A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

Flathead Memo Archives, 1–15 June 2016


15 June 2016

Senate District 3: a tale of three turnouts

Senate District 3 (map), comprising House Districts 5 and 6, runs from north of Whitefish to northern Kalispell. In last week’s Republican primary, Rep. Keith Regier, a resident of HD-6, defeated Don Kaltschmidt, a resident of HD-5, by 106 votes, 1,851 to 1,745. Kaltschmidt prevailed in HD-5 by 97 votes, but lost HD-6, the more conservative house district, by 203 votes.

Although HD-5 has more registered voters than HD-6, the turnout in HD-6 was considerably higher than in HD-5 (see table below). The turnout fell as voters went down the ballot (see graph below). For those wondering, I did not find evidence of a Democratic crossover to help Kaltschmidt.


The estimated number of registered voters for 2010, which I’ve rounded to two significant figures, assumes that the registered voter to voting age population ratio for Flathead and Lake Counties is the same as for all of Montana.

Close elections, incidentally, are hard on the losers. Kaltschmidt, I suspect, is an unhappy man who is wondering what small thing he could have done, but didn’t, that would have lifted him to victory. And it’s possible (but not likely) there was something more he could have done that would have won the election for him. But a closer analysis suggests that he came as close as he did because he did so many things right. He challenged the current Montana House Majority Leader, a man with the experience of four legislative and several school board elections, and the support of powerful economic interests — and came within 106 votes of beating him. That’s not the outcome Kaltschmidt sought, but objectively, it was no mean accomplishment. He did well, very well.



14 June 2016

For Montana’s Democrats, “youth” means one second short of age 37

People who start families early can be grandparents at 36 years of age — but in Montana’s Democratic Party they are still considered “youth.” That so defies what I consider common sense that I was gobsmacked when I discovered the definition last week just before the Democrats held their county nominating conventions. Here’s the salient section of the Democratic Affirmation Statement (PDF) that every convention participant was required to sign:


The African Youth Charter (PDF) has a similar definition:

For the purposes of this Charter, youth or young people shall refer to every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years.

The United Nations has a youthier definition of youth:

The UN, for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition, as illustrated by the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the United Nations system on demography, education, employment and health.

But the UN has exceptions to this rule (the UN is united by flexibility):

For activities at the national level, for example when implementing a local community youth programme, “youth” may be understood in a more flexible manner. UNESCO will then adopt the definition of “youth” as used by a particular Member State. It can be based for instance on the definition given in the African Youth Charter where “youth” means “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years”.

Defining the upper bound of “youth” with the age of a young grandfather had uses during the Cold War, as it allowed hardened radicals in their thirties to enroll in universities and masquerade as students at international student conferences intended for undergraduates in their early twenties or younger.

The Oxford Dictionaries online avoid using numbers to define youth:

The period between childhood and adult age.

Merriman-Webster also avoids a number:

the time of life when one is young; especially: the period between childhood and maturity

The 2010 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook does use a number, but not the Montana Democrats’ number:

Applicable to boys and girls from age 13 until 18th birthday. Use man or woman for individuals 18 and older.

I’m sticking with the 2010 AP — and sticking it to Montana’s Democrats for defining youth as the age of a young grandfather.



13 June 2016

Did Bernie’s national campaign undercut Montana’s grassroots?

Updated. It certainly looks that way. At Intelligent Discontent, Pete Talbot’s must read report on the Montana Democratic Convention held over the weekend contains this astonishing revelation:

I mentioned bizarre moments at the head of this piece. Here’s the other: after electing the regional delegates, there were three other seats to be selected: two at large and one PLEO (Party Leader and Elected Official). Our caucus nominated a list and then a call came from the national Bernie Sanders campaign. It edited the list down, which apparently it has the right to do, “to reward those most committed to the campaign and to ensure affirmative action.”

Which is exactly what we were planning to do but I guess national didn’t trust us. This is perhaps the most disturbing event I’ve encountered in the Sanders campaign.

I’m glad I wasn’t at the convention. Had I been there, I would have walked out in response to that high-handedness and returned to Kalispell (after popping an extra blood pressure pill).

Pete considers the meddling a mistake he hopes won’t be repeated, but not a deal-breaker when the big picture is considered. I’m less forgiving.

The Democratic Party still supports social insurance, progressive taxation, and labor — but it’s become an identity politics coalition organized around social issues such as access to abortion and affirmative action. Internally, the party has identity group quotas for gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among others. If, for example, a county central committee chairperson is a woman, the vice-chairperson must be a man. Modern Democrats denigrate merit. I still consider myself a Democrat, but the Democratic Party I once knew now does the strange things Pete reports, and has become a stranger to me.

A list of Montana’s delegates to the national Democratic convention was published by the Great Falls Tribune.



12 June 2016

Best not to jump to conclusions about the Orlando massacre

Our natural tendency as humans is connecting the dots that are available, even if that draws a picture that’s incomplete and misleading. We find clarity in what’s vague, and only a single possibility in what’s ambiguous. That brings the closure we seek, but it also takes us down wrong roads and blinds us to the road to truth. Initially remaining agnostic about an event’s causes is the intellectually prudent approach, but it requires considerable self-discipline and tends to infuriate those who are certain that the known facts permit only one conclusion.

I’m not ready to conclude at this point that the massacre in Orlando was anything more than the horrible act of a madman. According to the Huffington Post, the gunman’s father says his son was “…not driven by religious ideology, but did grow upset after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami a few months ago.” That’s undoubtedly not the last word on the subject — sons do things and become persons that surprise and appall their fathers — but it does suggest that there’s wisdom in not yet concluding the murders were an act of Islamic terror orchestrated by ISIS or Al Qaeda.

Update at 1415 MDT

The NY Times reports that 20 minutes into the massacre, the gunman called 911 and “pledged allegiance” to ISIS. That does not mean he was recruited by ISIS agents. He might have been self-radicalized, which would not be good news.

This will help Donald Trump.



11 June 2014

Flathead Memo now standing down most weekends

Beginning today, Flathead Memo will stand down most weeke nds.


10 June 2016

Dump Trump for Walker? And, “so qualified,” Obama’s term of art

Donald Trump is not officially the Republican nominee — and might not be. In theory, notes David French at the National Review, the delegates at the Republican convention could decide to nominate someone else. The likelihood that will happen is perishingly small, but it’s not impossible. It’s clear that no matter how many times his handlers apply a lather and rinse, or dip him in Old Spice, Trump will emit the aroma of a pit bull that got too close to a polecat. At some point, the stink of having him on the ticket could be worse than the stink raised by dumping him in a convention coup.

If that happened, whom might the conventioneers chose to replace him? French's NR colleague, Dan McLaughlin, has a name: union buster Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin. If nominated, Walker could choose South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his vice president, and run as the right to work ticket.

Which Democratic presidential candidate has the most political experience? Yesterday, in his video endorsing Hillary Clinton, President Obama said, “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.” That’s an artfully worded statement. Although she has experience governing while Donald Trump has none, she has far less experience in elected and high appointed office than her Democratic rivals, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.


I’ve omitted her eight years as first lady, where her most memorable accomplishment was botching health care reform. She undoubtedly learned some things about governing during her tenure as the president’s wife, but “was married to” is not an acceptable experience category on a political résumé.

Obama’s phrase elides experience while employing intangibles. Clinton’s campaign will repeat it so often and emphatically that many voters will come to believe that she had more political experience than Sanders and O’Malley. As a campaign tactic, it will be effective. But as a matter of truth, it will be at best debatable.


Can Barack replace Bernie as the Pied Piper of Democratic youth?

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s establishment think so, reports Phillip Bump of the Washington Post:

President Obama’s surprise endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Thursday — surprise only in the sense that it was sort of sprung on everyone — made very clear what role Clinton hopes he’ll play in the race over the short term. Obama’s job is to get Democrats in line behind her candidacy. And, more specifically, it’s to get young Democrats on board.

Young Democrats backed Bernie Sanders by even wider margins than they backed Obama eight years ago. Averaging exit poll results for states where they’re available, Sanders beat Clinton by 43 points among those under the age of 30.

But young Americans have also been the group that’s most supportive of Obama’s presidency — and have become much more supportive over the last year. According to Gallup, 65 percent of those under the age of 30 viewed Obama’s job performance favorably in their most recent weekly average. That’s 14 points higher than Americans on the whole, and 25 points higher than those 65 and older. Three years ago, the difference between young voters and Americans on the whole was half as large.

So in the video announcing his endorsement, Obama made a very pointed appeal to the overlap of young voters and Sanders supporters.

Obama, reports Chris Cizzilla, Bump’s colleague at the Post, cut his endorsement video two days before this morning's meeting with Sanders. Obama might have had the decency to wait until after the Washington, D.C., primary next week before endorsing Clinton, but he clearly wanted to stick a shiv in Sanders, who has criticized Obama for not being liberal enough for the country.

The strategy is not just Obama’s way of punishing Sanders for being a liberal. It’s a calculated attempt to wrest the loyalty and admiration of Democratic youth from Sanders and return it to the pro-Wall Street wing of the Democratic party. If Obama can play the right tune, the party’s children will follow him home to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Sanders’ help won’t be needed, and Clinton can shift her policy positions back to the comfort zones of Wall Street.

Will Obama and Clinton get away with it? Possibly. The scheme is as ingenious as it is amoral. I admire it’s audacity, but I loath its anti-reform predicate.



9 June 2016

If Republicans voted for Trump, they probably voted for Gianforte

And if they didn’t vote for Trump, they probably didn’t vote for Gianforte. Although the GOP’s de facto nominee, Trump won only 73.7 percent of the votes cast in Montana’s GOP presidential primary. And despite having only token opposition, Gianforte won only 76.4 percent of the votes cast in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

There was some down ballot falloff, but on a county level basis, votes for Trump and Gianforte were highly correlated. I think that will also be true at the precinct level.

Some of the neither Trump nor Gianforte vote might be a crossover effect, which might be revealed by comparing the teabagger versus “responsible Republicans” precincts with those without internecine GOP battles. But until and unless a crossover effect is proven and quantified, the most probable explanation is that almost one of four Republicans are not happy with their party’s candidates and therefore cast protest votes for president and governor.

Below, I’ve plotted countywide Gianforte vote as a function of the countywide Trump vote. There undoubtedly were voters who voted for Gianforte but not for Trump, or who voted for Trump but not for Gianforte, but a correlation this tight suggests that the vast majority who voted for Trump also voted for Gianforte.

At Big Sky Political Analysis, MSU political scientist David Parker has some thoughts on the Gianforte-Nelson situation.



8 June 2016

It’s up to Hillary to win the support of Bernie’s partisans

Hillary Clinton’s substantial victory in California yesterday probably was a mortal wound for Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

 Updated at 16:28:21 MDT.  Events may now move quickly. Sanders, at his own request, meets with President Obama late tomorrow morning. At the moment, Sanders is being defiant in defeat — we should neither expect nor accept anything less — but he’ll support the Democratic nominee. Update. Late today, Sanders published on Facebook The Struggle Continues.

So will the overwhelming majority of his supporters — if they are treated with respect and patience by Clinton’s campaign and her supporters. She had gracious words of praise for Sanders last night, but more than a few of her supporters are determined to deny Sander’s supporters a face saving way (that is, a way that preserves their self-respect) to support and work for her. Instead, they want Sander’s supporters to feel pain, to come crawling back to the party, their faces burning with shame, begging forgiveness, and to gobble down a plate of warm road apples with a smile and an affirmation that what they’re eating tastes like strawberries and cream.

In Montana, an example of that patronizing, taunting, approach to Sanders’ supporters was published on 4 January 2016 at Montana Cowgirl by Joshua Manning, then writing under the nom de plume Secret Squirrel. A more recent example by 2008 Clinton press spokesman Jay Carson disgraced the editorial page of the New York on Monday.

This approach will infuriate Sanders’ supporters, especially the younger men and women to whom he gave hope that the Democratic Party would once again become the party of economic opportunity and justice. Sanctimonious calls for unity (one from the Democratic National Committee arrived in my email traffic last night before the votes in California had been counted) accompanied by smirking admonitions to “get over it” will send a lot of votes to Jill Stein and the Green Party.

Whether Bernie’s partisans come home to the Democratic Party, or defect to the Green Party, or just don’t bother to vote, is entirely up to Hillary. Bernie can urge his supporters to work and vote for Hillary, but he can’t compel them to do so. She must make the case herself, and she — and those gloating, bullying, sycophants of hers — must make it in a way that preserves the dignity and enthusiasm of the millions of progressives who rallied to Bernie’s banner.


MT’s 2016 VEP primary turnout slightly below 2008’s VEP turnout

Montana’s turnout of its voting eligible population in yesterday’s primary was 36.1 percent, 5.2 percent higher than in 2012, but 2.4 percent lower than in 2008. Download Flathead Memo’s MT VEP turnout spreadsheet.

Below, a table of Montana primary turnout for 1920–2016.

In the Flathead, the VEP turnout was 28.4 percent, functionally equivalent to 2012’s 28.5 percent, but 6.2 percent lower than 2008’s 34.6 percent.

…read the rest


7 June 2016

GOP wavers brave brutal heat, but Bernie’s wavers are MIA

I voted early this year, at approximately 1500 instead of during the dinner hour. It was 90°F under a bright and brutal sun, but the tea tinted campaigns of Keith Regier, Pam Holmquist, and Derek Skees, persuaded their partisans — one of them this nice lady from Colorado who moved here just six months ago — to man the honk-n-wave corners at the entrance to the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Bernie Sanders’ partisans, perhaps demoralized by the bum’s rush the Democratic establishment is giving their candidate, were missing in action. Shame on them.

After voting, I had to run a gauntlet of activists collecting signatures for two marijuana initiatives — one for legalizing it, the other for outlawing it — and I-182. I did not lend my signature to any of these efforts. Nor could I avoid noticing that the pro-Mary Jane signature gatherers were scruffier than the winners of a dress down contest on Skid Road.



Western Montana primaries Flathead Memo is watching


In Flathead County, the Republican primaries in Senate District 3 (Don Kaltschmidt v. Rep. Keith Regier) and House District 11 (Jean Barragan v. former Rep. Derek Skees). In Lake and Missoula Counties, the Democratic primary in Senate District 47 (Tom France v. former Rep. Joey Jayne).

The Flathead GOP contests should be close. Based on the amount of money raised and spent, I think France has the advantage in SD-47.

…read the rest

Flathead primary election turnout stats

As noted two days ago, voter registration in the Flathead is up 13 percent over 2008, the last presidential election year in which the office was open. This is the result of an increase in the county’s population, not of any discernible registration drive. The table below (download spreadsheet) presents registration and turnout information for Flathead County for 2000–2014. See my historical elections statistics page for Montana numbers for 1920–present. I suspect that the county’s turnout for 2016 will be more comparable to the turnouts for 2004 and 2012 than for 2008.




6 June 2016

Hillary worshipping Democrats move to give Bernie the bum’s rush

Politico reports that the Associated Press has “called” the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton despite her not having a majority of pledged delegates. The New York Times reports that President Barack Obama plans endorse Clinton this week. Political also reports that Obama called Sanders yesterday, apparently to deliver the bad news.

It’s time, the Democratic establishment apparently has decided, to shove Bernie Sanders into the ditch to spare Hillary Clinton the indignity of having to win the nomination fair and square at the Democratic convention in July.

Hillary would bring to the presidency:

…read the rest

Flathead GOP candidates Barragan, Garner, and Kaltschmidt refuse
to sign fellow candidate Taylor Rose’s anti-LR-121 decision screed

Legislative Referendum 121 — AN ACT DENYING CERTAIN STATE-FUNDED SERVICES TO ILLEGAL ALIENS; (official ballot language) — brought out the darker side of Montanans’ souls in November, 2012. Four of five voters checked the “Yes” box on their ballots. In the Flathead, almost 17 of 20 did, agreeing with the argument for LR-121 presented by Republicans Rep. David Howard and Sen. Jim Schockley:

The purpose of this referendum is to save Montana taxpayers money, honor the rule of law, and deny state and federal taxpayer supported services to those unlawfully in the United States. The ballot language requires the federal government to be notified and to enforce immigration control of illegal aliens who apply for state services, thus forcing them to leave Montana rather than use our services and take our jobs.

After being approved by the voters, most of LR-121 was struck down by Montana District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock. And on 10 May 2016, Montana’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down all of LR-121, ruling it was an unconstitutional attempt to usurp the right of the federal government to regulate immigration.

The legal outcome, of course, was a foregone conclusion: a similar measure in California, Proposition 187, that passed with 59 percent of the vote in 1994 was struck down by a federal court, but that history didn’t matter to Howard and the other legislators who passed HB-638, which put LR-121 on the ballot, or the voters, many of them Democrats, who voted for it.

After the Montana Supreme Court handed down its decision, Taylor Rose, the Republican running for House District 3 (map), wrote a press release, eventually published as a letter in the Daily InterLake, decrying the decision:

…read the rest

Muhammad Ali was punch-drunk when he died

Like every pugilist, Muhammad Ali mastered the sweet science of smashing his fist into another man’s face only to find that in the end, the sweet science had mastered him. In his prime in the ring, he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. But in his middle and old age, he shuffled his feet and slurred his speech like the punch-drunk old fighter he was. His fame came at a terrible price.

Boxing may have been his only path to glory. In the New York Times, Robert Lipsyte reported:

For all his ambition and willingness to work hard, education — public and segregated — eluded him. The only subjects in which he received satisfactory grades were art and gym, his high school reported years later. Already an amateur boxing champion, he graduated 376th in a class of 391. He was never taught to read properly; years later he confided that he had never read a book, neither the ones on which he collaborated nor even the Quran, although he said he had reread certain passages dozens of times. He memorized his poems and speeches, laboriously printing them out over and over.

I always found his life tragic, not inspiring.


Smug Jay Carson could persuade me never to vote for Hillary

Yes, he could — even if that means enduring four years of President Trump.

Who is the man who has such power? He’s a 39-year-old former deputy mayor of Los Angeles, a screenwriter, a press secretary for Hillary in 2008, and quite possibly the smuggest man on Earth. No, make that the smuggest man in the universe.

He’s also the author of a patronizing, taunting, oped in today’s New York Times:

…read the rest


5 June 2016

Flathead County has 7,293 more registered voters than in June, 2008

That’s a 13.2 percent increase (download XLS spreadsheet), and is matched by the 13.0 percent increase in Gallatin County. Montana has 16,020 more registered voters than in 2008, a 2.5 percent increase. The numbers are for the primary election.

Lewis and Clark County has 5,557 more registered voters than in 2008, a 15.1 percent increase. Missoula County added 3,792, a 5.2 percent increase.

Cascade and Yellowstone Counties have fewer registered voters than in 2008. Cascade decreased by 2,089 (four percent), and Yellowstone by 3,821 (also four percent).

Montana’s 2016 population is approximately 7.4 percent larger than in 2008, while the increase in the voting eligible population is approximately 7.8 percent. But the percentage of Montana’s VEP that’s registered to voted declined from 85 percent in 2008 to 81 percent percent in 2016.




4 June 2016

Meadow salsify

Tragopogon pratensis, also known as meadow salsify and meadow goat’s beard, can be mistaken for a dandelion from afar, but up close it’s a different yellow flower, notable for its spiky blossom, sturdy stem, and long, large, root that’s not easy to pull from my lawn. It blooms in the morning, then hides from the salsify puller in the afternoon. This handsome specimen adorned my backyard at 0930 this morning.




3 June 2016

Flesching out Hillary’s Trump thumpin’ speech


In a speech (transcript) delivered in San Diego yesterday, Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump as a foreign policy ignoramus whose vindictive temperament makes him too dangerous to be president. It was not an eloquent speech, but it knocked Trump off his stride and therefore it was an effective speech.

It also was simply phrased. I ran it through two readability applications, Flesh, and the online Readability Test Tool. To borrow an expression from an earlier era, it was written for the milkman with an eighth grade education:

…read the rest


2 June 2016

A Montana election that makes the case for Instant Runoff voting

Montana awards elections to the candidate receiving the most votes. Only a plurality is required. That works well enough in elections that are effectively two-party contests, but in contests featuring three or more viable candidates, a conservative candidate might prevail because the liberal votes were split. Or vice versa.

That kind of peverse outcome could occur in Montana’s Public Service Commission’s district 3 election this fall. As noted at Montana Cowgirl in a guest column by Sam Hunthausen, Caron Cooper managed to qualify as an independent candidate for the office, joining Democrat Pat Noonan and incumbent Republican Roger Koopman on the ballot.

Cooper initially filed for the Democratic nomination, but chose to run as an independent after concluding she couldn’t beat Noonan in the primary.

Koopman could, of course, be re-elected by a majority even in a three-way contest.

But if Cooper and Noonan split the liberal vote, and the majority of the votes cast in the election were liberal, Koopman could win by a plurality despite espousing the political philosophy least popular with the voters.

There’s a way to avoid that. It’s called an Instant Runoff election, and employs what’s known as ranked choice voting. There’s a good description of the process at fairvote.org. It’s easily understood by the voters and easily administered using automated vote counting technology.

If Montana used Instant Runoff voting, Sam Hunthausen’s concerns would be of no practical significance.



1 June 2016

Why Marco Rubio, et al, are kissing Trump’s rump

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Republicans, former rivals like Marco Rubio, are rallying to his banner with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Some of this brown nosing amounts to a reflexive loyalty to party, but a lot of it results from a cold-blooded calculation that stiffarming the winner of the nomination would outrage the party’s base and queer one’s chances of winning nomination in 2020 if Trump goes down in flames in November.

As Michael Cohen observes in American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division, there’s a precedent dating from 1964:

Still, Nixon understood that someone would need to truly bring the conservative and liberal wings of the party back together again. And who better to perform such a task than the man who had stood by his party’s nominee even as others abandoned him? That fall, Nixon crisscrossed the country, stumping for Goldwater: thirty-three days, thirty-six states, 150 stops, hundreds of thousands of miles traveled. Conservatives may not have fully trusted Nixon, but they now knew they could rely on him to show them the respect they craved.

Even if Trump wins the election, he could be a one term president. At 70, he would be the oldest person ever to take the presidential oath of office for the first time. He might decide not to seek a second term.

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, et al, are thinking like Richard Nixon. That’s a morally craven approach to their duties as citizens, but politically, it’s not a bad strategy.