Saturday, December 4, 2021

Movin' to Montana

Deeply exasperated by this op-ed in The Times from Steve Bullock, former Montana governor, former appallingly bad Democratic presidential candidate, and most recently crushed Senate candidate (he didn't lose as badly as Biden did in Montana, by ten points compared with Biden's 16, but still), lecturing us all about what Democrats are doing wrong ("I Was the Governor of Montana. My Fellow Democrats, You Need to Get Out of the City More."):

The core problem is a familiar one — Democrats are out of touch with the needs of the ordinary voter. In 2021, voters watched Congress debate for months the cost of an infrastructure bill while holding a social spending bill hostage. Both measures contain policies that address the challenges Americans across the country face. Yet to anyone outside the Beltway, the infighting and procedural brinkmanship haven’t done a lick to meet their needs at a moment of health challenges, inflation and economic struggles. You had Democrats fighting Democrats, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and desperately needed progress was delayed. It’s no wonder rural voters think Democrats are not focused on helping them.

Points for recognizing that the BIF and BBB offer proposals that are great for Americans across the country, including rural people. So who's fighting them? Who's engaging in "procedural brinksmanship"? Who comes up with pretext after pretext for blocking pieces of the $700 billion Biden asked for in summer 2020 for renewing the manufacturing industry in rural America in clean energy and bio-based products? Who's blocking the Biden effort to take patent rights from the corporate giants and return them to the land-grant universities where the actual research is done? Who's refusing to accept higher taxes on the insanely wealthy members of the "coastal elite"? Who keeps trying to block Medicaid expansion? A particularly big issue in Bullock's 2020 Senate campaign—but "moderate" Senator Joe Manchin doesn't like it, so we can't have it. 

And then there's the fact that the "ordinary voter" is not the "rural voter". Rural voters are around 20% of the population. The average voter does not live, as Bullock does, in a state of 150,000 square miles with a population of barely a million, 90% white, people (that's a population density of 6 or 7 humans per square mile). The average voter in the United States lives in a dense and diverse conurbation where there's always somebody speaking a different language from yours and eating a different food, And some of them probably hate gay marriage, or even taco trucks, but we mostly get along, if only because not getting along doesn't have any value to anybody. 

If not for the crazy structure of the United States Senate, and decades of poison gerrymandering, ordinary voters would be more or less in charge, and the results might not be so socialist as to gladden the heart of Senator Sanders—they wouldn't be—but they would be fine for the Biden proposals. The reason we're having trouble putting them through has nothing to do with "ordinary voters". 

It’s never easy for Democrats to get elected in Montana, because Democrats here are running against not only the opponent on the ballot, but also against conservative media’s (and at times our own) typecast of the national Democratic brand: coastal, overly educated, elitist, judgmental, socialist — a bundle of identity groups and interests lacking any shared principles. The problem isn’t the candidates we nominate. It’s the perception of the party we belong to.

Why do you keep reinforcing the conservative media "and at times" your own stereotype of the party? Why do you present yourself and your policy agenda as if you had nothing to do with Democrats? Why don't you acknowledge that your campaign promises were essentially the same as Biden's? Maybe your loss, like Terry McAuliffe's but very unlike the victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff that year and progressives Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Michelle Wu in Boston this year, mioght have had to do with a perception of you not as "too moderate", but just dishonest? I'm not saying Montana farmers have no legitimate concerns, but the fact is Democrats are already actually interested in them. Maybe-just-maybe if Bullock hadn't tried so hard to hide his affiliation with Democrats he might have done as well as Jon Tester (no socialist, but he lets you know what side he's on) does.

It strikes me that Ilhan Omar or Ayana Pressley, for instance, is far better acquainted with their constituents' views than Steve Bullock is with his. I'm not advising that you should be taking the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders out to the so-called "Heartland", but if you could just show some recognition that their agenda has some serious aspects too, and respond to them instead of to the idiocy? Why is he advising anybody?

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