Troy Downing’s Montana Values

A friend of mine who ranches in eastern Montana asked me if I had seen a political commercial from Troy Downing attacking Senator Tester. I hadn’t.

I looked it up and watched Downing, who recently moved to Montana from California, strut around like a cock in front of some fighter jets (if you saw my roosters you would know what I say is true). Then you see a Jon Tester impersonator sitting on a small tractor playing a trumpet getting buzzed by a jet. He makes fun of Tester for being an elementary music school teacher and a farmer.


It is a tempting position to take that politics is so out of control now that political ads aren’t worth reacting to. Some might argue I shouldn’t take it so seriously. But today, right now, I can’t ignore this one. I am so blown away by the arrogance and ego of Downing that it is hard for me to articulate, in a thoughtful, calm way, how angry it made me.

Last month, I went to North Dakota to visit my 94-year-old great uncle who fought in World War II. He is a farmer. His dad was a farmer. His grandpa was a farmer. His mother was a teacher. His sister, my grandmother, was a teacher. You get the point.

Oh, and he also plays the violin. He taught himself during the Great Depression to pass the time and so he could play music for the community after harvest and planting. He told me they would roll up the rugs in their two story white farm house and dance the night away. He also brought the violin to Osaka, Japan and played for the men he was stationed with. He said when he played, the men would dance with each other since there weren't any women around.

I'll stop. The unmanliness of that is probably making Downing super uncomfortable.

The other side of my family homesteaded in Conrad, Montana. They were farmers. My partner’s family homesteaded near Williston, North Dakota. His grandmother was a school teacher, his grandfather and great-grandfathers were farmers. They all played instruments, lots of instruments, as many as they could get their hands on because they understood the value of music and community.

My sister and I play the piano. My dad played the trombone. He even received a music scholarship to attend Rocky Mountain College.

Somehow Downing wants us agree with him that people who play music are what? Effeminate? Weak? What? I can’t even wrap my head around this. If Downing believes this and thinks it is a valid criticism then he needs to use his words and say it instead of using innuendo and a pathetic attempt at humor.

I believe Montana still has a shot at overcoming the toxicity of national partisan politics but people like Downing aren’t helping us, instead he’s trying to drag us down into the muck with him.

To Downing, the people who grow food for us, educate our children, and create music that help make life beautiful, aren't worthy of respect. It is astonishing really, that someone who wants to represent Montanans would denigrate who we are and where we came from.

If he is so concerned about being accepted as a “real” Montanan, a good first step would be to show some respect to our history and the people whose professions are integral to our democracy.

Here is what the commercial told me about Troy Downing. He is small-minded. He is mean. He doesn’t understand what governing entails. He is incapable of speaking about policies and issues so instead he calls people names. He doesn’t understand Montana or Montanans.

However, I’m not going to give up on this guy quite yet. I’ll send him an invitation to my next “Don’t Be A Dick” training. I doubt he’ll come to it but if he did, I promise he’d learn a couple things that would help him in his political career.

For instance, I would tell him that even when you feel like telling someone to go fuck themselves, it is better if you take a deep breath, think about what you are going to say, use your words, and then write a calm, thoughtful blog about it.

14 Comments on “Troy Downing’s Montana Values

  1. It drives me nuts when folks move here and begin to appropriate the culture of Montana. Folks from Ohio who decorate their houses with mounted bison heads, Native American paraphernalia, and all things ranching. But in this case, I’d say this guy could spend some time learning how we do things here and act accordingly and with respect.

    I always enjoy it when you “use your words”to register your disapproval.

  2. As the son of a piano teacher, a member of a community symphony orchestra, and the father of a professional symphony orchestra musician, I loved your comments. Making music, in whatever ways we can, is a positive thing to do. I loved your closing paragraph. You did it magnificently!

  3. Yes, it was pretty bad. The only thing worse would be the people who think it is clever, humorous, or justified. As the years go by, and Republicans seem to be at last finding themselves, what they really are, I find myself increasingly bewildered by their humor. They laugh at things that are simply cruel. A jet swooping in and knocking a farmer off a tractor? The point to the metaphor eludes me. Apparently it is something about jets being more awesome than farmers on tractors. I can’t imagine how this philosophy would make good policy. But what do I know? I’m a farmer.

  4. As usual, you hit the nail on the head! The Downing “ad” really [is] a real Debbie Downer! Reminds me of a high school football jock. Or the character Gaston from the movie Beauty and the Beast; an arrogant, chauvinistic hunter who believes he can take whatever he wants because his vanity tells him he can. I would like to believe that most people have the moral capacity to see past Downing’s adolescent approach. But then again, as seen in the last National and State elections, supporting bad behavior has become acceptable in certain social groups.

  5. Another way to see this ad: Downing hired someone to make this ad for him. Obviously someone who is not a Montanan but probably a contact from California–I can’t say, but Downing can say who made it. What is damning about it is that Downing approved it. That shows that in addition to questionable understanding about what Montana is all about, Republican Downing has terrible judgment. As a legislator, Downing will be one of those grubby backbenchers who will do the bidding of the craven Mitch McConnell and have no hand at all in shaping the legislative agenda of the nation.

    It is better to have a music teacher/farmer in the Senate as a member of the minority than another Californian in the majority.

  6. Damn Alex: you write well.
    I share your difficulty in getting my head around so many things today. Period. I would have quite a struggle expressing – as you have done so well. I continue to hope that those among us having similar difficulties will in the final tally ultimately prevail. But I’ll admit that at times those hopes dim. I hang slightly greater hopes on my adopted state of Montana, in what I hope proves not to be fantasy, that we here in the great equalizer state, with roots in the earth, are still resistant to the great blight apparently enveloping so much of the rest of our country. That the kind ot “appeal” inherent in this ad you refute will strike the kind of reaction and response it has with you, and seriously backfire on the Koch-high club financing it.

    Keep up the good work. With photos, and your thoughts!

    A fan: Ron Smith

  7. A friend of mine pointed out the violence implied towards Tester, an elected official. Isn’t that an arrestable offense? I agree with your other points, but the violence and out-of-control machismo was what stuck in my mind. This carpetbagger Downing is such a tool.

    • I read that Lolita Zinke is running Troy Downing’s campaign. That explains the mean spiritedness.

  8. Well written. To attack the very strength of the humanity that makes Montana great shows us how much he understands the state he moved to. Why does Montana have the reputation of producing excellent soldiers? Why does Montana have the reputation of being excellent nannies for his friends in California? Why do we send very qualified nurses, teachers, and engineers to businesses in other states? Montanans are known for their values, work ethics, and just plain wisdom. Hopefully Montana voters use their good old common sense and don’t vote for someone with such poor values.

  9. I’m descended from violin-playing Eastern Montana farmers…the violence of the plane knocking the farmer off the tractor actually shocked me. But it did remind me of the Greg Gianforte assault on a reporter.