Joe Klein discovers the Western Democrat
Joe Klein caught some heat for the following but we'll still take the publicity. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is the featured photo to Klein's article.
The Democrats' New Western Stars
Joe KleinGo here for the rest of this longish article that also features coverage of Brian Schweitzer.
January 19, 2007
A week before the 2006 elections, I found myself in a holding room with a posse of prominent Colorado Democrats waiting to stage a rally in the city of Pueblo. Almost all of them were in full western regalia--cowboy hats and boots, blue jeans, western shirts and jackets, string ties or no ties at all. These were large people, as Westerners tend to be, and they were not shy. Several noted my rumpled, Eastern aspect and took pity on me. "We've got to get you some boots," said Bill Ritter, the Democratic candidate for Governor, who was about to be elected in a landslide.
"Feeling out of place?" asked a local state rep, a tall blond woman named Buffie McFayden, who greeted me with a black-power handshake and two Sammy Sosa heart kisses.
"Bet you never thought you'd find a politician named Buffie out in Colorado. I tell folks it's short for buffalo." McFayden, a force of nature, explained that her district had 12 prisons and a solid Republican majority that voted for her because "the right's gone so far to the right, you can't recognize them anymore. When the wingers accuse me of being a liberal, I say, Sure, if you mean that I'm in favor of staying out of people's private lives and balancing the budget and I'm against stealing."
And on it went as, one by one, I met the exuberant and slightly eccentric Democrats of Colorado--the hosts of the next Democratic National Convention, to be held in Denver in 2008. Each had a big personality and a distinctive personal history. Ritter, for example, was one of 12 children who grew up poor on a wheat farm; in 1986 he and his wife made a midlife decision to spend three years as Catholic missionaries in Africa, working at a nutrition center in Zambia. Then there were the "Salazar Boys." U.S. Senator Ken Salazar and his brother John, a member of Congress, were raised on a ranch without a telephone or electricity. Senator Salazar was the only freshman Democrat elected to the Senate from a red state during George W. Bush's 2004 victory. He is a moonfaced fellow whose modest demeanor belies his reputation as an ecumenical annoyer of special-interest groups. He once called Jim Dobson of Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based conservative Christian group, "the antichrist." But he was also one of the very few Democrats to stick with pro-war Senator Joe Lieberman after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont in Connecticut last summer.
The always interesting David Sirota provides his take here to Klein's article, with a particular emphasis on Klein's writing skills.