A few months ago, the Montana Tea Party organized a rally on the steps of the Montana Capitol, for “patriots” to “take back America.” Organizers encouraged people to bring their guns with them. The rally drew about 20 or so angry men and women (minus some teeth) and one or two rifles. And that was it. Little has been seen or heard of the Montana Tea Party since.
Last Friday, working folks from around Montana tried their hand at a Capitol rally (without guns). They drew about 1500 people. It was a festive and positive day, and a stark comparison to the theater that has played out in Midwestern states where union bashing is lately all the rage. In Helena, there was folk music and constant chanting of the mantra “courage, not cuts.” The crowd comprised firefighters, police, teachers, health-care workers, home-care workers, state workers, and others who make very a modest living (a starting teacher makes about $17K in rural Montana) but do important work for society.
To the delight of the crowd, Governor Brian Schweitzer, who is a rancher by trade, did a Charlton Heston imitation, lifting not a gun over his head but a “VETO” cattle-branding iron, which he promised to use for branding “stinking, bad bills” like the current budget that the GOP legislature is trying to send to his desk, which attempts to balance the budget on the backs of the working class. KXLH has the raw video of the speech.
In his short speech, Schweitzer told the crowd that the difference between Montana on the one hand, and Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana on the other, is that “those states don’t have Governors that appreciate a partnership.”
That’s for sure. Republican Governors Christie (NJ), Daniels (IN), Kasich (OH) and Walker (WI)–who at night have been having recurring wet dreams about running in a GOP presidential primary–saw an opportunity to get some cheap political mileage by getting citizens as angry as possible against public employees. In essence, these spineless four governors were drawn to public opinion polls which showed that a certain sector of voters was amenable to being incited with angry rhetoric, and that society in general is concerned about spending.
So these guys painted by the numbers. They trashed public workers, engaged in artificial standoffs, bashed anyone who is in a labor union, and then downloaded videos of themselves to Youtube and hit the FOXNews scene to try cement their reputation as conservative national heroes.
Schweitzer, who is the most popular Democrat in America even though he’s governor of one of the country’s more Republican states, does not seem to be getting hurt politically by standing up for public workers as he did at the rally. He was correct when he said that these other guys don’t understand or value the concept of a partnership. Leadership is about creating something that society can be proud off, not tearing people down.
And it looks like justice has been served lately, with Christie and Walker having seen their job approval numbers spiral down into the toilet. Kasich and Daniels are hopefully not far behind.