A while back, I noted how Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) made a bold move to demand one of the biggest railroad companies in the country clean up its mess here in Big Sky country. This was the kind of populism where a political leader actually gets the guts to stand up for ordinary people against Big Money interests. It's the kind of populism that corporate front-groups in Washington regularly attack as supposedly unproductive. Yet, last week we learned that, in fact, when done smartly, populism does work.
The Associated Press reports that "Cleanup of an estimated 1 million gallons of diesel fuel in the groundwater and soils beneath railroad yards has restarted after a 10-year lapse." AP reminds us that:
"The renewed action came after Gov. Brian Schweitzer, in March, accused the company of "lawyering" to delay the cleanup. Schweitzer said at the time that he would order the cleanup completed, and send BNSF the bill...A detailed work plan has since been completed...'It's night and day, from the way things had been going before,' said Jim Barrett, Park County Environmental Council ex-ecutive director."
So the next time you flip on C-SPAN and see some Beltway blowhard go on about how political leaders should never stand up to moneyed interests, remember this story - and remember that populism is attacked because it can be so effective.
P.S. If you are a fan of Schweitzer, go read the New York Times Magazine's recent profile of him, and give to a netroots candidate through his Act Blue page for a chance to take a river trip with him here in Montaa.