The great thing about democracy in Montana is that – unlike some other states – the average voter like you and me can research who funds the campaigns of our elected officials. And we can also see who they fund.
I was deeply troubled when I discovered that so many prominent Montana politicians gave money to Taylor Rose, a bartender at Brannigans Irish Pub in Kalispell. In the last cycle, Rose ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Montana House, but came quite close to unseating moderate Democrat Zac Perry. It was public knowledge that Rose held a leadership position in Youth for Western Civilization, a white supremacist organization with ties to Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute and many others. In fact, while he tried to whitewash this, he still openly railed against “multiculturalism.” We all know exactly what he was trying to say with that dog whistle.
The donor that stands out most is our new Congressman Greg Gianforte, who claims he was unaware of the positions and background of the person to whom he gave money. Sure, and that reporter ran into his fist. His excuse was that he gives to “everybody,” but I think he meant to say “anybody.” Another donor is Dr. Al Olszewski who represents my part of Montana in the state Senate and has now set his sights on the US Senate. They were followed by a number of rank and file representatives (Steve Lavin, Forrest Mandeville, Randy Brodehl, Scott Staffanson, Dee Brown, Mark Ray Noland, Mark Blasdel, and Keith Regier).
Rose also had a job in 2014 with Senator Steve Daines, serving as his NW Montana Campaign Coordinator. For decades, an extreme fringe candidate like Rose would have never been accepted by the GOP, but now in just the past few years something has changed. I can’t imagine Bush or Reagan endorsing a candidate like Rose. But, here we are.
As a fellow citizen, I support the constitutional right that Rose has to speak his mind. And according to recent interpretations of the Constitution, that freedom of speech includes the dollars that went from Gianforte’s and Olszewski’s hands into Rose’s pockets. But we have crossed a major line when prominent politicians are openly supporting someone who has ties to white supremacist organizations in this country, including ties to far right groups in Germany who are monitored by the German government. These local politicians are attempting to normalize such an outlier candidate who until recently would not have been supported by the mainstream GOP.
Let us repeat this: mainstream GOP politicians in Montana have endorsed a fringe white supremacist candidate with ties to far-right German organizations. History shows that evil deeds start with evil words. And evil words happen when craven cowards like Gianforte and Olszewski put party over principle. Anything for a win for your own team. Maybe I’m just old school, but I remember a simpler time when far-right Germans and those sympathetic to them were considered bad guys and people were heroes for fighting them.
Further, as a Christian, I am compelled to speak up when prominent politicians donate money to a candidate like this. What would Jesus have to say about this? In the parable of the Good Samaritan and so many others, we are commanded to love the other, not dehumanize them and vilify them in an effort to scare voters into voting for you. How far would the Good News have traveled had it not been for Paul’s embrace of multiculturalism in the greater Mediterranean? How many cultural divides did he bridge in order to spread Christ’s message of love?
Exodus 23 was crystal clear on this subject: “you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” It appears some “Christian” politicians are willing to ignore morality if it gives gains them a few more votes. Maybe they read from an abridged cliff-notes version of the Bible that doesn’t include Matthew 23: “I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.”
Politicians like Gianforte and Olszewski say they are Christians, but history and a higher power will judge them by their actions, not their words. How can they actively promote the candidacy of a person who spent a suspiciously large amount of money and time trying to counter accusations of his past ties to white supremacist organizations? Such organizations, by definition, believe we aren’t all created equally in the image of God. You simply cannot reconcile being a Christian with supporting white supremacy or white nationalism. You’re on one side, or the other. Love God, and love your neighbor. It is that simple. But Gianforte and Olszewski are trying to create a grey zone that lets them support racial discrimination.
As a Christian and a Montanan, I won’t be silent about the un-Christ like act that Gianforte and Olszewski did when they funded Rose. They must own this, every single penny.
Bjorn Beer runs a division of Global Software, Inc. and resides in the Flathead. Follow him on Twitter @BjornPhilipBeer.