As I stated in more detail below (which follows Don’s own advice), I’ve made a practice of criticizing bad policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes, no matter what politician is involved or the little letter behind their name. Some people seem to think politics and elections are the most important things in the world, others don’t…big deal. Besides, we’re told all the time by the political bloggers in this state, and some of the politicians, that we don’t matter, we’re irrelevant and nobody pays attention to what we say anyway. So, again, big deal. I only have one vote in the 2012 Senate election, and as it stands now I’m leaving it blank (Like I’ve always done with Baucus). Big deal, right?

    But specifically here Don’s been talking about Senator Tester’s FJRA and Senator Tester’s wolf rider. Not sure how one goes about criticizing Rehberg for that. Truth is, for the most part, Rehberg’s been pretty quite on environmental issues over the past few years. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Rehberg was pushing a mandated logging bill we’d be criticizing him.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are some examples of where I’ve criticized Rehberg in the past.

    • MK – you are not all progressives. I’m concerned that you seem to be a single issue voter, but it takes all types, I suppose. Considering you already seem to think that immigration is what is threatening the wilderness in 90% white Montana, I’d hardly consider you a progressive at all you seem to be an environmentalist, no exceptions.

      I was referring to JC and to some extent lizard, and I got that impression primarily by reading 4&20. While j-girl and Pete and PB periodically attack Tester and Rehberg, JC on the front page of 4&20 currently has 5 posts involving the US Congress, all of them opposed to Tester or his positions. There is nothing about Rehberg. The following pages show a similar pattern. JC attacks Tester like Don attacks Rehberg. The difference is that Rehberg is pretty bad, even for a Montana politician. Tester is better than we’ve had in some time. We elected someone as liberal as he only because Burns had failed so badly. How JC expects us to elect someone more liberal, or re-elect Tester if he moves any further left, is beyond me.

      • Polish Wolf: I’m not a single issue voter, but thanks for caring about me so much.

        Also, I’ve never once said (or believe) that “immigration is what is threatening the wilderness in 90% white Montana.”

        Seriously please try and find me one documented example of where I said this statement instead of just spewing such non-sense, ok PW?

        I’m sure you’ll mention Howie Wolke’s opinion piece (, which looked at wilderness and population issues; however, that’s Howie’s opinion and his article, not mine. Don’t assume that just because I share an article that I agree with every single point in that article, OK PW?

        The fact that you “hardly consider me a progressive at all” really doesn’t concern me much PW…after all, the more you write (and make up stuff) about me the less I think about you anyway. Thanks.

        • OK, but you’re very close to being a single issue writer. Which is fine, do what you do well. You obviously place the environment over other issues, and if that is the case your disenchantment with Tester is very understandable.

          And sorry for assuming you shared the opinion of an article you posted. But it’s good practice to note your disagreements with a posted article, if you have any. And considering I commented at the time on the elitism of the article, if you disagreed with that part I would have expected you to voice such at the time.

          By the way, while we’re making stuff up, you continue to argue that I would have attacked Rehberg if he attached Tester’s rider. I made my point very clear in my one post on the issue –

          “Until we get some actual progress on wolf management, wolves will continue to be a convenient way to demonize the ESA and environmental movement in general.”

          What Tester is doing is saving the ESA and environmental movement from an issue that is a huge loser for them locally, while protecting wolves in other states (which have not had their wolf plans approved) from a far worse backlash that could delist wolves throughout the United States.

          • “you’re very close to being a single issue writer”

            And you’re very close to being a selective reader.

            I’ve known Matthew and worked with him for over 15 years, and he’s written on a wide variety of topics. Quite intelligently, and with much discontent, I might add.

    • Rehberg’s been pretty quiet on environmental issues? Jesus, man. Look at his voting record.

      You can be as pissed as you want about wolves and wilderness, but to pretend that Rehberg isn’t a far greater threat to the environment of this state, nation, and world is blind beyond imagining.

      • Again Don, you are putting words in my mouth to support your own views. Please stop doing that. I wasn’t talking about Rehberg’s voting record. It’s obviously terrible. Thanks for pointing that out Don. I was referring to championing (ie being the main co-sponsor) of legislation. And, like I said, “for the most part, Rehberg’s been pretty quite on environmental issues over the past few years.” Look it up.

        I don’t pretend Rehberg has a great voting record on environmental issues Don, so your comment really doesn’t make any sense. Thanks.

          • Don, I never asked you to guess which parts of someone else’s articles I support. It’s not about me. In the case of Howie Wolke’s article, it was about his article and his views, which I hope peole found interesting and though provocative. For the record, I don’t believe immigration is the biggest threat to Wilderness.

            Yes, Rehberg’s HR 509, which was going no where. Again, I didn’t say he hasn’t done anything, or that “for the most part, Rehberg’s been pretty quite on environmental issues over the past few years”…which I still stand by. Once again thanks, and please stop putting words in my mouth or making up stuff which I apparently believe. We’ve never met, I don’t know you. If you ever want to have a face-to-face talk about all this stuff, send me an email at

  • MK: “sorry, Don, but I can’t recall anyone (except you) claiming that “Senator Tester is personally going to be responsible for the extinction of wolves in Montana.””

    “Tens of millions of dollars were spent building up the wolf population in the northern Rockies and giving wolves a toehold in Washington and Oregon. Now, in one fell swoop, that investment is being swept away. Wolves in Washington and Oregon may disappear in a few years. Those in the northern Rockies will begin plummeting and may be lost in a few decades,” said Suckling-(Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.)

    • Rob, thanks for sharing the quote from buddy Kieran Suckling. Still don’t see how this quote, from a guy in Arizona, equates to someone claiming that “Senator Teter is personally going to be responsible for the extinction of wolves in Montana.”

      Fact is, Kieran’s quote is fairly tame and doesn’t even mention Sen Tester by name.

      • You’re right, of course. Mr. Suckling certainly never said:

        “Senator Tester included the rider as a ploy to score political points in his 2012 reelection campaign, and now wolves and other species will have to pay the price.”

        Or this:

        “Congressional delisting without the opportunity to restore protections threatens to bring us back to the days when wolves and other wildlife were systematically poisoned on public lands,” said Suckling.

        Matthew, if you wish to separate us by a common language, kindly don’t insult the intelligence of others while you do it. To you, Suckling’s comments may be very tame. To others, they are little more than inflammatory, and in fact meant to be that very thing. They are meant to inspire fear.

        • Being lectured by Rob Kailey about “inflammatory”…priceless.

          You’re really fishing on this one Robbie with Kieran’s quotes, and way out of your league debating enviro policy with him. Shall I put you in contact? Thanks.

          • Appeal to false authority. Please do put me in contact with this God of fear mongering. And in the meantime, you keep flailing around trying to hide the obvious, extremist. You said that Suckling never wrote what he clearly wrote. I exposed your lie. Suckling on that, Koehler.

  • Tester has blended into the DC pack, and is no longer useful, if he ever was. See now how he is fighting for the banks’ right to rake in high ATM fees, and in exchange takes down a cool million in campaign money. He’s corrupt now, just like Baucus.

    Honestly, if they all behave in the same manner, and you cannot see that they are not different, is it progressives that have a problem?

      • The debit card issue is a weird one. As I see it, it’s pitting Citibank against Wal-Mart. I don’t have a dog in that fight. But if my local credit union is saying its going to hurt them, I do think its worth studying.

        • PW – I getcha. But I try to be precise in my use of words, as best as I am able. I used the word “corrupt” not to mean that he can be bought on issues that do not affect me or you, but rather that he can be bought.

          Not to strawman you, but there are those who say that he has to play the game if he wants to stay in office. I agree that the system corrupts its participants, but even so, corrupt is corrupt, and what good does it do us to have a corrupt man in office, no matter that corruption is required for the job? It might jut be as Mencken or someone said, that politicians are merely third-rate people.


          Swipe-fee opponents shower Sen. Tester with campaign contributions
          By Alexander Bolton – 04/20/11

          Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has reaped a windfall in contributions from banks and lobbyists since introducing legislation to delay new regulations on debit-card swipe fees.

          Tester collected nearly $60,000 in contributions from credit card companies and other opponents of the proposed caps on swipe fees in the 17 days following the introduction of his bill, public fundraising records show.

          • As I’ve pointed out subtly, overtly, humorously and otherwise, if the left wants to complain about campaign contributions from corporate sources, then they are ill served by threatening the campaign chest of candidates. All threats have real consequence. And this is another case of the left shooting itself in the foot. Buy your politicians before someone else does, so to speak.

  • You call it righteousness and a litmus test, but that comes across as privileged when it’s not you that will potentially be separated from your family due to his “policy” vote on issues like the Dream Act or your belly that might be empty as a result of his “policy” vote on unemployment benefits. This are real life issues.

    • Yes this are real life issues. Do remember that Tester said in his campaign that he would not vote for any amnesty bill. That is how he saw the DREAM act, regardless of whether you see it that way or not. And despite your scare quotes, the vote on the addendum to unemployment compensation was indeed a policy decision. The efforts he has made on behalf of veterans also affect real life peoples in real life situations, as does the FJRA and the wolf delisting. I submit to you that these are all policy decisions and that’s why we have a Congress. There are those of us who favor it not being swayed by arguments like “we must think of the children”. You may find that insensitive, but it is what it is. No one is going to agree on every issue, all policy affects real live people, and one is not the superior of another based on the sentiment with which it is conveyed.

    • Look, I agree with you about the DREAM Act. I agree with you about unemployment. But what in God’s name do you think you’d get with Senator Rehberg? It’s not like this is a choice between two radical candidates. It’s a choice between a moderate Democrat and a rabid right-winger. In our desire to demonize the former, let’s not elect the latter.

  • Our ultimate political objective is absolute agreement by all people on all matters according to the DLC Democrats who have caved in to Republicans since at least the debacle election in 2000,

  • IMO guys, the progressives who got rear-ended by Tester on most of the issues he campaigned for won’t vote for a Republican, therefore they should make their presence known by staying home, and NOT voting for Tester.

  • Interesting that people talk about “centrist”, “right” and “Left” and “extremes” without actual attachment to issues. It’s all perceptions. I believe in universal health care, preservation of the commons, campaign finance and voting reform, the end of the wars, torture, Guantanamo, support for the UN … all of these issues poll well, meaning that I am mainstream. Democrats will campaign on these issues, but betray us once elected, meaning they are either deceptive when they campaign or spineless once elected.

    How does the followship handle Democrats who are far to the right of their base? “Governing is harder than campaigning.” “Yeah, well grant it, Tester is bad, but geez!~ Rehberg is worse!” Good grief.

    Having a spine is difficult, I grant you, but I hold out for that. If a candidate serves only one term in doing the right thing to honor campaign promises, it is better than being reelected by doing the wrong thing. The reelected Democrat who sells out for campaign finances is as worthless and dangerous as any alternative we are offered by the “other” party.

    I don’t know as I read through these debates if anyone really gets it that American politics is lose-lose. Those that tell us that losing with Democrats is better than losing with Republicans are deluding themselves. Losing is losing.

    Progressives have the courage of convictions, intelligence and are spirited defenders of what is right. That we are a minority? It’s where we choose to be. Deal with it. You go ahead and keep your Democrats and Republicans, and we’ll fight our issues. Our chances are as good as yours of getting anything done, and we don’t have to deal with that not-so-fresh feeling that you guys have to live with.

    • I’m sure the Brits who voted Lib Dem were thinking ‘yeah, it can’t get any worse than Labour or Conservative. Now they are having fun waiting 18 weeks for medical care.

      • It appears that you are comparing our system to that of the Brits, who have more than two parties and minority representation in the House of Commons. You are also referring to an 18-week waiting period for medical care.

        The parliamentary system has many advantages over ours, among them minority party representation. You might note that the Danes are now threatening the EU Portuguese bailout because a minority party now has an 19% (?) stake in their parliament, and so must be dealt with in negotiations. EU bailouts must have unanimous support – if the Danes opt out the bailout is dead. In teh US, a party even with 19% support (Ross Perot in 1992) is out of luck.

        Since each of our two parties has the same financiers, it is easy to see where “two-party” rule is really one party.

        In addition to minority representation, a parliamentary government can quickly be put out to pasture if it does not adhere to campaign promises, a feature we sorely need. Indeed in parliamentary countries governing and campaigning are not so separate as here in the land of the free.

        Regarding British NHS, I ask that you supply more details. Information about health care systems in other countries spread in this country is often wrong or misleading.

        • Mark – your examples explain exactly the problems with greater minority representation. A million Danes can endanger the economy of 500 million other Europeans. A stronger Liberal Democratic party in England paradoxically gives the conservatives power. And what happens?

          The NHS is underfunded. It’s not a flaw of the single-payer system, but of priorities. Hip and knee replacements are also being put on hold. All because people actually voted more liberally than before. I know you have this insane idea that Al Gore would have also invaded Iraq and slashed taxes for the rich, otherwise I’d argue that Nader played the same role as the Lib Dems in Britain. The idea of running more opponents against Tester runs into the same problem.

          • I don’t attribute their problems to parliamentary government, and the Danes will work it all out. Minorities having power is not a problem, in my view. If we had a minority party here, we’d probalby have a public option. Minorities can indeed hold other parties hostage, but generally thy form part of a ruling coalition and keep things in true moderation. Here we have an odd bottleneck where senators representing maybe 20% of the population are in charge – but I hear what you are saying. True democratic governance is quite difficult. I’d still like to see it tried here.

            I may be wrong here, but I think that the “liberal” party in Britain is not what we might think of as “liberal” here, and that the left has always resided in the Labor Party in Britain. I would place Liberals more towards the conservative side of the spectrum, but don’t quote me.

            And yes, I do know that NHS is underfunded, but it’s odd – if you asked a typical Brit about it, they complain, but they do not want to adopt our system. They simply want it to work better.

          • BTW, PW – just tossing this out as the pages dissolves, I read years ago an analysis of the non-voting class in the U.S., which could be our third party if mobilized. The writer said that these people very much resembled the makeup of the British Labour Party.

          • From my understanding, the Lib Dems are really the left party in Britain, as Labour is now more center ‘left’, and scarcely that. Which is why the coalition with the conservatives is so strange. The British voters I’ve talked to, who are mostly students or recent grads, are quite upset because many of them voted Lib Dem, and then felt betrayed when they entered coalition with the Tories. Based on the fact that the NHS is taking such hits, it seems like the Conservatives are really running the show.

            And I didn’t mean to criticize the British system – indeed, if they spent as much on health care as we do, but with their more efficient system, they’d have an incredible system.

          • It is confusing, I’ll give you that – I can’t explain British politics and my head is muddled, as I know I read something about a Liberal Party that was not liberal at all other than in my preconceived perceptions. If not Britain I thought maybe Canada, but their liberal party appears just that. So it must be just my aging brain –

            Britain is very much a junior partner to the USA in many ways, so it’s kind of humorous that their “liberals” sold them out in the same manner as ours do us. But you are right – it appears that the Liberal Democratic Party, 1988 forward until recently was just that.

            Anyway, we were talking parliamentary democracy, and while you have made it more interesting, I am not much swayed from the idea that we need more than one party masquerading as two, and that we need to be able to call elections when a government gets out of line.I fail to see where the ability of significant minorities to share in policy formation is harmful.

            I wrote about democratic illusions today at my blog, but will not link as that is bad form.

    • “If a candidate serves only one term in doing the right thing to honor campaign promises, it is better than being reelected by doing the wrong thing. ”

      Best comment I’ve read in awhile. Howard Zinn said that a politician’s job is to do what it takes to win. A citizen’s job is to do what is right. If only more citizens ran for office.

    • I am one “Democrat” who will do as I say if elected, and I’ll say a lot of unpopular things, things like “We need to raise taxes AND cut spending to balance the budget. Defense and Agriculture and Big Oil are not exempt…Freedom and Liberty work better in speeches than they do in Government. I am BobPeterse4Senate2014. Hello Jon, Bye Bye Max! As a former volunteer (from “78 thru ’96) I can do w/out Max, he’s gone to hell since his divorce. Jon, I’m not always happy with him but he’s yet to actually piss me off. Maybe it’s just because I am a veteran but Rherun is an abomination we can all do without.

  • I’d rather have a known enemy like Rehberg than a so-called friend like Tester who has aggressively undermined so many things that are important to me. Sometimes when people see what bad really is as they did under Burns and would under Rehberg, they strive for better. Under Tester, people just feel powerless to engage and paralyzed because he is supposed to be with us. It was important to get him into office and many of us thought we had a good chance with him. No politician is going to be perfect and yes, some playing to the middle road will occur and is not necessarily a reason to turn your back him. But he’s been proactively and aggressively and closemindedly against too much of what is important to me as a progressive. Tester is dangerous. Get rid of him. Change is sometimes the best, just so people don’t get entrenched.

    • Entrenched? Like a decade already served in Congress?

      “I’d rather have a known enemy like Rehberg than a so-called friend like Tester who has aggressively undermined so many things that are important to me.”

      So which is it? Personal betrayal or better that we not have someone entrenched? Change is sometimes the best, but it has little or nothing to do with ‘entrenchment’, or personal feelings of betrayal. That’s a canard. If you prefer the one that you know hates you to the one who you personally feel betrayed by, then you’re seeking a comfort level of certitude that affects others, one that sincerely forces others to acknowledge your will. Tester has not aggressively undermined what many want, but Rehberg has. Do you actually think it makes sense that we who don’t share your sensibility should suffer the result of your personal agenda? And if so, do you actually think that we will feel better about kowtowing to your sentiment because you cloak it in the ridiculous idea of ‘entrenchment’?

    • Simple – It’s possible to be disappointed and saddened by Jon Tester, and still support him because the alternative is Denny Rehberg. However, there’s a difference between periodically assessing ones feelings towards the senator, and announcing ‘Sayanora! this one issue has caused me to abandon Tester, regardless of who he runs against!’ Moreover, Pogie continues to hold Rehberg and Tester to the same standards, rather than trying to make the two seem equivalent by reporting Tester’s ‘failings’ without fail, and them bringing them up when anyone criticizes Rehberg.

      • I remain truly stunned at how some can make an accusation of hypocrisy without ever using the word. P-Wolf, you are one of my online favorites now. Your response was well said.

  • I believe Jon Tester will do fine even with criticism from within the progressive/liberal/ what have you corners of political discourse.  If one is saying don’t vote for Tester because he is not a political purist, or waste your vote on a third-party candidate, then it is the political purists shooting themselfs in the foot.  But I believe political activists, one-issue or otherwise, should criticize  Jon.  It’s free discourse that makes us stronger.
    I’m voting for Jon.  I’m not a one-issue person.  I don’t agree with all John’s positions.  But on one issue that matters a great deal to me, Jon has excelled.  He’s the best friend Montana veterans have ever had.  I could mention many things he’s done, from getting fair travel compensation for rural veterans who travel hundreds of miles round trip to get to Helena or even a satellite clinic, to his work on getting a mental health inpatient facility in Montana for the first time.  I know what Denny Rehberg’s rating is from the Disabled American Veterans  — ZERO! 

    • There are a host of issues for which Tester deserves our non-vote. I happen to be a multi-issue person, hardly a purist, and well aware of the nature of compromise in politics. How dare you talk down to us, as if you knew our minds!

      • Mark, you aren’t eligible to vote for Tester, and frankly there’s nothing he could do that would earn your vote and also the votes of most Montanans.  And it’s got nothing to do with corporate money or the structure of elections or the party system or even really the media.  I encounter daily deep pools of political and social conservatism that really do make Schweitzer and Tester look like socialists.  If Tester went left enough to get your vote, he’d lose in the landslide of a century. 

        • We have Bennett and Udall down here. They are interchangeable. And I make this point again and again, and it never registers: we need organized resistance to corporate and oligarchical power, and we get it to a degree when office holders clearly identify themselves with their financial backers. But when Democrats like Tester hold office, even though he enjoys the same financial backing and pursues the same agenda as his opposite-aisle campadres, there is no organized resistance because Democrats are asleep at the wheel.

          For that reason we have a better chance of at least slowing down the engine when Republicans hold office, as Democrats again pay attention, and even act up a little.

          • Really?  Because every Republican president in my lifetime has increased the national deficit.  Republican presidents have also shown a much higher tolerance for ground wars than Democratic ones (think Gulf War, Iraq II, Panama vs. Kosovo and Libya).  So with a little bit of pattern recognition I can see who I want to be in charge, even if they are backed by the same money.

          • You demonstrate clearly the problem: perception management. You view the world differently when your Democrats are in power. Remove the label, you’ll see it’s the same world. Obama is carrying forward with the Bush agenda.

          • I don’t view the world differently, Mark.  Our people died in in Iraq.  Our people didn’t die in Kosovo, our people haven’t died in Libya.  It has nothing to do with perception.  It has to do with people still breathing, or people no longer breathing.  If you can accomplish your goals and keep people alive and not bankrupt the country, I’d say you’re a better president than someone who has little to show for a trillion dollars and thousands of casualties. 

          • Craig – I was apparently mistaken.   I was referring to combat deaths, and only to Kosovo.  The wikipedia says there was one combat death in Kosovo, but links to a training accident in Albania, which I guess sort of counts?  Either way, 22 deaths is not nothing, even if they were not caused by Serbian fire. I apologize for the error, though I think we both see the difference between dozens and thousands. 

            By the way, I’m glad you’re back to check me on these things!

  • PW, no president increased national deficits.  Congress controls the budget.

    As to land wars, I seem to remember Wilson and WWI, Roosevelt and WWII,  Truman and Korea, Kennedy and Johnson Vietnam,  Clinton and Kosovo, and now Obama and Libya. 

    If you have to stand history on its head to make your point, it’s not much of a point.

    • Well Craig, you can keep repeating that only congress controls the budget, but there’s still a definite pattern.  Republican congresses have passed balanced budgets, when serving under Democratic presidents.  And both Democratic and Republican congresses have created budget deficits when serving under Republican presidents.  Congress may have passed Bush’s tax cuts and approved the war in Iraq, but without Bush being president neither would have gone anywhere. 

      As to wars – If you want to reach back to Wilson you might as well say that the GOP is anti-State’s rights because Lincoln was technically a Republican.  But in the post-Vietnam era, Republicans have been much more prone to order land invasions where Democrats opt for bombing or sanctions.  This isn’t really an ethical distinction – people die either way – but a practical one.  How many Americans died in Kosovo, how many died in Libya?  Now compare that to how many have died in Iraq in our last couple wars and you’ll see a rather stark contrast.  Clinton accomplished important foreign policy goals in the Balkans at a much lower cost than Bush paid to accomplish bizarre foreign policy goals in Iraq.  If you don’t see that difference, you are not a particularly astute observer of foreign policy.  Its a verifiable pattern that from where I stand seems to be a solid voting issue.

  • I’ll take you “astute observer of foreign policy” insult (was there a purpose to such nonsense?) and raise you.  NATO had boots on the ground in the Balkans.   General Wesley Clark was the supreme allied commander of NATO under Clinton.  He sent something like 20000 US troops to the Balkans.  As an aside, during that Balkans war I happened to be in Trieste Italy on business when the fighting raged in the hills overlooking the city on the Slovenia side.  My Italian host said not to worry as the Austrians would sort things out as they had done throughout history.

  • Also PW, there is the flip side of sitting it out.  When the wars raged in central Africa, some 3 million people died.  Clinton has no interested in stopping it.  Where was the shame in stopping this slaughter?   Clinton later apologized for doing nothing.

  • Craig – I didn’t mean to insult.  I know you’re an astute observer of foreign policy, which is why I’m asking you to see the difference.  Forces arrayed in the Balkans were deployed with casualty prevention in mind – they performed their job, and the area is now largely peaceful and aligned towards Europe.   Bush’s invasions alienated our allies, cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and accomplished little. 

    As to sitting out – I largely agree with you, as you’ll recall from when we argued this with JC and lizard.  I wish Clinton had had the political fortitude to lay it on the line to save lives.  If Bush had stationed troops in Darfur rather than Iraq, my opinion of him, Republicans, and US foreign policy would have been very different.  Sadly, while I would like to see a foreign policy based around protecting human rights and gaining the respect of populations instead of temporary governments, neither Republicans nor Democrats really follow this strategy; thus, I prefer the Democrats overly cautious habits to the Republicans overly destructive ones. 

  • Republicans are generally more selective and cautious about the wars they fight.
    There was the Civil War, of course–in which nobody could complain of foreign involvement.
    Then there were Reagan’s little aids for guerrilla movements in central America–and the one in whicvh he took over the University in Grenada.  Poppy had his Desert Storm which was greater fun to

  • Ten of thousands of us want Tester to fail, and we will go to extremes to make that happen!  How dare he throw wolves, or any wildlife for that matter, under the bus, AGAINST THE WISHES OF THOSE SAME TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, AND GUT THE ESA?  He is not worthy to lick the boots of anyone – right or left – and, he can revel in his dirty deal with Barack O’Butcher, another wildlife hater, and when he loses, we will be jumpin for joy!  He is a pompous arrogant SOB who, becasue of his backdoor deal, can now be thrown under the bus wiith the wolves!  He is no longer needed, and, although Rehberg is a slime, it would be hard to quantify who is worse!

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