Politics & Policy

Montana’s Early Voters Save Gianforte from Himself

Gianforte speaks to supporters on election night in Bozeman, Mon. (Reuters photo: Colter Peterson)
Journo-slamming Gianforte highlights the idiocy of early voting.

Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte is the exception who proves the rule.

The anti-Trump Left repeatedly chants about extremist Republicans whose “violence” leaves them “terrified.”

Of course, it is the Trumpophobic Left that has shredded into ribbons the liberals’ twin banners of tolerance and open-mindedness. After all, it is not Trumpians, establishment Republicans, or even hardcore libertarians who have been on a tear lately. Instead, Antifa’s “anti-Fascist” masked radicals and other Leftists have smashed storefront windows into shards of glass, set cars ablaze, screamed at conservative speakers until they fled college campuses, pounded the faces of people in Make America Great Again hats, nearly drove Representative David Kustoff (R., Tenn.) off the road for opposing Obamacare, and even partially scalped a mentally handicapped young man in Chicago. Those who demand “social justice” also laugh out loud about assassinating the president of the United States.

For all the rhetoric about bloodthirsty conservatives, it is the Right-bashing Left that has degraded the slogan “Love trumps hate” into a vaudeville-grade punchline.

Thus, it was disappointing, shocking, and disgusting to see a Republican live down to the Left’s caricature of the Right — and not just any Republican, but the GOP nominee in yesterday’s special election for Montana’s at-large U.S. House seat, which was vacated when Republican former representative Ryan Zinke became President Donald J. Trump’s secretary of the interior.

Gianforte beat Democratic folk singer Rob Quist 50.1 percent to 44.1. Libertarian Mark Wicks scored 5.7 percent. Gianforte’s margin might have been even higher had it not been for what unfolded on Wednesday. That afternoon, Gianforte revealed a truly frightening temper and a volatile disposition that should have disqualified him from public office.

Ben Jacobs, a staff writer for the Guardian of London, asked for Gianforte’s opinion of the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the House’s recently passed Obamacare replacement bill — hardly an inappropriate question. According to Jacobs’ audio tape, the following transpired:

Gianforte: “We’ll talk to you about that later.”

Jacobs: “Yeah, but there’s not going to be enough time. I was just curious.”

Gianforte: “OK, speak with Shane, please,” referring to campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon.

Crashing noises ensued.

Gianforte: “I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy who came in here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!”

After a few moments, Jacobs speaks again.

Jacobs: “You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Gianforte: “Get the hell out of here!”

Team Gianforte, no surprise, saw things differently.

Jacobs “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions,” claimed a Gianforte campaign statement.

“Jacobs was asked to leave,” the communiqué continued. “After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.

“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

A Fox News crew was in the room, preparing to interview Gianforte. They confirmed Jacobs’s account. “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte,” Acuna wrote at FoxNews.com.

Local officials apparently believed the Guardian and Fox. Gianforte now faces misdemeanor assault charges. He must face a judge before June 7.

While addressing supporters last night, Gianforte apologized.

“When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte said at an Election Night gathering in Bozeman. “That’s the Montana way. Last night I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can’t take back, and I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did and for that I am sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I am sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

Gianforte’s words of remorse are welcome. But forgiveness must come from Gianforte’s victim, not from Gianforte’s fans who presumptuously yelled “We forgive you!” during his victory speech. Forgiveness must be requested sincerely by the transgressor and granted by the aggrieved party, not tossed out like Mardi Gras beads by uninvolved third parties.

Thus, it would be even more meaningful if Gianforte expressed his penance by apologizing to Jacobs in person, granting him a long and exclusive interview on the CBO or whatever else Jacobs wishes to cover, and buying Jacobs a new pair of glasses.

This might set things right between Gianforte and Jacobs, but the law is the law. Gianforte’s depravity and needless, idiotic violence deserve prosecution. If convicted, he should be treated no differently than a liberal folk singer or an apolitical rancher. Gianforte should spend time in jail — up to six months, this crime’s maximum penalty. If waking up behind bars is good enough for former House speaker Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.), it’s good enough for Greg Gianforte.

Meanwhile, some 37 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots early, via mail. Some of them reportedly wanted their ballots back after the body-slamming episode, so they could vote against Gianforte.

Oops!

Some 37 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots early, via mail. Some of them reportedly wanted their ballots back after the body-slamming episode, so they could vote against Gianforte.

These last-minute Gianforte opponents blew it, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

This is precisely why America needs to ditch early voting and do what Americans did before citizens began slouching toward the polls:

Vote on Election Day.

Last fall, North Carolina voters could begin casting ballots as early as September 9. That was 17 days before the first presidential debate. That is borderline un-American.

Voters should listen to the speeches, view the debates, read the news articles and op-eds, watch the TV ads, and await last-minute developments. And then, on Election Day — barring infirmity or long-distance absence — (e.g. soldiers, students, merchants, and others traveling far from home) — they physically should join their fellow Americans at the polls and cast their ballots with the full benefit of all available facts and arguments.

Jurors do not deliberate until trials have concluded. Likewise, Americans should not vote until campaigns have ended. And when we do so, we should vote together, as a solemn, democratic ritual within this constitutional republic.

As political scientist Rick Valelly once put it, “On Election Day, we must leave our homes and offices, travel to a polling place, and physically mingle with people who are plainly our equals that day, no matter what other differences we have.”

Counter to this healthy civic practice, ballots mailed in weeks ago may have elected Gianforte, because 37 percent of voters were just too damn jumpy to wait until yesterday to go to the polls. Had they done so, these Montanans would have chosen their next congressman after meeting Greg Gianforte’s inner thug — literally on Election Eve.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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