BUTTE — The Montana Democratic Party, two seats away from becoming a super minority in the state legislature, met last weekend in Butte to set the party platform.
The Democratic delegates included explicit support for a person’s right to abortion, without listing any agenda actions the party would take to protect that right. Unlike the Montana Republican Party convention a few weeks earlier, delegates did not fixate on the issue.
Rep. Laurie Bishop, D-Livingston, said for a long time Montana Democrats have focused on defending the right to abortion. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Montana Democrats are still in a defensive position because abortion is still legal in Montana under the state constitution.
“We’ve not taken an offensive approach before,” Bishop said, in a Tuesday interview with MTN News. “But that’s not to say you won’t see us take an offensive approach this session.”
In the library auditorium of Montana Tech, the crowd of about a hundred delegates enjoyed Convention Chair Mary Sheehy Moe’s sporadic singing and argued about the war in Ukraine. At the end, the delegates adopted a platform about 3,000 words longer than that of the Montana GOP.
The brevity of the Republican versus Democratic platform is consistent with the principles of the two parties. In the Montana GOP's platform preamble, the party said it wants to “continuously strive to limit the scope” of governmental activity. The Montana Democratic Party Platform said the party wants the government to be a tool of the people, which is used to “secure even more expansive liberties.”
The platform is sprawling, touching on the need to end the failed embargo on Cuba to supporting the ability for Montana farmers to grow hemp. But the Montana Democratic Party’s base is also spread out, Bishop said. The platform must appeal to people from Missoula as well as to people in Miles City or Great Falls, she said.
Other policies delegates supported included funding Montana’s public defenders and state hospitals. In multiple parts of the platform, the delegates added language about the need to grapple with the realities of climate change. Other priorities included increased mental health services in the state and in schools, affordable housing and increasing childcare services.