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Montana Politics

Why Democrats Lose Elections, Part 1,432,112

Democrats lose elections because each of the constituent groups in our big tent sometimes lose sight of the fact that, while a Democratic candidate may not be perfect, he or she is certainly better than the Republican option on a broad array of issues. A recent editor to the Helena IR illustrates this problem:

I was shocked to read the interview with Tester in the IR (Oct. 13) where he stated “he opposes gay marriage — although he would not vote to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban it, and would support certain allowances for gay couples.”

What rights does Tester want for himself that he would like to withhold from me? What “allowances” is he referring to? In this country we know that separate is not equal (please see Brown v. Board of Education). Throughout the primary Tester stated he did not support discrimination in any form. I believed him. What has changed?

This type of campaigning makes me want to skip the U.S. Senate race and vote down the ballot for liberals who don’t run away from their records.

Kim Abbott

Let me first say that I agree with Ms. Abbott. I believe that gays and lesbians should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. I wish the Democratic party would do more to advance this civil rights agenda. However, it is simply foolish to suggest that someone should withhold his/her vote from Jon Tester because of this opinion, and downright irresponsible to advocate that others do the same.

It matters that Jon Tester is elected, for both the specific goals that Ms. Abbott articulates and for the broad goals of the progressive movement. Would sending Conrad Burns back to Washington advance the cause of equal rights for gays and lesbians? Will sending Conrad Burns back to Washington protect women’s reproductive rights, the environment, education, our position in the world?

Electing Jon Tester matters. Jon Tester may not pass every progressive litmus test, but electing him will much better protect the agenda that progressives believe in. No matter how personal our commitment is to a particular issue, the big picture matters more.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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  • Ideological purity is a bad thing, and is the foundation of dictatorship. Compromise is the stuff of democracy.

    Those who do not remember this are condemned to minority status (but at least their hands are clean of all except the ruination of the Republic).


  • Yep Yep Yep. I agree 100%. Tester’s view on this isn’t completely in line with my own, I say love doesn’t descriminate. However, I know that Burns has said he would support a constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage.

    There are a few issues that I wish Tester were more progressive on and a few I wish he were more liberal on. With that said, I know that his views are a whole lot closer to my views than anything that would ever role out of Conrad Burns mouth.

  • Oh uh. Is it irresponsible to state my opinion publicly? Did I embolden the enemy? Come on, you guys are better than that.

    If I’m the reason that Democrats lose elections, then maybe it would behoove them to stop marginalizing minority populations, stop using these populations for calculated (although clearly minimal) political gain, re-center the margins and mobilize their base. It seems to be working okay for Rep. Brown in Ohio.

    I like your blog. Thanks for putting the time in.

  • You guys don’t understand what motivates the militant-gay groups.

    They want special protections, or special rights under the law, that grants them ‘victim’ status. So if you decide to hit a used car salesman you get charged with assault, but if you hit a gay guy you go to Deer Lodge.

    Also, since 95%+ of HIV/AIDS patients are gay, they are angry, and they want somebodys insurance policy to pay for treatment.

    There are different groups of gays. There actually are gay couples that stay together for years, and simply want the same benefits as a married man/woman, and then there are the militant gays who want to push their agenda onto the rest of us.

    The voters are pretty clear where they stand, in that I think in all the states where it has gotten on the ballot, the voters reject gay marriage.

  • Kim,

    Sorry, I didn’t see the comment today. You absolutely should express your opinion.

    I do think it’s irresponsible to try to persuade voters to not for vote Jon Tester two weeks before a critical election.

    No matter how half-hearted Tester’s support for gay rights has been, it has to be better for all Americans, gay and straight, to throw off the yoke of this theocon Senate.

  • Coobs,

    You are a homophobic moron. Read what you just wrote and explain to me how your “different groups of gays” argument is any different from the rhetoric that Southern bigots used to justify segregation? You’re gay bashing, hateful idiocy isn’t going to fly this time.

    I’ll ask again–how would granting marriage to gays and lesbian threaten your marriage? I assume you will dodge the question again.

  • Pogie,

    Thanks for the response. Tester’s support for gay rights was never half-hearted until he beat Morrison in the primary. I like Jon a lot personally and politically, I just wish he would run on his outstanding record instead of running away from it.

    It gets pretty frustrating to be used as a political wedge. And it’s far worse when it’s your friend that’s doing it.

    I hope Jon wins. I think he’s got a better shot if he stops talking about taxes and starts talking about all of the policies he worked for in the Senate and all of the positive and hopeful implications those policies have on our communities.

  • I remember back when this blog actually notified me about comments….sigh

    I think we are in agreement again. I’ve been disappointed by all the talk about the sales tax issue. I’d like to have seen the campaign move back to more important issues as well. Democrats in Montana still seem to run a little scared, and I am worried that Tester played this race too safely, to be honest.

  • It is neither a litmus test nor a militant stand to ask that Deomcratic candidates step up to the plate on fundamental issues of discrimination. Would it be considered irresponsible to withhold one’s vote from someone who felt that marriage should be reserved for whites only? Somehow it is still okay in 2006 for progressives to let people who oppose gay marriage off the hook. But the same people would be up in arms if the candidate were racist. Jon Tester has a lot going for him, but the fact remains that the man is either ignorant or cagey when it comes to civil rights for gays. If the entirely personal decision to maintain the integrity of one’s vote seems selfish, consider how selfish it is to suggest that someone should vote against her conscience and say “well, it’s okay that the guy is opposed to gay marriage because the other guy is worse.” Judos to Kim.

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