This commentary (extracted from Twitter) by Anne Helen Petersen, explains some of the backdrop to the election win by Greg Gianforte in Montana. (There is another factor not discussed in this analysis, namely the massive fundraising difference between the GOP and the Democratic Party in Montana).
Leading up to tonight’s results, want to relate the best recap I’ve heard about how Montana politics got the way they are today
This theory comes from Ron Moody, an old-timer out of Lewistown, Montana, a former wildlife warden, & keen political observer
with added context from And Bill Spoja, a lawyer and rancher who’s lived in Lewistown his whole life
Both remember a time when Montana was truly purple. But since the ‘90s, many counties, including theirs, have gone much darker red
Looking back, it’s clear that a major part of the shift was Rush Limbaugh on the radio and Fox News on the tv
But the overall shift in the state came from somewhere else: well-off conservatives moving to Montana from urban areas
These people were increasingly frustrated with liberal politics of the city, sold their houses, and bought houses double the size in Montana
….With ample money leftover to live on. They came to Montana because it matched a conservative dream of America, where men are men, etc.
They mostly came to Western Montana, but the tide extended all the way over to Lewistown, in the Eastern part of the state
This meshes with previous reporting in Flathead region, where people would go on vaca & love how overwhelmingly white it was, then move here
So it’s these New Montanans, fleeing California/Arizona/Texas cities, combined with Limbaugh/Fox inflammation of existing MT conservatives
You could definitely include Gianforte in that first group: moved to Bozeman in the 1990s, fundamentalist Christian, Conservative
The ideology of the prosperity gospel runs strong through both groups: that Puritan idea that your chosenness is manifest in success/wealth
So even if Gianforte is broadly unlikeable with his base, his success, like Trump’s, is testament enough to his worthiness, his Elect-ness
As for Quist, GOP has underestimated how many people have known/met Quist over 3 decades — especially in rural areas
Quist went to 49 counties, all reservations. Brought out “gravel-road” Dems who’d been silent/invisible for years b/c of strength of GOP
He won the nomination in part by going out to rural counties w/dormant Democratic organizations — whose delegates then voted for him at convention
So there’s a little background theory from some Montana old-timers.
And then a bodyslam happened. So who the fuck knows.
But this is just further proof that the best/most interesting people to talk to on the campaign trail are almost always over the age of 70
They have the context, they have the history, and they have very little fear of speaking their minds.