Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Conventions, elections and messaging

First, the convention:

The Montana delegation’s votes, delivered by former state senator Carol Williams, had 12 for Bernie Sanders and 14 for Hillary Clinton. It broke down thus: 11 pledged delegates for Bernie and 10 for Hillary, as reflects the outcome of Montana’s primary. The superdelgates voted 4-1 for Clinton. Sen. Jon Tester, party chair Jim Larson, vice-chair Jacquie Helt and national committeeman Jorge Quintana were in the Clinton camp. National committeewoman Jeanne Dahlman went for Sanders (bless her heart). As reported in a skimpy little piece in the Billings Gazette, superdelegate Gov. Steve Bullock did not attend.

There was some blowback at the convention from Sanders’ supporters, some of which was reported at this very site. That’s more information on Bernie’s folks than I got from the Montana or national media. But it appears that the DNC did a good job of orchestrating a message of unity after the first day of unbridled dissent.

Fortunately, Bernie Sanders is no Ted Cruz (but you already knew that). While maintaining his “revolution,” which I prefer to call a movement, Bernie did as much as he could to unite the party. Not everyone, of course, as there are still holdouts, but he brought the divisiveness down to a manageable level. To say that Bernie was gracious and is a true statesman would be an understatement.

The Democratic National Committee’s email scandal fueled the discord and rightfully so. I’m not sorry to see Debbie Wasserman-Shultz go and the DNC needs to clean up the rest of its house, quickly, so as to not continue disenfranchising Sanders’ supporters. The Democratic Party will need all the voters it can get this fall — not just for Clinton but for many important down-ticket races.

Here’s James Conner’s take on the convention. He closes with this line:

Hillary Clinton is a Democrat that Trump can defeat.

The Montana Democrats’ mantra

Democratic candidates are on message. It’s public lands, public lands and public lands. At a recent campaign event I attended — from local legislators to statewide office seekers — they were all talking about the transfer of, or access to, public lands.

This makes sense, since Republicans have a sketchy record on the issue. At the national level, the latest Republican platform is calling for a transfer of federal lands to the states or the private sector. Candidate for governor, Greg Gianforte, is getting bad press for trying to shut down access to a stretch of the Gallatin River that abuts his property. Congressman Ryan Zinke’s votes are inconsistent, to say the least. And Jennifer Fielder, a state senator and vice-chair of the Montana Republican Party, heads the American Lands Council, the organization leading the charge to transfer federal lands to the states.

There are TV spots skewering Gianforte on access, and mailers, op-ed pieces and letters to the editor are going there, too. Talking points on the phones and doors are “keep public lands in public hands.”

Recent polls indicate that Montanans support this message. But will it, alone, be enough to propel Democrats to victory?

It’s a safe strategy but I’d like to see more. Issues like climate change, racism, health care and income inequality, to name but a few, should also be in the mix. Is it too much to ask that these subjects be broached? Probably so.

The election

I predict the general election will break down thus: 40% Clinton, 35% Trump, 5% third party and write-ins, and 20% of registered voters staying home.

This prognostication is in response to a post and comments at the We Hate Hillary, Barack and Democrats in General blog site. And no, it isn’t a Republican site, although it contains attacks that often exceed that of the right wing blogs.

Here’s the prediction in the comment section that I allude to:

My prediction for the election is: 1/5 vote democrat, 1/5 vote republican, 1/5 vote green/libertarian/3rd party/write-in, 2/5 (registered and eligible to register voters) stay home and don’t vote.

While I agree, from time-to-time, with the posts and comments from this particular writer, the scenario he lays out ain’t going to happen. He has just 20% of the electorate voting for Clinton and 40% staying home. In his staying home number he includes folks who are eligible to register but don’t. I didn’t include them because they’re not worth including. My 20% of actual registered voters staying home should be closer to the mark. But the fact that 20% stay home and 35% vote for Trump should be very disturbing to anyone who cares.

Finally, I will listen to Bernie and vote for Hillary, unenthusiastically, in November. This is not just a vote for the lesser of two evils — this is a vote against a soulless narcissist bully and for a centrist Democrat who is being pushed left, due in large part to Bernie and his movement.

I’ll leave you with a Huffington Post column on the choices ahead for Bernie supporters. Here’s an outtake:

What they seem to want, in short, is a revolution — not a violent revolution, but a political revolution, a revolution that will toss out everything that is wrong with our current system and that will enable the American people to start over again from scratch.

Whether or not their understanding of the overall state of our society is correct, the central question is whether either staying home or voting for a third-party candidate — and thus electing Donald Trump — will have the positive effect they desire.

It won’t.


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.


Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

  • Pete, 40% non turnout of potential voters is a normal number, and is reported widely as increasing non-participation in elections is a sign of a deteriorating democracy. All I did was to diminish the two parties turnout a bit, and allocate those votes to other than the two republican parties on the ballot.

    Maybe it won’t be quite that extreme, but I predict that the 40% stay home rate will continue, or increase a bit, and that the total vote for Trump and Clinton will be less than Obama & Romney, and the rest of the third party/write-in vote will increase significantly.

    I will take notice that you believe Hillary to be a “moderate” democrat. Hillary’s neocon foreign policy, and Wall Street enabling pushes her into the blue dog or conservative democrat/liberal republican category, in my book.

    • You’re probably right on the blue dog, JC, except for women and minority issues, which are a major factor. We’ll see how far she strays from the Bernie platform. That would be a crucial litmus test for progressives.

  • I’m glad you raised the public lands issue, Pete. I’ve been wondering the same thing. It’s a true–and winning issue–but I would love to hear our Democratic candidates branch out and talk about other core priorities.

    • Steve Bullock’s website still doesn’t have an issues page. Neither does Denise Juneau’s. I therefore must assume that both Bullock and Juneau support 100 percent of the platform of Montana’s Democratic Party, and that as a candidate for federal office, Juneau also supports 100 percent of the national Democratic platform.

      Bullock’s message is, “I’m not from New Jersey and I’ll keep public land public and open to the public.”

      Juneau’s message is, “Never mind the issue. Vote for me because I’m a woman with an interesting story.”

      These are two of the most cynical campaigns I’ve ever encountered.

      • Neither the Juneau nor Bullock campaigns are being bold. However, Juneau does have “an interesting story” and worthy of our attention — perhaps it’s even more compelling than the “did you know I was a SEAL” campaign. She should take advantage of her numerous accomplishments.
        The Bullock campaign will continue to play it safe: he’s been fiscally responsible, doesn’t have the natural resource developers or environmental community too pissed off, most progressives aren’t going to squawk and, of course, there’s “public lands.”

  • RE: Public Lands

    I’m sure everyone saw that Denise Juneau unveiled her “Public Lands Priorities” this past week. I went to Juneau’s “Public Lands Priorities” page on her website and couldn’t help but notice a few things.

    For starters, apparently Wilderness doesn’t fit into Denise Juneau’s public lands priorities, as the word Wilderness – or even vague reference to the concept of protecting wildlands – is nowhere to be found.

    What you do see on her “Public Lands Priorities” page is a lot of Republican-sounding rhetoric about ‘cutting red tape’ or ‘streamlined environmental review’ as a top public lands priority. Does Juneau realize that so-called ‘red tape’ is actually one thing that helps protect our public lands, wildlife and ecosystems from unwise development and the desires of the anti-public lands, anti-wilderness, anti-environmental crowd?

    It’s also worth noting that Denise Juneau lists one of her “Public Lands Priorities” as “streamlining environmental review” for National Forest timber sales using President George W Bush’s so-called “Healthy Forests ‘Restoration’ Act” as a model. Once again, “streamlined environmental review” is code for supporting much less analysis of how a timber sale on National Forests will impact wildlife, clean water, soils, native forests, etc.

    One of the main architects of Bush’s HFRA was Julia Altemus, a Conrad Burns staffer who worked for the timber industry and is now the top timber industry lobbyist in Montana. At one point back around 2003 I filed a FOIA with the Bitterroot National Forest to uncover some communications between the U.S. Forest Service and the Montana timber industry and uncovered an email in which Altemus clearly ID herself as a main architect of Bush’s HFRA.

    The main Congressional co-sponsor of Bush’s HFRA was Republican Rep Scott McInnis from Colorado, who ended up his congressional career with an abysmal 15% environmental voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.

    I know a thing or two about President Bush’s “Healthy Forests ‘Restoration’ Act” because ten years ago I was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests regarding implementation of the HFRA. It’s hard to understand why Denise Juneau would be championing “streamlined environmental review” and George Bush’s “Heathy Forests” bill – since Bush was easily one of the most anti-environmental presidents in modern times – but there you have it.

    Juneau also claims she will pass the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.” While there are some decent provisions in that bill, through recent legislative horse-trading, so many dangerous anti-public lands, anti-Wilderness and anti-wildlife riders and amendments have been tacked onto this bill that it’s honestly sort of difficult to get a solid read on what’s actually in that bill these days.

    It’s great that Juneau wants to do something to tackle the $195 million U.S. Forest Service trail maintenance and reconstruction backlog. However, it’s disappointing (and not surprising) that Juneau makes no mention of doing something to tackle the much-more significant $10 billion U.S. Forest Service road maintenance backlog that saddles the U.S. Forest Service’s 400,000 mile logging road system. The share of that road maintenance backlog that impacts National Forests in Montana is nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars. It would be nice for Montana Dems to make that an issue, as the fix would likely put lots of people to work, including the very heavy equipment operators who helped build all those logging roads in Montana.

    Finally, I think Juneau’s campaign is guilty of using some fuzzy math when they claim that during her time on the Montana Land Board she’s supported logging on Montana’s state forests which has created “an estimated 4,065 timber jobs across Montana. That sounds awfully high.

    Bottom Line: If you are a Montanan who cares deeply about America’s public lands and our Wilderness legacy Denise Juneau’s ‘Public Lands Priorities” are a real disappointment and leaves a lot to be desired.

    (Please note: Some of the information above I’ve written before and/or posted elsewhere. My apologizes if that’s offensive to anyone.)

    • Are you suggesting a vote for Ryan Zinke, Matt? You mention the League of Conservation Voters in your screed. Zinke got a score of 3% from the LCV. Juneau has been endorsed by the Montana chapter.

      • Perhaps he’ll do what I’ll do and leave that race blank. Juneau will say and do anything to get elected. She lost my vote with the Ballotpedia story. She’ll fit right in with Emily’s List or Naral Pro-Choice come January or February.

        • Any qualms I might have with Juneau were just put to rest. If Strandberg isn’t voting for her, then she must be the best candidate in this race.

      • Hi Pete, I’m simply trying to engaged in a substantive policy discussion about a candidate’s “Public Lands Priorities” by providing some much-need context beyond press event soundbites. If you fail to grasp that, or are unwilling – or unable – to participate in a substantive discussion about public lands policy so be it.

  • Pete, If I believed Hillary really was really being “pushed left” I might have more positive feelings about her and the national party. But I don’t believe it. She’s way too far into the corporate-military structure to do anything that would displease them.

  • Hi Pete, Did you notice Montana Public Radio’s fairly in-depth coverage and analysis of Zinke and Juneau’s public lands policy positions?

    Check out the opening snippet:

    At times, the maneuvering in this political joust has missed striking a mark of complete truth as Democrat Denise Juneau and Republican Ryan Zinke attempt to gain an edge before the November election.

    While there are differences between the two candidates’ priorities on public lands policy, University of Montana Political Science professor Robert Saldin says those disagreements are more nuanced than the narratives being spun by their campaigns.

    “I think probably at the end of the day, there is a lot more similarity between them than would be indicated by all the recent back and forth allegations.”

    • I missed it, Matt, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I particularly liked this paragraph toward the end of the story:

      “So even if the things Juneau and Zinke disagree on are small, nuanced pieces of language buried inside bills in Congress, those differences can have a big impact in Montana.”

      • Yep, I agree. That’s why some of us have often pointed out the critical importance of “small, nuanced pieces of language buried inside bills in Congress” when it comes to Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill (FJRA) or other pieces of legislation from Tester, Daines, Zinke, et al. Believe it or not, some of us actually read the text of these bills/riders/ amendments and form our opinions on that.

Support Our Work!

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

Subscribe Via E-mail


What Industry Will Republicans Prop Up with Corporate Welfare Next?

Follow us on Twitter

Send this to a friend