Klein on Tester: The Democrats’ new populism

Holy smokes! Time columnist – and left blogosphere punching bag – Joe Klein wrote a magnificent column praising Tester! Klein gets it! And Klein is known for his DC insider inanities. Highlights:

Indeed, Tester’s physical presence—he’s a big old farm boy with a flattop crew cut—is a political statement that stands close to the heart of the national Democratic congressional campaign of 2006. It says, I’m not a slick Washington guy. I’m a Montana farmer. After six years of a Bush Administration cozy with business, many Democrats are taking a flyer this year on full-throated populism.[snip]

Clearly, we are about to have a fun year in our beloved democracy. The Republican strategy is simple: focus on the really important issues like flag burning and gay marriage and keep accusing the Democrats of wanting to cut and run in Iraq. This time, however, the Democrats will be fighting back.


Populism, historically, has been an angry political trope—but a new aw-shucks version of the little guy’s lament has been growing out West with the success of candidates like Salazar and Montana’s Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer. Asked about alternative fuels in his first debate with Burns, Tester went full-court farmer. “If I weren’t here right now,” he said, “I’d be out getting a vegetable press so I could press my own oil to burn in my tractors and trucks.” There wasn’t much Burns could say to that. He had been out-Montana’d. He tried to blame the Democrats for blocking energy legislation. “Last time I checked,” Tester shot back, “your party controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress.” Which may be the ultimate comeback Democrats have this year.

Here’s a few reasons why this column is significant. First, it’s clear recognition by a DC insider who’s has his head up his *ss for some time, that Tester’s a serious candidate. After all, he still thinks you can make coalitions with the GOP and advises against attacking Bush on his illegal spying, which he doesn’t think is all that bad anyway.

Klein’s column also contains information that DC insiders need to know – especially the consultants – Tester is who he is because he’s Tester, not because he’s some manufactured political robot formed by a political consultant. He’s the real deal. And Klein realizes that’s what it will take to win elections across the country. That’s what it will take to win the country back to sanity. Regular joes. You. Me.

In an earlier column, Klein wrote that the political consultant was the downfall of party politics. His recent column on Tester was an extension of that belief, the proof of his theory.

Hopefully the Washington crowd will listen to Klein. The real danger in this race isn’t Conrad Burns – just wind him up and watch him sink himself, like during the recent debate – it’s the national Democrats and the millions of dollars they’re planning on spending on this race. Let’s hope they’ll be cautious with their focus-group-tested ads, and let locals dictate how and where the money’s spent. Ultimately Tester – Burns is a race between Montana and Washington DC. Between integrity and failed ethics. Tester’s call, “let’s make Washington DC look a little more like Montana” ain’t hyperbole, and it ain’t hollow rhetoric. That’s the promise of his candidacy.

So here’s a message to DC Dems — not that any are actually reading this – send your support, but don’t tell us what to do. Else the Tester campaign will look like Burns’ in an awful hurry.


  1. Margie

    I was at the event in Whitefish. I spoke with Jon Tester’s brother. He said the DC office of the DNC informed Jon that they would be coming in to run his campaign. Jon said, no thank you, this is my state, my people, and my campaign. I ran my primary campaign as a grassroots campaign and that is the way I am going to run the general. I said, “Good for him!”

  1. 1 4&20 blackbirds » Blog Archive » Sirota on Klein on Tester

    […] Klein on Tester: The Democrats’ new populism « Jumbo fire update […]

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