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Montana Politics

John Bohlinger’s Astonishingly Self-Absorbed Opinion Piece

While I have to give credit to the Montana Cowgirl blog for getting and publishing a guest opinion from former Republican and current Democratic Senate candidate John Bohlinger, I’m utterly astonished that a candidate for major political office would write such a self-indulgent, whiny complaint when given a forum to discuss his views. Bohlinger comes across as a petulant child, one who evokes TEA Party rhetoric in another sad attempt to make this election about his hurt feelings rather than policy differences.

Along the way, he also manages to distort history and make another excellent case why he shouldn’t be considered for the Senate—by either party.

I’ve probably devoted more time to debunking John Bohlinger’s litany of complaints that the total number of hours he’s actually been a Democrat, but it’s infuriating to see a so-called Democratic candidate quixotically riding his donkey into battle against imaginary enemies in the Democratic Party when the challenge we face is lurking around the corner. You may never read about John Bohlinger’s plan to defeat Steve Daines, because he doesn’t have one.

Read his complaints and you’ll see just how self-indulgent the whole mess is.

Bohlinger opens with this assertion:

Montanans’ most fundamental right is at risk:  the right to choose who we want to represent us in free and open primary elections.

Well, that’s just absurd. Our most fundamental rights, according to our nation-best constitution, would probably be the right to life, liberty, and happiness, not to mention a clean environment and education. Bohlinger’s wrong to suggest that the right to primary elections is our most fundamental right—and even more so, to suggest that they are under threat. The last time I checked, there are three candidates running in the Democratic and Republican primaries for the Senate, suggesting the only threat to our election system is in his mind.

Bohlinger continues:

In an unprecedented political maneuver, our highest elected officials selected a candidate for the United States Senate, a decision made for Montanans in Washington, DC.

First, his assertion is untrue. Governor Bullock has made it clear that he was not influenced by anyone in Washington to make his decision. That Mr. Bohlinger continues to repeat this dishonest attack on the governor would be disappointing if it wasn’t so predictable.  What’s more, it’s not unprecedented. Both times in Montana history when the governor has had to appoint a replacement Senator that Senator has subsequently run for office. I’m not sure what Mr. Bohlinger thinks unprecedented means, but it sure as hell isn’t what everyone else thinks.

Sad that people who want Democrats to actually win the Senate seat have criticized his bid, Bohlinger continues:

I refused, and life since then has been a long, cold winter in politics, in which I learned the dark side of power and money in politics.

One of those pesky liberties in the United States is the right to free speech. Democrats, powerful and not, have the right to criticize his campaign and suggest that he not run. After all, a candidate who couldn’t raise enough money to win a competitive legislative race in Montana may not be best positioned to defeat Steve Daines in the fall. That Democrats have been skeptical of his bid hardly represents a conspiracy of the powerful; it suggests instead reasoned opinion of the logical.

I think it’s also especially disingenuous for Mr. Bohlinger to complain about the influence of money in politics, given that, as a state representative, he voted against a bill that prohibited corporate contributions to candidates, parties, and ballot issues.

Echoing the lunatic fringe of the TEA Party, Bohlinger writes:

Our Constitutional freedoms have slowly been eroded away, and this latest threat is a blatant attack on the very foundation of our freedom — the democratic right to choose who shall represent us in our republic.  Every election, whether a primary or general is about choice!

This is just nonsense. Bohlinger seems to be suggesting that the appointment of John Walsh to the Senate seat was some kind of Chavez-style strong arm tactic, when it was nothing more than the Governor following the law in Montana. And there will be a damn election, in less than four months, in which Bohlinger will have the opportunity to convince Montana Democrats, the same people he told “I’m still a Republican. Those principles are still very much a part of my heart,” that he is a Democrat and should win their vote. That he will have difficulty doing that is a problem of his own making.

There’s been no assault on the Constitution here; Bohlinger’s argument is an assault on decency and the truth.

Finally, reaching a crescendo of indignant, self-righteous lack of self-awareness, Bohlinger has the audacity to compare his struggle to the struggle for justice faced by the apartheid regime in South Africa, writing:

 As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

When Desmond Tutu wrote that, I suspect he didn’t have in mind the plight of a privileged white man in the richest country in the world who felt mistreated in an election, but perhaps something a bit more onerous. No one has oppressed John Bohlinger; that he would even suggest that demonstrates a total disregard for reality and an inflated sense of his importance that’s almost unimaginable.

This piece, like his campaign in total, is a sad, petty, and increasingly shrill end to a long career in Montana politics—and I wish people close to John Bohlinger had the heart to tell him so.

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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  • Governor Bullock says he was not influenced, he’s a Democrat, Democrats never lie, ergo Bullock was not influenced. Don’t know why people can’t follow your simple logic, Don! Child ‘s play.

  • Can we all just be upfront about the fact that cowgirl is run by Bob Brigham now? I think the last two posts on there he’s given up any pretense to the contrary.

  • The only way the good Guv could prove that he wasn’t obeying Harry Reid, would have been to disobey him, and I do not believe that Bullock has the cajones – he’s no Gov BS in that regard.

    That being said, I fully intend to vote the Dem primary ballot, and I’m voting for Bohlinger.

    • But…Bullock had already endorsed Walsh. So to appoint someone who apparently thought would make an inferior Senator merely to spite Harry Reid would be exceedingly childish, don’t you think?

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