Gianforte 'Trumps' Special Election
By NOAH LOREY | June 1, 2017
On May 25, 2017 Greg Gianforte won the Montana special election for the state’s at-large house seat, one formerly held by Republican Ryan Zinke prior to his nomination and confirmation as Secretary of the Interior for the Trump administration.
On May 24th, Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault charges against journalist Ben Jacobs, of the UK newspaper The Guardian.
In short, Gianforte made an already tense and complicated situation that much more so.
Montana is a state that traditionally leans red, especially at the national level. The last time Big Sky Country voted for a Democrat in a presidential election was during Bill Clinton’s first run in 1992.
At the state and local levels, however, Montana is significantly quirkier in its political leaning. After all, a Democrat has held the governor’s office since 2004 and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has managed to not only unseat an incumbent Republican for his current office in 2006, but also retain it in 2012 against a Republican challenger.
Like most of the mountainous west, Montana has a certain streak of libertarianism about it that puts the state in play more often than one would anticipate. Hoping to capitalize on this same quirkiness, Democrats hoped that they could use the 2017 special election not only as a staging ground to retake the House of Representatives in 2018, but to send a message to President Trump that the people had rejected his policy, especially in a state that he won by over 20 points in 2016.
They failed to do so, even with the complicated narrative of Gianforte’s attack on Jacobs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the situation any less convoluted.
In the immediate aftermath of Gianforte’s citation, numerous prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), called on the candidate to apologize. Gianforte did so only after the election results had certified him as the winner over Democratic opponent Rob Quist.
The win adds another headache to the Republican docket that they could have much done without. With significant controversy over other parts of the Trump administration’s agenda already, the last thing they needed was a House member with a court date. Gianforte’s is set for June 7th.
What this behavior really indicates is a troubling trend among certain factions within the Republican Party that are dissatisfied with maintaining any sort of decorum and are averse to any challenge to their ideology. As Fox News reported, Jacobs was attempting to question Gianforte about the Republican healthcare bill prior to his assault. These claims throw into question the character of someone that is representing an entire state in Congress.
Malfeasance is not an issue restricted to any one faction within the American political system. Beyond the large scale scandals of Hillary Clinton and Anthony Weiner, this is an issue that cannot be ultimately blamed upon one group. Having come of age during the 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, I have seen firsthand that aggressive behavior such as this was commonplace with those on the left angered at Gov. Walker and his Republican colleagues.
The unfortunate reality of Trumpism is that it has brought out the same sentiment for many of those on the right.
In the vein of pyrrhic victory, Republicans have benefited in the short term, retaining a reliably red seat and staving off any sort of Democratic rallying cry before the Congressional elections in 2018. If the party is able to do the same for the special election set to be held in Georgia on June 20th, they will have put themselves in an excellent place to hold all three branches of the government for the full four years of Trump’s presidency.
Yet, the face they’ve already lost by having a man like Greg Gianforte represent them might create a practical loss in losing moderate support long-term, and it may prove increasingly difficult negotiating in the House as the varying party factions become more and more obstinate.
In totality, there’s no easy way to put this. Gianforte’s victory sets a dangerous precedent for how not only journalism, but common courtesy is reflected in this country. One can only hope that such impropriety finds an end, preferably sooner rather than later.