April 13, 2017
by Sam DeBree
The Democratic Party in Montana is finding itself in an unusual position. In a special election coming up later in May, the state has a rare opportunity to move the needle on the U.S. House of Representatives political meter a nudge to the left.
Ryan Zinke’s appointment as Interior Secretary has left his House seat open and therefore paved the way for this special election to fill. The Montana Democratic Party can, with a win here, minutely change the political landscape but significantly change their presence in The U.S. Congress. In Washington D.C., Montana’s voice could very well take on a much bluer tone.
Unfortunately, I see a misstep in their political strategy. In a massively red state, the Democrats seem to be more interested in protecting what blue presence they have in Montana, than actually changing overall hue. In this Quist vs. Gianforte race for the House seat, the Democrat’s campaign seems largely lackluster. They are running a candidate with limited political experience while keeping the campaign’s financial and media involvement to a minimum. At the national level, the chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was, at one point, unaware of this upcoming special election at all. Because of the small population of the State, The DCCC sees Montana as insignificant, thus reinforcing the notion that being blue has no impact at a national level. And that is a mistake.
The Democratic Party in Montana must recognize a need and an opportunity to change their strategy. The Republican Party in this country is in disarray. As Republican power players and their corporate interests speedboat their message further and further to the right, they are leaving long trail of moderates churning in their wake behind them.
Tax reforms that only benefit the wealthy, along with budget cuts in a myriad of departments, most likely will adversely impact small and agricultural business owners. Many of whom pledge themselves as Republicans. In Montana, small business and agriculture makes up a vast majority of the state. A lot of Republicans are poised to be hurt by far right policies that do not actually represent the Republicans in Montana. And therein lies an opportunity.
If the Democrats shift away from protecting what they have and more towards an address and recruit model, they may find support from moderate Republicans that are being left behind by their own party. This is the time to go to the Red areas of Montana, shake off the idea of partisan identity and sit and discuss the issues and the policy changes in Montana, person to person. Town hall meetings that present well thought out analyses of issues and their impact on Montanans, in general, can steer the conversation away from the divisiveness between political parties and more toward the collective ideals of the state as a whole.
The Electoral College has made Montana fairly insignificant on the national stage. The three electoral votes Montana has will most likely not sway a presidential election. Therefore little effort is made to address or even acknowledge Montana when it comes to certain elections. But as the cry to change the voting system from an electoral to a popular vote grows louder, Montana can start having a real impact on national elections, resulting in influencing policies that affect us. But the effort is going to require bipartisan cooperation and should be initiated by the Democrats. In my opinion, it is important for the Democrats shift the focus from protecting themselves to protecting the others.In protection, we find alliance. In alliance we find unity. In unity we find strength. And in the coming years, we need all the strength, alliance and unity we can find.