Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional

The silence coming out of Democratic Party headquarters these days is deafening. Having been rolled by the Republican majorities in Montana’s recent special session — especially in their quest for more taxes — what Montanans are hearing are high-pitched whines about the evil Republicans. But that gets old after a while and one must wonder: What did you expect?

The reality is the guy in the Governor’s Office, the head of the executive branch of government, is a Democrat. It was no great secret that the state’s revenues weren’t keeping up with expenditures. And as all families know, when that happens, some things have to change. The changes most Montanans would make would be cutting back on their spending and prioritize existing funds to their most critical needs.

These are all functions of the executive branch and all within the purview of the Democrats and their governor. Yet, Bullock didn’t make the cuts until the session started — and only then because the Republicans forced the issue. Moreover, one might argue that the originally suggested cuts were in large part targeted to paint a picture of losing vital public services to force the Republicans to raise taxes or be blamed.

But in fact, the lack of strategic planning and action on the governor’s part backfired, leaving the Democrats unprepared because, after all, they’d been told by their leader that his three-part plan was a done deal with Republicans. It wasn’t, obviously. And they had no backup plan.

While Democrats are now pointing fingers and making accusations about the impact of the budget cuts, the truth is it’s going to be very tough to somehow make Montanans feel angry that their taxes didn’t go up as much as Bullock and the Demos had wanted. Again, this seems so obvious one has to wonder why the Ds think it’s a winning argument.

Or how about the private prison deal? How can Democrats argue that they are being “blackmailed” by the prison’s corporate owner who, as Missoula’s Rep. Ellie Hill put it, “incarcerates people for money.” Uh, hate to point it out, but when’s the last time anyone had a free prison? We, the state, the people, our elected officials, incarcerate lots of people all the time — and it’s taxpayers’ money that pays for both the state and the private prison. That the U.S. incarcerates a greater proportion of its population than any other civilized nation is the real and very expensive problem, leading one to ask just why the state was putting aside millions to buy the private prison in the first place?

In the meantime, the national Democrats are equally in disarray. Progressive icon Sen. Al Franken is on the hot seat for groping a female broadcaster while on a USO trip — with a damning picture of him reaching for the sleeping female’s breasts. Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester has already donated the $25,000 he got from Franken to a domestic violence organization — but the Montana Democratic Party refused to do the same with the $12,500 they got from Franken.

Pile that on top of new condemnations of Bill Clinton’s womanizing by a Democratic senator, the corruption of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and it’s a long ways to standing on any high hill of ethical purity for the Dems.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: It’s time for the Democrats to take a hard look in the mirror and get their own house in order from the top down. Blaming Republicans for doing exactly what their party platform says they’ll do is a losing strategy.

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George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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