Dirk Adams and His Amazing Progressive Rebirth

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There’s been a lot of debate online recently on Twitter and in the more enlightened circles of the Left  about the progressive nature of the Dirk Adams campaign for the US Senate. Adams has positioned himself squarely on the left, focusing on his opposition to Keystone XL and coal development to make him the “progressive” alternative to John Walsh and former Republican John Bohlinger.

A closer look at what Adams has said in the last year and done in the last twenty call into question just how sincere those progressive values really are.

A profile by the Missoula Independent’s Alex Sakriassen back in September helps paint Adams in a somewhat different light than how Adams is presenting himself today. Back then, it seems, he planned to run from the right:

It’s not just the resume that gives Democrats pause. Bond says he was shocked to hear Adams tell the Gallatin County Democratic Central Committee recently that “no Democrat would be able to fall to the right of him” in 2014.

He’s also won favor in some Democratic circles for his opposition to coal development. When Adams met with Gallatin County Democrats back in September, though, he expressed both support for Montana coal development and hydraulic fracking:

He also sees no problems with fracking. Asked about coal he told us three major coal mining companies in Appalachia have declared bankruptcy.  But never fear, it is to MT’s advantage that those reserves have dwindled.

These are important contradictions. While Adams now wants Democratic voters to believe that he comes with strong credentials as a progressive, as little as a year ago he was defending the very environmental practices he now decries and was planning to run as a conservative Democrat.

That tendency to speak one way and act another has characterized Adams from the outset of his campaign. Rather than acknowledging the fact that was in senior leadership of a number of banks that failed before, during, and after the crisis of the 2008 recession, Adams has suggested he was some sort of lone voice of reason, predicting the collapse and advocating reform before anyone else. Two or three closed banks paint a somewhat different picture.

Back in September, James Conner detailed some of the problems with Adams’s past as a banker, calling his story “Adventures in SubPrimeville.”

Politico explained that Adams directed a bank closed because for “questionable activities” by its directors:

In fact, his last bank failed only 18 months ago: the Controller of the Currency closed Home Savings of America of Little Falls, Minnesota in February 2012 when Adams was chairman and CEO of the holding company.

The Treasury Department’s Inspector General chalked the failure up to “an aggressive growth strategy” based on adjustable-rate mortgages and poor risk management practices, among other “questionable activities by the management.”

It seems Adams’s last job in banking came as president of Guaranteed Home Mortgage Co., a job he took in July 2012, before being fired eight months later.   This video from 2010 suggests that GHM was anything but a responsible, mature lender when Adams joined the company:

My take on Adams is that he’s a smart guy who made an excellent living for himself by finding needs in markets and exploiting them. Initially, when he announced his intention to run for the Senate, he perceived the market needed a conservative candidate, but as the political winds have shifted, so has his position.

Seeing Senator Walsh as the moderate, mainstream candidate, Adams has shifted left, but it’s hard to the candidate who has expressed opposition to increasing the minimum wage, support for the Citizens United decision, and support for fracking seriously as the “progressive choice,” no matter how hard he tries to sell himself that way or no matter how much some Democratic voters want to be able to vote for a more liberal candidate.

I understand the impulse to support progressive Democrats. It’s just important to make sure that the progressive we support actually is one.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

41 Comments

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  • I guess folks like Turner and Lynn are turned off by the Walsh campaign, so maybe you should spend some time thinking about why that may be the case.

    you may think the MT Democrats are making all the right moves by having the gov appoint him to the senate and the party endorse him in the primary, but clearly not everyone feels the same way.

    • I would hope that the Walsh campaign would try to reach out to people who aren’t currently supporting him. It turns out that’s their job.

      Thank you for speculating about how I feel about the MT Democratic Party and not responding to anything in the actual post.

  • You are absolutely right, as Tester taught us, that candidates will boldly lie about their positions to gain strategic positioning. If Adams is indeed lying and turns out to be just another cloaked Republican, however, nothing is lost.

    • In the Flathead Memo post to which Craig links, I’ve replaced the term “Democratic leaders” with the term I should have used in the first place: “Democratic Party Officials.”

      Dirk Adams’ positions on some issues, economic issues in particular, seem to be lately-come-to-Jesus positions. But so what? The Lord loves a sinner come lately to Jesus. Democratic Party Officials should love a conservative come to liberalism, no matter how long that journey took.

      Neither John Bohlinger nor Dirk Adams is a political saboteur or turncoat, let alone a saboteur or turncoat of the John Driscoll genre.

    • It’s possible that two human beings can agree on a fact and disagree on its importance or value. I respect what James has to say and read him regularly. We might interpret information differently. I think because we’re both rational adults, we can accept that.

      Other people run from blog to blog trying to stir conflict when none exists. I guess that must satisfy some desire, though I can’t understand why.

  • Finally. A blog post that lays it all out there. It makes me very sad that so many “progressives” are blindly following Dirk — they have been thoroughly tricked by the man.

    • Democrats in general are hard to understand. Your Walsh is a cloaked Republican if there ever was one, but that doesn’t bother you. Adams is talking progressive, even if only talking, and that bothers you.

      It’s as if you’re a bunch of bullies telling us we have to support your right wing candidates, no matter what. What an odd party.

        • Hey Cinder, thanks for chiming in. Democrats and Republicans are different in makeup. In large part, Democfats imagine themselves more intelligent than you guys, though they are not. So you guys suspport a dunce like Bush while they like the chess-playing Obama.

          But it doesn’t matter. That’s just advertising. Party leaders are the same on both sides. Power works quietly.

  • By the way “making a excellent living” seems to be a prerequisite when it come to D legislators.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are the party of the rich, right? It’s a label that has stuck for decades, and you’re hearing it again as Democrats complain about GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

    But in Congress, the wealthiest among us are more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts. Most are in overwhelmingly Democratic states like New York and California.

      • You wanted to talk about Israel/Palestine as if you’ve got some insight on a completely unrelated post, so I deleted it. It felt pretty good, actually.

        • I wanted to talk about what you said in your 5th paragraph.

          ” It could be some thing big and confusing like 9/11, or a minor matter as Crimea’s choice to become part of the Russian Federation.”

          I was wondering what kind of idiot would view Crimea’s invasion as “minor” and a 50 acre west bank development as major act of aggression.

          • This is the problem. You don’t know anything. I can take the time to explain things, but by then you’re off somewhere else dropping your stupid links, and you avoid any semblance of closure of a debate. You don’t read before you comment, don’t read anything you are not sure you’ll agree with beforehand. You’re highly suggestible. you’re highly predictable, you have no original thoughts.

            I’ve asked you to go away without banning you because you are a pointless person, no wit, no insight, a parrot, clueless, and apparently happy to be that way. I’ll just ban you now. he’ll with it.

            • Wait. You’re going to ban someone, Mark? Don’t you rail about that being the hallmark of the authoritarian personality with troubling (and boring) regularity?

              Please explain this contradiction. My tiny brain can’t process it.

              • What’s even more ironic. The theme of his post where he censored me was about thought control.

              • I’ve banned people before, but usually relent. What I did with Swede there felt pretty good. The guy’s a moron.

                You’re just a bully, Don. You love having power. I’d bet in high school you were a hall monitor.

              • I’ve banned people before, but usually relent. What I did with Swede there felt pretty good. The guy’s a moron.

                You’re just a bully, Don. You love having power. I can tell. I’d bet in high school you were a hall monitor.

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