Sorting Out the Montana Election

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I ran across the following online commentary on Montana’s election for its sole member of the House of Representatives (May 25). It’s from a site called “Legal Insurrection”:

Rock’em Sock’em Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, best known for “body-slamming” and ego-shaming a reporter for The Guardian, defeated Democratic Candidate Rob Quist, best known as a nudist resort socialist Cowboy poet and singer. . . .

This is another *win* for Democrats because they showed up and did better than they expected, even though they lost.

I don’t know about this characterization of the two leading candidates. The day before the election, Gianforte had a minor physical confrontation with a reporter, which resulted in a suspiciously instantaneous summons from the local gendarmes; but that doesn’t make him a mythic figure who is “best known” for anything. Quist is neither a nudist nor a nudist resort but has performed at a nudist resort.

The picture that emerges is that of a state and a country becoming more and more acutely the way they are.

I do know that Gianforte got 50% of the vote, and Quist got 44%. You can make the comparison with Ryan Zinke, who left the Montana congressional seat to become Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior, and who received 56% in his two elections, while his Democratic opponents got 40% (2014) and 41% (2016). If you’re curious about the Libertarian candidates, their percentages were 4 (2014), 3 (2016) and 6 (2017).

Oh, and there’s one other series of numbers to consider. Voter turnout was 368,000 (2014), 508,000 (2016), and 377,000 (2017).

So what do you make of this?

Here’s what I make of it. Turnout is usually low in off-year elections (e.g., 2014, 2017). The Democrats may have picked up a couple of percentage points by turning out a few more of their people than in 2014. The Republicans may have lost a couple of percentage points to the Libertarian. That’s about enough to account for the mighty improvement in the Democrats’ percentage.

But wait! There’s more. While it’s entirely possible that the quoted description of the Republican candidate does not fairly represent his public image in Montana, where physical warfare is viewed more leniently than it is in Palo Alto, it’s pretty clear that the Democratic candidate was laughable by almost anybody’s standards. It didn’t take much party loyalty for Montana Republicans to vote for their guy. In fact, most of their votes had already been cast by mail, before the “slamming” took place. But it took a good deal of party loyalty for the Democrat to make his 44%. Party loyalty, or party outrage, gets voters to the polls. The Democrats are now the party of outrage, so I suppose they were a lot more motivated than the Republicans.

Quist is neither a nudist nor a nudist resort but has performed at a nudist resort.

Montana is a basically Republican state with a long progressive and populist history. Lately it has been infiltrated by a significant number of New Class people with money, and these are Hollywood Democrats. Bernie Sanders’ wealthy followers gave millions of dollars to the Montana Democrat, and presumably those dollars paid for massive get-out-the-vote endeavors. But even I confidently predicted that the Republican would win, “slamming” or no “slamming.” In Montana, as in many places in the country, populists and conservatives now vote the same, in opposition to progressives. In one sense of the word, a Montana “progressive” would be the real conservative, someone trying to maintain the Washington power structure.

The picture that emerges, at least the picture seen through my eyes, is that of a state and a country becoming more and more acutely the way they are. This is especially true of Democrats. They will vote for anything so long as it’s Democratic — which means that they will always be around, “resisting.” They are emphatically not resisters to government; they are resisters to Republican ideas of government, which they often falsely claim are anti-government. And they will be successful in maintaining the national status quo — if the Republicans, who are plainly in the cultural majority, don’t learn how to use the elections that they keep winning.




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