Gianforte Wins, Continuing GOP Stranglehold on Montana House Seat

by Jim Geraghty

Two servings from the last Morning Jolt until Tuesday:

Gianforte Wins, Continuing GOP Stranglehold on Montana House Seat

Republican Greg Gianforte won the special U.S. House election last night, and… er… body-slammed the competition?

Addressing supporters, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he had an altercation with, as well as other journalists who witnessed the event. He also apologized to Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”

… Democrats viewed the seat as one they could possibly flip, and Republicans grew more wary as the race wore on that they might not be able to find a path to victory in a state that’s generally viewed as red but has a strong independent streak.

Jeremy Johnson, a professor at Carroll College in Helena, said Quist under-performed in key swing counties of Cascade and Yellowstone.

“Many of the strong Republican rural counties stayed strongly Republican, although Democrats had hoped a non-politician identified with rural Montana could make inroads,” he said.

The Missoulan newspaper offers a photo of a young voter with the caption: “Cherokee Nevin arrives at the Gallatin County Courthouse to drop off her vote for [Democrat] Rob Quist as voters go to the polls in Bozeman. Nevin didn’t know about the assault charge against Greg Gianforte and said, “I’m not a big fan of capitalism.’”

No matter how big the news is, and no matter how extensively it’s covered in print, on radio, on television and on the Internet, some voters are just unreachable in that last twenty-hour period until Election Day.

The good news for Democrats: Donald Trump’s presidency is off to a stumbling start with no major pieces of legislation signed into law. The Trump administration is constantly surrounded by controversy and allegations of scandal, extraordinarily hostile coverage from the media, and low approval ratings. The polling in Virginia’s gubernatorial election looks good, as does the polling on congressional generic ballot.

In the special House elections so far this year, Democrats outperformed their 2016 finishes by 23 points in Kansas, ten points in the first round of voting in Georgia, and ten points in Montana.

The bad news for Democrats: They still haven’t, you know, won anything at the Congressional level. The political world doesn’t gift-wrap twists of fate like Gianforte’s last minute assault charge often, and they still couldn’t turn that into a win.

Yes, they flipped a seat in the New York state assembly and in New Hampshire’s state House. Yes, they still have a decent shot at the runoff in Georgia. But Democrats have good reason for frustration. When does this combination of energized Left and flawed GOP candidates translate into an actual electoral victory?

‘There Is Total Weirdness Out There.’

“There is total weirdness out there,” Rep. Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina said. “And, like I said, he’s unearthed some demons, and people can feel like if the president of the United States can say anything to anybody at any time than I guess I can too, and that is a very, very dangerous phenomenon.”

Allahpundit scoffs at the idea that Trump has somehow created the impression it’s okay to assault people out of differing political beliefs or inspired Gianforte to attack a reporter.

The Gianforte incident is shocking because it’s unusual. Candidates don’t behave this way, even in the age of Trump; Trump hasn’t behaved this way, despite his endless kabuki theater about hating the media. It’s a strange “climate” that affects so few people.

Question: If Trump has normalized behavior like this, why did Team Gianforte rush out a whitewash account of what happened that made it sound like he was merely defending himself from the reporter and was dragged to the ground as the reporter fell? Gianforte’s spin is proof that he doesn’t think “if the president of the United States can say anything to anyone at any time then I guess I can too.” You can hate candidate Trump’s loathsome wink-wink incitements to violence at rallies last year without blaming him every time some guy snaps, which is what it sounds like happened to Gianforte yesterday. Not calculation, not grandstanding for the benefit of media-hating Republican voters. He snapped, and he was sufficiently embarrassed about it afterward to have tried in a half-assed way to cover it up.

Let me offer a qualified defense of Sanford’s point. Put Trump’s shameless misbehavior atop the mountain of bad behavior, lies, untruths and misdeeds by societal leaders we’ve seen in the past decades. Take your pick: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” the revelation that Iraq did not have the WMD program that American intelligence expected, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, Enron, Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby, the toxic asset derivatives and the Great Recession, the VA leaving veterans dying waiting for care, telling the grieving father of a slain Navy SEAL, “we will make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted”… It has not been hard to find authority figures acting irresponsibly, abusing their authority, and escaping appropriate consequence.

How many people look at all that and ask, “if they can do it, why can’t I?” Why did the argument that Trump’s character disqualified himself from the presidency fall so flat in 2016? Is it because we’ve seen so much bad behavior from other leaders in society that Trump doesn’t seem like such a dramatic step down in character? Have we decided to stop looking for good character in leaders? If they’re all SOBs, there’s no shame in supporting an SOB.

Or look to other comments from Sanford Thursday:

“Shame actually has a place in a civilized society. Remorse has a place in a civilized society,” he said, “because it causes people to rethink what they did and hopefully broach future problems in different ways. You can’t have a remorseless society and that is the problem of the president saying, ‘There are no moments over which I have remorse.’ “

“The fact of the matter is, the normal human existence is filled with many points you wish you could do over,” Sanford said. “There are some trend lines here that we should all find discouraging, or frightening … I’ve seen demons unearthed.”

Yes, Mark Sanford is far from the perfect messenger for the message that shame and remorse needs to play a larger role in how we make decisions. Then again, who is?

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