Friday, November 10, 2006
I wonder what other U.S. cities can claim to be as politically pivotal as Missoula, Montana?
Missoula gave the U.S. Senate to the Democrats on a platter. Voter turnout in Missoula was over 70%, and it was this town that voted overwhelmingly for Jon Tester! Jon Tester and Jim Webb (newly elected Senator from Virginia) were in the deciding races that gave control of the Senate to the Democrats. Appropriately, this is a country of political apathy with voter turnouts usually hovering around 40%, but not in Missoula (original home to the Wobblies "free-speech fights"). In Missoula, one can find an over-educated/under-employed population that turns out 3000 people for a Day of the Dead parade in the cold, dark of the night to watch floats walk by that include protestors denouncing the U.S.'s history of violent intervention in Latin America! Our congressional delegation is smart to move their headquarters to Helena, Great Falls or Billings where they will not have to face the protests in front of their offices. In Missoula, one can attend a rally called "Dump Bush!" with 5,000 angry citizens. Missoula passes every educational mill levy. Missoula is currently trying to adopt a Sweat-free Community resolution thereby making the city purchase sweatfree products only! Ahhh Missoula, take a bow!
With only 900,000 people in this state, each and every vote carries tremendous power. Montana's U.S. Senator-elect, Jon Tester, was elected with only 198,302 votes and only won by a margin of roughly 2,800. In Virginia's tight senatorial race, Jim Webb with 1,172,671 votes won by a margin of 7,000 votes.
Montana is a Red State despite the fact that we've now got a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators. Missoula, however, is a relatively progressive pocket in this state. This is due in no small part to the presence of the University of Montana, a reputedly progressive university. It is often chided and ridiculed for its progressive politics around the state. With its university in hand, Missoula is thus known endearingly as that "damned hippy town!" Considering the results this town has produced by delivering to American politics a new face with a 70% voter turnout, I'd have to say the old notion that "marijuana breeds apathy" has been turned on its head.
Speaking of marijuana, Missoula passed an initiative that may prove it deserves much of its reputation. By a relatively comfortable margin, Initiative 2 was passed by Missoula voters on election day. This initiative makes enforcing marijuana offenses against adults the lowest priority for Missoula County law enforcement. Appropriately, Missoula voters understood the need for law enforcement to focus on serious crimes instead of the massive amount of energy it has focused on arresting marijuana users. Over the last couple of years, marijuana arrests in Missoula County have skyrocketed while cases of robbery and rape have gone unsolved. The reason for this disproportionate enforcement can be explained politically. By focusing on marijuana crimes county law enforcement can have high arrest rates and appear to be doing their job. Unfortunately, serious crimes have been committed in this town and remained unsolved. Missoula voters saw through the politics and took measures into their own hands.
"The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana." --Norman Maclean