Montana Politics

Thank you, Dan Cox

And not because you helped Jon Tester win. In fact, it looks like Tester would have won either way. Tester was 1.6% from getting a straight majority, so only if 80% of Cox’s votes would have otherwise gone to Rehberg (as opposed to being blank) was Cox the deciding factor. So the first thing I’d thank him for is allowing me to get a good night’s sleep last night, confident by 4 AM that Tester was in a good position.

But more importantly, I’d like to thank Dan Cox for putting the Montana GOP on notice that a restrictive government disguised as conservatism ill not fly in Montana. While I don’t agree with Libertarian philosophy, I respect it for at least having some internal consistency, which stands in sharp contrast to the “small government except in the case of the PATRIOT Act, forcing people to carry around birth certificates, women’s bodies, or plants we don’t like” platform of the GOP.

Hopefully Republicans will remember this in the next legislative session, and if they still refuse to properly take care of the most vulnerable of us, they won’t compound the problem by telling us how to live our lives as well. Now, again for my own peace of mind, I’d request that the Libertarians run a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction next time, as well.

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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  • Excellent point about Tester nearly having a majority. There’s just no reason to believe that Rehberg would have received four out of five votes from Cox.

    He lost the libertarian right when he voted against their values repeatedly.

  • Montana’s remaining timbered roadless lands are laying awake awaiting their final solution. Jon’s got a pocket full of timber money and a brand new chainsaw.

    It has been fascinating and deeply troubling to watch the wild-eyed support that Democrats receive when they do the exact things that you jeer at Republicans for doing. Tuesday was a horrible specter of manipulation of low-information voters. We’re a silly place.

  • To say that the low information voters were manipulated, and to imply that a vote for Tester is nothing more than a vote for Rehberg in sheep’s clothing, is nothing more than fallacious oversimplification. Equivocating.

    Conservation values are not Binary, they exist on a continuum. For example, regardless of how you feel the FJRA fails, it certainly doesn’t fail to the level of the Roadless Area Release Act. Whenever we hear this equivocating, implying the parties are equally bad, I am reminded of Asimov’s quote.

    “when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

    • Thank you, NR. That was well said. The reduction of complexities down to personal assumptions is one of the more sophisticated forms of arrogance.

      • B/W thinkers, as your stripe tends to be, Monty, should not lecture on complexities or what is “sophisticated,” which incidentally has the same root as “sophistry” and “sophomoric.”

        • Which is specifically why I wrote that you were attempting the arrogance of “sophistication”.

          Quit bringing up the “Monty” thing unless you wish to look the fool yet again. The evidence is on my side and always has been. You screwed up, Mark. Leave it, or look like an idiot … again.

          • Listen, Monty: This is disturbing behavior on your part. You and I know what you did. I wonder now if you have made a lie into truth in your mind, as pathological liars would.

            Eesh! You’re a creep.

    • Oh no, I mean what I said. Names of bills change depending on the constituency of the person introducing it, but the underlying substance does not. Tester is carrying forward with Burns’ agenda, merely repackaging it. It is perception management, nothing more.

      • Mark, your hypothesis seems to be:
        When Conrad Burns pulled an election favor in 88 and convinced President Reagan to pocket-veto The Montana Wilderness Bill, he was actually prepackaging Jon Tester’s Wilderness Bills, which create hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness.

        This seems unlikely. You are giving a disproportionate weight to similarities, while ignoring dissimilarities. (Amid the cries of, “But it’s not REAL wilderness!”)

        Having read yours and other’s objections to HR4089 or any of Tester’s Wilderness attempts, I’d agree there are valid objections. Genuine attempts at compromise -attempts to meet at the midpoint of the value spectrum- will always incite cries from those at the extremes of the spectrum.

        The spectrum doesn’t seem anchored either. I don’t believe there is a midpoint of truth. Your views may be the more correct, within the “Degrees of Wrongness” that certainly exist.

        But that’s not what you just said. You said that Tuesday was a “horrible specter of manipulation of low-information voters.” Utter Nonsense.

        The rational voter recognizes possible outcomes, applies probabilities to them based on background evidence, and acts in such a way as to make those outcomes that most fit their values and desires, more probable than those outcomes in contradiction to the voter’s values, however they may be prioritized.

        There is an enormous magnitude of difference when it comes to the values and outcomes that a Jon Tester makes more likely, as opposed to a Dennis Rehberg.

        Regardless of whether you meant what you said, it’s fallacious and largely incorrect. You are hiding the assumption that people’s conservation values lie on the same part of the spectrum as yours. They don’t. Your greater mistake is to assume the subsets people have of what can be valued, is prioritized the same as yours. They aren’t. For example, an Iraq war vet with PTSD may have voted for Tester because of his greater degree of concern and action towards veterans, than was Rehberg’s. That voter simply prioritizes the subsets of what they value differently than you do. Who would you be to say they are “manipulated low-information”? You aren’t the guy to do that.

        Debates about whether policy goes far enough or goes too far are interesting and worthy. But your position at best is Inconsistent Comparison…like I said in the first place. Fallacious Oversimplification.

        • I couldn’t have said it better. Recognizing the political realities of the country and doing some positive good is a far more responsible and intelligent approach. It is simply arrogant to be unwilling to see any value in a solution other than your own. To not be able to see the difference between Tester and Rehberg and understand the potential impacts is inexcusable.

        • Nonsense. The goal of the timber lobby has not changed over the decades, but the faces of the people carrying their water has. If you really think that Tester is serving the public will, I have a bridge to sell you.

          You seem to be using far more complex jargon than necessary, as if a simple matter needs complex thought levels. That indicates to me some level of professionalism in your Democrat-ness. You’ll use well-worded sentences to justify Tester’s behavior. You would use equally well-worded verbiage to attack the bill had it been Rehberg who repackaged it, changed its name, and carried on with the chainsaw massacre.

          That is my problem with Democrats. Mindless following. The intellectualizing of mindless following is even more upsetting. Are you an academic?

          • Hardly an academic, I am just a Montanan making less than the median state wage in a non-professional, temporary job.My improper use of punctuation should tip you off.

            But I do pay attention to policies, especially those pertaining to public lands, because they are my passion. I wrote my senator about what concerned me in the FJRA.

            But you didn’t address a damn thing I’ve written. You confuse logical possibility with probability, and anchor it to hyperbole.

            This isn’t the place to have a lengthy discussion about FJRA, but your assertion that the FJRA is “a code name for the destruction of our remaining roadless lands”, is laughable. You could talk about potential concerns. I certainly have them. But sweeping overgeneralizations like this, reek like the cries of gun owners who think the day gun registration is required will be followed by the day black helicopters descend upon their homes.

            Can you not discern a difference between the Roadless Area Release Act and FJRA? If you can’t, I’ll say it again, you give to much to weight to similarities while ignoring dissimilarities. The probabilities they give to potential outcomes are insanely different.

            I gave you a counterexample which you simply didn’t address. Some people don’t prioritize Public Lands management as the apex of value when deciding a candidate. People have other things going on. That in no way makes them “manipulated low-information”. Such a statement, without qualification, is asshattery.

            If your claim is that there is no discernible difference between Rehberg and Tester, even to those who may not be concerned about conservation issues, then I’d say your obsessing. If you really think that Tester is simply Rehberg in sheep’s clothing, or Conrad reincarnate, and a vote for either creates insignificant variation in the probabilities for potential outcomes for Montanans, then I hope the Kool-Aid tasted good.

            • You’re not seeing the forest very well. The underlying impetus of Burns, Baucus and now Tester was that having roadless wild lands is a “problem” that needs to be “solved.” That is called “framing the debate,” and once you step into that framework, you have lost.

              Environmentalists are quite familiar with this play book, as Burns and Baucus have used it for decades. We refuse to step into the framework, which infuriates them. This is why Tester called us “extremists.” We refused to play the Burns/Baucus game. he was suppose to deliver to the timber lobby, and right away saw we weren’t buying in. He was being tested and was failing.

              Within the Burns/Baucus framework, to solve “the problem” we have to release lands from roadless status. When a Republican does it, it is called RRRA, when a Democrat does it, it is FJRA. That is perception management. The object is the same – to get timbered acreage into the logging inventory, and offer up rocks and ice to the environmentalists.

              My perceptions are very clear on this, as I am not fooled by partisan framing and positioning. the very fact that you resort to name calling (“asshattery”) in an attempt to mystify perceptions without regard to specifics tells me that you are not a dabbler in politics. You know about perception management. You are doing it.

              I write extensively about this, dwelling on policy matters without regard to party affiliation. nationally, Obama has transformed Democrats into the party an anti-civil liberty warmongering one supporting torture, assassinations, secret prisons and austerity.

              At the state level, Democrats quickly picked up the chainsaw that Burns dropped in 2006. I say this not because I am using metaphor, but rather because your party has framed the debate exactly as Burns did before, telling us that roadless lands are a problem that needed to be solved. That is the forest you cannot see for the partisan trees.That is why I say that Tester is Burns with a bigger belly.

              • Mark, you said:
                “the very fact that you resort to name calling (“asshattery”) in an attempt to mystify perceptions without regard to specifics tells me that you are not a dabbler in politics”

                Calling someone “manipulated low-information” because they voted for Tester, is asshattery.

                What do you mean I wasn’t specific? I was painfully specific. Again. There are a multitude of logical, rational reasons to favor Tester over Rehberg, depending on one’s personally prioritized values. Treat that sentence as my premise.

                From an acceptance of this premise follows the conclusion that calling someone “manipulated low information” simply for voting for Tester is unsubstantied and irrational. Couple it with its demeaning nature, and boom. Asshatery.

                You could reject that premise. You could say there are no logical, rational reasons to favor Tester over Rehberg, regardless of how one personally prioritizes their values.

                But that’d just be the Kool-aid kicking in.

              • You’ve stopped talking about FJRA now. Now you’ve gone broad and ethereal, talking about philosophical reasons for voting for Tester. Most annoying is how you fall back on public opinion to justify his behavior. You’ve got some political chops. You know better.

                So let’s go up one step on the ladder. I say that either a Democrat or Republican can serve the same agenda while creating opposite-appearing voting records. You are no fool. Wanna go there?

                • As I have made clear, what you call the “same agenda”, are two different agendas on a spectrum of value. Different “Degrees of wrongness”. Your hyperbole doesn’t allow for a recognition of the truth.

                  When a voter views the probabilities of likely outcomes of an election, they more often than not vote for those “agendas” that are closest to their position on the spectrum. You seem lost on this, instead commiting your words to an unrealistic Nirvana Fallacy. The rational voter would have recognized it was either going to be Rehberg or Tester. The rational voter would then act accordingly to increase the probabilities of the states of affairs closest to their position on the spectrum of value, what ever the subset of value may be that is their priority. It’s simple.

                  I would also assume through your oversimplification, you are using the word “agenda” as description of the whole, when in reality, individuals have different agendas, and ones that are actually in contradiction from one another. Which is precisely why an educated veteran who cares deeply about Conservation issues, can look past the FJRA and vote for Tester based on his work for veterans. Issues that the veteran may hold closer than conservation issues. Do you see how easily your claim of “Manipulated low information” fails? It is mere assertion.

                  My initial objection still stands unscathed. Less about the FJRA, my objection is about your assumption of having the objective standard from which to judge others. The standard you do not have, or seem to understand.

                  Your initial implication that Tester’s win was a spectacle of the “manipulated low information”, can be easily explained away using a multitude of examples. All based on the fact that actual differences exist in the potential outcomes one candidate offers as opposed to another.

                  You can call them philosophical reasons. But really it is simply a more plausible explanation for Tester’s victory than your own.

                • If you can’t see the differences between the two candidates and what they’ve done and what they support. Actual differences that genuinely have impact on the lives of real Montanans, I don’t know how you can justify it.

      • Why are you against FJRA? Why are you against new jobs and new wilderness. You are the arrogant person who clearly does not understand how most Montanans think.

        • This is a large part of the problem – the language of public relations. You have to know how to translate, as when oligarchs speak in public they speak in code. “Jobs” means “profits”, “recreation” means roading, “public” means special interests and “special interests” means public benefit.

          So FJRA is a code name for destruction of our remaining roadless lands for the benefit of the timber lobby, and a new player since Conrad Burns pushed these bills, ATV and snowmobile manufacturers.

          Burns, Baucus Rehberg, and now Tester have been working toward the same objective for decades. When it is Baucus and Tester going at it, Democrats support the effort, when it was Rehberg and Burns, your opposed it. the problem then is not the office holders, as they are merely the public face of lobbyists. The problem is you. You follow without thinking.

          • I don’t think you can pin the blame on Jag for this one. You could certainly call him an idiot for trying to suggest he understands how “most Montanans think” because he excludes the portion–albeit the small portion–of the Montana population that would evaluate the FJRA with an open-minded, rational thought-process, like you or me. The problem is that my generation (the twenty- and thirty-somethings) don’t fight legislation like the FJRA tooth-and-nail like my father’s generation has been doing since the seventies. Organizations like MEIC have been seeing a decline in membership for decades. What my generation thinks is that those institutions will continue to function–to kick the shit out of the governor, senators, lobbies, or groups like Trout unlimited in court on their own. I know and you know that that certainly isn’t going to happen, but something more catchy in our day and age has caught my generation’s eye to fill the growing void within environmentalism. “Compromise, conciliation, and collaboration” has become our mantra. Conservation is no longer a possibility, because we’ve resigned to an inability to win. You’re right in this sense in your arguments here, but namelessrange makes an excellent point that there are issues that matter to voters outside of conservation and you ignore them (just as he avoids giving a straightforward answer to differentiate b/w the RRRA and FJRA.

            @Jag: The FJRA creates small potatoes in comparison with what it takes away. Additionally, it stands to create jobs that will stimulate the timber industry in the short term, then fall off within a couple of years. You have to understand that the timber industry doesn’t work in Montana like it does in the Pacific Northwest. If you cut down a lodgepole pine on the Olympic peninsula, it will grow back close to full size in 20 years; if you cut down a ponderosa on the Rocky Mountain Front, it won’t grow to full size for 200. That’s not a sustainable plan to stimulate job growth or the economy. The FJRA is designed to jack off Jon Tester, John Gatchell, Bruce Farling, et. als’ egos, but provide little else than destruction of valued lands for Montanans.

            • You make very reasonable points with this exception: Voters know very little about these issues, and have their opinions handed to them by opinion makers. This is the greatest failing of Democrats – they don’t lead, they don’t make any attempt to supply those opinions, as they are working for the lobbyists. They then turn around and blame voters for their failure to lead. Best of both worlds.

              • This is, of course, in stark contrast to Republicans, who made a great showing of their depth in ability to “supply the electorate opinions” by winning so many races in 2012, right? It’s the job of the electorate to increase their own and others’ efficacy to the point of being able to take a candidate’s accomplishments and failings at face-value. I don’t help to elect politicians so that they can feed me opinions. I don’t consider that leadership, I consider it demagoguery (tell me the GOP’s tired appeals to a pro-life, anti-tax agenda aren’t the cookie-cutter example of that, buddy). I help to elect people that I think might do a better job of accomplishing tasks in line with a very specific set of beliefs. But then, maybe the simple fact that I think they exist stems from naivete, because I haven’t had so many years to develop your cynicism. Racicot, Martz, Burns, Rehberg: these are all Republicans that made the most impeccable example of becoming (or starting out as) lapdogs to industry/lobbies, and to level the same accusation against many Montana democrats might be legitimate in many ways, but don’t try to distinguish the two parties on that point–you know it’s bullshit. There isn’t a single Republican politician in Montana that would be able to distinguish his/her mouth from asshole lest lobbyists were feeding them. The greatest failing of Montana’s democrats is trying to politic liberally in Montana.

  • Rehberg received 16,740 fewer votes than Tester. If 54 percent of Cox’s 31,318 votes had flipped to Rehberg, Denny would have won. Rehberg ran 3.4 points behind Burns. Tester ran a half point behind 2006. Cox ran 3.9 points ahead of Jones. Cox deprived Rehberg of a majority. Had this been an instant runoff election, I believe Rehberg would have won.

    • Of course, you assume none of the Cox votes go to Tester. This just isn’t realistic considering Rehberg’s support for Patriot Act, etc. Many true libertarians see the personal freedom agenda of the Dems and lean towards them as much as repubs. Rehberg needed to get 75% of Cox’s vote if the remainder went to Tester.

      • “This just isn’t realistic considering Rehberg’s support for Patriot Act, etc. Many true libertarians see the personal freedom agenda of the Dems and lean towards them as much as repubs.”

        If you’ve got some sound data supporting this, it would be most helpful if you put it online.

    • Perhaps,and I’ll admit my math isn’t good in the post (also written before all the ballots were in), but I don’t think Cox was a true spoiler. But there’s a couple of factors that make me think otherwise.

      First of all, how many Libertarians would have showed up to the polls if they didn’t have a candidate on the ballot? At least 14,000 voted Libertarian for each race; they probably voted Libertarian top to the bottom of the ticket. It’s hard to argue that without a Libertarian on the ticket, they would have bothered to vote at all.

      Second, there’s no guarantee that those of the 31,000 who did vote, would have voted for Rehberg over Tester. Obamacare was obviously a big issue, but so was the PATRIOT Act votes and turning the border over to homeland security, and the medical marijuana raids.. The chance that a ballot with no Libertarians would bring in 17,000 people willing to vote for Rehberg in excess of those who might vote for Tester seems rather slim.

      • An instant runoff system would settle the question.

        I do think Libertarians were drawn to the ballot by initiatives such as I-124, that many would have voted because of those issues even if Libertarian candidates were not on the ballot. In those circumstances, would they skip a Democrat v Republican only choice, or vote for the candidate closest to their Libertarian views?

        An analysis of voter falloff in downticket contests might reveal whether Libertarians who voted in the senate race also voted in downticket races where there was no Libertarian alternative.

  • Nameless, I really can’t concede on any issues because you’ve been ethereal to the point where we are not talking about issues, but rather perceptions. Since I say that politicians engage in perception management, and then you get all verbose in describing how I am wrong because my perceptions are mixed up, all I can say in response is “case closed.”

    Your notions about public opinion and voting behaviors are professional condescension. This is the way that political professionals manage them, by appealing to nonexistent thoughtfulness. I did not say I thought you were an academic. I said you sounded like a professional Democrat.

    Most people who vote vote party line. They are heavily influenced by advertising to stay home or to vote. Ads are manipulative, using fear and having different objectives than are apparent (negative ads sublimely encourage people to stay home, while Obama used fear of the wild men on the other side to get people out to vote for him. This is manipulation of the herd instinct.)

    Very few issues can knock people off party-line voting. Those that can are called “wedges,” and are emotional, of no consequence to power, and so heavily hyped. They include guns, gays, immigrants, abortion and mosques etc.

    When voters enter the booth, they are confused and tired, worn down perceptually. They vote the top of the ticket as their party dictates if partisan, or in reaction to a wedge issue if successfully driven out to vote from slumber. Down-ticket they haven’t a clue unless some clever candidate has pulled a name-recognition stunt or been well-enough financed to buy some TV ads, the source of all truth. If not, they reflexively pull the D or R button.

    But you sound like a pro. I think you know all of this already.

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