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Why Montana Is Turning Blue The rowdy, red state of legend has changed.

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April 21, 2005View for printing

Ragged former cow towns like Bozeman are turning into suburbanized high-tech meccas for Ph.D.s who like to go rafting and snowboarding. These immigrants have brought with them an exotic culture of dining spots that feature formal wine lists, bookstores that sell titles besides the Bible, sports that don't center on the killing of animals and taverns whose air is as clean and clear as the expensive vodka in their martinis.

People have ideas about my state, particularly people who aren't from here. About 10 years ago in New York City, I mentioned to a new acquaintance--a young, well-educated journalist--that I was flying back that afternoon to my home in Livingston, Mont. A look of concern came over the fellow's face that was similar to the expression on Montanans' faces when they had heard I was visiting New York City. "Take care of yourself. Be careful," the fellow said. Montana, he contended, was a bastion of dangerous right-wing zealotry. Not only did the state's residents carry guns, persecute environmentalists and gather behind barbed wire in encampments like the one where the notorious Freemen engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents, but Montana's highways had no speed limits. "The place is still in the Stone Age. It's Neanderthal. Personally, I couldn't live there," the fellow said.

But maybe he could live here now. The rowdy, roughriding Montana of legend has begun to civilize itself in ways that would have seemed unimaginable only a few years ago. The process started with last November's election. Although the state went to George W. Bush in the presidential race, coloring it red on the electoral maps, it also chose its first Democratic Governor since 1984, broke the G.O.P.'s hold on the state legislature and backed a pair of progressive ballot initiatives banning toxic mining practices and legalizing medical marijuana.


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Thanks to John Masterson of for passing this along. Russ

Reader Comments:

IT is a sad day in deed. We Montana people have allowed the outside to influence and take over this great State. MONTANA IS NO LONGER THE LAST BEST PLACE.
We are now home to extreme and not extreme (but all are left wing).
Government will save us and tax everyone except me.

I am from north-east Tennessee and a life long resident. This area is experiencing the same dramatic shift in demographics and unfortunately the same foriegn/disfunctional politics and social ideology. People (many very nice)say "I moved here to escape the taxes and high cost of living..." but at the same time they bring their old voting habits with them and subsequently transform this area into what they were fleeing. Home is less and less reconizable and I'm only 42 years old. Montana looks like a great place to live. I promise, if I ever manage to move my family there I will won't change one thing about it. Don't fix what aint broke.


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