If you know a voter in Montana, you might want to forward this column to him or her. The decision of Montana when it votes for a United States senator in November may very well impact your life considerably.
Justice John Paul Steven is 86. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 73. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 70. Justice Stephen Breyer is 68. Justice David Souter is 67.
The current majority of the Supreme Court is pro-terrorist rights, anti-property rights, and indifferent to gun rights.
But that current majority will change --dramatically in all likelihood-- over the next six years that Montana's senator will serve.
If Montana re-elects Conrad Burns, not only will the Senate almost certainly remain in Republican control, nominees like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will continue to receive a yes vote from Burns, just as he voted yes on both of President Bush's nominees.
If Montana lurches way left and sends Jon Tester to D.C., not only will he vote to put Vermont's radical Patrick Leahy back in charge of the Judiciary Committee, Tester will support the obstruction that killed judicial nominee after nominee during Leahy's stretch as chairman.
George W. Bush won the Montana 2004 by 20% --266,063 to John Kerry's 173,710.
Montana is a very red state.
But it re-elected Democrat Max Baucus by an even larger margin --more than 100,000 votes-- two years earlier.
It is a difficult state for outsiders to understand, though Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics does a fine job tracing the "two lively political traditions in Montana today."
"One draws on its heritage of class warfare politics, radical miners, and angry labor unions which made Montana for many years the most Democratic of the Rocky Mountain states," Barone explained.
But the second tradition is of "fierce opposition to higher taxes and federal government dictates."Tester is ceratinly out of the "angry" tradition, and his supporters are part of the Great Snarl that has seized considerable power inthe Democratic Party --the Michael Moore-Howard Dean-Kosputin radicals who thrust Ned Lamont forward, though they will not be able to carry him over the victory line.
All but recognizing their loss in Connecticut, the radicals have put all their chips on Tester, and the camapign reflects their fury.
Frank Miele is the managing editor of the Kalispell, Mont. Daily Inter Lake. On October 12 he contributed an essay on the Montana Senate campaign to the Wall Street Journal
A few weeks ago, for instance, the high-school auditorium in the town of Hamilton (pop. 4,500) was the scene of an embarrassing scrap. A debate between Messrs. Tester and Burns degenerated into an unruly shout-down in which an audience packed with Tester supporters heckled and cursed Mr. Burns, one even calling him a "psycho."
The troops of the hard left are all over Montana. Will they persuade this state to join them on the march out of Iraq and into a highly regulated future?
Jon Tester is campaigning on a demand that the entire Patriot Act be repealed. That plays well in some parts of the state where an intense libertarian streak dominates.
But a genuine libertarian looks at the demographics of the Supreme Court and understands that the left may well want to stop eavesdropping on terrorist, but it surely isn't giving up on its zeal to control private property and to leave farmers and ranchers burdened by, say, the Endangered Species Act and uncompensated for their loss of land use.
They are certainly making Conrad Burns work for their vote, and he has been despite the rigors of the campaign on his 71 year-old frame. A good thing, that, as it concentrates the mind of not just Burns but the Republican majority that depends on the west for its energy and attachment to freedom and property rights issues.
So expect Montana to push Burns to the limit, and then send him back to keep the Senate in GOP control and the Supreme Court guarded during the tumultuous half-dozen years ahead.