Liberals and the Mountain West

LIBERALS AND THE MOUNTAIN WEST….A few months ago Christina Larson wrote an article for the Monthly suggesting that hunters and fishers, historically a pretty conservative constituency, were starting to break with the Republican Party over its support for drilling and mining on public land and its relentless denial of global warming, which is starting to ruin streams, wetlands, and breeding grounds across the country. Others have made similar observations, including David Sirota, based on his campaign work for guys like Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester. (David wrote a piece for us in 2004, “Top Billings,” about Schweitzer’s victory that year in the Montana governor’s race.)

Given all this, it was interesting to see the Washington Post pick up on this theme a few days ago:

At the same time, Democrats consolidated gains from 2004, picking up the governorship in Colorado, a Senate seat in Montana and two House seats in Arizona. Democrats already controlled governor’s seats in Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Perhaps more significant, Democratic and Republican politicians from New Mexico to Montana have found common ground with hunters and anglers in opposing widespread energy development on wild public lands, halting drilling in several areas where the public felt that wildlife and scenic values trumped economic consideration. In the past year, bipartisan grass-roots opposition has also killed off a number of proposals to sell federal land and use the revenue to pay for governmental operations.

As the Post notes, locals in the Mountain West states are a lot less hostile to liberal “newcomers” these days, instead teaming up with them on environmental issues in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. This is clearly a dynamic to keep our eyes on. The Mountain West could turn out to be the next major electoral battleground.