Montana Politics

“Progressive” John Bohlinger’s Running Against “Republican” John Bohlinger

I really had no intention of writing about John Bohlinger again this week, but the latest from his campaign makes it hard not to pay a little attention. It seems that Mr. Bohlinger wants us to believe that he wanted to become a Democrat in 1992. No, seriously. He tells the Down with Tyranny blog:

I was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 1992, and after my first term, realized that I did not fit in their caucus. I got little support for the issues I brought forward from my Republican colleagues. I thought about jumping ship and running as a Democrat in the 1994 election cycle, but was talked out of it by a friend and political reporter from the Billings Gazette. He told me to stay and be a conscience for the Republican Party.

Think for a moment just what that story, if true, says about Mr. Bohlinger’s honesty and political resolve. He remained a member of the Republican Party for almost twenty years, ran as a Republican six more times, and voted against core Democratic principles because a reporter told him to?

Mr. Bohlinger is asking Montana Democrats to believe that he’s the “progressive choice” in the Montana Senate despite the fact that he remained a Republican during the disastrous Martz Administration, through the election and misadministration of President Bush, and through the GOP’s racist, horrifying campaign against Barack Obama in 2008.

The Obama decision is probably the most problematic for Bohlinger. Today his campaign released this image:


In 2008, it seems, the choice was not as clear for Mr. Bohlinger, as he endorsed—and even worked for John McCain, the person who chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. In 2008. Bohlinger supported the QUEEN of the TEA PARTY movement while he self-described as a “moderate Republican” when he called Governor Schweitzer a “conservative Democrat.”

If it talks a Republican, if it votes like a Republican, if it calls itself a Republican…it sure as hell isn’t a progressive Democrat.

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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  • I do agree with this:

    It was in the 2001 Session we were debating HB 2, the General Fund Bill. It was crafted in the Republican controlled House, and omitted funding for 3 important Human Service efforts of previous Legislatures. It was their plan to no longer buy drugs for the mentally ill, or day-care services for young mothers, but the straw that broke this camel’s back came when they proposed to reduce their commitment to the Meals on Wheels program.

    I stood on the Senate floor I told them I couldn’t support the budget bill because I felt purchasing drugs for the mentally ill allowed them to go to work and have a normal life. If we discontinued this program, they would find themselves in our jails or the emergency rooms of our hospitals. I told them that paying for day-care allowed these young women to continue their education, rather than stay home and take care of their babies. The Meals on Wheels Program allowed elderly people of lesser means a source of sustenance. God tells us to feed the hungry, this is not optional!

  • Don, many politicians walk a crooked path on the road of destiny. Choices are made, followed by reflection and measure, then followed by new choices. Happens when someone actually thinks for them self rather than merely parroting a party line.

    • Your willingness to believe that Mr. Bohlinger has someone transformed his political views is uncharacteristically charitable, Craig.

      I’d love to hear a redemption story, too, but what caused it? Bohlinger claims that he’s now pro-choice, despite a career that says the opposite? Why?

      He claims to be a progressive Democrat, despite spending his career as a moderate Republican, one who endorsed John McCain for President. Why?

      It seems like he owes Montana voters an explanation for this enormous transformation of his views, no?

  • I don’t think Bohlinger has any strong political belief other than a conviction that his community is best served when he’s elected to office. He’s neither Republican nor Democrat. He’s an opportunistic narcissist, or perhaps a narcissistic opportunist, and a very, very old one.

  • Too funny, this is. It’s an old adage of Montana politics that Baucus, a Republican, ran as a Democrat because of the domination of politics by the house of Mansfield/Metcalf. Party choice is incidental to location and culture.

    I also remember a sinking feeling in 2008 as one of Obama’s university professors was asked about his and Michelle’s attitudes in those days. He said that he thought they were both Republicans and was surprised to find them in the other party.

    For you to exist in a party easily infiltrated by right wingers due to lack of any accountability once elected, and then complain when an open Republican repudiates the former party, is the height of impenetrability. I suppose you’d be happier if Bohlinger did it the Baucus/Tester/Bullock way – to govern as a stealth right winger while pretending otherwise. Then you’d be satisfied?

    • Even if everything you say repeatedly (and without evidence) about Montana Democrats were true, it wouldn’t invalidate a single observation in my post. Though what you claim isn’t accurate, even if every word of it was true doesn’t change the fact that John Bohlinger is a conservative.

      All of the Democrats you regularly excoriate have better records than Bohlinger on choice, unions, the environment, budgets, and healthcare.

      None of them volunteered to be state chairs for a reactionary like John McCain.

      • You’re far too caught up in minutia for my taste. It’s easy to mistake institutional duties with a man’s character and beleifs. You might be surprised to know that, for instance, Governor Wallace was not in private the racist he appeared in public, but had to be that in public to be ‘fit’ to govern. Institutional capacity, as Chomsky notes (and of course you’ve read him in depth) often governs public behavior, and often as well causes a person to submerge his beleifs in denial. Public officials are not to be judged by public behavior if you’ve any sense of politics at all.

        You’re also impenetrable on some matters, usually grasping on to one tiny detail to justify a huge swatch of beliefs, as when you fixated on Tester’s use of MWA to justify his FJRA despite repeated attempts to show you that Pew had compromised the group; or how on an AWR person’s use of Vichy reference to obscure a far more nuanced debate about public policy, and also to excoriate and ban JC. In the matter of legal abortion, you’ve latched on to Bohlinger’s support for an amendment regarding crimes against the mother and fetus combined, something a reasonable person can discuss if he lives in the gray world, and not your b/w one. That, to you, is all you need to judge the character of a human who, like all of us, is flawed. The question is, is he thoughtful, self-reflective, and amenable to Reasoner argument?

        I frankly don’t know about Bohlinger – it appears at his age that he is carrying out someone else’s agenda – I thought maybe Walsh’s, others specualtle Schweitzer. If that’s the case, it’s politics as usual, and I don’t admire him for it. It’s tooly.

        The rest of the matters that I provided here are all supported by evidence, you’re secure in your hear and see no evil existence. That’s a fine way to sleep, maybe, but not to live.

            • Too bad he didn’t use it to peer into Cheney’s soul before he selected him as his Vice President. Or perhaps he did and saw what he wanted to see instead of what was there.

          • All I am saying, Pogie,PW and James,is that politics is not voting records or public statements. It ‘s complicated. It is intuition and intelligence and guile. You are, all three of you, easily played. That coupled with your arrogance makes you royal pains in the ass.

            • To recap: the guy who says we should ignore actual votes and public statements by political candidates, and instead rely on his “intuition, intelligence, and guile” to evaluate candidates, is calling other people arrogant.

              That sum it up?

              • Whoosh! Do you comb your hair straight back Don, just to save time in your daily affairs?

                Public actions and statements of politicians are usually meant for effect. For that reason, it is wise to keep them at arm’s length – listen to them but hold them in high scrutiny and look at the bigger picture, which includes all activities, public and private, especially the source of his/her financing, the most obvious tell. Private behaviors are the most difficult, but can be uncovered by a burrowing press which , as Pat Williams reminds us, we do not have.

                Here’s an example that I noticed: Single Payer passed twice in CA, only to be vetoed by Schwarzenegger. A third time it came up, under Jerry Brown, it did not make it past the legislature even as Brown would have signed it. Enough Democrats jumped ship to kill it.

                Question: How many Democrat’s voted for SP only because they knew it would be vetoed?

                The voting records and public statements to these politicians are no guide. It takes careful attention to the entirety of the behaviors, and source of financing.

                You do not do this. This makes you and your cohorts extremely credulous. Couple that with unwarranted self assurance of the wisdom of your positions, and you are royal p… oh damn, here I go again.

                • Matt was dead on. Your assessment here is precisely at the same level of intellect as George Bush’s assessment of Vlad. Putin.

                  Tell me, have you investigated any of the funding sources John Bohlinger has received in his career as a politician, or are you relying on your keen discernment of the human mind to assess him?

                • I am highly suspicious of John Bohlinger, as his run makes no sense other than from a manipulative standpoint, a stalking horse for Daines, but more likely Walsh. When his financial reports come out, I trust you’ll be poring over them. I know you follow the money, even with people you support.

                  Oh, wait. You don’t follow the money. Ever.

                  Why you are dodging here – unable to deal with duplicity in your own party? Is the world too muddy if politicians try to manage your perceptions with misleading votes or public statements that mask their true views and actions? Isn’t a two-dimensional political world easier to follow than the real one?

                • Straight no-nonsense question here for anyone to answer: Is Walsh allowed to raise more money if he has a primary opponent?

  • Wading in here is perilous, but it seems imperative. Voters have it really hard these days; the field of narcissist candidates, is, indeed, growing exponentially. Sane candidates carrying buckets of common sense and real compassion are dwindling. We should probably be discussing the unintended consequences of term limits, here.
    But back to Don’s repugnance with this candidate’s stated progressivism: I recall initially feeling pleased that McCain chose a woman for a running mate. Then she spoke. I was left wondering what totally dysfunctional force thought she was a viable candidate? How on earth did she slip through?
    Being against abortion, for instance, is typically considered in wedge-issue fashion: for or against? If you happen to be anti-abortion because you feel women and children are not adequately valued in our culture but you just plain won’t decree women’s destinies in a high-handed manner, where does that leave you? And what if your interests changed because you realize the way you felt fifteen years ago is downright ignorant today? But voters only have time and patience for aye or nay. Substance and subtlety disappear like whispers on a blustery day.
    And then voters begin to wonder if it matters . . .

  • What does it matter if the cat’s black or white so long as it catches mice? That’s an old saying attributed to Deng Xiaoping by the way.

    If you flip-flop and win it was a wise move. If you do it and lose then no one likes you, which pretty much means you’re still just a loser.

    So what’s catching mice? Probably bringing jobs and money to Montana. If Bohlinger can do that I don’t care what label he wears. Now the question is, can he do that?

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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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