Guest Post: John Heenan will stand up to bullies and fight for us in Congress

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I have been involved in challenging the right-wing in Montana since the late 1980s. I watched the hard right grow from a “fringe” political curiosity to a powerful political constellation (gun rights groups, religious right groups, wise-use organizations, etc). Today the hard-right is electing people to public office across the spectrum.

I got involved in Democratic Party because it is the only path for progressives to obtain electoral political power. Unfortunately, the Party often marginalizes progressive ideas and activists. In its effort to win elections it ignores its base, reaching instead for some imagined independent middle. This usually involves meaningless, messages like, “Working together to move Montana forward with common sense solutions” while pointing at progressives saying they are not electable.

My frustration with the centering strategy in elections is the major motivator in my Party activity. I have held numerous positions in the Party including L&C Central Committee chair, Western District Chair Representative on the State E-board and on the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. I also served in the Montana Senate and on the Public Service Commission. I am currently a precinct committeeman on the Cascade County Central Committee.

I don’t want to sound alarmist but I think we are now teetering toward an authoritarian regime built on racism, sexism, religious bigotry, economic exploitation, and nationalist militarism. It’s all funded by corporate oligarchs unleashed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. So, when I hear candidates talk about working together, reaching across the aisle and building consensus I conclude they really don’t understand what we are up against. Doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally make some headway. Unfortunately, that headway will be more and more meaningless.

Heenan is the only candidate who is not in a feedback loop touting his ability to work together and build consensus. Instead, Heenan talks about his experience confronting bullies. Given the behavior of our opponents, we need to confront them. We can negotiate when they are truly interested in compromise. These days I’m not seeing that.

Beyond that, Heenan is unabashed it taking strong progressive positions. Most importantly, for me, is healthcare. The ACA made great improvements but it is fatally flawed because it is constructed to keep the insurance companies sucking cash out of system (Thanks Max). Health care is a basic human right and should be universally accessible. . . .period. Medicare for All or single payer or whatever you want to call it is proven to work in every other western democracy and we should just get on with adopting it. Heenan is the only candidate who understands that.

Next on the right-wing agenda is gutting Social Security and Medicare. We don’t want to reach across the aisle and compromise. The nature of compromise in this context will be between current law and whatever is proposed by Paul Ryan. I’d rather just say “no” and fight like hell. In the end that is the only way we win. Otherwise, it is just a question of how much we lose.

All of that said, I’ll support any of the Democratic candidates in the general election. Though I was a strong supporter of Amanda Curtis in the special election, I contributed to and worked for Rob Quist. I also strongly supported Bernie Sanders but voted for Hillary Clinton without reservation. The most common arguments against Curtis and Sanders were that they were not “electable” because they were outspoken progressives. Well. . . .

If there is anything we should have learned watching the right wing it should be that strong advocacy frames the issues, builds power and wins elections. Campaigns based vague terms like leadership, collaboration, and consensus often don’t win. . . .but even if they do, I have to wonder how much it matters.

Heenan has demonstrated he understands the current political environment. He is a fighter who has been working on behalf people abused by our economic and legal system. He is taking strong progressive positions on the issues. What’s not to like?

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About the author

Ken Toole

Ken Toole lives outside Cascade building and operating an off-grid farm/ranch. He is a founder of the Montana Human Rights Network and served in the State Senate and on the Public Service Commission.

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