The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


26 December 2012

Brian Schweitzer leaves Montana a better place — a much better place

Flathead Beacon political writer Mike Jopek has a nice retrospective on Governor Brian Schweitzer, whom the people of Montana, in their great collective stupidity, prevent from running for a third term. Montanans fear, without any supporting evidence, that once a man masters governing, he becomes dangerous and should be replaced by a neophyte who requires on-the-job-training.

Immensely popular today, we sometimes forget that Schweitzer lost his first statewide election to Conrad Burns in 2000, and only narrowly defeated Bob Brown for governor in 2004. Once governor, however, he steadily earned the confidence and affection of increasing numbers of voters through intelligent policy decisions and a folksy flamboyance, of which his dog, Jag, bolo ties, and a love of guns that rendered him bulletproof with the NRA, were prime components. He provided the rednecks, the cowboys, the Bubbas, with cultural reassurance that he was one of them, thereby ensuring they would listen to him when he discussed the issues.

In 2008, a Democratic year, he won re-election by a landslide, and burnished his national reputation with a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention. Always quotable, he’s now exploring the possibility of leveraging his national reputation into a run for the Presidency in 2016. I think he could be on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate, running with Andrew Cuomo or one of the senators from Virginia. And he’d be a logical selection for Secretary of Agriculture or Interior in Obama’s administration should one of those jobs become open. But he won’t be running to replace Max Baucus in the Senate. Schweitzer has an executive’s temperament, a can-do, let’s-get-things-done approach that makes him utterly unsuited for legislative duty.

I’m going to miss him. He brought a scientist’s approach to facts to the job, something we need more of in government, and his success and optimism helped rejuvenate Montana’s Democratic Party. Montana is better for his service — and his successor, Steve Bullock, is left to fill a giant’s shoes.