Steve Daines has a new radio ad on the air, in which Daines portrays himself as the protector of the timber industry, keeping timber mills and loggers safe from “fringe environmentalists” and “extreme environmental groups.” A narrator also describes Daines as “ranked as one of the most effective congressmen” although she doesn’t cite any study or group that made this dubious determination.
Daines has simply dusted off a twenty-year-old playbook for these ads: Environmentalists are shutting down the state and costing us jobs, and we must fight against their lawsuits and the federal regulations that they have persuaded Obama to enact. Montanans could all be rich from natural resource development if the environmentalists would simply get out of the way.
There’s one problem with the radio ad: In the sixty seconds of narration and sound bites from Daines, timber owners and loggers, nobody cites a single item, a single tangible thing, that environmentalists have recently done to effect the loss of jobs or the decline of the timber industry. The script is simply Daines and his supporters talking about how he has “stood up” to “environmental radicals.”
Now, if the discussion were about coal or fossil fuels, Daines could at least claim credit for voting against, or opposing publicly, whatever is currently being advocated for in DC by the environmental community, such as EPA regulations, carbon limits, and so and and so forth. Those are not radical ideas or proposals, but they at least are real.
Daines has instead decided to create a nebulous boogeyman, “the fringe environmentalists,” and claim himself as working hard to vanquish it insofar as it is trying to destroy the timber industry.
There is a reason that Daines can’t point to anything to substantiate his claim, not a single timber sale that has been blocked or federal law that has Obama has signed that have negatively affected the timber business: because there really aren’t any. The cold fact is that the timber industry–in fact the entire wood products industry–in Montana has been devastated in recent years by one thing, and one thing only: the bursting of the housing bubble. The market for the product crashed, and has not returned nearly to where it was.
But that doesn’t really matter now, because Daines has discovered, likely through polling and other market research, that if you tell persuadable voters that timber jobs have been lost due to the activities of “fringe environmentalists,” they are ignorant and misinformed enough to believe it. Which is enough for Daines. That’s Steve Daines’s brand of leadership. Enjoy it.