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Friday, June 09, 2006

Populist John Tester Scores Huge Win Against D.C. Dems and For the Rest of Us - by David Sirota

The winds of change - they are a-blowin' hard out here in the heartland, no matter how much Washington, D.C. pretends they aren't. As the Billings Gazette reported here in Montana just minutes ago, populist Democrat Jon Tester crushed his primary opponents in a major upset, becoming the Democratic nominee against vulnerable incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy, ran against the Washington Establishment, ignoring those who said he couldn't beat the State Auditor John Morrison - the candidate that Democratic Party powerbrokers in Washington tried to anoint.
In fairness, I think both Tester and Morrison are good Democrats. But, as I saw when I was at Tester's announcement speech last year, and I learned in talking with Tester during the campaign, this is a guy who clearly and unabashedly represents the populist wing of his party (I publicly stayed out of the primary out of deference to the state party that didn't want to further enflame the already divisive primary battle). His victory will likely send yet more shockwaves through Washington's increasingly insulated Democratic Establishment in Washington.
That Establishment has either refused to take basic, concrete positions on the key issues of the day like Iraq, or worse, has high-profile factions publicly insulting middle-class voters, such as when former Clintonites on Wall Street insulted those Democrats who are trying to reform America's sellout trade policy.
But as I have written before, Tester - and other successful Democrats running this year - are doing exactly the opposite. Back in November, I noted how Tester rejected Washington's advice, and took a strong position on the Iraq War. A few weeks back, I also noted how on critical economic issues like trade. These are positions that put him squarely at odds with the national Democratic Party and the Big Money interests that control Washington, but that put him in sync with voters in Montana and throughout the heartland. Put another way, he made the fight against Big Money's hostile takeover of our government a central theme in his legislative career and in his primary campaign - and he was, to the great shock of Washington insiders, handsomely rewarded by voters.


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