The Montana special election to replace Representative Ryan Zinke, Greg Gianforte, a Republican who made his money in software companies that he founded and sold, has won. This comes a day after he was involved in an altercation with Ben Jacobs of The Guardian for having the gall to ask the candidate about his position on the healthcare of millions of Americans.
That came too late to have much effect on the outcome, especially since many ballots had already been mailed in — suggesting to me once more that voting should happen on election day which should be a holiday with plenty of places to cast a ballot — but what happened shouldn’t come as a surprise. Gianforte made his contempt for the press clear, calling a journalist the enemy and making choking gestures. He now faces misdemeanor charges over the incident with Jacobs, though it remains to be seen how seriously the case will be taken.
If I were casting a television movie about all of this, I’d hire Michael Gaston to play Gianforte. But for matters of greater import, this election fits into a disturbing trend exemplified by Trump and the commentators on Fox News to evaluate journalists in terms of their support for or rejection of right-wing ideology. And while the 2016 election and aftermath have been a nationwide illustration of Godwin’s Law, when a political party and its promoters indulge in fascism, it’s reasonable and even necessary for the rest of us to point that out.
A free society — a society in which the citizens choose their leaders and have the right to speak their minds to each other and to those leaders — depends on the availability and flow of information. The more that government officials are allowed to do away from the oversight of the people, the more perverse they become. And the more that the people tolerate this perversity on the promise of greatness, the farther we move along the path from flirtation with fascism to the domestic violence found in the marriage of power and megalomania.
If the Republicans in the House of Representatives have any sense of honor or responsibility to the country, they’ll refuse to seat Gianforte, giving the people of Montana a chance to correct their error.
Or they can continue with business as usual, leaving the people of this nation the choice to accept our slide into tyranny or to stand up — today and every day between now and the 2018 election.
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