(Note: This has been another week where there have been too many items which could be discussed and not enough time to do so. I originally was going to do a single post but it was far too long. So instead, this weekend I will be posting one a day to try and get caught up.)
In the early hours of the morning here on the East Coast, Greg Gianforte won the special election for the Montana At Large Congressional seat vacated by Ryan Zinke’s confirmation as Interior Secretary. The election came less than 24 hours after Gianforte attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter from the British Newspaper, The Guardian. Apparently, the Brits seem to think American politicians are supposed to answer real questions about legislation, such as the CBO’s report on Trumpcare. They didn’t realize that we Americans have stopped expecting politicians to tell us anything other than prepackaged, focus group approved talking points. (And doubly so on health care where the norm is to pass a bill to find out what’s in it.) Asking substantive questions guarantees a politician goes full Rowdy Roddy Piper on the reporter’s rear end.
The Democrats were hoping to win this seat, outspending the GOP 3-1. And it was thought the attack might influence the election. However, Montana is one of those states that allows early voting. The final numbers aren’t in yet, so the details are still fuzzy. But, the margin of victory appears to be about 6%, which puts it in the normal range for the Montana House seat. But, it is not clear how many of the pro Gianforte votes were cast prior to the alleged Battery committed. This is going to be an important distinction.
If Gianforte win is based on those who voted early, (and therefore lost among those who cast their ballots on the day of the election), there will be a lot of discussion as to whether early voting is a good idea. I don’t think it is, for this sort of reason. (Though I never thought attacking a reporter was something that could plausibly happen). There were reports yesterday that there were people who voted early for Gianforte and wanted to change their vote because of the last-minute revelations. (They couldn’t). This time it was a low-level criminal charge. What happens if the next time, a candidate wins despite being accused of a serious criminal charge?
On the other hand, if Gianforte’s election day numbers are the same, or even better than his early vote results, then we as a society have turned a corner. It was only in February that Conservatives were decrying Progressive for saying it was ok to punch a Nazi as an unacceptable escalation of violence and rhetoric against opponents. And yet on Wednesday night and all day yesterday, many of those same Conservatives were justifying the use of violence against an opponent. And in fact, there seems to be a whole cadre who have gone full Oliver Stone in seeking to show this is part of some vast conspiracy to take the House of Representatives back and to the left.
(My favorite non-sequitur by Conservatives in trying to waive this away has been the cry of “Where’s the video?” These would be the same Conservatives who explain away every violent encounter between the police and citizens as the video doesn’t show what really happened. There is no doubt that if there was video of Gianforte’s actions, we would be inundated with hot takes from Conservatives “proving” that video was faked and/or that the reporter was struck but was a bigger flopper than Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined.).
On one level, I welcome this rank hypocrisy. Conservatives are actually proving one of the central arguments of Libertarianism: the Republican and Democratic parties are the pigs and the farmers at the end of Animal Farm:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
Approval or opposition is not based on merit or standards, merely on party affiliation. And both sides justify it, claiming the “But this is a war” excuse.
But there is no excuse, especially not for a politician to use force in response to a question from a reporter regarding a CBO score. And yet, the number of people on social media who not only approve of what Gianforte did, but think this a policy which should be expanded, is truly horrifying.
As noted before, the mainstream media has done itself no favors with its increasingly hysterical and biased reporting against Trump. The press has cried “Wolf” so often that not only does a large segment of the population reflexively no longer believe the claims, but we have now reached the point where they are actually rooting for the wolf to win.
People are getting their news from sources which simply reinforce their viewpoint and discarding everything else. Conservatives now only believe Milo Yiannopoulos and Briebart with Fox News being declared an un-person/media for having committed the unforgivable sin of being insufficiently pro-Trump. Liberals believe only what they see in the New York Times and on MSNBC and CNN. And Libertarians have the luxury of pointing out both sides are so full of excrement, it’s amazing their eyes aren’t all brown.
We are moving back to the future. This was how it was in the early days of the Republic when there were Federalist and Anti-Federalist newspapers and you read the one that tracked the way you voted.
We are moving closer to the world Arlan Andrew describes in Shirt Story in Freedom’s Light. (On sale now. All proceeds go to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).
The other reason the “how Gianforte won” matters is to get an idea of how the mid-term elections are shaping up. Historically, the party holding the White House doesn’t fare well in the mid-terms and the lower the President’s approval rating, the worse it is. So in some ways, this should be good news for the Democrats. But they have lost the special elections held so far for Congress. And right now, per Real Clear Politics, the Generic Ballot has the Dems up +6. But for various reasons, Democrats always do slightly better in this poll. So, a +6 is actually a sign of the status quo. And the geography of the Senate races favors the GOP retaining control of that chamber. Thus, if Gianforte’s win was a result of early voting, the Democrats can take some solace and Republicans should be wary that the lack of accomplishments by the GOP coupled with questionable behavior will cause the people to throw the bums out. If Gianforte’s numbers were stable before and after he went WWE on a reporter, then the Democrats are going to have trouble making any inroads in 2018.