Thursday, May 25, 2017

Assault Under Big Skies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is an election in Montana today to fill the congressional seat that was vacated by Trump's new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.  The state has a strong early-voting program, and many of the state's residents have already cast their ballots.  The remainder have until 8:00 p.m. today to get registered and vote.   Montana leans Republican and voted for Trump bigly, but most analysts think this race will be close.

The candidates are Republican Greg Gianforte, a multi-millionaire who moved to the state from New Jersey twenty years ago - and Rob Quist, the Democrat, a folk singer who is from the poor end of the economic spectrum.

Republicans are desperate to save this seat for their team because their majority in Congress is small and every vote is important - and also because a loss might look like a rejection of Trump and be a precursor of a possible Democratic congressional "wave" 2018.  They want to nip this democracy stuff in the bud - in Montana - right now!

Democrats, conversely, would like to have a Montana victory as a way of edging closer to control in Congress and as evidence of Trump's fallibility.

The election was going to be close anyway, with most polls showing a slight GOP lead but with a tightening of results over the past few weeks.  Last night, however, all of that seems to have been thrown into a cocked hat.

Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate, was having a discussion yesterday evening with a group of reporters from Fox News when Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the British newspaper, The Guardian, entered the room with a tape recorder and tried to get Gianforte to comment on the newly released Congressional Budget Office figures on the revised American Health Care Act.  Gianforte tried to deflect or redirect the determined reporter who persisted in his attempt to question the candidate.  Then, to everyone's shock, the candidate apparently grabbed the reporter around the neck with both hands and threw him to the floor where he commenced to pound the guy in the face with his fists.

Jacobs, who had to be taken to a local hospital for x-rays, had his glasses broken during the beating.   The candidate was charged with misdemeanor assault and has a court date in June.

In normal times, in a civilized setting, this incident might signal the end of Greg Gianforte's political career.  In reality,  however, a certain segment of the American population came of political age listening to candidate Trump deride reporters and their "fake" news -  while encouraging incivility at public political events.   The times are not normal, and the rule of law is fast becoming more of an exception than a rule.

Montana's three leading newspapers all withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte overnight, but we are living in the age of the bully.   Instead of wrecking his campaign through a fit of anger,  Gianforte may have tapped into the fount of righteous rage that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.  Greg Gianforte could win today - and if he does, civility will have lost once again - and physical violence encouraged or perpetrated by candidates will be that much closer to becoming the new campaign normal.

America can and must be better than that.

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