Bullock Speaks, Democrats Celebrate, Republicans Cringe

Tonight, Steve Bullock gave us another installment in what has become a biennial tradition in Montana spanning almost ten years: the State of the State Address, the night when a Democratic Governor gets to tell the public that the state’s economy is strong and getting stronger, that the government in great fiscal shape, and that democratic executive leadership is working quite well.  The tradition includes a scene in which Democratic legislators cheer and Republican legislators stare at their shoes, their faces resembling the way a baby looks when he has gas, each one cringing from from the sound of applause and the unbearable good news about our state.

Steve Bullock delivered the news in a big, upbeat and wide-ranging speech, which combined boosterism, a big vision for road ahead, and a deserved bit of gloating.  The news is this: the state of the state is strong and getting stronger.  Montana has some of the lowest unemployment in the nation, record amounts of cash in the bank, record high graduation, record low dropout rates, and some of the highest achieving students in America in middle and high school.  Add to it one of the best tax and regulatory climates in the country and a bulletproof credit rating from Wall Street.  In other words, irrefutable news that the state is strong on all fronts.  Bullock struck on the theme that he has employed common sense management policies to get the job done.  And all of the canards that the GOP try to peddle about the state’s problems, such as “too much regulation” and other such rot, were roundly refuted.

I can understand how GOP legislators have come to rue this event.  I don’t envy them, politically speaking.  But the GOP deserves it all.  For one of the reasons we have had an air-tight ten-year monopoly on the Governor’s office is that Montanans have no use for the GOP when it comes to choosing a statewide leader.  Voters see the Republican party, especially its Tea Party segment, for what it is: an immature bunch of know-nothing reactionaries, who purvey their manchild antics and think that they can do so without cost.  But the cost is very clear: a man like Steve Bullock will always be chosen over a Republican alternative, including in 2016 in all likelihood.  As he has hit his stride, so has the GOP been dragged further down by lunatic extremists.  The day of his speech, for example, the big news from the GOP was that they are trying introduce legislation to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools, which the bill euphemistically refers to as “critical thinking in the classroom.”

The ultra-religious might do better to consider Bullock’s focus, outlined in his speech, about how we should fulfill our deep moral obligations to give healthcare to the working poor, to care for the mentally ill, to treat our troops right, and to invest big in a statewide preschool program so that we can prepare our next generation.  In other words, rather than the small, selfish parochialism that is generally what we get from Republicans, let’s be bigger.  That included a plea from Bullock to support him in fixing our campaign finance system, to makes sure that expenditures are made public, a plan that Republican Duane Ankney is co-authoring with the Governor.

The highlight was when Bullock offered to give GOP legislators the cellphones of the directors of rural hospitals, to see what those hospital directors think of whether we should accept federal funds being offered for health coverage for the working poor, funds which would go toward these rural centers as well as many other facilities in the state. Republicans are currently trying to oppose taking this money.

Most of the time, not a single Republican politician in the chamber could be seen applauding.  This included when Bullock said that on his watch, there will be no selling off of public lands.

As democrats rose to their feet and cheered and whooped, Republicans (with the exception of one or two moderates) just sat there staring into space, probably thinking about what for them is a most dismal prospect–that Bullock will very likely be delivering two more of these speeches, through 2019.  I hope the GOP enjoys them.


21 Comments on "Bullock Speaks, Democrats Celebrate, Republicans Cringe"

  1. It was great to be in the galley and watch that speech. Bullock was animated and really got it going during the Medicare portion of the address. The GOP did nothing thought, Obama gets more during the SOTU, but there could be some good in that. Bullock should go beyond them and reach out to their constituents. Not all of those voters, and mainly those who do not vote, are so married to the right-wing rhetoric and nearly ALL of their folks could be helped by a lot of the poverty programs outlined this evening. I mean those districts are where most of the poverty exists.

    If he can’t splinter their voting districts then he should keep trying to splinter the caucus where he can.

    Even with nearly a billion dollars in the system from the other, 2016 looks good for Dem candidates. So there is hope for the future at least across the ballot. Those young voters who did not turn out the last couple elections may be more emboldened in the next cycle. Or, in the most pessimistic (yet optimistic) light, nothing being done for another two years may convince more people to alter the way they vote.

    Regardless, Bullock and Dem/moderates should be chasing after that “silent minority” in those hard GOP districts. There has to be something to get an edge.

  2. Bullock also NAILED it when exposing GOP hypocrisy where legislators TAKE TAKE TAKE publicly funded
    healthcare while DENYING healthcare to our working Montanans, who will literally – and have – passed
    from this Earth because an illness, ailment wasn’t detected and treated in time. That’s FACT.

  3. But why are the rural districts full of fearful idiots who consistently elect Republicans to the legislature? What can be done to educate these slack-jawed hillbillies? What???!!!!??????

    • I think that dismissive attitude is what causes this disgusting cycle of cynicism on both sides. Not every person in every district is as horrible as what they seem to elect. Go for the core issues: family, health, jobs, and a living wage. The trick will be to suggest some government answers for these problems but ask these same folks if what limited things they have now are working for them. And, please, don’t talk about D.C. We are not D.C. Well, yet.

  4. I see that Tester voted with 8 other “Democrats” to approve Keystone XL. From now on I suppose he’ll vote the way his new best buddy Steve Daines does.

  5. Turner; Yes, Tester did vote for Keystone. I knew he would, he has supported it all along. I sent him messages expressing my feelings (opposed) and I wonder how many others did. We are in Montana and even a popular Senator knows who he can, and who he cannot pizz off, the resource extraction community is powerful here. Nonetheless, I was disappointed in his vote, but not surprised in the least. But please, Tester is not turning into a TEA Party Wingnut in the same ilk as Daines.

    • Well, he looks pretty Tea Party to me. He voted against the Dream Act. He opposed Obama’s efforts to close Gitmo by moving prisoners to the US, boasting stupidly that he wouldn’t allow terrorists in Montana. Now he’s working for big oil and coal and against environmentalists, whom he calls “extremists.”

      If you’re defending him because he needs to stay popular with Republicans by talking and voting their way, why not just elect a Republican senator and be done with it?

      • Considering how popular they currently are, and the fact that Tester beat two of Montana’s most popular Republicants, shouldn’t you be asking Republicans that?

        Your take on Tester’s “extremist” comment is hyperbole. In context, it was not nearly as inflammatory as you depict or others would have us all believe in service to their own self promotion by victimization. As to the other votes you bring up, I remind all that if representative Democracy is to have any meaning at all, an elected Rep should indeed consider the needs and desires of his/her constituents ahead of and as well as personal bias, and most certainly ahead of party. To that degree, Lee is absolutely correct.

        The most troubling of Tester’s votes was actually against the Warren amendment for support of Dodd Frank in the ‘cromnibus’ bill, all the while he campaigns against Citizen’s United, my opinion of course. Banking reform is a necessary element of regaining electoral control for the people. Leaving party will completely to the side, that bit of back handed hypocrisy should give everyone pause and stands as the best evidence that his vote is purchased by others, and not Montana.

        • Yes, in a representative democracy a legislator needs to consider the “needs and desires” of his constituents. The question is which constituents count most to him: the powerful (like those behind Keystone) or the rest of us who are far less powerful. The question almost answers itself.

          I’m speaking only for myself. Others may want to stand by Tester no matter what he does. But I’ll never vote for him again.

  6. If our education system and graduation rates are so fantastic, why should we all greatly support common core? Is CC truly an improvement?!

    • One thing is not like the other. Draw a parallel between Common Core and Montana’s graduation rates, please. Or was that comment thrown out there to be bullshit? Inquiring minds want to know.

        • Really, where’ gonna’ believe ALEC spittle??

        • You should maybe think about looking at the stuff you post, Craig. The MSU information tells the real story about MT education: despite relatively low funding and salaries, MT schools achieve a top ten rating in the nation. It’s all right there.

          The ALEC garbage isn’t based on education outcomes, but right wing policy choices.

          • I merely provided sources for consideration. The MSU research is no endorsement, but rather a head scratchier. Summary

            In summary, Montana has a school system with poor inputs, but with generally good outputs. This is achieved by a relatively efficient system and the fact that, fortunately for Montana, there is little relationship between monetary inputs and measurable outputs. The positive outputs of the state education system, however, have not manifested themselves in increased positions that will attract college graduates or in corresponding incomes. How long before outputs fall in line with inputs and teacher quality?

        • Montana last in teacher quality? I thought it would be something about degrees earned or awards. Nope. MSU Billings

          1.States punish or reward teachers and administrators for student achievement,
          2.Conducts checks on teachers’ backgrounds and college course work, and
          3.How much power the state gives for individual schools to hire and fire teachers.

          So if your administrator can willey nilley fire teachers, you must surely have quality teachers! If you’re not punishing or rewarding teachers for student achievement, you must suck. That’s messed up.

          • Also from Ed Week is the news that Montana does NOT have females, African-Americans, or Hispanics taking computer science AP classes. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2014/01/girls_african_americans_and_hi.html?qs=montana
            For those that superficially attack the ALEC report, did you notice this?, The 19th edition of the Report Card on American Education is a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels, focusing on performance and gains for low-income students, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Ed Week rates Montana in 3 categories from C- to C+. ALEC has the state at D+.

            • Since the population of African-Americans and Latinos in this state is relatively limited, but the population of Native Americans is a great deal higher, I would find this report much more relevant if it reported on the statistics of that group and gave it much more credence along with women in THIS state versus the minority ranks of those states with higher numbers of other groups. As they say – you cannot compare apples and oranges without making a serious bunch of punch and a really big mess at the same time.

              Trying to do these ultra-simplistic across-the-board comparisons between states with widely differing population demographics is an exercise in nothing. You have to select a group of states with similar demographics to compare with Montana (North & South Dakota, Wyoming, etc) and compare that group among themselves. Don’t try to compare Montana with California. Makes no sense for either one of those and is a useless and specious argument.

              So unless these comparisons are broken down into regional and demographical similar groupings, they are meaningless anyway.

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