Billings Gazette: Gazette opinion: Political centrism may not be fashionable, but it's right for Montana

by Billings Gazette Editorial Board

Political centrism seems like a quaint, all-but-obsolete concept these days.

We were reminded, at a recent editorial-board meeting, what centrism looks like in Montana: It has a flat top, a chambray shirt straining to maintain contact with a hidden beltline, and crow’s feet that betray a habit of smiling – and hours squinting into the sun from a tractor cab.

Senator Jon Tester is not a fashion plate. He doesn’t wear $3,000 suits like some of his colleagues, or go to something called the “Met Gala” with “Tax the Rich” embroidered on his butt, like AOC.

He’s from Big Sandy, Montana, and his politics still live there.

He is also 29th in seniority in the United States Senate, which gives him some serious clout. And his is not a face you necessarily want to see sizing you up from behind the chairman’s microphone in a committee meeting, as though you are a quarter of beef that needs whacking up.

He fights for Montana veterans, workers, farmers and Native Americans. He thinks President Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline was “a stupid move.” He’s pro-Second Amendment but believes allowing guns in bars is “going to get people hurt.” He was a part of a bipartisan group of Senators that hammered out an agreement on what an infrastructure bill should look like.

He believes we need more cops, not fewer, and also believes that training at tribal colleges would be a good idea, to make more of them Native Americans.

He’s grateful for U.S. Forest Service firefighters, but isn’t a fan of “let it burn.”

He believes trucking safety laws should take into consideration the challenges of hauling livestock, and should be modified to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to operate. He rails against the giant meat-processing corporations and believes U.S. ranchers and consumers will benefit from re-instituting country-of-origin labeling on meat.

He believes President Biden’s OSHA order mandating vaccines for large corporations was absolutely the right thing to do, but understands that it will be very difficult for corporations to implement and enforce.

He thinks that as Montana is pushed out of the fossil-fuel business, Colstrip should leverage its in-demand transmission lines and retrain its work force for jobs in energy fields like wind, solar and hydrogen.

When asked about the progressive fever dream of expanding the Supreme Court, he winces. “That’s not realistic,” he says bluntly.

He’s a Democrat, but he’s in that middle swath of American politics that is more about pragmatism than party.

In the center. Moderate. Thoughtful. What you see is what you get.

We think that’s right for Montana.

The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes President and Publisher Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber, and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.