Tester’s Populist Trifecta
I remain agnostic about the alleged betrayals that went down behind the scenes of the Baucus/Tester/Schweitzer open senate seat fight.
That said, I have been giving James Conner’s allegation that Jon Tester is playing a Machiavellian long-game for reelection some extra thought. For a refresher, you can read the whole post here. This excerpt lays out the allegation:
Tester and his top political operatives, my sources report, both like and fear Steve Daines; like him for support on some environmental matters, fear him as the Republican nominee for the senate in 2018. Therefore, Tester’s top objective is preventing Daines from accumulating seniority, power, and experience, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The best way of doing that? Ensuring that Daines is the GOP nominee for the senate next year. If Daines won a senate seat, he wouldn’t challenge Tester in 2018. That’s probably the best scenario for Tester. But if Daines lost, he’d be an unemployed politician and much less a threat to Tester in 2018.
But Daines wasn’t going to give up his house seat to run against Brian Schweitzer, the only Democrat he feared (and rightly so). Therefore, Tester’s plans for Daines required knocking Schweitzer out of the campaign, which he apparently proceeded to do with a Machiavellian efficiency that must have sent an icy shudder down Karl Rove’s spine. There are people who admire that kind of cold-bloodedness, but I’m not one of them.
2018 is a long ways down the road, but if Tester wants to stay in power, then it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do some things for the base to help rehab his rocky relationship with them, a relationship that nearly cost him his seat last November.
First, Tester came out against the Syrian intervention. That decision was made easier by the collapse of an actual vote, and the surprising diplomatic solution suggested by Russia, but Tester should still get credit for finally stating publicly how he would vote.
Second, Tester came out against Larry Summers, and because Tester is seen as a moderate Democrat with “close ties” to the banking industry, Tester’s public opposition probably did more to tank Summers than, say, Elizabeth Warren. From the link:
Tester has close ties to the bank lobby and is generally viewed as a moderate Democrat. His opposition suggests division within the banking community over a Summers pick, a scenario that would hamper Obama’s ability to win over reluctant lawmakers.
And third, Tester killed the Protect Monsanto Rider, saying:
Stripping the Monsanto Protection Act is a victory for American consumers and family farm agriculture. Corporate giveaways have no business in a bill to fund the government, and I’m pleased that the Senate stood up for accountability and transparency and against special interests.
The cynic in me is skeptical, but there is room for a little cautious optimism that public pressure aligned with self-interest has produced some good results.
If America hasn’t descended into a lawless Mad Max struggle for survival by 2018, then Tester will have some decent examples of smart, populist decisions for his reelection bid.