Friday, June 30, 2006

Montana to Mullumbimby

Reading Jared Diamond's Collapse struck by his description of Montana changing with the rise of tourism replacing mining and agriculture and hence a consequent political shift to the left. Sounds very much like the north coast of NSW. Interesting article by Stuart Rothenberg here on the Senate contest. The Democrat candidate is John Testor, state senator and organic farmer whose primary campaign included a Pearl Jam concert (nice to see them described as 90s band!), and was a progressive blogsphere darling. Rothenberg says:
Tester is a large, burly man with a flattop haircut and a big, engaging personality. In other words, he has the same down-to-earth quality as Burns, and the same knowledge of and background in agriculture...If Tester has momentum from his primary win, he also has a problem. The Democrat is far more liberal than [Republican Senator] Burns. Unlike the incumbent, Tester supports abortion rights, would have opposed the Supreme Court nomination of now-Justice Samuel Alito and generally agrees with Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s (Pa.) Iraq withdrawal proposal. Stylistically, Tester is a good fit for the state. The question is whether Montana voters will see the election as a referendum on Burns and President Bush, or whether Burns can make the election a test of the Democrat’s record and agenda.
Testor seems to be leading whereas another other blogsphere darling James Webb, anti-Bush anti-war ex-Republican is trailing in Virginia by 20%. Virginia is more conservative than Montana but it looks like a test of different progressive strategies.


At 7:21 AM, Blogger John Murney said...

Montana is a right-wing, pro-Bush, pro-Republican state. I don't have much hope, in this case.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Geoff, I found your blog by accident while trawling the web and have bookmarked it.

We come at things from a diffrent perspective. You describe yourself as a labour (should that really be labor?) historian, on the same basis I should be a Country Party historian. But we share, I think, a common view that an understanding of the past helps inform the present.

If you get bored, my two blogs are New England, Australia ( and Personal Reflections (

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

John, Clinton carried Montana in 1992. But American senate races are very odd: why is there a Republican from Rhode Island and a Democrat in Nebraska. Maybe American parties are so malleable they can fit the electorate in each state. How come the Democrats can win state elections in the Deep South but the Liberals can never win Alberta?
Jim, thanks for the comments I put links to both of your blogs on mine. Quite interested in rural politics and society and talk about it on my ABC slots. Putting together a unit on changing Australian rural landscapes.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger John Murney said...

Hi again Geoff...Funny you should mention that. There is a funny thing in some states...their voters will balance their elected representatives...for example, Nebraska is a Republican state, yet elects a Democratic Senator, Rhode Island is a Democratic State, but elects a Republican Senator.

Ditto for the state elections in the U.S. Southeast.

The Liberals can't get elected (I presume you mean federally) in Alberta because the oil industry, which dominates Alberta politics, puts all of its eggs in one basket, that is the Conservative Party. The oil executives in Calgary are not interested in having a voice in a federal Liberal government.

The Calgary oil patch played a key role in financing the rise of the Reform Party in the 1980s (a very significant event with permanent implications for Canadian politics) and has made sure that since 1935, the only party that can win provincial elections in the province are those who are loyal to Calgary oil interests.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Geoff, for the links and for the comments on my two blogs.

With the exception of absolute party diehards, I think that many people can make a separation between their judgement of a person and that person's party. This means that suprises can happen in smaller political units which have greater scope for personal interaction. Further. once the person is in and does a good job, then this can reinforce.

Look at Richard Torbay in Armidale or, earlier, Purdue in Newcastle.

One of the distinguishing features of a country as compared to a mtero seat is that people actually expect to know their local member.

At 1:51 AM, Anonymous David Walsh said...

Burns has the worst approval ratings of any current Senator. He also has the closest ties to Jack Ambramoff of any Senator and was recently named among Time's worst five senators. That's why he's in trouble.

Montana is seen as one of the Democrats two most likely Senate pick-ups.

Montana's other Senator is a Democrat. As is their Governor. So the state is certainly capable of electing them. Although Clinton's win was due in large part to Perot.


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