Winter of Progressive Discontent

    Democrats should be disappointed by Republican Greg Gianforte’s win over Rob Quist in the recently-concluded Montana special election. The concept of moral victories in winner-take-all political races is unpersuasive and particularly so in this case. Yes, Quist got a much higher percentage of the vote than Hillary Clinton did in November. But part of that improvement likely came courtesy of Gianforte's assault on a reporter on the eve of the election. Simply put, one cannot discern a Democratic wave on the horizon in the wake of an over 6 point loss to a ruffian in a state with a Democratic governor and senator.

    For progressive activists, Quist's loss is particularly troubling. Quist followed the script that we on the left edge of the Democratic Party have been writing. He held rallies with Bernie Sanders. He supports Medicare-for-all. The Tax Reform section of his website touches all the economic populist bases:

    As a small business owner and entrepreneur, Rob understands the burden of an unfair tax system that makes it harder for small business owners to thrive. He will make tax reform a priority, working to close tax loopholes for corporations that ship American jobs overseas and rewriting the tax code to support Montana’s small businesses, workers and families.

    By contrast, his multi-millionaire opponent came across as a dissembling creature of the 1%. This was most evident when he promised lobbyists that he supports “repeal and replace” just after assuring skeptical Montanans that he hadn’t yet decided whether he would support the House Republican health care bill.

    Yet the Democrat lost and by an uncomfortably large margin. Some possible explanations: Folksinger Quist was a fringe candidate. Montana knew Gianforte better. The Democratic National Committee got involved too late. Most seriously, the Montana news media raised legitimate questions about the propriety of Quist’s finances based in part on unpaid state tax liens filed against his property and claims by contractors for unpaid wages.

    These are not the kinds of excuses that progressives should feel comfortable making. With respect to concerns about Quist’s quirky persona and lower name recognition, we have consistently argued that voters care more about policy than personality and that authenticity trumps renown. Regarding the DNC’s standoffishness, the left views it as neither credible nor effective. Accordingly, its failure to assist Quist might have mattered only had he been unable to raise sufficient funds to be competitive. But this was not the case. Likewise, Quist’s financial peccadilloes surely didn’t help him but they probably didn’t sink him either.

    So what happened? The Montana result demonstrates anew that identity politics and economic grievances against Democrats retain a powerful grip in white rural states. Even some reliably Democratic Native Americans probably voted for the Republican in light of his endorsement by the Crow Tribe which is experiencing economic dislocation due to declining coal production.

    Progressives contend that the Democratic Party’s recent woes stem from its embrace of Wall Street over Main Street and the secondary decision to target voters solely by group identity rather than primarily by economic interests. Democrats can only return to power, we insist, when they propound credible solutions to the privation caused by globalism and income and wealth stratification. Quist’s loss suggests that, in much of the country at least, this strategy may not bear immediate fruit.


    Danny Cardwell has a post suggesting that blacks will be blamed if Ossoff loses in GA-6. Here the loss is due to the Crow tribe supposedly voting for the Republican. Do you really think this is a winning message? Didn't Native American help elect Tester and Heitkamp? This is a crap argument 



    That's your takeaway?

    The Crow tribe voted for Quist.

    Gianforte didn't get the majority of the vote in Indian country.

    From  the article you cite:

    In Big Horn County, for example, Quist won 50 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Gianforte. Native Americans represent 64.8 percent of the population there, which is home to the Crow Tribe.

    In Glacier County, home to the Blackfeet Nation, Quist won 64 percent of the vote while Gianforte secured just 30 percent. Native Americans make up 62.8 percent of the population there.

    And over in Roosevelt County, where Native Americans represent 57.5 percent of the population. Quist won 49 percent of the vote, the most of the three candidates on the ballot. The Fort Peck Tribes are based there.

    Although the overall results weren't extremely close, a stronger Native turnout could have swayed the election. That's happened in the past, most notably with the 2006 victory of Democrat Sen. Jon Tester over Republican Conrad Burns, who was the incumbent.

    Please note the text in bold.  Please note also that Quist did not win by a big margin in the county where the Crow Tribe predominates.  Please note also that I am not "blaming" anybody for the result.  I am describing a dynamic whereby individuals and groups of people, even those who tend to be strongly Democratic, may vote for the other party's candidate if they believe it is in their economic interests to do so.  The challenge for Democrats is to figure out a way to appeal strongly to a majority of voters.

    I have argued for decades the best way to do this is to support economic justice. This would include, but is not limited to, single-payer healthcare, tuition-free public colleges and universities, and an end to the "free trade" deals.  But, as I point out in this article, that may not be enough, at least in many places, since Quist who was one of the stronger progressive candidates in recent times lost by a pretty large margin.

    Indian country gave Quist a victory. White voters did not. A higher Indian country turnout may have helped Quist. Turnout requires outreach and identifying issues important to voters in Indian country. Providing specific solutions, not one size fits all is advisable. 

    Trump has a 39% approval rating according to 538. Some white voters are just not that into Democrats.

    Hal... Huh? A loss is loss but...

    Yet the Democrat lost and by an uncomfortably large margin.

    He lost by -6.00% 189,473/166,483. The previous election of Zinke in 2014 Zinke was +15.64% 285,358/205,919

    A 9.00% increase is still a very positive sign...


    Thanks OGD. That's the counter-argument. I agree one can interpret the election from either a glass half - empty or half - full perspective. I'll feel better if Ossoff wins.

    Why has Sanders behavior regarding Ossoff been so bizarre.

    One problem with the Sanders approach is that you go in assuming that you know what is best for the voters and what they want. You feel no need to ask voters what they want. You ignore certain populations concerns. Turnout for rallies is high. Favorability is high. You still lose elections.


    Which of Sanders' policy prescriptions do you personally oppose?

    Hal, I think it is more about listening specifically to what people in town halls are saying. "Millionaires and Billionaires is not getting actual votes.

    Fair enough.  Bernie is far from ideal.  He did a poor job when he started his campaign listening to voters who were skeptical of him and his message.

    No candidate of either party is ever ideal. We need to be able to win with ¨good enough ¨  candidates like Bernie and Hillary. Given the Republican´s inherent financial advantage, that always required that we also have good enough fund raising competence. But with  ¨Citizens United ¨ the Court  put such a heavy finger on the scale that it´s wishful thinking to imagine  we can combat it with Bernie-type crowd funding.

     It' ll take $s.

    You pick cherries where the cherries  is. ¨Hollywood ¨for sure. But also the financial industry  we´re hoping  to tell get lost. The other thing that´ll be lost will be  the  election (s).  



    When I get home to Seattle I'm going to tell the Montana at large story. I was there and my relatives are Montana voters. You're story is not quite right. Expect my response Friday. 

    You wrote:

    Yet the Democrat lost and by an uncomfortably large margin. Some possible explanations: Folksinger Quist was a fringe candidate. Montana knew Gianforte better. The Democratic National Committee got involved too late. Most seriously, the Montana news media raised legitimate questions about the propriety of Quist’s finances based in part on unpaid state tax liens filed against his property and claims by contractors for unpaid wages.

    This is really a problem with the candidate and yet Rob performed better than HRC did last fall, but all of those things you wrote are correct and hurt Rob, but Rob did a great deal of work at the local levels to get the nomination, he went to every single country and talked to all the Dem's he could and he won the nomination by doing that, so he did some really hard work, you can't stop a candidate like that, because he won the nomination, fair and square, and had Gianforte assaulted the reporter earlier, he would have lost.  But Montanan's do not like people who are financially irresponsible, period, they figure if you can't manage your own finances you sure as shit cannot fix the fed's finances. 

    Okay let's talk about the Montana election, Rob did shrink the margin from Trumps win last fall, that is good, but Rob is a country singer, he does have bad finances and everything you mentioned, but he did cover the state and win the Democratic nomination because everyone in Montana knows Rob, and he is especially well known in the eastern part of the state which is very conservative. But I wouldn't call him a fringe candidate, however, I would call him a troubling candidate, because of all the issues you mentioned. 

    If you saw the map election night you should have noticed the few areas in Montana that are blue, Silver Bow County, Deer Lodge County, Missoula County, Roosevelt County, Glacier Country, Hill County, Blaine County, Gallatin County, and Park County and Big Horn County.  That is 10 counties out of 56 counties, but Quist got 44%, much larger than the percent Clinton got in the general election. Rob has limited knowledge of issues and no real in-depth knowledge of any subject that one might need to know if you were going to be in government.  Clinton only won 6 of those counties, and Rob turned a couple of counties light pink. He just was barely a good candidate, because of all those issues you mentioned above. Gianforte will not win in 2018 if Democrats can get a great candidate, but because of Quist, they made gains. It weird that you think those personal issues didn't sink him because they didn't help him at all, in fact, according to Montanan's they did sink him. 

    Quist got 44%, much larger than the percent Clinton got in the general election.

    Too often we make too much of these comparisons. When Gianforte ran for governor in 2016 he lost with 46% of the vote. Gianforte's loss against the last democrat was better than Quist's loss against Gianforte. How ever much Quist may have improved on Hillary's loss to Trump Gianforte improved much more over his loss to Bullock. My hopes are not much improved when dems lose less badly than Hillary in these red states.

    Thanks for fleshing this out.  I cited to the news stories that formed the bases for the opinions I set forth.  The term "fringe" came from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.  I claimed that the debts probably didn't sink Quist because the Helena newspaper indicated that for many Montanans - especially ranchers - debts are a fact of life.

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