Saturday, August 15, 2009

Politics under the Big Sky ...

As I'm sure you all know, President Obama visited the Gallatin Valley yesterday, staging a "Town Hall" meeting out at the local airport. I'd been a little worried that our valley's cranky, far-right contingent would end up embarrassing the state, but by all accounts the afternoon went off almost without a hitch. Since the airport is nearest the town of Belgrade, most of the national news reports used that name in their datelines, finally giving Belgrade its official fifteen minutes of fame. I was amused, though, when the All Things Considered story on the event described us as being "kind of in the middle of nowhere, which a lot of things are in Montana."

I was out of town for the day, but drove by the airport about four hours before the event was scheduled to start, and things were already turning into a madhouse. There were designated areas for demonstrators (far from where the president was) which were drawing huge and rambunctious crowds. Separate areas for both sides of the ongoing health-care debate, and I guess the two sides just waved their signs and yelled at each other ... until everyone was drenched by an August rainstorm. As so often happens in Montana, Mother Nature wins.

This is a quick shot I took out of the car window as I was driving by yesterday morning.


  1. Mark, I know this is your "blog" and all. And I think alot of people have been enjoying it. But in one of your earlier posts you said it wasn't going to be political. Well with your last couple of posts all that has went out the window and so have I. But there are a couple of things you should know about Montana and the people that have lived here. The majority of them do belive in God and a religion of some sort and they are conservative and they believe in a hand up vs a hand out. They believe you should work for what you get. If all that makes us "Far Right" then we must be. I see the face of Montana changing just as you have shown us the landscape of Montana has changed. As more and more people of your persuation discover Montana I belive we are "doomed" to the same fate as some of the other states of this country. Thanks for the stories, quotes and photo's. Jeff

  2. You know, Jeff, a journal like this is always going to reflect the opinions of its authors ... there's no way around it, and I make no apologies for it, and in fact I think that's absolutely the way it needs to be. If I start avoiding topics for fear of offending someone's sensibilities, pretty soon there won't be anything left to talk about. When something in Montana comes up that involves politics I'm not going to be afraid to mention it ... though at the same time I'm not going to go looking for political battles to fight. I'll express my opinion in the same way that I do any other topic -- it's really no different from my mentioning in a recent post that I like Glacier much more than Yellowstone. (And topics like the latter one are always going to be the focus here.)

    The interesting thing about your comment is that it doesn't really reflect Montana history. The conservatism you perceive isn't really a part of the state's grand tradition ... for a long time, a large part of the state was a very progressive place. And I'm not just talking about Missoula and Butte -- it was something you saw nearly all over the state, and it helped give the state much of its traditional character. There were socialists in control of Sheridan County, for gawd's sake! And we elected (and re-elected) progressive men like Burton Wheeler and Mike Mansfield to the US senate, over and over. The whole Red State notion of Montana is a fairly recent phenomenon -- it's definitely not the foundation on which our state was built.

    If there's something unfortunate here, I think its an expression of unwillingness to expose yourself -- even for a minute or two -- to someone whose thoughts aren't completely congruent with your own. But so it goes.