The People v. Goliath$

Amanda Curtis speaks before the opening of the Montana Democratic Party's special nominating convention in Helena, Montana, S
Amanda Curtis speaks before the opening of the Montana Democratic Party's special nominating convention in Helena, Montana, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Curtis, a legislator from Butte, is one of the candidates seeking the party's nomination to replace Sen. John Walsh in the Senate race against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

If money can buy elections, Montana's Senate race ended August 7 when the Democrat's candidate resigned. If a vibrant young working class candidate can corral the democratic process sufficiently, it began August 16. That's when the party picked Amanda Curtis to take on a Koch Brother darling with an absolutist Tea Party agenda. While no one's looking, Amanda Curtis -- who fought for and won the right to run -- may very well win. In the process, she could also prove election campaigns need not drag on... forever.

The beauty of this all happening in Montana is not confined to the state's unparalleled scenery. A century ago, Montana banned corporate campaign spending after the Copper King* era's gargantuan corruption. "Citizens United" revoked almost one hundred years of Montanans keeping corporate corruption at bay. Even given this kind of citizen activism, I've been surprised to discover that Montana's the closest to a functioning democracy of any state I've encountered. Stranger things can and do happen under those Big Skies than electing an underdog.

Candidate Curtis is no sacrificial lamb. She's adamant that she will be the next Senator from Montana. Here's a 35-year-old Butte high school math teacher who's proud to have made it to the middle class. She's committed to helping other people and families get -- or stay -- there too.

Why haven't we seen AMANDA CURTIS emblazoned on every other email? Beats me. At one stroke, she could be the key to Democrats holding the Senate, the first woman Senator from Montana (and only the second the state has ever sent to Washington) and meaningfully lower the average age of the Senate.

On practically every issue, she and her wealthy right-wing opponent are polar opposites. That gives Amanda Curtis a lot of room to win in a state that's been sending Democrats to Washington to fill this seat for 100 years. Does Montana want a state run by and for plutocrats or working people? A government that works for the many who aspire to enough or the few intent hoarding too much? Public lands staying open for all or sold off to the highest bidder? The list is long and stark, and the answers depend on those willing to join in Amanda's uphill battle. Whether a senator represents 38 million people (California), half-million people (Wyoming) or a million people (Montana), a seat in the Senate secures a key vote for the state and for the nation.

I'm genuinely excited about a "Senator Amanda Curtis" even if traditional kingmakers and the national media seem tone-deaf to her wide appeal. What I find most satisfying about Amanda is that she does not indulge in the false dichotomy of optimism v. pessimism. She's chosen instead to be an activist. It's an option open to us all.


*When I asked longtime Montanans how they broke the back of corporate dominance, first they described the wholesale "rape" they'd endured, then sent me to the NYT best-seller Empty Mansions and unforgettable Fire and Brimstone. Both are prophetic warnings of the damage inflicted by money in politics and by the kleptocratic rule of corporations.