Have you ever seen the Class C high school running back stagger out on to the field to carry the ball one more time after he’s been hit in the head about five times too many for his, or anyone else’s good? Then you’ve seen Larry Jent enter yet another election cycle. On the last day to file and almost at the last possible minute Larry dropped off his paper work and entered the Montana Attorney General’s race as though he had been planning it all along.
Jent is no stranger to state wide or national races. He’s also no stranger to the bleary eyed look of the regularly defeated. Most recently he slogged through a gubernatorial primary against now Governor Steve Bullock. To all who watched it take place it was not only embarrassing but downright uncomfortable to have to talk to Jent through his painfully short race. It should also be noted that the Democratic Party that now appears to embrace him for entering the race all but shunned him at their 2012 nominating convention. If you were fortunate enough to not have experienced the awkwardness of the day then you missed Jent barely being introduced in a room of mildly attentive delegates. In contrast, a packed lunch and fiery introduction of Bullock by then Governor Brian Schweitzer. The stage had been set and Larry was dealt yet another staggering blow. Everyone knew it, except Larry.
Fast forward another four years to some of those same players who should now be enjoying whiskey in the glass and you’ll quickly put together who is embracing Jent for yet another run towards a line he can’t cross. You see, Larry just can’t win an election and should have stuck to, in his own words, being a simple country lawyer. Well, a West Point graduate simple country lawyer. Maybe the old guard players stood on the sidelines discussing how they’d have played the game and just couldn’t stomach what was taking place and, again, tapped Larry on the shoulder. More likely, he was shoved on to the field.
Back before there was a race, and much to the disgust of the Democratic Party, organized labor came out early to endorse Attorney General Tim Fox. And to make matters worse, Fox is a republican. Clearly, labor examined the race, examined the lack of energy by the democrats, examined the inability to recruit a reasonable candidate, examined Fox’s record as AG and examined Fox’s record with labor. One plus one is two and the problem was solved. Word has it that Jent started sniffing around labor for a co-endorsement, rather, emissaries came on his behalf. More likely, the ‘smarter than the rest of you’ players who taped Larry up again came of their own accord to plant the idea of an endorsement. And for no other reason than the fact that Larry is a democrat who was a reasonable legislator. True to his nature, Larry has been late off the snap for that process as well. The current guard of labor surely won’t devalue themselves by marginalizing their process.
There are two great ironies in this play. First, by suiting Larry up yet again and letting him stumble out on to the field, Tim Fox has been given a spring board and an actual race. Had he been left alone he would have run against no one, barely campaigned and been given no opportunity for a victory speech in November. The field is now set for a 2020 Governor’s race by Fox and given his track record that may not be such a bad thing. The problem for democrats is that he’s got open field in front of him and the goal line is 2020.
The second and most disturbing irony has been in motion for some time and was last most evident as democrats waited with anticipation for a reluctant Steve Bullock to announce that he would run for governor in 2012. The problem? Long game planning. Former leaders who are now sitting back to enjoy that whiskey should have been identifying and developing leaders for the next race and the next generation of progressive believers. When Pam Bucy ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard in 2012 the democratic party nodded off to sleep off the hangover of winning a US Senate seat and every state wide office, except one. That nap lasted almost four full years. No conversations, no identification, no encouraging and no preparing. Unfortunately, this isn’t a symptom isolated to an attorney general’s race or Montana. The current presidential race has left most recognizing that you can vote for the lesser of two evils, it’s still evil. In fact, for both parties, it’s just the same tired players trotted out on to the field, again and again.
So don’t pity bruised and battered Larry Come Lately. He’s just trying to carry the ball and convince himself, and the party faithful, that he can cross the goal line. But if you don’t want to see this game played out yet again it’s high time to get to work on the future and let the old whiskey drinkers enjoy their glory years together on the porch, as far away from the action as possible.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’