The failure of Rob Quist to win the Montana special U.S. House election on Thursday apparently revealed, again, a gap between Washington-centric Democrats and grassroots Bernie Sanders progressive activists.
Vermont Senator Sanders endorsed Democrat Quist and campaigned with him. Both support a single-payer (i.e., government-run) healthcare system otherwise known as socialized medicine and oppose the Obamacare repeal, which is known as the American Health Care Act, the latter emerging as a key issue in the campaign.
Although Republican Greg Gianforte was considered an unpopular, subpar candidate according to U.S. News, the businessman managed to prevail in the balloting by about six points, this despite allegedly bodyslaming a Guardian reporter on Wednesday.
In his acceptance speech, Gianforte — who faces a misdemeanor assault charge and is due in court next month — apologized for the incident. Montana has early voting, so about 65 percent of the vote was already in when the altercation occurred.
Although Montana is a red state, it has a history of electing Democrats, including the current governor and one of its two sitting U.S. senators. Gianforte ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor last year.
The U.S. House seat in Montana became vacant when President Trump named Rep. Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, as interior secretary. The GOP also prevailed in an April 11, 2017, Kansas special election when Rep. Mike Pompeo moved on to CIA director in the Trump administration.
Bernie Sanders also campaigned for the Democrat challenger in the Omaha, Nebraska, mayoral election, but that candidate came up short as well earlier this month. Incumbent Republican Jean Stothert, a former nurse and city councilor, defeated Democrat Heath Mello, and will serve a second, four-year term, in a contest was, in part, seen as a referendum on President Trump’s policies.
The Washington Free Beacon described Rob Quist as “a banjo-playing political newcomer who has performed regularly at a nudist resort and has a long history of tax delinquency.”
According to the New York Times, Sanders activists and national Democrats were at odds when it came to backing Rob Quist in the Montana special election.
“[The Quist loss] exposed a deepening rift between cautious party leaders, who want to pick their shots in battling for control of Congress in 2018, and more militant grass-roots activists who want to fight the Republicans everywhere. The margin in this race was relatively small in a state that Mr. Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points last year. But Mr. Quist’s defeat disappointed grass-roots Democrats who financed nearly his entire campaign while the national party declined to spend heavily on what it considered, from the outset, an all-but-lost cause in daunting political territory. This tension — between party leaders who will not compete for seats they think they cannot win and an energized base loath to concede any contests to Republicans — risks demoralizing activists who keep getting their hopes up. It also points to a painful reality for Democrats: Despite the boiling fury on the left, the resistance toward Mr. Trump has yet to translate into a major electoral victory.”
Democrats are projected to have a good chance in the Georgia runoff election in the 6th congressional district on June 20, where Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel for the vacancy left by Rep. Tom Price, a medical doctor who joined the Trump administration as Health and Human Services secretary.
“Republican candidates may be flawed, but their loyal constituencies are showing up to bail them out – if only to rebut the narrative they’re constantly hearing permeate out of Washington,” U.S. News added in the aftermath of the Greg Gianforte victory over folk singer Rob Quist.
Despite the above-mentioned media narrative of the president’s unpopularity, Trump proved to be an asset for the Gianforte campaign, Politico insisted.
“…Gianforte wrapped himself as close to the president as possible, despite Democrats’ insistence that Trump’s low approval ratings and constant White House turmoil will be a drag on GOP candidates nationwide. Campaigning with Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr., relying on last-second robocalls from the president and Pence, using Trump’s campaign slogans — all of it worked to Gianforte’s advantage.”
Separately, Politico observed that “By many measures, the Bernie Sanders revolution proved a smashing success…But nearly a year after Sanders’ presidential run fell short, one thing is missing in the afterglow — a reliable string of victories at the ballot box.
An independent socialist who ran for president as a Democrat and waged an unsuccessful primary contest against Hillary Clinton in 2016, whom he later endorsed, Vermont Senator Sanders — a vocal foe of Donald Trump — has been touring red states trying to bring Trump voters over to the Democrat column.
Reacting to the Montana outcome, Breitbart News offered this summary.
“Democrats had hoped to turn the race into an early referendum on President Trump’s performance in the White House and the GOP’s health care bill, which passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. But despite national attention and considerable outside funding, as well as Trump’s recent controversies in Washington D.C., Democrats were unable to turn the anti-Trump ‘resistance’ into a concrete victory at the ballot box — a bad sign for Democratic chances in the 2018 midterms.”
On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the liberal/progressive Salon website similarly cautioned its readers not to get their hopes up.
“Get over Montana already — and stop trolling yourself with that stupid special election in Georgia too…Oh, and since we’re on the subject: Forget about the ‘blue wave’ of 2018. Forget about the Democratic majority of 2019. Forget about the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Have you even been paying attention? Because none of that stuff is happening and it’s all a massive distraction.”
In the U.S. Senate, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, which means that he votes with them most of the time. On several recent occasions, however, Bernie Sanders blasted the Democratic Party agenda as a failure and out-of-touch with its traditional middle/working class constituency, many of whom went to GOP standard-bearer Trump, a former Democrat and independent, on Election Day 2016.
Bernie has also maintained that Democrats can’t be nationally competitive with just strongholds on the east and west coasts.
Bernie Sanders, 75, has been a member of Congress since 1991 (and a U.S. senator since 2007) and voted for most of the Obama agenda over the prior eight years. Prior to his election to the U.S. House, Sanders served eight years as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Whether he runs for president again in 2020 remains to be seen.
[Featured Image by Bobby Caina Calvan/AP Images]