Joshua Frank profiles Brian Schweitzer, Montana politics and winning the west
(Joshua Frank is the author of "Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush", published by Common Courage Press. To contact Joshua or to learn more about his new book, visit brickburner.org.)
Winning the West: Progressives 'Stand Up'For the rest of the article, go here.
September 9 2005
by Joshua Frank
I N M O N T A N A
There is something going on in Montana. Call it neo-populism. Last November, Montanans voted in favor of medical marijuana and shot down an initiative that would have returned open-pit, cyanide heap-leach mining to the state. Mining companies put up millions to raise support for the bill, but Montanans didn't bite. The barons were defeated.
Montanans also forced Republican Gov. Judy Martz from office. She had a horrible record and her popularity plummeted in the waning months of her tenure. In fact, Martz was so hated that she decided not to run for reelection. Instead of replacing Martz with another conservative, Montanans opted to elect Brian Schweitzer, a wealthy cattle rancher from the state. Schweitzer is fast becoming recognized as a prototype of the leadership the Democratic establishment is looking for. Indeed, Democrats could learn a few things from Schweitzer. He's vocal. He isn't fond of Bush's Iraq venture, insisting that National Guard troops ought to return immediately and he lets up know it. He thinks Bush's war on Social Security is also bogus. He is working hard to put money back into the pockets of Montana farmers and has a consistent record of speaking out against neoliberal trade agreements. Besides, he's said he thinks Washington is blatantly corrupt.
"If I stay in Washington for more than 72 hours," Schweitzer said after a recent visit, "I have to bathe myself in the same stuff I use when my dog gets into a fight with a skunk."
This doesn't mean Schweitzer is a radical by any means. He's got a long way to go before Trotsky enthusiasts will ever embrace him. Indeed, progressives and others in Montana should continue to pressure Schweitzer to adopt the issues they believe in.
That is how victory is won.