Saturday, March 17, 2007

Left overtures

From the earliest days of Montana Headlines, many of our regular readers have been found amongst our friends on the left. We won't be so presumptuous as to say that they actually enjoy reading Montana Headlines, since we realize that a lot of blog-surfing is more opposition-research than anything.

But still, they do spice up life around here, and we hope that the free exchange of ideas between open minds does everyone a little good.

We were interested to see that our recent rambling post on the importance of rhetorical discipline and general good humour in politics, "Steady, steady...", drew a particularly high number of hits, due in no small part to some links from the left.

The first was from the Gallatin County Democrats, who quoted part of what we had to say about Flier-gate. We're glad to have that particular passage get some wider distribution, although how many Republicans read the Gallatin County Democratic website is still a matter for debate.

It is certainly nice to know that some Dems on the other side of the Bozeman Pass see Montana Headlines as representative of the Montana Republican "grassroots," but it shouldn't surprise them that those of us on the grassroots side of things would have the same negative response to those distasteful fliers as did the legislators we elected and sent to Helena.

In that light, something else that deserves a little wider distribution was another piece linked to on the GCD site: a gentlemanly exchange between John Sinrud and Shane Mason on Montana Netroots about the kind of low politics represented by these fliers and by a similar kind of flier attacking Sinrud that his own 11 y.o. daughter picked up in the family mail in a recent election.

Montana Headlines will be watching to see if Mike Lange and others make good on their promise to insist on party leadership that can figure out how to win elections and legislative fights without resorting to this kind of thing.

The other links came from our favorite leftward site, 4&20 Blackbirds, which first linked to "Steady, steady..." in the same straightforward vein of "see, even conservatives find this in poor taste."

Their second link to our post was more interesting, though, and deserves a comment. In a 4&20 BB piece on the Progressive Democrats of Montana, our brief reference to the PDM as a circular firing squad was labeled a "typical reaction from the right."

We're pleased that at least some of our readers on the left view "Steady, steady..." as typical right-wing fare, even if only in part. But it seems that it gave offense for us to be "bringing up the group's formation in the same breath as the GOP's juvenile death mailer." Point taken, and we certainly didn't mean in any way to touch a raw nerve or trivialize the PDM.

In hindsight, we were perhaps being a little too oblique in our references in that particular paragraph, so we should parse the passage a bit.

Our previous paragraph had ended by saying that Flier-gate not only didn't help the Republican cause, but may have "handed those three Dems their re-elections on a platter." Then, in the next paragraph (the "circular firing squad" one) we linked directly to Jeff Mangan's piece on the Progressive Democrats, in which he ends with the following words and graphic: "Can we give the GOP any larger of a platter?"

Hence our mention of the two in the same breath.

We suppose we could go through the exercise of making the case that in the big picture, mentioning a movement to turn Montana's Democrats further leftward in the same breath as "juvenile mailers" actually has the effect of making juvenile mailers seem more dangerous to the body politic than they really are. That would, however, be a digression too big even for this digression-laden site.

Suffice it to say that we have already once pointed out that "Republican fantasies of perpetual Democrat self-destruction" are "never exactly a good long-term political strategy."

Taking that risk, though, we elected to soften our words of GOP electoral gloom and doom brought on by Flier-gate by noting that Republicans are not alone in coming up with novel acts of self-destruction. We both occasionally construct oro y plata platters on which to hand the other party an election or two -- something that is so deeply engrained in Montana politics that it made the state seal.


Jay Stevens said...

I think I'm flattered being your favorite lefty blogger!?!

You may be right that the formation of a group trying to take the MT Dems back to 1980s-era progressive politics may be more harmful to the left than the mailer is to the right -- but my point was that, at least the PDM are trying to create a positive movement towards their values, thinking, perhaps naively, that the time is right and Montanans are natually inclined towards their views.

(I happen to agree, BTW, but I think they're packaging it all wrong...)

Whereas the mailer was just back-alley politics in an off-election year, some politically cro-magnon mind sowing revulsion, a characteristic of a worldview that concentrates on the worst of human nature. It will be quickly forgotten, I'm sure.

Montana Headlines said...

It was meant as a compliment -- but I hope I didn't ruin your reputation in the process. You strike a nice balance between hard-hitting and fair, and you keep the shrillness levels down. All things I admire.

My own point was perhaps more Cro-Magnon than you give it credit for.

I intended to convey simply that the PDM is engaged in a real attempt to shift policy leftwards. You will understand that around here, this is generally considered to be a bad thing.

Juvenile bad taste, on the other hand, has no political affiliation, and I have received the fliers, the direct mail fund-raising solicitations (our catholic tastes get us on both kinds of mailing lists), and the campaign phone calls to prove it.

This recent spate of fliers added insult to injury by hurting the party that distributed them. If you're going to be low enough to sucker-punch someone, at least make sure that it drops the guy.

How quickly it will be forgotten depends on the political micro-climates of the districts in question.

Montana Headlines said...

P.S. For some reason, I have been unable to post comments on some sites, including yours. I'm not meaning to seem rude by not doing so.