Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Notes on Western Politics--Including Montana Secessionists!!!!

There's a lot of interesting things happening in western politics right now.


Led by Montana Congressmen Denny Rehberg (R), a group of right-wing Montana politicians are threatening to secede from the union (!!!!!) if the Supreme Court doesn't decide in favor of gun rights in the D.C. v. Heller case now pending. Read their resolution here. Secretary of State Brad Johnson has also hinted in a letter to the Washington Times (read down a bit) that the state should have seceded in 1939 when the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Miller that gun ownership was subject to a two-part test: the type of weapon and its connection to a legitimate militia function, to steal the words from the good blog Intelligent Discontent. As Jay Stevens writes, Rehberg and the Montana secessionists are cowards and they won't do a damn thing except blubber and bluster about gun rights and secession. I guess this is Treason in Defense of Killin' Shit or something. I firmly believe the Democrats should never touch the gun issue again, but this kind of extremism is disturbing. There is political room to separate the loonies from the people who just like their guns. If there's a way to take advantage of this, I'd like to see it.

I'm surprised this hasn't received more attention. As always, Left in the West has great coverage on anything going on in Montana.

God damn, Montana is crazy sometimes.


Scott Kleeb is running for Senate! Kleeb, running for Congress in one of the most conservative districts in the nation in 2006, put fear into the hearts of Republicans. He didn't win, but he did force Republicans to spend time and money in western Nebraska. W even came out to give a speech. With Chuck Hagel's retirement, there is potential for a Democratic takeover. Right now, the favorite for the Democratic nomination is Tony Raimundo. Raimundo was a Republican until recently. His switch reeks of opportunism. He wasn't going to win the Republican nomination against Mike Johanns. So he switched parties. The Democratic establishment supports Raimundo, but he sucks. At best, he's Ben Nelson, arguably the worst Democrat in the Senate not named Lieberman. I'd take him over Johanns, but Kleeb could be really great.

Candidates like Scott Kleeb really test both Howard Dean's 50 state strategy and the Netroots' ability to affect elections. In 2006, the Democratic party apparatus supported conservative Democrats in both the Virginia and Montana primaries. The Netroots got behind Jim Webb and Jon Tester instead. Both came out of nowhere to win the nomination and then the general election. They proved that Democrats can win statewide election in red states if they run true to their beliefs. Kleeb's candidacy more closely mirrors Tester's--these are very conservative western states that will occasionally elect Democrats to statewide office. Kleeb deserves a huge amount of support from the grassroots now and from the party if he wins the primary. Very exciting news.


This news is a bit older, but worth mentioning. Last week was a reminder how screwed up Arizona is. The massively corrupt Rick Renzi, Republican congressman, was indicted on 35 felony charges, including fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and extortion. As of now, he is refusing to resign, though he is not running for reelection. Classic Republican. Meanwhile, Republicans, desperate to not have to fill more vacancies, convinced retiring Republican John Shadegg to change his mind and run for reelection. Endorsed by the Hair Club for Growth, Shadegg is awful, voting against raising the minimum wage and lowering interest rates on student loans, while voting for building the border fence and lowering taxes while also funding the war. He won less than 60% of the vote in 2006, meaning that the Democrats should give him a run for this money this time around.

Finally, there is the death of former Governor Evan Mecham. Like Renzi, Shadegg, Goldwater, McCain, Kyl, etc., Mecham epitomized class. He won the governorship in 1986 on an extreme right-wing agenda and openly touted the endorsement he received from the John Birch Society. He immediately canceled the state's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Arizona was already one of the last two states to honor King. He blamed working women for the nation's high divorce rates and freely used the racist slur "pickaninny." When accused of being racist, Mechem said, "I've got black friends. I employ black people. I don't employ them because they are black; I employ them because they are the best people who applied for the cotton-picking job." He also said that a group of Japanese businessmen "got round eyes" when he told them how many golf courses Arizona had.

Of course, in less than a year, impeachment proceedings had begun against Mechem, not because of the horrid positions listed above; many Arizonans loved that. No, he was as corrupt as Renzi! He was impeached for misuse of government funds, perjury, fraud, not reporting campaign contributions, and obstruction of justice, but he was found not guilty by a sympathetic legislature.

Arizona embodies the worst of western politics--anti-government rhetoric coming out of their mouths during the rare periods when they are not sucking the government tit for every cent it can, corrupt as all get out, racist as the Deep South. The place was settled by right-wing retirees, military men, developers, and defense contractors after World War II and it has never looked back. Farmworkers, Latinos, and Native Americans are routinely treated like third-class citizens and have been basically forever. It's hardly surprising Barry Goldwater was from here--he embodied this ethic. Except that by Arizona standards, he was hardly crazy. It's also fitting that John McCain is from here. McCain fits the place perfectly. He holds retrograde positions on every issue, but he blinds the nation to his craziness by a facade of rugged masculinity. This is a tried and true strategy for Arizona politicians going back a long time. When the general public thinks of scary places in America, they come up with Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia. But Arizona can give any of these states a run for its money.

South Dakota:

Finally, a quick note about South Dakota. The Republicans are desperate to pick up the SD Senate seat from incumbent Tim Johnson. But despite his recent health problems, Johnson is quite popular in the state. Nonetheless, the Republicans are recruiting wealthy businessman Steve Kirby to join the race. Where has Kirby made his money? He runs a company that harvests skin from dead people to sell to plastic surgeons. Not for burn victims but for cosmetic surgery like making your lips bigger or thickening your penis.

Well, that should make for some fun Democratic campaign ads at the very least.