“Socialist” Republican Wins in Montana

When it comes to politics in Montana, anything can happen.

At least that’s the sentiment rolling out of the state this past week as a long shot candidate for U.S. Senate, Bob Kelleher, won the Republican nomination and will take on seasoned Democrat Max Baucus in next fall’s election. The odd thing about the whole ordeal is that Kelleher is pretty much a bona fide socialist. More so, than say, Senator Bernie Sanders at least. Not that that’s saying a whole lot, but Kelleher’s policies do tilt dramatically left of his Democratic opponent.

Kelleher brings the same spunky flare that he has brought to his politics for the past four decades, where he’s lost 15 of his 16 bids for public office. He’s run repeatedly as a Democrat and as a Green, so his allegiance to the Republican Party is nebulous at best. But that didn’t stop the 85-year-old Kelleher from winning by a margin of 10,000 votes on November 3, despite no cash and very little campaign organization.

The victory has left many veteran Montana election veterans scratching their heads in bewilderment. How did this guy win by running within the Republican Party? Ron Paul’s supporters came out in droves, but many don’t follow Kelleher’s socialist leanings. The most likely answer is two-fold. First, Kelleher’s name is well known, as his name has appeared on the ballot so many times. Second, it was a six-way race, splitting the votes among the rest of the right-wing and centrist pack, leaving Kelleher on the left, all alone.

Even so, it was still a substantial feat, and it just goes to show you can’t tell which way the political winds are blowing the Big Sky state.

Kelleher wants a “non-violent” revolution to essentially dismantle the government in Washington, doing away with the presidency, Senate and House, and replacing it with a parliamentary body, where citizens don’t vote for individuals, but for parties. He wants massive Keynesian-style work programs to eliminate poverty; he favors real socialized medicine, an end to neoliberal trade policies, and a revamping of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, to name a few of his positions.

Kelleher’s opponent, Max Baucus, has already refused to debate Kelleher, and has said assertively that he is “not running against anyone”. Nonetheless, Baucus certainly deserves the challenge. He’s supported the invasion of Iraq, trade policies that have hurt working Montanans, and an agenda that is shaped by corporate influence, which has helped him amass over $10 million for a campaign he has said he basically is not going to run.

Democrats like Baucus don’t embrace competition, they ignore it. In doing so, however, Baucus may hurt himself, as he will be ignoring the wishes of tens of thousands of Montana voters that have giving Kelleher the green light to challenge him.

Sadly, the Republican Party is also shunning Kelleher’s campaign, with state party officials saying they will not back their candidate for U.S. Senate, as he’s a long shot. They’ll focus on “winnable” elections instead. That’s certainly not going to stop Kelleher, however, who’s obviously not deterred by the impossible.

And Kelleher doesn’t give a damn about his current own party rejecting him.

“The party has actually no legal significance,” he said. “The party platforms are unenforceable. It’s a lie to voters to give them an impression that any party stands for anything.”

But Kelleher sure as hell stands for something, and he will likely get crushed in November as a result.

Nevertheless remember, this is Montana, and when it comes to politics and elections, anything can happen.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in June 2008. Check out the Red State Rebels site. Read other articles by Joshua.

11 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 9th, 2008 at 7:05am #

    Well, here we go again. I get picky about definitions, someone lambasts me for being educated. I go along with others’ definitions, someone lambasts me (unknowingly) for the very reason I’d decided not to get picky.

    But honestly. “Socialism”? Where, pray tell, on the face of the earth has there ever been a socialist government? Or has capitalism in some nation — or internationally — at some time actually been so helpless that a “socialist” majority controlled a parliament? I ask this seriously, and I would not be insulted — only informed — to learn there has been a bare socialist majority somewhere, probably during wartime.

  2. Hatuxka said on June 9th, 2008 at 8:19am #

    In Montana for the primary, you get both R and D ballots. I left the bubble next to Baucus blank. He is awful. I noticed the name Kelleher on the R ballot, but had never heard of him and knew nothing about him. Now I wish I had voted the R ballot to say I voted for the Montana socialist.

  3. Don Hawkins said on June 9th, 2008 at 8:53am #

    Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.
    – Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859
    Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.
    – Editorial in the Boston Post (1865)
    [Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
    – Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.
    Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
    – Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859
    The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming… [T]he cost of producing [gasoline] is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry… In addition the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.

    – U. S. Congressional Record, 1875.
    There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
    – Albert Einstein, 1932.
    There is not in sight any source of energy that would be a fair start toward that which would be necessary to get us beyond the gravitative control of the earth.
    – Forest Ray Moulton (1872-1952),
    Computers in the future may…perhaps only weigh 1.5 tons.
    – Popular Mechanics, 1949.
    It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.
    – Robert Goddard (1882-1945)
    “If God had intended that man should fly, he would have given him wings”.
    George melville
    “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy
    This morning on one of the financial channels there was talk of energy and oil. One man said that clean energy will never work. So I sent them this

  4. hp said on June 9th, 2008 at 8:58am #

    “Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.”

  5. Chris Crass said on June 9th, 2008 at 11:36am #

    “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
    -Emma Goldman

  6. Giorgio said on June 9th, 2008 at 7:02pm #

    “Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.”

    “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
    -Emma Goldman

    ….and a palliative for the voter feel that he is in control…

    I like this Kelleher ….what about a Paul/kelleher candidacy?
    Anything to rock the boat is good for me…

  7. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 10th, 2008 at 11:22am #

    I recall a famous “what if they had met?” that social scientists posed to their students a few decades ago, naming Max Weber and Sigmund Freud. How much better, and doubtless mittenze fireworks, if HL Mencken and Emma Goldman had met.

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 10th, 2008 at 11:56am #

    I recall a famous “what if they had met?” that social scientists posed to their students a few decades ago, naming Max Weber and Sigmund Freud. How much better and doubtless mittenze fireworks, if HL Mencken and Emma Goldman had met.

  9. hp said on June 10th, 2008 at 6:24pm #

    Well you can bet he’d have an answer to a charge of misogyny.

  10. Chris Crass said on June 10th, 2008 at 7:48pm #

    Not to mention Mencken being a racist sack of shit. I imagine that Emma would disapprove.

  11. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 10th, 2008 at 8:41pm #

    Very nicely put, Chris. But she was, what, 14 years older? And a child of the late 19th century and Kolko’s famous Conservative Triumph in America, not a fortunate grandchild.