Real Montanans Rob Quist and Greg Gianforte, with guns
In only three weeks, the voters of Montana will select a new congressman to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who vacated his seat as our sole representative in the US House to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. It’s an exciting race. Democrat Rob Quist, at left above, is a locally famous folk singer who has never held public office. Republican Greg Gianforte, at right, is a millionaire tech entrepreneur who ran for governor in 2016 but has also never held public office. Both men were chosen by their parties, rather than by the usual primary process, to run in the special election. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real Montanans like me and, to a lesser extent, you. Why, just look at how they shoot guns!
That’s Greg Gianforte, wearing very clean work clothes and shooting a twelve-gauge at some office equipment in a field. Whoever did the voiceover for this one belongs in the Scary Ad Voice hall of fame. He says “national gun registry” in the scandalized tone most of us would reserve for “lobster in her vagina.” As you can see from this spot, candidate Gianforte loves guns and hates computers. That’s a sharp contrast with candidate Quist, who loves guns and hates Gianforte.
In the future, all political discourse will be conducted by shooting things that represent ideas. All candidates will be celebrities and tycoons with no record of public service, who are operated by their parties via remote control. What’s striking about these two ads is their near-total similarity. Creeping similarity has been a real problem in this contest between two supposedly different candidates for the House, which has amounted to a dance-off of affected pandering to a political consultant’s idea of Montana.
What if Montanans picked their leaders based on something other than who shoots a gun and lives on a ranch? What if the parties gave us to understand that our decisions could mean something besides “support Trump” or “stop Trump?” What if Montana politics were not, at this moment, captured entirely by cynics? These questions are academic. You can read all about them in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find an object that represents exemptions for pre-existing conditions on the individual health insurance market and prop it up on a fencepost. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
In the annals of FoxNews.com headlines, “Snoop Dogg shoots clown resembling Donald Trump in new music video” is a low-key classic. You don’t hear about a lot of clowns that resemble Mahatma Gandhi, or clowns resembling the brave men and women who died in 9/11. And “resembling” is such a pleasingly circumspect word, in contrast with the absurdity of everything else in this headline. Now is a fun time to remember that Fox News shares a parent company with The New York Post, who seem not to have reported on this event but would probably have done it differently. Anyway, I want to emphasize that Snoop Dogg shot a clown resembling Donald Trump in a music video, not in real life. That makes it a symbolic act—a message, probably. This theory is supported by S.D. Dogg’s remarks to Billboard:
I feel like it’s a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but nobody’s dealing with the real issue with this fucking clown as president and the shit that we dealing with out here. So I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being.
Notice how he assures us he’s working on a party record, too. Snoop has been doing this for a long time. Also, he sucks now. Or does he? This clown video is actually pretty…okay, I’m not willing to say it’s good. But I’m glad I watched it. Video after the jump.
Ryan Zinke accidentally wanders in front of a flag while wearing a cowboy hat.
Montana sends only one delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and for the last two years it was Republican and former Navy SEAL Commander Ryan Zinke. Zinke won re-election in November, but he vacated his seat last week after the Senate confirmed him as President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. Until we pick a new one via special election in May, Montana will go without representation in the House. This situation turns out to be not so different from the one we enjoyed already.
Zinke ends his career as a congressman having sponsored no bills that actually became law. That’s not so unusual for a freshman representative. What set him apart was his flair for the dramatic—his ability to present a wild caricature of Montana values while, again, not actually expressing those values in the form of legislation. But who cares about influencing the US government when your representative used to be a Navy SEAL? Sure, he missed 80 of 99 House votes after he was nominated for Interior. But he also gave us this photograph:
God, I’m going to miss that. Remember when he said President Obama shouldn’t have attended the Paris Climate Summit because it did nothing to stop ISIS? And then a few weeks later opposed background checks at gun shows, also because it wouldn’t stop ISIS? Communications from his office consistently referred to him as Commander Zinke instead of Representative Zinke—part of a relentless branding strategy that even extended to his duties as a rep. He co-sponsored the Draft American Daughters Act, a satirical bill to register women for the draft that expressed his opposition to letting them take combat specializations. This bill also did not pass. Again, nothing Commander Zinke proposed to the House ever passed. But what fun we had!
Now he runs the Department of the Interior, a position that will make his gung-ho performance art more difficult. It’s hard to connect the Interior to foreign terrorism. I believe Commander Zinke can keep making politics more like pro wrestling, though. It was a heartening sign when he rode a horse to his first day of work last week. Seriously—you can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Montana has not lost much of a legislator, but we must bid farewell to one hell of a showman. I can’t say I agreed with his politics too often. But I love a character, and Commander Zinke has certainly been that. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!
The cover image for Doug Henwood’s “My Turn,” a book critical of Hillary Clinton
Tweeting the cover of Doug Henwood’s Hillary Clinton book My Turn, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte remarked, “I keep hearing it’s unfair to think that some of the male Clinton haters on the left might have issues with women.” She was being facetious. But what about this image is sexist, exactly? It’s not flattering, insofar as it depicts Hillary as ruthless, even cold. But it also places a woman in a position of power, holding a traditionally masculine totem of violent authority, which she points directly at the male gaze. As critical as the title “My Turn” is, in conjunction with this image, it suggests that Hillary is assertively demanding what she believes is rightfully hers. And the artist, Sarah Sole, told International Business Times, “I love Hillary Clinton. I support her. I very much want her to be president.”
Last week, police arrested Gary Drake for brandishing a shotgun at his neighbor, who was teaching his seven-year-old daughter how to ride a bicycle at the time. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. According to the father, Drake began yelling at him from the porch and, when dismissed, said, “If you don’t like my advice, get off the street.” He went inside and returned with a Remington 870, which he pointed at the father, threatening to kill him. Be sure to read down to the last sentence of the story: “Charging documents state that Drake admitted to drinking all day, but he denied that it influenced his actions.”