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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

Jon Tester was Wrong on DREAM, but Markos is Wrong on Tester

by: Matt Singer

Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 16:52:36 PM MST


When I tweeted that yesterday, one of my more political friends asked why I was even bothering. Markos, after all, was just a blogger. This may just be one blogger taking another one too seriously, but after seeing a lot of digital ink hit my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I wanted to offer a few meditations on the whole thing, while also noting (and emphasizing) my pleasure that both of our Senators voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and further noting (and emphasizing) that Rep. Rehberg opposed both DADT repeal and the DREAM Act.

Let me just say on one level, I get all of it. This stuff sucks. I penned a fairly lengthy open letter to Jon when he was sworn in, highlighting some concerns I had just that Jon's early friends were being ignored during the transition. This, of course, is different. It is a breach of substance, not of process.

It also isn't a surprising one. I think I first criticized Jon's stance on immigration about a year after he took office. His vote on DREAM came as little surprise to me. He's been (in my view) wrong on immigration policy as long as I've known him and Montana's political environment has given him no incentive to rethink his stances.

That being said, the warpath mentality stemming from this bill bothers me, not because of what it might do to my friend Jon Tester but because of what it might do to progressives in Montana. Jim DeMint has been fighting hard to kick out anyone in the Republican Party who doesn't fit his worldview. Frankly, without hardliners like DeMint, Democrats might have lost the Senate. (Of course, without DeMint, we would have lost it to a less-crazy Republican Party).

I'm old enough to remember when Markos was against litmus tests. He actually sold me on not being a hard-liner on every policy matter that came up. His work (with some others) is a big part of why I'm so "flexible" today, so here are just a few things I'd encourage others frustrated with this stuff to keep in mind:

  • Change Comes "Slow" Even When It is "Fast." We're in a period of rapid change. The last two years have been among Congress's most productive. That said -- it feels absolutely glacial when experiencing it in the 24-hour news cycle. When we consider historic periods of "rapid change," we gloss over the entire 1960s as though it didn't take 10 years.
  • We've Had Some Huge Victories this Congress. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the first comprehensive health care reform in history, ARRA, Lilly Ledbetter, etc., etc.
  • Montana is Montana. There's an old joke about Missoula -- that it's nice and only 15 minutes from Montana. Missoula also stands out as the only historic Dem stronghold that held this legislative election. If you think that every Dem eyeing holding or winning statewide office isn't looking at an election where we lost House seats in 3 Reservation districts, Butte, and the heart of Helena, then you've misjudged how political actors behave.
  • Jon Tester is Jon Tester. He's a great guy -- smart, genuine, honest, down-to-Earth. He's also not a Paul Wellstone, Barbara Boxer, or Sherrod Brown. He actually disagrees with them and me sometime. The only painful thing I see in the criticism of Jon is that he's entirely a calculating political machine. Jon's no naif, but he really gives a shit about this stuff.
  • We Didn't Do Our Job. To be honest, I had read one news story in Montana about the DREAM Act (and seen virtually no tweets or Facebooks about it) prior to the vote. John Adams wrote a great piece about a UM student who would be affected. But here's the deal -- you can't fail to organize and build a campaign on an issue for something longer than a couple weeks if you genuinely want to move a U.S. Senate office. At the request of friends, I asked both Senators where they stood on this issue and got word early that they didn't see eye-to-eye with me. Springing vitriol after a vote is unfair -- especially to a friend.

Progressives who love Montana need to be thinking real hard about what they're doing to transform it. I've seen some incredibly smart, hard-working friends step up and run for office and win in 2010 -- in a very bad year for Democrats. There have also been some inspiring policy victories of late at the local level. But here's a secret: there's a lot of work to do in Montana to win public opinion on a bunch of things we care about. Immigration and the environment probably top that list. One of those movements has real resources in Montana; the other doesn't (I'll let you guess which is which).

As for my friend Markos, he (like me post-move) doesn't have a vote in Montana. My sense is that Jon Tester gets re-elected, in part because he sometimes angers us. We have a chance in the Governor's race, but whoever wins that will also sometimes disappoint us. But the difference will be night-and-day. Keep your eyes open during this next legislative session for the stuff that is happening.

A couple days after the 2010 election, I got an email from a friend asking whether I thought he should step up and run in 2012. What I know is that progressives need to be on the attack -- and not against our too-few allies in elected office in Montana. We need to go prove that our values and ideas can win elections. That's how change happens in a democracy.

I think this qualifies pretty well as a rant. And, I'm sure, I'll soon be told how wrong I am. What I know, though, is that politics is the slow boring of hard wood. Progress is hard. Once made, though, it is rarely turned back. So we keep working. Upwards, onwards.

Matt Singer :: Jon Tester was Wrong on DREAM, but Markos is Wrong on Tester
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Thanks, Matt.. (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate your thoughts on this issue, and I have been doing back and forth the past couple of days since the vote. I'm obviously disappointed, but I share your sense that we need to be careful about attacking someone is much better for Montana than the GOP alternatives.

That being said,this vote was so troubling to me because it was wrong on so many levels.

Morally, it's indefensible. In my mind, nearly as indefensible as the wrong vote on DADT. Effectively, Tester is arguing that millions of immigrants should remain "illegals" for as far in the future as I can see, because we certainly aren't going to get "comprehensive immigration reform" in the next Congress. If we couldn't do it in this one, when will it happen?

From a policy standpoint, it's wrong. It weakens national security. It reduces our college-educated workforce at a time when the United States is facing a shortage of college-educated workers. It continues a failed policy of criminalizing immigration that cannot succeed. It simply ignores reality.

From a political standpoint, it's foolish. It's not going to gain Jon a single vote from the right and it's going to cost him support on the Left. How a Democrat could watch the 2010 election results and not see the dangers of taking the base for granted amazes me.

I'm not giving up on Senator Tester--and I don't relish criticizing him. He needs to know when he's disappointed us, though.  


there's not much in this i disagree with (0.00 / 0)
I do think we should be mindful that the politics of the DREAM Act may be as fraught as those of comprehensive reform. We have much work ahead.

[ Parent ]
You forget much of Montana is Independents- or Purple People!! (0.00 / 0)
"From a political standpoint, it's foolish. It's not going to gain Jon a single vote from the right and it's going to cost him support on the Left."

But he definitely gets an "ATTA BOY" and continued support from this Independent/Purple voter-- and from a lot of other Independents that don't believe in another Amnesty...Montanans across the State oppose illegal immigrants- and came close in the last legislature to passing an Arizona type law... It may pass this year...

Its a slap in the face to all my legally immigrated relatives and ancestors who worked so hard to gain entry to this country and become citizens, if we start handing out amnesties and citizenship because someone broke the law and was able to avoid detection/deportion for so many years...


[ Parent ]
Incorrect. (0.00 / 0)
While MT did have a dozen anti-immigrant bill drafts in 2009, all of them were stalled in various stages of the process - and none of them were an "Arizona type law" like you say.

There is no "line" in 2010. From the Economist:

"But we do regulate it sensibly!" you may insist. Well, suppose you're a hardworking and ambitious Mexican with no family legally in the States and not much education, but you've got friends there, 50 miles away, and they tell you they're getting steady, relatively well-paying work. One of the things that's so attractive to you about America is it's sound institutions, including its sturdy rule of law. You would very much like to migrate to the United States legally. So what are your options? Zip. Zilch. Zero. You have no options!  There is no way to "get in line" and "wait your turn"  because there is no line for you to stand in that leads to the legal right to live and work in the United States. So you pack up one day, take a hair-raising hike through the desert with your young daughter, meet up with your friends in Tucson, and get to work on the American dream. What were you supposed to do? Consign yourself and your daughter to a life on the edge of poverty out of respect for the American rule of law? Please.

The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.

Or see this handy breakdown of how the process currently works: http://reason.org/files/a87d15...

Chances are most of our relatives would not have been able to qualify when first coming to the US had current immigration laws been in place.  


[ Parent ]
This is the Montana legislature. Jon Tester is in Congress. (0.00 / 0)
So, there's that.

[ Parent ]
Tester Represents the Montana Majority (0.00 / 0)
I thought as a United States Senator from Montana- Jon was supposed to support Montanan's and Montana's best interests- not some cultist political party.. And Montanans do not want any more amnesties or any more illegals..
Lock the border tight- get rid of the illegals in the country-- and then start working on any new immigration laws...

[ Parent ]
Your supposition: (0.00 / 0)
"Jon Tester was Wrong on DREAM, but Markos is Wrong on Tester"

may be correct. But which is the far greater transgression? Tester's bad vote? Or Markos' bad language?

I find it so odd that those who are within the political spheres of the criticized, that the only way they can defend their allies is by finding a critic to bash. It is getting to be very much the tone of the Obama White House that it needs to find a critic to dump on every time it does something that either goes against a campaign promise or angers the base.

And where the president leads (bashing his critics on the left) others will follow.

Kos may have been crass with his terminology, being a respected professional lefty blogger and all. And in that he may have gotten a lot of attention to help get his point across. But he opens himself up as an easy target by which politicians like Tester can use to triangulate in his move to the right.

It's going to be an ugly 2 years as dems everywhere try to emulate Clinton's triangulation game. But Bill had one thing going for him that all the rest don't. He's got charisma and was a superb communicator. Triangulation in the absence of those two elements becomes ugly politics, and ultimately fails.

And then we're left with nothing more than stories shooting the messenger.

Of course I could be all wrong in all of this, and everybody just expects Markos to support Jon because they take his vote and support for granted, and it is evil, evil, evil for any progressive to put a moderate dem at risk by demanding accountability for a vote or a stance. If there is one thing I hate is the attitude that because I give you one good vote (DADT i.e.) you should ignore my bad votes (DREAM, i.e). Mixing good and bad policy just leads to the perception of a mushy politician. And Jon has become very mushy.

Republicans may have once had an unspoken tradition of never speaking ill of a fellow republican, but there has never been such a thing in the dem party. And if there were, it would be a much smaller tent. If there's one thing a professional lefty hates is being told how to think, speak or write.

And one last question Matt: WHich is worse? Kos bad mouthing Tester? Or you diss'ing Kos?

Both serve to splinter the  progressive/left and dem alliance in my mind.


No offense meant, but ... (0.00 / 0)
WHich is worse? Kos bad mouthing Tester? Or you diss'ing Kos?

Both serve to splinter the  progressive/left and dem alliance in my mind.

You say that as if it's a bad thing.  Alliances are based on expectation of action.  If the expectation goes unfulfilled then there was a problem with the action or the expectation.  I'm thinking they both must be questioned.


[ Parent ]
None taken (0.00 / 0)
After reading your piece today on your experience with Tester's stance against illegal immigration, his vote makes more sense. My expectation wasn't that he would vote for it, as I had no real info to base that expectation on. But I was surprised that he actually voted against it.

Knowing that he has been opposed to illegal immigration though, doesn't necessarily excuse his vote. I have a hard time viewing the actions of kids that were brought to this country as illegal. What their parents did may have been illegal, but the kids are victims of circumstances.

This bill was constructed to be the most uncontroversial attempt at some immigration reform. And I would hope the Tester would have taken the time to square his previous blanket views against amnesty with the situation kids find themselves in. I have no problem with a politician changing his mind, as long as he takes the time and effort to discuss it with the people who might take offense at the change.

I doubt that Tester garnered many votes from people because of his stance against amnesty. And his inability to reason through the legislation and change his mind and vote leaves me wondering about how open minded he is. I find close-mindedness to be the next worst thing in a politician next to hypocrisy. Give me a reason for your vote, and I'll listen and judge accordingly.


[ Parent ]
Survey: Tell your thoughts on Tester's recent votes (0.00 / 0)
i passed around a Bold Progressive survey (0.00 / 0)
William,
In the last week, Montana Sen. Jon Tester cast two controversial votes that we wanted to get your opinion on in a survey:
1) Tester voted for the White House tax cut deal, which includes borrowing billions to fund tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Share your thoughts on this vote.
2) Tester voted against the DREAM Act, which would deny the children of illegal immigrants -- children who have lived in the U.S. all their lives -- the ability to serve in the U.S. military and earn a pathway to citizenship. Share your thoughts on this vote.
We really want to know what as many Montanans as possible think about these votes -- so please share our survey with others.
Thanks for your time.
-- Adam Green, PCCC co-founder

From: Adam Green, BoldProgressives.org [mailto:info@boldprogressives.org]
Sent: Sunday, December 19, 2010 4:36 PM
To: William Crain
Subject: SURVEY: Jon Tester

   i as usual cut loose with both barrels on Baucus's bootlick/tool.
   i worked on his campaign starting a few days after i moved to Billings from Los Angeles/ San Fernando Valley  where i was born and raised. (tho i lived in Jackson WY for 15 yrs and 3 yrs at Laramie 4 yrs in Seattle) Jon bouy one term Tester is clueless --- he's never been or lived where a strong majority are children of undocumented aliens, forced to come here for the most part as a result of NAFTA and the dream of a better life and of helping those back home. The sacrifice of most undocumented workers is astounding. I know them, worked elbow to elbow with them, They are all Working Class and for the Working Class it was all for their children to get a better foot hold on life. Tester doesn't have a World view. Sycophant and rubber ducky for the Banking, Timber and AG cabals.
   But first his votes on the illegal invasion and illegal occupation of Iraq were strike 3. He's done nothing but go down hill from there.
   i'll do my very best to make sure he's NOT re-elected. and i don't buy any of the status quo Mediocrity excuses for Montana and it's politiX. These turds are at the Corporate coffers sucking up blood money and favors. Before Tester was elected he didn't get a Dime from the Banking Industry - but now he get$$$ and on down the line of Capitalist feeding capitalists while balancing the books on the Working Class.

       William Crain
       Billings, Mt
The Wobblies Show} Exploring Economic Social Justice and Living Wage Ch 7 Wed 5:30 pm Sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World host on Pub Acc (if you subscribe to Bresnan)  


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