Intelligent Discontent

Tester Shockingly Raises Money. Probably the Right Thing to Do in a Senate Race


I certainly don’t mean to start yet another fight with the 4and20 blackbirds blog over the relative merits of Senator Tester and Representative Rehberg, but it’s hard to overlook the analysis offered today which suggests that Senator Tester is somehow trailing in the Senate race by a few points because he’s taken money from the “wrong constituency.”

It’s not only same tired argument that’s been trotted every few months, but it fundamentally ignores the dynamics of this race and the role of money in contemporary politics. While it would be wonderful if Senator Tester could choose not to take donations from people affiliated with corporations at all, unilaterally disarming against Denny Rehberg and letting him impose his idiotic worldview on the Senate for six years would be far more damaging than taking money from banks, law firms, cable companies, and the League of Conservation Voters—who are by far Tester’s largest contributors.

It’s also simply unfair to suggest that Tester is somehow beholden to big banks, and just willfully blind to suggest that Rehberg wouldn’t be far, far worse. There’s a reason that Rehberg is getting the support of Citizens United—and it’s not his position on the Constitution.

There’s a relatively simply set of reasons that Rehberg is marginally ahead in the polls. Montana is a state that leans Republican—and Rehberg has more incumbent advantage going into the race. In fact, rather than suggesting “that something fundamental is amiss” in the Tester campaign,  the fact the Tester is within 2-3 points, given a 8 point GOP advantage in the state, suggest that his campaign is right where it needs to be to be competitive.

To remain competitive with the massive influx of Super PAC money that Represenative Rehberg will have at his “uncoordinated” disposal, Senator Tester will likely need to outraise Rehberg by 2:1.

From the outset, winning this seat was going to be a challenge for Tester, but eschewing large donations and driving around the state in a VW wagon fueled only by self-righteousness and biodiesel would make it impossible for him to win.

Ideological and financial purity may warm the heart, but they certainly doesn’t win elections. For my money, I think it’s in the interests of Montanans to send a Senator back to Washington who doesn’t believe that corporations are people, who believes in the minimum wage and the rights of workers, and who fights for the middle class.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a sixteen year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate. In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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