Taking potshots at 2016 election


David Crisp

An old newspaper joke says that the job of editorial writers is to go onto the field after the battle is over and shoot the survivors. The election is over; let the shooting begin.

Cheapest shot: Democrats ran ad after ad pointing out that Greg Gianforte comes from New Jersey, as if failure to be born in Montana disqualifies candidates for public office.

I wasn’t born in Montana. Nobody in my family was born in Montana except my grandson, who is too young to vote. Most of my friends weren’t born in Montana. Perhaps a third of my college students weren’t born in Montana. How many of us do Democrats wish to alienate?

Most pointless ad: Ryan Zinke ran ads criticizing Denise Juneau because some school bus drivers have criminal records. Point No. 1: Juneau is the state superintendent of public instruction, but state superintendents don’t hire school bus drivers; school districts do.

Point No. 2: The ad was based on 2013 performance audit by the Legislative Audit Division. In response to the audit’s findings, Juneau responded, “The OPI [Office of Public Instruction] will recommend to the Board of Public Instruction that it amend its administrative rules to require districts to perform criminal history background checks for school bus drivers.”

Oh. So an independent agency checked the performance of an aspect of government, found problems, suggested changes, and the elected official said, “We’ll get right on it.” Sounds like how government is supposed to work.

Most pointless ad, runner-up: Both Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock have been featured in ads about a Montana sales tax. Good arguments can be made for and against a sales tax, but nobody was making them. Voters have resoundingly rejected a statewide sales tax, and no sane politician will try to get one passed. It’s a total waste of time.

Most pointless ad, second runner-up: A pro-Juneau ad depicted Ryan Zinke as too big for his britches, with more interest in becoming House speaker or vice president than in representing Montanans. The ad looked good, and it made a more or less legitimate point. But did anybody out there think the election would turn on who is more ambitious?

Most pointless ad, national division: Matt Rosendale, running for Montana state auditor, had ads attacking the Affordable Care Act. It’s a popular position in Montana, no doubt, but shouldn’t someone have told Rosendale that he was running for a different job?

As Rosendale’s opponent, Jesse Laslovich, rightly pointed out, “If Matt wants to get rid of Obamacare, he should run for Congress. The state auditor can’t do anything about Obamacare. It is the law. The Supreme Court has upheld it.”

Worst campaign: Opponents of Initiative 181, which would fund medical research in Montana, blanketed the state with ads arguing that the initiative would funnel scarce taxpayer dollars to private corporations without accountability or much hope of results. I kept waiting for supporters to respond—and waiting, and waiting.

Finally, on Nov. 3, Montanans for Research & Cures emailed a news release pointing out that the opposition ads were funded by out-of-state money. Spending money on brain research actually is a good idea, the news release said.

Way too little, way too late. And at this writing, on Election Day, I still can’t find the news release on the Research & Cures’ web page.

Best campaign ad, national division: This ad for a Texas county commissioner went viral, so you may already have seen it. But do yourself a favor: Go see it again. It is hilarious, and it is almost enough, all by itself, to restore your faith in American politics.

Greatest cognitive dissidence: Gianforte has been running as a fly-fishing, manure-shoveling business man who has nothing in common with career politicians. But slickly produced pro-Gianforte ads have blasted Gov. Steve Bullock as a corrupt liar paying out hush money to squash opposing voices.

Worse, the ads made it sound like newspapers were making those claims. Sounds like just the sort of thing a career politician would do.

Ads for science: Dinosaur man Jack Horner was featured in an ad exposing Gianforte’s support for creationism. Horner said he wasn’t attacking Gianforte’s religion; he just wanted to make sure school kids are taught the truth. He didn’t even say don’t vote for Gianforte; he just said to think twice before doing so. It got me thinking.

Most unfair ad: Out-of-staters backing Kristen Juras for the Montana Supreme Court ran ads attacking District Judge Dirk Sandefur as soft on crime. It’s a tactic that the Republican State Leadership Committee has been using nationwide. It’s not true. And it’s not fair.

Worst. President. Ever: If you are happy about how the presidential election turned out, you should spend a few minutes looking at how President Obama recently handled a protester and how Donald Trump responded to that incident. You will see a man who is either woefully ill-informed, seriously deranged or flat-out lying. And he has just become the most powerful human being in the world.

Final thought: When Trump said the election was rigged, do you suppose that he meant it was rigged in his favor?

Worst voters: While Donald Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in most presidential polls throughout the campaign, Trump led among white voters by 17 points. Women opposed him. Latinos opposed him. Black voters opposed him. A Pew poll found that only 9 percent of Europeans had confidence Trump would do the right thing in foreign affairs. The Washington Post rounded up comments from 61 current and former foreign leaders expressing their fears about Trump.

When the history of this election is written, the conclusion won’t be that America has a problem with demagogues. America has a problem with white people.

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