As Trump’s poll numbers continue their downward spiral, conservatives are fretting over whether or not they will be able to pass their savage agenda that dramatically cuts social programs in order to fund an unnecessary tax break for the wealthiest. A couple of special elections have caught national attention as a result, as Democrats look to bolster their argument that the US public is not on board with Trump and his Republican allies.
After Tom Price vacated his House seat in Georgia’s 6th district to become Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, a 30-year old rising Democrat named Jon Ossoff stepped into the picture, and now leads Republican rival Karen Handel by 7 points. This is quite astonishing – the seat was once held by arch-conservative reactionary Newt Gingrich. As political operatives view this race as a bellwether, money has poured in, making it the single most expensive House race in US history.
In Montana, another election has pitted Democrat Rob Quist against Republican Greg Gianforte. The former is a banjo-playing folk musician who has never held office, the the latter a tech mogul who has danced around the unpopularity of the GOP healthcare bill while endorsing it in private.
While the Montana race has not been as close as the heated contest in Georgia, Quist has closed the gap in recent weeks. The election – today – could test the limits of the GOP’s anti-social agenda.
It could also be a test of how much the public values the First Amendment.
In a bizarre turn of events, Gianforte violently assaulted Guardian politics reporter Ben Jacobs yesterday after the intrepid journalist sought the candidate’s opinion on the recent CBO score that predicts that the current GOP healthcare bill will eliminate coverage for 23 million people. According to eye-witness accounts by a Fox News camera crew as well as audio posted by The Guardian online, Gianforte choked the reporter and slammed him on the ground, shattering his glasses in the process.
Jacobs filed a police report, and Gianforte now stands charged with misdemeanor assault.
How the attack will translate in today’s results remains unclear. Three conservative newspapers that backed the now embattled Republican candidate – including the Billings Gazzette – have withdrawn their endorsements.
Far from just an isolated instance, this troubling incident shows the dark underbelly of the GOP’s ideology, which is dependent on the suppression of basic shared facts. Recall how a journalist was just arrested for asking Secretary Price questions about the GOP’s unpopular healthcare bill in West Virginia, or how Comey’s memos allegedly include details relating to Trump’s request that the FBI throw journalists in jail.
Hard and penetrating questions threaten the GOP’s fragile facade, which is propped up by falsehoods and deception. Trump – who famously promised excellent coverage for everybody – now steers a White House whose allies in Congress are preparing to throw dozens of millions of people off of health insurance. Paul Ryan’s image as some wonk wunderkind was proven a sham, as the first manifestation of the American Healthcare Act was basically Obamacare-lite.
The Republican model works best when it remains unchallenged by facts. The primary conservative outlet that has abetted the GOP’s war on truth – Fox News – is in a tailspin over its star pundit Hannity’s truly incomprehensible (and thoroughly reprehensible) attachment to a long debunked conspiracy theory regarding the Murder of Seth Rich.
Gianforte has proven one thing – the GOP detests the First Amendment, and in moments of lost composure, this distaste takes a truly barbaric, fascist character.