(I had to do some revising of this post, as I misunderstood, or had forgotten, the makeup of the Montana State Senate. Though still heavily weighted towards land ownership, it is not as skewed as I thought.)
I regard politics as a distraction, and note that people who should know better, Pogie (Don Pogreba), for instance, are heavily invested in it. From this I gather that Pogie, a teacher living on a teacher’s salary, probably gets paid to do what he does, and it would not have to be much – just Christmas shopping money. It is the only way I can understand both his shallow writing, but also his anger. He’s a caged man.
There’s more to write about the nature of American politics (probably universal), but sticking to a Montana example, I want to question where exactly power lies.
Most of it is outside the state, in the industries that develop Montana’s resources, always true of resource colonies. (Every reader has heard of the “copper collar.” It still exists.)
But there is a smaller power structure inside the state, and it is invested in land ownership. The state legislature is half populist, though term limits assure that no one stays in the state House of Representatives long enough to truly understand the process. They are controlled, therefore, by powers outside and above that body.
But the other half, the state senate, is based on fifty districts, each composed of of two legislative districts. This tends to weight cities somewhat, but gives unusual power to empty spaces. This is modeled, I suppose, on the original makeup of the national legislature, with small states fearful of having no power refusing to join the union unless given two senators each. It makes sense at that level, I suppose, but inside a huge geographic area like Montana with pockets of people here and there, it makes none.
Those senators are under control of the most powerful people in those districts, and in the Podunk places, that would be those who own the most land (and so who are naturally the wealthiest). Ergo, ranching is over-weighted in the Senate, so no matter the makeup of the lower house, ranchers control the entire process. Everything must pass through the Senate.
Ranching power been able to control the United States Senate* seats for decades, via Conrad Burns (not a true rancher but a tool, understand), Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both landowners from small counties. Baucus is even named after his ranching family, his middle name “Seiben.” (Yucky name for a yucky man. Sounds like “semen.”) And note that Baucus and Tester stand for election as Democrats. This allows ranchers, mostly right wingers, to control the opposition party as well as the natural right-wing party.
Voting for a United States senator in Montana is therefore a waste of time. You are either going to get a true right-winger, as in Steve Daines or Conrad Burns, or a cloaked one. Voting for state representatives is a waste of time, as the senate rules. Voting for state senator is a waste of time, as popular vote cannot unseat rancher senators from Podunk districts. Thus, public opinion has little influence over the legislative process in Montana, and voting means very little.
My overall point stated in a previous post is that the American public is not capable of self-governance – look around you! But even if it were, politics is only given us as an exercise gym, nothing more. It never changes the power structure. That happens by other means not involving public opinion, and not favoring the public.
*Brian Schweitzer, also from the ranching community, made a strong run for U.S. Senate and controlled the governor’s chair for eight years, no accident.