Life Lessons Via Montana Politics


Over six months ago, I wrote “the girl without a party”. It was one of the lowest moments of my life politically.  I posted it on my personal blog because I wasn’t yet comfortable associating my name with montanafesto.  Concern about my political reputation and the potential for retribution was quickly outweighed by disdain for the actions of the people I’d helped elect. Ron Paul- supporting Republican cannabis activists aren’t the most popular people in the GOP.  In the last year, I have learned some tough lessons and I’m an infinitely better person as a result.

I learned that sometimes I needed to separate politics from people. Democrat State Senator Kendall Van Dyk and I were friends long ago, early in his political career.  I was even in attendance when he originally announced he was running for the Montana House. Differences in our political ideology created some distance between us and next thing you know, I was campaigning against him in the 2010 election and bashing him publicly.  I’m rather sure I referred to him regularly as a socialist.  Donning my finest liberal looking faux eyeglasses, flat hair and earth tones, I attended a lovely Forward Montana fundraiser in Kendall’s honor.  Certain my disguise was adequate, I brazenly carried on as if I fit right in with the liberals at the event.  Until, that is; that Kendall recognized his old friend and decided to politely but publicly, call out my ridiculous behavior.  I was mortified….. not because it was embarrassing, but because I was WRONG.  My partner in crime was a tea person, actually the founder of Montana Shrugged’s boyfriend and after the awkward situation, we rehashed the night’s events at length.  The overall consensus was liberals suck and KVD deserved the criticism.  I, however; wasn’t convinced that my behavior was justified so I sent Kendall a lengthy and sincere Facebook message apologizing for my heinous behavior.  The rest is history.  During the last legislative session, he was in regular contact with me- asking questions, offering suggestions.  We’ve even found a number of issues we agree on.  Life isn’t always black and white.

I learned to think twice before accepting an invitation to a politician’s holiday dinner.  Last Thanksgiving, I dined with the Representative James Knox family.  I was certain that after Knox tasted my truffles and experienced delightful and intelligent dinner conversation compliments of my honor student middle school daughter and yours truly that he would consider the possibility that Montana’s state-licensed cannabis community wasn’t entirely composed of dangerous criminals.  No dice.  While dinner was lovely, James Knox later invented statements I’d supposedly made at the dinner to use against me with his fan club, Safe Community, Safe Kids.  He sent my personal information, cell phone number, Facebook url, email address, you name it, to the entire email list of SCSK with the instructions to “flood my inbox” with harassing messages.  He threatened to sue me for defamation for posting actual business contracts he’d entered with a prominent local medical marijuana caregiver.  He accused me of photoshopping vicious statements in screenshots that I’d taken from his personal Facebook wall.  I could have forgiven him for most of it, but claiming his brother was “stolen by marijuana” as he cried on cue in legislative testimony….. it was just too much.

I learned to value behavior over beliefs. I never liked Senator Dave Wanzenried’s politics, after all, he’s a yikes, Missoula liberal.  I sure like his character though.  Although I assume he probably answered every email he received, I definitely noticed that he responded to all of mine, all of my father’s, and all of my grandmother’s.  Considering that none of us live in his senate district and none of us are democrats made this especially unusual.  As a result, I paid more attention to his politics and discovered he wasn’t THAT liberal.  Although not at all surprised, I was disappointed he withdrew from the Gubernatorial race.

I cannot respect politicians who will not respect their constituents. I never liked Senator Jeff Essmann’s character and the last legislative session only reinforced my opinion. Prior to the 2010 elections, then RNC chair Michael Steele stopped in Billings for an event on the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour.  I worked the door for the event and directed incoming traffic to one side or another depending on if they had paid for their entrance in advance.  Dutifully, I greeted the smiling Republicans as they entered the event…. until Senator Essmann arrived.  I asked him if he’d paid in advance and I will never forget the look on his face.  He looked me slowly up and down, finally steadying his gaze, as he angrily snarled “Excuse me! I sponsored this event. You’ve got to be kidding me.”  He glared at me and stomped away.  As others in line stared at me, I was certain they were shocked that a lowly nobody like me would dare request that someone as important as dry cleaning millionaire Jeff Essmann pay the family entrance fee of $35.  US Congressman Denny Rehberg…. he paid.  Former Senator Conrad Burns….. he paid.  Gubernatorial candidates….yep, they paid too.  In Essmann’s eyes, I’m apparently a nobody.  I was, at the time; the elections director for the Young Republicans…. nowhere near as important as him. Although that day, I was dirt under Essmann’s shoes, he created plenty of mud in the following months, and I can’t wait to sling it at him.  He plans to announce his run for Governor of Montana soon and I intend to show him some of the love he showed me.

I learned that currently, the only big tent in Montana’s Republican Party is a CIRCUS tent. The tent is big enough for all of the hatred and all of the tea people/extremists/religious zealots but there is only room enough for people like me right around election time when candidates need some help placing signs and knocking on doors.  Sorry boys, this cycle I won’t be helping you, but I’m not going away and neither are the thousands of Montanans who are just like me. We will hold you accountable.

I’m not giving up hope. 


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6 thoughts on “Life Lessons Via Montana Politics

  1. The Republican party of my youth was about small government, fair play, and protecting the Little Guy from overzealous bureaucrats.

    Today, they seem to be about protecting the richest of the rich from tax increases, denying civil rights to those of us who love someone of the same gender, preventing the use of a safe and effective herbal remedy, and installing a theocracy… oh, and spewing hate. They looooove to spew the hate…

    So odds are high that I’ll be voting for more Democrats next cycle than I have in my entire life up till now.

    I haven’t left the Republican party, they’ve left me.

    • In Montana, I dare you to find Democrats who are better than their Republican counterparts. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but look at the Governor’s race, for instance. The democrats are two of the biggest prohibitionists in the state. The only R candidate who hasn’t taken a public stand against cannabis is Stapleton. And look at the Presidential race…. yikes. The only good candidate will never make it through the primaries. Ron Paul 2012.

  2. The depth of my disgust is so deep. Answers will be required before I vote for any of them. It was the excessive LIES they spewed.
    ‘Scourge’ my Ass, I hope we can show them a lesson come 2012.

  3. A question for you 3 commenters –

    As single-issue voters do you think the Dems will embrace your cause ?

    The way that The Great Leader and his regime have ?

  4. I realize the above question was rhetorical, but I’m going to answer it anyway: in the last legislative session, the Democrats were much more supportive of individual rights than the Republicans were. President Obama’s views aren’t really relevant to what happens in the Montana Legislature.

    I am a single issue voter only if you consider ‘individual rights’ a single issue. But support for medical cannabis and respect for the will of the people as expressed via initiative will be litmus tests for me in statewide races this election cycle.

  5. Great posts, both hear and @ Girl Without a Party.

    Regarding the question of young people and the Republican party you pose @ Girl Without a Party, I think part of it is that us young people that have become politically aware/engaged in the last decade did so during the Bush era. The tendency during those years to suppress free thinking and questioning of the government, the message of be scarred and let Big Brother handle everything turned off a generation of people that are innately and constantly connected and operate in a more open and engaging manner than previous generations.

    I think the second problem is the Republican’s focus on socially conservative messages that have only become more extreme in the last couple of years with the rise of the Tea Party faction of Republicans. Socially conservative messages create an image of the party as being outdated, out-of-touch, and clinging onto nostalgia for the 1950s that has no meaning or relevance for people born in the 80s. What young, hip person wants to associate themselves with people that go around accessorizing their outfits with tea bags or work in a profession that requires a suit and a tie? Take a look at the work environments that Facebook and Google have setup for their employees… that is how young people aspire to live their lives, open and cooperatively.

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