This is the last stop - and therefore the last post - on my 2+ month book tour. It ends where my book begins: in Montana. That's appropriate - this region has been a populist bellweather for both the Right and Left for most of American history.
I started the book in Montana to analyze the clash of uprisings - the conservative one from the late 1970s, and the more progressive one happening right now. The Great Falls Tribune has a nice summation of what I found in its story today about my events this week in Montana:
In the book's opening chapter, entitled "The Thrilla in Montana," Sirota zeroed in on the contentious 2007 legislative tax fight between Democrats, who controlled the Senate by one vote, and Republicans, who controlled the House by one vote.
In his book, Sirota argued that Montana Democrats were able to seize control over the tax debate at the outset.
By introducing a populist tax bill that gave all Montana property owners a $400 rebate check -- as opposed to a Republican plan to enact a flat property tax rate cut that would have disproportionately benefited wealthy landowners -- Democrats hijacked the perennial conservative battle cry of "lower taxes" and won a major victory in the populist uprising.
Put another way, progressives here internalized Saul Alinsky's mantra to start with where the world is, not where they want it to be. In this case, they started with where Montana is - 30 years into an anti-tax revolution - and began the long fight to start making taxes more fair.
There has been something of a revolution in this state since I first came here in 2000. Check out this nugget from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
While Sirota doesn't like to pin the populist uprising to either party, he said the number of Democrats that now hold office in Montana compared to eight years ago is indicative of the change. In 2000, three out of eight officials elected statewide in Montana were Democrats. Today, six out of eight are.
Today, newspaper polls show Barack Obama competing to win the state for Democrats in the presidential election, and a Republican poll reports that Schweitzer is so popular that GOP candidates should refrain from attacking him. But you don't have to look at polls to know that things are changing in Montana and everywhere else. Just look at the photo above from the wall of the historic M&M bar in Butte.
This is, indeed, a state that proves an uprising is happening. May it continue through this election, and beyond.
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