Archive for December 23rd, 2010

by Pete Talbot

Nothing like a trip to the Magic City of Billings to put things in perspective: where an in-law tells me about his buddy who’s making $2000 a week welding on a pipeline in the Williston Basin, where I meet a man who runs a big (I mean really big) shovel at Colstrip, where my sister-in-law’s new boyfriend is working maintenance at the Stillwater palladium mine south of Columbus. All these guys are bucking the recession.

They don’t give a sh*t about DADT or DREAM. “It’s the economy, stupid.” (A quote attributed to James Carville during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.) Which is why, even though at some point in their lives, the workers mentioned above belonged to a union, they voted Republican in the 2010 midterm election.

Shortsighted? Without a doubt. These guys aren’t millionaires and the Republican Party doesn’t represent them. But they think it does.

So, when my progressive cohorts rail against Sen. Jon Tester on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, and DREAM, I have to do a little reality check. You see, I agree wholeheartedly with the progressives but after living in Montana for 45 years, I like to think I have some insight into the Montanan mind set. And Billings is about as Montanan as you can get.

At this point, these Billings workers aren’t going to vote for someone to the left of Jon Tester. Hell, Tester barely won his seat in 2006 against a corrupt incumbent who had insulted women, firefighters and most minorities. And you’d have been hard pressed to find a better candidate to go up against Republican Conrad Burns than that big Montana dry-land farmer with a flattop and missing fingers.

It isn’t about the lesser of two evils. It’s about pure evil versus a mainstream Democrat; like Denny Rehberg v. Jon Tester in the 2012 U.S. Senate election or any Democrat against Rick Hill/Cory Stapleton/Ken Miller for Montana Governor.

It isn’t easy for me to write this post. Having been called a Socialist, a Communist and a red scurvy dog, I figure I’ve earned my progressive credentials. But sometimes one has to step back and look at the world, the country and Montana the way it is.

I’m not going to quit pushing my elected Democratic officials to be as progressive as they can be. And I’ll continue to critique their bad votes as I’ve done in the past; particularly Sen. Max Baucus but also Sen. Tester and Gov. Schweitzer. And to quote Jim Hightower, “I’ll keep agitatin’.”

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