Gianforte: Spirit Animal of the Modern Republican Party

Montana gets its ticket punched

Politics Features Greg Gianforte
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Gianforte: Spirit Animal of the Modern Republican Party

Anybody astounded by Greg Gianforte’s assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and Gianforte’s subsequent victory in Montana’s at-large Congressional District, does not understand America or politics. This goonish billionaire, who body-slammed and punched a journalist, is now the representative from Montana. Who is surprised by such a turn of events? The national media and Washington might be, but I am not.

In our society, is there any sign at all that the rich and powerful ever pay for what they do?

Go ahead, take a moment to think about it.

I’ll wait.

Gianforte is an emotionally-unbalanced loudmouth with poor impulse control. He’s perfect for conservativism and symptomatic of the age of Trump.

After years of being told by centrist pundits that there was common ground with people like Gianforte, we see the result: a victory by a thuggish half-wit who horrifies even Fox News reporters. Naturally the Jacobs story came out too late to turn the tide. Thanks to mail-in voting, the Gianforte election was already over before the news broke of the assault. His opponent, Quist, was a great hope for the Democratic Party. The Dems, true to form, managed to screw it up through a lack of focus and funding.

And Gianforte, who hurt a reporter, is what the Dems have left us: a Republican party that no shame can stop. The GOP made him into a contender. Their Congressional Leadership Fund spent $2.7 million to mold him into a viable choice: “Six months ago, Republican Greg Gianforte lost Montana’s gubernatorial election by nearly 4 points. Thursday night, he won statewide by about 6 points. … CLF staff started by reviewing the attacks against Gianforte from the 2016 gubernatorial election, during which the Republican got pummeled for being a ‘New Jersey billionaire.’”

Gianforte is instructive, and we can learn much from this man. America is exactly the country that would send a punching creationist to The Hill. The era of political entropy is upon us, and the far right famously hates the press. The Gianforte affair illustrates how persistent the illusions of elite opinion are.

Being gobsmacked by the victory of a feral yahoo from the wilds of Jersey is like going on a date with Aaron Sorkin and discovering he likes the Eagles: what did you expect? Gianforte is a brawling poltroon who looks like a poorly cloned version of John Malkovich. His reaction to being questioned by an Englishman is in character.

Nor is it incredible that the conservative media half-apologized and half-celebrated Gianforte. Trolling libs is the only coherent ideology the Right has left, and the ground upon which they have chosen to die. And what is greater trolling than being able to assault people, and retain your power? Trump did it. Gianforte is just following in Big Orange Dad’s footsteps.

It is more interesting to consider what Gianforte is to the Republicans: a mascot. Congressman Gianforte is a flailing mass of undifferentiated middle-aged dyspepsia pretending to be a political platform. Given his temperament, I’m shocked that he didn’t pull out a Desert Eagle or some other impractical biggified handgun and wave it around, quoting from Psalms and raving about Bigfoot. A Republican man-child embracing physical violence is perfect evidence for my point. He is not some outlier, but the spirit animal of the Grand Old Party.

Since the arrival of Trump, the House Republicans have voted to strip protections from millions of people, in all sorts of ways. This is not a group of people which shirks from inflicting harm. In the light of these gigantic manifestations of indirect violence, why does Gianforte’s actual assault seem that out of character?

In actuality, Gianforte is probably the mildest individual Montana has ever injected into Congress, and will be a mewling kitten compared to the lights of the Freedom Caucus, whose votes have hurt more people than Gianforte has. And he will get away with it, in the District. The national media hates immediate, personal violence between politicians and journalists, but is indifferent to violence when it is inflicted by the government on actual citizens, and worships the power of the military when it is used on distant foreigners.

When our new representative from Montana blathered to live recording devices about Noah and retirement, who in their heart of hearts was surprised? Who expected him to know what time it was, and the year, or to even comprehend science? Given the outlines of Gianforte’s nature, was it even possible that such a man could not have quoted from the Old Testament? Can you imagine a world where Gianforte, and Gianfortism, did not drink deeply from the lead-lined well? I cannot.

Anybody grousing about decorum or civility has not been paying attention. The Post’s Daily 202 told the world that Gianforte’s display of wrestling prowess somehow demonstrated that a new age of tribalism was upon us:

“I made a mistake,” the congressman-elect said at his party in Bozeman. “Not in our minds!” yelled a supporter. David Weigel, who was there, reports that some in the crowd laughed. After his comfortable six-point victory, Republican congressional leaders are making clear there will be no meaningful consequences for his behavior. “Elections are about choices and Montanans made their choice,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement this morning. “Rep.-elect Gianforte is an outsider with real-world experience creating jobs in Montana. He will bring that experience to Congress, where he will be a valuable voice in the House Republican Conference.”

To which I say, Are you fucking kidding me? Nowhere else but in the national media can the most obvious facts of the world be treated as secret Dan Brown wisdom. Were the last eight years not clue enough for you? There was enough Gianfortism in the world before anyone had ever heard of Greg Gianforte; it was at Trump’s rallies and in the operations of the state.

Conservatives like Grover Norquist and all the other soft-handed sons of Reagan would like to imagine themselves doing what Gianforte did. They would never have the wherewithal to do it, of course. That is why Gianforte raised so much money after the assault, and why he will be welcomed in the halls of power by the Right. Gianforte is not the prophet of a new age, just the latest apostle.

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