Matt Singer is eloquent
Matt Singer is eloquent. Captain Obvious statement of the day, of course. Matt's been around since the days when we were all Deaniacs -- he's he guy that created the Dean Defense Forces, and we tag-teamed a couple times on the old DeanBlog back when I went by the handle "Nonpartisan" (as I still do on some of the older sites). Now he runs Left in the West, probably the preeminent Montana opinion site on the web, and has taken a leading role in creating ProgressMontana, the new interactive center of online Montana politics.
Today Matt's penned the cover story on Governor Schweitzer for In These Times, and it's a doozy.
Since , Democrats across the country have turned to Montana for answers and hope. Some critics denigrate Schweitzer's victory, claiming that a red-state Democrat must simply be a Republican lite. But that analysis falls flat: Schweitzer is a strong proponent of choice, as well as an advocate for the environment and for middle-class Montanans. And those who have seen the outspoken Schweitzer challenge the Bush administration in the press lately realize: Real Democrats, not faux Republicans, won in Montana.Here I should note that the new SurveyUSA poll shows Schweitzer's poll numbers have dipped by an infinitesimal 4 percent, to only 58% approval; also, Republicans no longer support the Governor by 12% as they did in June, instead opposing him by a tiny 6%.
If Democrats can succeed this well in Montana, they can win anywhere. The question is how. ...
Meeting [Schweitzer], it is clear how he grew in the public mind. Schweitzer is a big man, athletic, and ready with a handshake and a smile for anyone who greets him. He talks loudly, plainly and quickly, with ideas flowing out of his mouth at near breakneck pace. He works hard, sleeps little and is known for reading Montana's newspapers as they become available online in the wee hours of the morning.
When a reporter from an independent weekly newspaper visited his ranch to write a profile, Schweitzer took him shooting. After he won the gubernatorial election, Schweitzer threw a massive inaugural ball with three venues and more than 3,000 guests. When Butte, Montana's famous M&M bar reopened, Schweitzer stood in the middle of the bar at 10 a.m., downing a shot of Jameson's.
...[Schweitzer] drove across the state [during his campaign for Governor], meeting people in rural areas and asking what they needed from government. Those discussions resulted in an agenda that included healthcare reform, economic development and a new approach to higher education with an increased emphasis on community colleges and technical schools. Schweitzer then took his new issue agenda and crossed the state again, giving speeches that never fell into wonk speak. Instead, Schweitzer ran on values, delivering a talk about his family homesteading in Montana, building a church and a community with their friends and neighbors. He talked about being a Bobcat (a graduate of Montana State). He talked about talking to people.
He continued fundraising at a fast clip, raising more than any other candidate for governor in Montana's history, despite refusing PAC money--another decision he credited to talking to people. He toured the state to find a lieutenant governor. In the process, he talked to dozens of Montanans, people who rarely get one-on-one time with a major candidate for governor. Most of them, he says, told him that they did not want to be lieutenant governor, they simply wanted to talk to someone who could change things. ...
Schweitzer's team never confused common sense with mealy-mouthing or bipartisanship with timidity. ... Ultimately, the hard work paid off. Schweitzer was elected as the first Democratic governor in 16 years. His approval rating is slowly marching upward, approaching 60 percent, while Bush has slumped to 53 percent approval in this red state.
Think about that, folks. Schweitzer's got 40% approval rating from Republicans in Montana. And people think this guy will have trouble on the national stage.
Anyway -- back to the article. Having demonstrated Schweitzer's prowess, Matt explores three important lessons that can be learned from his campaign:
- Fight everywhere. Schweitzer didn't write off the rural areas of Montana that have recently become Republican strongholds. He campaigned statewide, winning two counties typically lost by Democrats and narrowing the margin in dozens of others.For once, I frankly have nothing to add. Good on you, Matt.
- Fight back. When Schweitzer got "Swift Boated," his campaign staffers didn't sit silently. They hit back fast and hard. And in his first months in office, Schweitzer didn't refrain from criticizing the president who received more votes than he did. He aggressively criticized Bush on a number of fronts. Now he's more popular than the president among Montana voters.
- Actions speak louder than words. Unlike other Democrats who revel in meta-analysis or theorizing over values, Schweitzer simply did it. Rather than saying he was a real Montanan, he talked about his homesteading ancestors. Rather than talking about reclaiming the flag, Schweitzer just did it--prominently on his Web site and on pens the campaign distributed. And both Schweitzer and the Montana Democrats had plans. They just realized that having the plans was more important than talking about them non-stop.
If Democrats across the country learn these lessons, they'll be on the right road to winning America back.