"Green Party, huh? Well, I'll vote for you, as long as you're not a damn Democrat," said my 70-year-old neighbor when I told him I was running for the Montana state Legislature.
Few weeks later, I introduced
myself to Tom, a local businessman and one of the Montana Freeman
who'd gotten into trouble with the law a few years ago. As a Green
Party candidate I figured I could tap into Montana's libertarian as
well as its progressive tenancies. Tom and I agreed that the
citizen proposal to buy back Montana's hydro-generating facilities
was a fine idea.
"Come around to the cafe some
afternoon, and I'll introduce you around," he told me. A few days
later, I ran into Tom while dropping fliers off at the senior
center. He scowled.
"I showed your card to the
boys and they said, Green Party's a bunch of environmentalists.
They didn't want to talk to no environmentalists." "The Green Party
is about a lot of things," I responded.
believe that trees are a crop that should be harvested," Tom said.
I sensed our association had ended.
On a crisp
Sunday, I campaigned door to door.
In my rural
area this meant a great deal of driving. I stopped by a house a few
miles up a dirt road. A woman came out from the back of the house.
Like everyone else I met, she was surprised to have a candidate
actually stop by. As a state employee, she worked with
developmentally disabled. We discussed the effects of the
governor's draconian budget cuts on social services.
"You don't sound like a Republican; you must be
a Democrat," she said.
"I'm running under the
Green Party." "Oh, even better."
I continued on
to a cluster of houses along the river. At a newer house I had a
long conversation with a man who also worked for the state in
health and human services. He didn't provide any suggestions but
filled me in on the most recent cuts. I would have pegged him for a
conservative, but a few days later, I received a campaign
contribution from him in the mail.
A few doors
down I encountered a woman returning home. I handed her my flier.
As I was getting ready to leave her husband came out of the house
and gave me an earful. "I worked as a plumber for the city of Great
Falls. I had a retirement account with the city that was invested
in Enron and Compaq and now it's worthless. We'll have to live off
social security, as long as that lasts. You know, I saved all my
life for retirement and now there's nothing there." He was even
angrier than I was about corporate malfeasance.
I was beginning to feel pretty positive about my
chances, since I was the only candidate actively campaigning. I
didn't think I would win, but I figured I make a good showing. I
was also learning a great deal about my district. I had thought it
was mostly agricultural with a few wealthy retirees in the big log
homes along the river. But going door to door I found mostly modest
houses and trailers with middle to lower income retirees and a
surprising number of commuters. Nearly everyone seemed aware of the
At candidate forums in Great Falls and
Helena, I met more knowledgeable and caring people. I also learned
that the two-party system lends itself to lowest-common denominator
positions. I figured it was my duty as a Green Party candidate to
raise the stakes. So I railed against massive corporate tax breaks,
obscene military spending and the mindless slaughter of the
I suggested we revoke
corporate charters for crooked companies, require surface-owner
consent for coal-bed methane leases, require business that receive
tax breaks to provide their employees with living wages, heath
care, family leave and day care. I advocated the legalization of
marijuana to solve our budget crisis.
seemed a little stunned that someone could say such things in
public and not get lynched.
Election day came
and went. Half the registered voters stayed home. The Republican
incumbent won by more than the combined votes of his opponents. For
a week I stayed home and sulked over my lousy 5 percent.
When I finally ventured out, nearly everyone I
saw thanked me for running.
I was stunned; in
over 20 years of being an environmentalist, no one had ever thanked
me for writing letters, commenting on forest plans or attending
I guess 2004 is only two years away.