Red Tide 

Appraising the waterfront after the Republican surge.

Page 4 of 4

Instead, Wanzenreid asks for the spending cut discussion to be balanced by one about ways to generate more revenue.

"Don't let us adjourn without a robust debate on revenue this time, folks," he told the audience at the Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park. "The expenditures side of the equation we argue about all the time. But I would submit to you that we probably wouldn't have this revenue shortfall had a lot of other people looked at the revenue estimate and had a debate about it."

But Wanzenreid, understandably, isn't too optimistic that such a discussion will take place.

"Right now, from what I understand, there aren't a lot of people elected on Tuesday in the majority party who feel that we have a revenue problem," he said. "They feel that we have an expenditure problem. So we'll have to see."

Shockley responded: "If we cut expenditures, then we don't have to raise revenue."



Big picture

Pat Williams gives his perspective on a schizophrenic electorate

by Matthew Frank

During his 18-year tenure representing Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pat Williams learned a thing or two about the American electorate. But now, Williams tells the Indy in an interview, voters have him downright flummoxed.

Independent: To what do you attribute the "shellacking" Republicans gave Democrats on Election Day?

Williams: First, near record low turnout, which always has favored Republicans for the past three quarters of a century. Second, disillusionment and discouragement of the voter has created an historic vacillation. Voters are jumping from landslides for Democrats to landslides for Republicans, and doing it just about every two years, which is a historic phenomenon, and yet to be appropriately analyzed by political historians. It is, needless to say, a very interesting and not well-understood time in this country.

click to enlarge Pat Williams, who for 18 years represented Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, says the election results will do nothing to solve the bitter partisanship in Washington. “Unfortunately, I think the election results now assure at least as much gridlock as we found when the Republicans were in the minority,” he says. - PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Pat Williams, who for 18 years represented Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, says the election results will do nothing to solve the bitter partisanship in Washington. “Unfortunately, I think the election results now assure at least as much gridlock as we found when the Republicans were in the minority,” he says.

Independent: So is it a reaction to the economy or what?

Williams: Standard political thought leads one to accept that the economy always guides election results. But I have the feeling that the last several elections, including the phenomenon of Obama two years ago, represent a new paradigm in voters' choices. I admit to not knowing exactly what it is, or what's causing it, but these wildly vacillating results are not in keeping with any historic trends over the past 75 years...It's almost as if there is a frenetic political seeking going on.

Independent: The GOP spent the last two years trying to obstruct anything and everything the Obama administration tried to accomplish. Do the election results portend more gridlock or common ground?

Williams: Unfortunately, I think the election results now assure at least as much gridlock as we found when the Republicans were in the minority. I'm uncertain if Americans want gridlock or compromise, and I frankly think Americans are uncertain about that, too. Because when they get compromise, as they did with the health care bill, they immediately turn around and vote for gridlock. The American electorate is not the only group that's confused. So are the people they elect.

Independent: There's already talk that such gridlock could lead to a government shutdown, similar to the one in 1995 when you were in office.

Williams: The way Democrats use their majority is often to overreach by passing legislation. The way Republicans in the majority overreach is by trying to stop everything, or even, as in 1995, by trying to stop everything and shutting down government entirely. And Americans seem to oppose both of those kinds of responses.

Independent: So you're saying voters are a bunch of schizos?

Williams: Just look at Montana. Montanans want a balanced budget, and under Democrats and Republicans, they get it. They want surpluses, they get them. They want lower taxes, and in Montana, they've got 'em. They want their services maintained and under Schweitzer and the Democrats they got it. And what was their response? To overwhelmingly vote Republican. So it's very difficult for politicians who have constitutional obligations to represent the people's wishes to really understand what those wishes are.

Independent: So what's your prediction for the next two years?

Williams: I think the next couple of years, both with the Montana Legislature as well as the U.S. Congress, are going to disappoint the hell out of people, in part because there will be gridlock and in part because we constituents aren't sure exactly what we want, so what we get is bound to disappoint us. I say this carefully because America is very resilient, but I suspect that America is in an unstable and therefore somewhat dangerous time in its electoral history. There's far too little participation among people, and their expectations are contrary and varied one from the other. That makes representative government chaotic.

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