Tea Party supporters and Occupy Wall Street protesters are unlikely ever to admit it, but they are probably fighting the same battle.
I don’t know that either side has a perfectly coherent set of beliefs, but I think they are both upset about basically the same thing.
Look no further than our own congressional delegation.
Let’s start with our newest senator, Jon Tester. He really is a farmer and he really does have a flat-top and he’s only been tainted by a little more than five years in the Senate.
But when push came to shove, he dutifully bowed down and allowed the yoke of big money to be placed on his shoulders.
He campaigned against corruption and the influence of money in politics, which was a no-brainer given that he ran against Sen. Conrad Burns, who was enmeshed in a dense web of former aides, friends and colleagues who were up to their ears in lobbying money.
On second thought ...
But now Tester, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, and all his high-minded talk about transparency and the influence of money is transparently hypocritical.
Now, he tells us, he has to collect millions from New York and California and Washington because if he didn’t he’d get clobbered by all the big money backing Rehberg.
I invite Tester to take a time machine back and tell my mother that two wrongs make a right. Let me know how that works out.
Meanwhile, our senior senator, Max Baucus, has been serving in Washington for 34 years now. Despite his occasional attempts to pretend to be a Montanan — coming back to flip burgers for a day, or drive a truck — he is obviously a Washingtonian through and through.
Who else but an entrenched member of the Millionaires Club would have attempted to do what Baucus did two years ago?
You will recall that he nominated his aide, Melodee Hanes, as the U.S. attorney for Montana — without bothering to mention that she was not only his aide but also his fiancée. When news leaked out about their relationship, Baucus quietly pulled the nomination.
I like Hanes and I remember when she was a tough prosecutor for the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office, but this move by Baucus was a perfect example of what you might call the elitist’s entitlement mentality.
You spend enough time in Washington, collecting money by the dump truck load — Baucus is a master at that — and being wooed and cosseted, and before you know it you think you deserve whatever benefit you can squeeze out of the system.
Which brings us to Rehberg, Montana’s only member of the U.S. House.
Rehberg has been in the House for just 12 years, but he has spent his life in politics and probably feels at least as comfortable inside the D.C. machine as Baucus.
Exhibit A: Rehberg’s son, A.J., is the vice president of Gage International, a big lobbying firm headed by Leo Giacometto, a former henchman, er, aide, to Burns.
The nation of Mongolia hired Gage International to be its lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Giacometto also happens to be the CEO of Mongolia Forward, a uranium mining company, of which A.J. Rehberg happens to be vice president of public and government affairs. I guess it beats working.
It makes you wonder if Denny Rehberg associates with anyone, anyone at all, who could make a living without milking the teats of the government he pretends to want to reduce.
The enemy of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street is not a political party. It is a system that sustains both major parties — plus a vast army of hangers-on who know how to work the system for their own gain.
It would be nice to think that if we were all just a little savvier as voters, things might change. If Rehberg wooed the Tea Party with tirades against the evils of government and then used his government connections to find work for his kith and kin, shouldn’t he be tossed out on his ear?
Well, sure, but then we’d have to send Tester packing, too, for giving into the lure of big money in his first re-election bid. And adiós to Baucus for his arrogant sense of virtually royal entitlement.
Who would that leave us with? We’ve got to send somebody to Washington, don’t we?
You’ve got me. If this were a tragedy, I think I’d feel very sad. But I think it’s a farce, and I think the joke is on us.