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Sivosten webZine :: Democracy in Montana
Democracy in Montana

Author: Christopher M. C. Cunningham, Saturday, 22 March 2008.

In Articles :: Publicism; Propose a Second Opinion
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If you’ve never heard of it, don’t be surprised. Montana is a sparsely-settled district of the United States. It is most often associated with beautiful, mountain wilderness, the “burnt left flank” of the Great Plains, and the romanticized American concept of the Old West. It spans over the landscape with roughly the same area as Germany, yet is home to just shy of a million residents. Why is this far-flung place in the West significant?

For about a year now there has been a power struggle unfolding in American politics. With public approval polling dismally low for both the President and members of Congress, the people are looking for something new to revitalize their trust and enthusiasm towards their federal government. In record numbers they have gone to the polls and cast their ballots. The thing is… the primaries for nominating the parties’ candidates are not even over yet; this kind of participation is unheard of!

At this point in the campaign there are three notable contenders. For anyone who is not acquainted with these striking individuals I shall address them briefly. To those who already know (or don't want to) I advise you to skip down this article a ways.

First of the contenders is heir to the Bush Administration legacy: John McCain, Senior Senator from the state of Arizona. Like the sitting President, he is a proponent of current American military operations abroad and is designated a “moderate Republican.” His maverick personality adds charm, while decades of Senate experience lends credibility to the public. Also notable is his heroism during the Vietnam War and his ability to secure not only his socially and economically conservative constituents, but to reach out to those not typically aligned with the Republican Party.

In opposition is the Democratic Party, riding upon a swell of anti-establishment sentiment. Unlike the incumbent party, though, they are still working to break a stalemate of primary and caucus elections between their two frontrunners. Both candidates are in favour of very similar policies, most of which I believe would qualify as centrist within the EU. The lack of distinctness in these plans has made this early contest about personalities and qualifications.

The presumptive champion of this party up until a few weeks ago was Hillary Clinton, Junior Senator from New York. On the stump her trump card tends to be her experience, and the preceding reputation of her husband (ex-President Bill Clinton) only adds to her own legendary standing within liberal circles. While First Lady she was best known for her endeavour to introduce into law a system of universal healthcare. Add to these primary victories in most of the key, traditionally Democratic parts of the country and you’ve got what would traditionally be an obvious nominee for this opposition party. Problem is... this isn’t a traditional race.

Also vying for the nomination from the Democratic Party is Barrack Obama, Junior Senator from the state of Illinois. His charismatic, stirring words on hope and change have inspired support sufficient to eek out a lead over Senator Clinton. He calls for an end to corrupt and divisive "old politics" and promises to pursue bipartisan cooperation to achieve his goals. Ideologically, the Senator walks upon the fine line between those of capital and social democracy, the later of which is somewhat rare to find so strongly embedded in a popular and mainstream, American politician. That all said, though, maybe it is time to tie this back into homely Montana.

Montana typically plays very little (a euphimism in this case for 'no') role in Presidential elections. Its voice is small and significance all too often overlooked in the region as candidates clamber for support along the nearby (and vastly more populated) Pacific coast states. Given the unique circumstances this year, things may be a little different this time.

Montana is traditionally a state of conservatives. Its residents now largely provide support for McCain; prior to this (Republican) Governor Romney was most popular. As the election draws near it is also worth noting changes in recent years. Voters have increasingly selected Democrats into Congress. There could very well be sufficient margins for the state to swing either way this time around.

Also, the state’s Democratic primary is to be held on June 3rd – one of the last nationwide. This comes at a time when Clinton and Obama are expected to be racing neck-to-neck straight to the end, grasping eagerly at any opportunity to gain support. Therefore, it would not be foolish to speculate the candidates might be spending a bit more time that usual in Big Sky Country.

Just as in other states, citizens in Montana are eager to get involved in the political process. On Wednesday the 20th of March the 2,400 tickets to an event to be held in the city of Butte (featuring Senators Clinton and Obama) sold out in less than eight minutes. Young people who are typically so notorious for their lack of involvement are now turning out for volunteer work and even organizing their own rallies in support of even long-shot candidates such as Ron Paul.

Whether or not any of this effort will tip the balances remains to be seen. What is safe to say is that when there is so much speculation and participation you can count on the voice of the People being heard. This autumn a new President of these United States of America will be elected, and more than ever people here realize that they play a crucial role in this decision. It’s not “everyone else,” as is too often grumbled during other campaigns, but each individual that from which consent to be governed is granted.

In that spirit, the countless villages and sleepy, small towns of Montana are humming with excitement… their citizens outspoken and steadfast in their convictions. The tension of suspense shall continue to steadily build in these long days leading up to the most critical moment – that moment that affiliation transcends state locality to some lofty and heartfelt ideal. That moment the ballot is cast democracy is in action, and no matter where one lives the feeling is just the same.

Commentary topic: http://www.sivosten.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=201316#201316

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