It’s the big night of the year for Democrats tonight, as the Party will be holding its annual soiree, the Mansfield Metcalf dinner. It will be held at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. This is the night where the rank and file may buy a ticket for $50 bucks for the privilege of drinking and dining and mingling with Democratic politicians, and can listen to them give speeches.
In past years the dinner has been well attended and raised good money for the Democratic Party. So pull out your checkbook and come down to the fairgrounds. This year’s featured guest is CNN analyst Paul Begala, also known as the Montana Cowgirl of Washington DC.
M&M, as Democrats like to call the affair, has become quite a party in recent years, especially when Hillary and Barack showed up in 2008 and debated each other in dueling speeches. Recent speakers have also included Tammy Duckworth, the VA chief; Jim Messina of the White House; and regional politicians like Ken Salazar and Mark Udall. Sometimes the speeches are interesting, and some have been real snoozers.
On one occasion there was even a wonderfully awkward situation, when the guest speaker was Jim Webb, a U.S. Senator from Virginia. Webb’s speech contained numerous references to Andrew Jackson, with Webb referring several times to Jackson as his hero. When Schweitzer then took the stage, he explained to Webb that Jackson might be a hero in Virginia, but not in Montana, because he slaughtered innocent native Americans. There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and Webb was visibly humiliated.
The usual mix of funny, inspiring, exciting, boring, predictable and weird political speeches will no doubt be served up, some appetizers from Denise Juneau, Linda McCulloch and Monica Lindeen, Carol Williams and Jon Sesso, followed by the main course from Schweitzer, Baucus and Tester and Bullock. Aspiring members of Congress Franke Wilmer, Kim Gillan, Dianne Smith, Bob Stutz and Dave Strohmeier will also probably get a few minutes of stage time.
Also creating some buzz tomorrow night will be the newest addition to the Democratic Party’s roster, General John Walsh, who was picked as a running mate yesterday by Steve Bullock, a pick that so angered and stupefied the Republican Party that they never bothered putting out a statement about Bullock’s choice. That says it all.
So what’s the theme going to be this year? Last year the crowd was fired up because Schweitzer had just vetoed, with his branding iron, a pile of lunatic legislation put forward by Tea Partiers. And the Democrats at the time were successfully standing in the way of the GOP’s efforts to revert the state to the Judy Martz era of deficits and incompetence. So the dinner was up beat and a much-needed catharsis after a depressing election in which the GOP took over the legislature by historic margins.
Speaking of which, there will be local candidates at the dinner as well, such as those running for the state legislature. Some of these folks are lucky to be running against Tea Party lunatics, and so will likely be in the legislature next year. Most of the GOP wingnuts who won legislative seats in 2010 did so only by the slimmest of margins–a dozen votes in some cases–and so we should expect not to see them back in Helena because 2010 was an anomalously large GOP turnout year.
And as always, a justifiable pride will be circulating in the ballroom on Saturday, from the fact that Montana Democrats control all six state-wide political offices. That’s a whole Happy Meal, whereas the Republicans are down to their last greasy french fry, Dennis Rehberg.