Jon Tester Montana Politics

Why I Support Senator Tester and Other Liberals Should Too

Inspired by a conversation with JC on the never-ending swipe fee debate, in which it was suggested that Senator Tester was anti-labor, I decided to look into the reasons I support his candidacy for re-election in 2012. That support doesn’t mean I won’t continue to criticize bad votes and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have suddenly transformed into some kind of moderate, but looking into Senator Tester’s first term thus far revealed a candidate that I am happy to support for re-election.

Before I launch into the list of reasons (which is certainly not comprehensive)  progressives should support Senator Tester, I do need to acknowledge a few key points. Senator Tester is not incredibly liberal; he’s a moderate-left Democrat who has managed to vote for and promote some issues that are critically important—all in a state that is moderate-right. Perhaps some of us would prefer someone like Senator Sanders from Vermont, but in the current polarized political climate and in a state in which we just watched reactionaries hijack the Legislature for ninety 90 days, I don’t think we can afford to not work out asses off for someone who has supported positions that are important to Montana and its people.


  • From the Montana AFL-CIO: “Montanans need quality, sustainable jobs. That’s the bottom line. Senator Tester has consistently been personally active and vigilant in promoting sustainable Montana jobs that pay wages that support a family and offer health insurance coverage and defined benefit pensions. He knows what it takes to create those jobs and we’re proud of the work he’s done,” said Jim McGarvey, Executive Secretary of the 38,000 member labor organization.
  • Tester voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects the rights of workers to assert their rights when facing discrimination.
  • Tester voted for  the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
  • Tester voted for the Lincoln Amendment to the health reform bill, which would have reigned in executive compensation.
  • Tester received an “A’” from the NEA in 2009 and 2007 and has consistently supported education.
  • Tester voted for and led the fight in the Banking Committee to pass the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act.
  • Tester protected small farmer and food safety with his work on the Food Safety Modernization Bill.  Two renowned experts on food quality, Eric Schlosser & Michael Pollan, said that “S510 is the most important food safety legislation in a generation.The Tester amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers.We both think this is the right thing to do.”


  • Trout Unlimited supports his Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill: “At its heart, S. 1470 is a climate change adaptation strategy.  By federally protecting the highest quality landscapes and then reconnecting them to adjacent areas through watershed restoration, S. 1470 will help to maintain abundant fish and wildlife populations while providing multiple benefits to human communities through good paying jobs.”
  • The Montana Wilderness Association also supports it: “The FJRA is the product of compromise on all sides. But for the many thousands of Montanans who are rallying around this bill, it isn’t about winning or promoting an agenda – it’s about what’s best for Montana. What most of us want is to keep Montana just the way it is.”
  • Tester voted against blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
  • Tester supported the interests of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund 75% of the time in 2009 and 73% of the time in 2007-2008.
  • Tester supported the interests of the League of Conservation Voters 100 percent in 2009 and 89 percent of the time in 2007/2008.


  • Tester has consistently spoken out in opposition to and voted against extension of the PATRIOT Act.
  • Tester voted for federal hate crimes legislation.
  • Tester voted to end the broken Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
  • Tester has consistently supported a woman’s right to choose, getting 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America his entire career.
  • Tester has consistently supported the positions taken by the ACLU between 80-95% of the time.


  • Tester successfully increased mileage reimbursement rates for veterans, increased tele-health for the VA, increase mental health services for veterans, and incentivized hiring medical professionals to serve rural vets.
  • Tester voted to end the Global Gag Rule, a vote which dramatically improved the health of women and children all over the developing world.
  • When it would have been politically advantageous not to, Senator Tester voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


  • Tester voted for the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
  • Tester fought and voted for the expansion of S-CHIP, proving access to health care for thousands of Montana children.
  • Tester supported and voted for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, providing more opportunity to affordably attend college.

No, Senator Tester is not the most liberal member of the Senate. He’s not always right. But before anyone starts throwing out the idea that he is “anti-labor” or more interested in big business than he is in average Montanans, I just hope they’ll look at this voting record–and do some thinking about how the other candidate for his job has voted or will vote on these issues.

In the end, Senator Tester’s done a lot for progressive causes while continuing to represent Montanans who may not agree with us on every issue. Isn’t that his job?

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.


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  • At this point, I will be voting for Tester because the alternative is a “do nothing”, corporate stooge only interested in expanding his own pocketbook. I do not agree with all of his positions (as a fiscal conservative) but I am also a social progressive – or at least social nuetral – and Rehberg’s racist, homophobic, anti woman platform is distasteful and impossible to ignore. Tester is more likely to faithfully represent the majority in Montana than Rehberg is.

  • I think moderately authoritarian-right, and neoliberal a more apt discription.  TU, MWA, MCV and Defenders, all Democrats first, fit best in “social engineering” or “political operative” category, not “environment.” Dictating how others should vote is akin to telling others how to think, act, speak. Not so liberal, not so democratic, no?

    • Mind telling me which environmental organizations are speaking truth to power then? You seem to have a pretty good handle on the ones that are just Democratic shills.

  • As far as I’m concerned, he could have done nothing and still would be preferable to Rehberg and the far right candidates likely to file. His Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill is dead, and probably should be dead because of the saw-down-this-number-of-trees-there sections, and because of the flawed process he used to cobble the bill together, but those mistakes pale against the good he’s done and the harm he’s avoided. So he has my support, my vote. He’ll also have my criticism if he earns it.

    Progressives should not, however, hold their fire when they disagree with his actions and proposals. That would be a political mistake, and would harm him politically. He wants to run as pale blue dog, but that’s possible only if he’s getting grief from the left. If the left is silent, the GOP will define him as a bright red bear.

    • “Progressives should not, however, hold their fire when they disagree with his actions and proposals. That would be a political mistake, and would harm him politically. He wants to run as pale blue dog, but that’s possible only if he’s getting grief from the left. If the left is silent, the GOP will define him as a bright red bear.”

      Thanks James. Needed a little encouragement to keep flinging the blue paint Jon’s way

      And Pogie, you’re welcome for the inspiration. Though I’d disagree with you on many of the issues that you point to as being issues that progressives/liberals can support–particularly those issues where you refer to Pew funded groups (basically most of the groups you mention in your environmental category) as being indicative of good environmental positions. But those are debates we can have another day.

  • That’s surprisingly far left for Tester – I imagined he’d get moved further towards ‘moderate’ given his votes on the DREAM Act and his forest bill.  But thanks for posting it – it provides a good reality check for liberals who think Tester is just another Baucus, or that there’s no difference between he and Rehberg.  

    • Also not figured into the ratings is Tester’s championing of lead bullets:

      Despite growing concerns about health effects on both humans and wildlife, however, lead ammunition still flies widely unregulated across the West.

      Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, wants to keep it that way. With a bill introduced last month, Tester hopes to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to permanently exempt lead bullets,
      shot and fishing tackle from regulation. The bill comes in the wake of a
      2010 lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other
      groups demanding that EPA ban lead
      ammunition; an earlier petition was refused when EPA claimed it has no
      jurisdiction over the stuff. Last November, EPA refused to ban lead fishing sinkers, despite its own warnings of threats to health and wildlife…

      Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Tester successfully de-listed the Northern Rockies wolf
      with a budget rider, and it seems likely this is another move aimed at
      shoring up his conservative cred in a red-leaning state. We’ll have to
      wait until 2012 to see whether that strategy works.

      ===end quote===

      Perhaps’s even Burgert is giving fist pumps to Tester over his recent posturings.

  • I think the current irrecoverable fail of this country is proof Jon Tester and his twisted views are a fail. Your crappy approach to reality–taxing businesses into nonexistence–failed miserably in europe, and now it has failed here. No one is hiring becuase idiots like Tester and Obama are have no clue.

  • You’re certainly welcome to post your inane comments, Gary, but lay off spamming your site, which is as much an affront to aesthetics as it is logic.

  • Pogie – as a radical middle-of-the-roader, that is, a malleable Democrat, you’ve just done what they call in domestic abuse cases “enabling” behavior. You’ve told Tester you’re going to vote for him no matter what, which frees him up to do the “no-matter-what” on you. Trust me, he will.

    You’ve also done the scaredy-cat well -“I’m so afraid of Denny I’ll vote for anybody!!!” That’s a con that they are poulling on you to keep you in line – Rehberg is no more or less susceptible to political activism as Tester – that is, when you organize on thr ground they respond.

    Regarding your list, that’s bogus – meaning that any such list can be complied on any office holder due to the number of bills that pass. You could have easily listed the things he has done that upset you, but didn’t. Why?

    And finally, after all that has transpired, you still site Troth Unlimited and MWA as reasons for support of the FJWA. This means that either you do not listen, or that you do not look into issues in depth, or both.

    • You’re right, Mark. I did forget to check in with you on Tester’s forest bill, foolishly relying on organizations devoted to preserving Montana’s environment. The next time I have a policy question on any issue, I will be sure to turn to you.

      My terribly subtle point was this: it’s just wrong to argue that Tester has not stood for many issues that progressives think are important. 

      Not everyone can afford to be a self-righteous ideologue. I’d rather spend my energy supporting someone who will do real work for the things I believe are important.

      • You are indeed impenetrable! I belonged to MWA for many years, served on their board for most of those years. Don’t tell me what they are about. They were then what you say they are now. In the intervening years, they have been co-opted by foundation money, their budget has quintupled, and their agenda has gone soft. We’ve been trying to get this across to you for months now. You remind me a bit of Swede in that regard.

        Anyway, I’ve been dealing with and on Democrats since the mid 90’s when I ran for state house as one. I found them a bit glassy-eyed then too. Some things do not change.

    • Pogie – as a radical middle-of-the-roader, that is, a malleable
      Democrat, you’ve just done what they call in domestic abuse cases
      “enabling” behavior. You’ve told Tester you’re going to vote for him no
      matter what, which frees him up to do the “no-matter-what” on you.
      Trust me, he will.”

      What we are doing is ‘enabling’ Tester to make the votes he needs to make to stay in office.  I would love a Senator who voted exactly how I would, but such a person would never last in Montana.  It’s a balancing act, to be sure, between spineless and Quixotic.  But I for one am not interested in putting Jon between the demands of the base and the need to take electable positions.

  • oops! “Due to the number of bills that pass” s/b “number of bills that come before them.” And never forget Bob Dole’s maxim: You never go wrong voting for something that’s going to fail or against something that’s going to pass,” meaning that voting records are usually counterfeit.

  • Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

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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.

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