There is a disturbing trend within the Montana Democratic Party to favor men and cast women to the side. Normally, we would not make such bold accusations, but the trend keeps popping up and we felt compelled to bring it to light.
It appears that despite their external communications, the Montana Democrats have a problem with strong independent women wielding power within their own party.
What triggered our need to cover this issue was found in a recent article by the Montana Standard. Here, we get the chance to see some text message conversations between Governor Bullock and legislators during the 2017 legislative session. In these conversations we see a patronizing exchange between Minority Leader Jenny Eck and Governor Bullock.
In this exchange, Governor Bullock seems to think it’s appropriate to talk down to the Democratic Minority leader in the house as though she were a child. “That’s silly” is not only patronizing, but clearly directed at her because she is a woman.
In his messages with male legislators, Governor Bullock is much more professional and respectful. See here:
It’s pretty clear in these exchanges that Governor Bullock preferred to deal with the men, rather than a woman. He refers to Jon Sesso as “Senator” and Austin Knudsen as “Speaker.” He also makes himself readily available to meet with these men. In his exchanges with Rep. Eck we get “that’s silly” and “go talk to someone else, I’m busy.” This behavior should be troubling to readers. As we recently reported Governor Bullock has been playing games with the Montana Budget, forcing Montanans to pay the price. It appears that while these games are played, it’s the “Good ole boys” who get to call the shots.
These texts are only a symptom of a deeper and more institutional problem within Montana Democratic power circles. In the beginning of 2017, Ryan Zinke was appointed and confirmed as the US Secretary of the Interior Department. This chain of events triggered a special election in Montana to elect a new member of Congress. The Montana Democrats had several strong female candidates, chiefly Rep. Amanda Curtis from Butte, MT.
Amanda Curtis is a teacher, lawmaker, and former US Senate Candidate. She is a strong willed woman with ambition and a hard work ethic. She sought the Democratic nomination for the Montana Special election and was bested by Rob Quist in the nominating convention. Strategically this was an awful decision made by the Montana Democrats as it turned out Rob Quist was plagued by personal issues and bad campaign decisions. In the end, Amanda Curtis was passed up by the Montana Democrats due to “electability”.
The Billings Gazette even reported how Amanda confronted this culture of sexism directly, in her stump speech for the nomination:
“Curtis ended her speech by acknowledging she’s a woman, which she called the elephant in the room. She shamed delegates for suggesting a woman couldn’t win right now.
‘Do you hear yourselves? Did you hear the 10,000 women in Helena? For the record, once and for all, without a doubt in my mind I do think a woman can win right now. I think this is our time more than ever.”
Despite Amanda’s credibility and experience, Montana Democrats seemed to prefer a Folk Singer from NW Montana who also just so happened to be a man. Just another unfortunate case of an institutional preference for male leaders within the Montana Democratic Party.
Thinking back on events in the last few years, we remembered an unfortunate incident within the Governor’s office that seemingly indicated a toxic environment of sexism, and ultimitely removed a successful woman from power. What we’re talking about of course, is the suspicious circumstances that surrounded Angela McLean’s departure as Lt. Governor. McLean had a reputation as a strong and independent woman. She was the first member of her family to get a postsecondary degree and overcame barriers to success in life. She was certainly a go-getter having been selected out of 20 applicants to be Governor Bullock’s second Lt. Governor.
Yet, despite this sterling reputation and ambition, it appears she was not treated as an equal within the administration. The Billings Gazette showed in an article that, Emails released showed that the Bullock Administration felt she did not need to play an important role. This discouraging exchange between the Governor and his Lieutenant displayed this terrifying bit of information:
“Mclean and Parker had a meeting on Oct. 5, according to emails. The next day McLean sent an email to Bullock saying that Parker had called her five days prior and asked her ‘to imagine a workplace where, if I stayed in my post but the governor took away my initiatives (SMART Schools and STEM) and my ability to serve the citizens of Montana.’
She said that Parker told her ‘Bullock wanted her to assume a more “Traditional” Lt. Governor role.”
The article goes on to detail how Governor Bullock refused to meet with McLean on three different occasions and even went so far as to remove her access to her own twitter account. This exchange in itself generated a lot of speculation and hints at a toxic culture of sexism within the power circles of the Montana Democratic Party. Angela McLean tried to make her way in Bullock’s inner circle. Unfortunately for her, the Montana Democrats seem to prefer a “more traditional approach” i.e. “Leave it to the men.”
We felt this article was important to highlight as it appears no one wants to discuss it. Women in Montana are often strong leaders in our communities and the few mentioned in this piece are only a couple examples of thousands of women across the state. If the Montana Democratic Party wishes to be the champion of women, perhaps they shouldn’t diminish their roles within their own party.
If this culture of toxic sexism is prevalent in Helena and among power brokers in the Democratic Party, who knows what it is like for young women looking to make their own mark in Montana politics.
We are not hopeful that it’s an encouraging environment.