Sure a guy who lied to his constituents about the healthcare bill, has financial ties to Russia and body slammed a reporter just won a Congressional seat. That’s infuriating. It’s depressing. And, frankly, it’s tempting to allow it to become discouraging. However, Montana Democrats should be proud of what they accomplished…and not just in an “at least you tried” kind of way. There are some major accomplishments of note that we could all benefit from focusing on in the weeks and months ahead.
The Redness – It would have been all too easy for Montanans to dismiss this as a long shot and phone in their efforts. How red is this state? Montana went for Trump by 20 points. In fact, Montana has voted for EVERY Republican candidate for President but two since 1952 (Clinton in ‘92 and Johnson in ‘64). To even have a reasonable shot at making this happen, their Democrats statewide had to have an extraordinary amount of faith and that is not easy to come by in politics.
The Scope – Unlike most Congressional races, this was not a local district seat. This was actually a statewide race. And unlike a governor’s race that usually involves two years of preparation and groundwork, Montana had only a few months to pull everything together. Thousands of volunteers, organizers, field captains, phone bankers, data analysts and community leaders assembled with a candidate, a message, a plan and statewide outreach in record time and outperformed most Presidential machines from the last six decades.
The Rally – Quist is perhaps not a candidate that some Americans picture in Congress. A folk singer with a mustache and a cowboy hat, it would be easy to fall into a pattern of cynicism and ridicule him as not being formidable or serious. But the differing factions from the 2016 cycle came together for this race and rallied behind Quist as a singular band of Progressives and Independents. Even when Quist inevitably hit a few rough media cycles, his supporters did not grumble or waver, and their unified focus on the bigger mission paid off.
The Values – Quist is a pro-choice man who supports access to healthcare and rights for the LGBTQ community….in Montana. It would have been SO easy for him to whittle away at his progressive platform in an attempt to appear more moderate. We’re witnessing more experienced Democrats struggle with that very issue. Instead, Rob Quist made the decision not to run as a Democrat representing the interests a narrow group. Instead, he proudly ran a campaign that championed the ideals of Progressive values that impact a wide intersection of different people and that is ultimately what the resistance is fighting for.
The Swing, the swing, the swing… – This cannot be said often or loudly enough. Montana’s Congressional District went from 20-point underdogs to being within SIX POINTS of an actual win. If other Congressional districts move the needle HALF that much, Democrats will pick up dozens of seats. To quote President Bill Clinton, “That’s just math.” Republicans may be celebrating a win for the public to see, but GOP insiders are already huddling to address a serious problem they see for 2018. This race shouldn’t have been close and they know it. They were able to dump millions of dollars of PAC money and fly Trump surrogates to the state because it was the only game in town, but they cannot defend hundreds of seats all at once as aggressively. Montana served as a warning shot and the message that the resistance is coming for them was received.
So what now? After taking our collective breath and getting some much-needed rest, there are two more critical battles on the horizon in South Carolina and Georgia. The area covered is much smaller, the political landscape is more favorable and we still have a few weeks to make things happen. If you’re tempted to sit these races out, consider the fact that multiple sources are saying that losses of these seats would likely cause Republicans to shift course and protect their seats…even if it means abandoning Ryan’s healthcare plan and the human Trump shield they have formed.
The stakes are high and, contrary to what some are saying, momentum is on our side. Get to work on these campaigns as much as you can and don’t abandon the efforts you’re building to creating a wave of change next year.
Oh, and one more thing: 2018 is coming for Gianforte too so don’t forget Montana in all of the excitement. I guarantee they’ll be there ready for the next fight.
Shawna Vercher is a leading political media strategist and President of the Democracy Legacy organization. Reach out to find out more ways you can get involved and support your issues and candidates.