Elections

Jon Tester Is Wrong for Montana

Senator Jon Tester (D, Mont.) with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 1, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Montana is an idiosyncratic state that has an independent political streak. Democratic senator Jon Tester is an idiosyncratic person, but not an independent politician. Through his two terms in the Senate, Tester has been a consistent vote for his party on matters of national import, and conservative Montanans who want someone to represent them on these issues need to look elsewhere.

Tester’s name is known all over the state. He is a Montanan through and through, an organic farmer who still tends his grandfather’s homestead. He suffered an accident involving a meat grinder when he was nine and is missing three fingers on his left hand. That authenticity, and his disciplined political focus on issues such as veterans’ affairs, land use, and agriculture, have given him a certain sheen.

Though he’s running with a slight lead over his Republican opponent, Matt Rosendale, Tester’s support has softened in recent weeks. Tester has never won a majority in a Senate race, and this one, like the prior two, looks increasingly like a toss-up. The New York Times ran a column last week absurdly characterizing Rosendale as a “merciless” “bootlicker” — perhaps the surest sign yet of Tester’s vulnerability. In short, his sheen may be coming off as Montanans, galvanized by his vote against Brett Kavanaugh, rebel against the man who on most matters is a down-the-line Democrat.

The senior senator from Montana votes like he’s representing Minnesota or Oregon. Tester is clearly wary of being attacked on the gun issue, as his campaign recently told voters that he’d made a living “shooting hundreds of cows and hogs.” His legislative record on gun rights is generally acceptable, but his reliable opposition to conservative judges effectively endangers the Second Amendment. Tester voted against Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, came out against Brett Kavanaugh on a flimsy rationale, and, unlike some of his fellow red-state Democrats facing reelection, has consistently voted against conservative nominees to the federal bench.

On abortion, he makes no pretense of distinguishing himself from any other partisan Democrat. On health care, he was critical in breaking the filibuster of the Affordable Care Act in 2009. On taxes, he voted against the GOP’s reform last year.

We understand that Tester has worked with Republicans to advocate for veterans. He and Rosendale are generally in agreement on public-lands issues. It’s on the other important issues that Rosendale distinguishes himself. Jon Tester is no friend to gun rights, reasonable fiscal policy, or unborn children. The incumbent is vulnerable, and a surge in enthusiasm from conservative Montanans could unseat him. We hope it does.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Basta La Vista, Baby

Dear Reader (And especially Martha McSally’s dog), As I often note, I increasingly tend to see the political scene as a scripted reality show in which the writers don’t flesh out the dialogue so much as move characters into weird, wacky, confrontational, or embarrassing positions. It’s a lot like The ... Read More
World

The Brexit Crisis

After what seem like years of a phony war, British and European Union negotiators finally agreed on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU earlier this week, and Theresa May announced it in the House of Commons. The deal covers more than 500 pages of legal and bureaucratic prose, and few but the ... Read More
U.S.

Friends of Elmer

Do you know what scares an American outdoorsman more than a grizzly bear? Twitter. In the late summer and early autumn, the hunting world had its eyes on the courts: The Trump administration had issued new guidance that would permit the hunting of brown bears (popularly known as grizzly bears), including in ... Read More