Yesterday the Democratic National Convention wrapped up not with a speech but, as it has every night, with a long list of parties. One of the best events this week was “Big Sky Night: The Montana Party.” Elk burgers were served (the skilled conventioneer could pass five days in Denver without spending a dime on food), a local Missoula beer was on tap, marshmallows were roasted on the deck, “A River Runs Through It” played silently on big screen TVs, and Governor Brian Schweitzer closed down the bar.
Less impressively, U.S. Senator Max Baucus—continuing a dubious tradition of senatorial musical acts—joined the Drive-By Truckers on stage and sang “Folsom Prison Blues.” The performance by the chair of the Finance Committee did, however, put Republicans on notice.
For years, GOP senators have dominated the Capitol Hill airwaves. Orrin Hatch, the dean of Republican musicians, has released several albums. The Singing Senators, a group known for their dynamic live performances, achieved even more fame. Eventually the patriotic quartet was torn apart by internal strife, headline-grabbing scandals, and legal difficulties. Nonetheless, the group’s legacy is solidified in the party of Lincoln.
But decades of single party control over the Federal Government’s music industry presents challenges for the GOP. With the Singing Senators’ demise, there is a serious leadership void. Hatch remains an icon, but the party is in need of new voices. Many fans have also come to feel that the GOP takes their supporters’ loyalty for granted. And in this year of change, some Republican fans are willing to give Democrats a listen.
Baucus’ broadside indicates the opening of a new front in Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean’s “50 State Strategy.” It’s too early to tell if the American listening public will embrace this new, unproven voice from the Rockies. But one thing is certain: Republicans have their work cut out for them next week in Minneapolis-St. Paul.