Montana GOP Candidate Ignored Immigration Issue–Despite Sweeping Trump, 2012 Patriot Initiative Wins


The recently-concluded campaign for my home state of Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was significant not because of the much-hyped scuffle between the GOP candidate and an Opposition Party member but because it demonstrates the GOP’s continuing cluelessness on the use of immigration as a political weapon.

Republican Greg Gianforte (whom I know and voted for) won on May 25 in a three-way contest with very slightly less than a majority of all votes cast.  Democrat Rob Quist received 44 percent and Libertarian Mark Wicks got six percent.  Yet last November, Donald Trump took 56.5 percent of Montana’s vote, while Hillary Clinton (aka “Felonia von Pantsuit”) got only 35.9 percent, with the rabble of minor candidates receiving the remaining 7.6 percent (see here, page 2).

So why did the Republican-minus-Democrat vote difference collapse to six percentage points for this special election compared to the 20 percentage points in the presidential contest?  Well, Gianforte was coming off his loss (with 46.4 percent of the vote; see page 4) to the Democratic incumbent in November’s gubernatorial campaign, and that earlier round of ads attacking him may have had some staying power.  Plus Montanans are allegedly a bunch of finicky independents at heart (There’s So Much to Learn From the Montana Special Election, by Anne Helen Petersen, BuzzFeed.com,  May 14, 2017).

But Gianforte could have reduced suspense about the outcome by campaigning vigorously for immigration sanity, as Trump had (at least at times!).  Gianforte actually tried to associate himself with Trump, but didn’t know how:  his campaign website contained only this anemic statement

The threats facing our country are too great to be ignored. That’s why I’ll fight every day for policies that defend our nation from those who wish to do us harm. We need to protect our border and deport criminals. We need to strengthen our military and destroy ISIS. As your Representative, I’ll always fight to keep our country safe.

As a resident, I experienced the campaign primarily via radio ads that were chock full of irrelevant attacks uttered by narrators with folksy voices. Plus I dimly recall some anti-Quist radio commercials charging that he, along with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], loves sanctuary cities.

One possibly-complicating factor for Gianforte is that his wife Susan, a fellow engineer, is the daughter of immigrants from Germany.  But during his fall campaign for governor, Gianforte did attack incumbent Steve Bullock for being relaxed about the possibility of a refugee surge into Montana.  On the other hand, I had no success in getting Gianforte to bring up Bullock’s veto of a 2013 bill against sanctuary cities.

Republican candidates seem to be obdurately clueless about the nation’s disastrous  immigration regime as something to learn about, then fruitfully campaign against.  Yet today’s Democrats, unlike Democrats of old who actually cared about the environment and the working class, would be sitting ducks for sensibly-thought-out campaigns using the issue.

And this was particularly true in Montana. Remember, in 2012, Montana voters whooped through—with a stunning near-80 percent of the vote—a ballot referendum to deny some state benefits to illegal aliens.  With that kind of margin, it’s absolutely clear that many people who tend to vote for Democrats supported the measure.

And that win for The National Question was accomplished without much of a campaign, by either proponents or opponents, beyond the plain language in the legislative referendum itself.  So it accurately reflected Montanans’ “pristine” preferences, unswayed by advertising.

(Because of a drafting error in the referendum’s language, the Montana Supreme Court overturned it in May 2016, but the overwhelming vote favoring its passage was much more significant than what this law would have accomplished if in force.)

So if you know someone, presumably Republican, who’s thinking of running for a significant office, please consider printing this blog entry, stapling it to a 2×4, and hitting the prospective candidate over the head with it until he/she/ze catches on.

We have a country to save.  Still.