Entirely devoid of ideas other than the notion that reducing taxes for Montana’s largest ten companies will somehow spur tens of thousands of Montana millennials to return to the state, to commute from Jordan, the Gianforte campaign reverted to its most base, most desperate most dishonest attack this week. Once again, Mr. Gianforte is trying to convince voters that a) the Bullock Administration plans to invite ISIS cells to Montana as part of refugee resettlement program, and b) that as governor, he would acquire some sort of power to overturn federal immigration and refugee laws.
Let’s start with the attack, though, because it best reveals the deeply unChristian and deplorable nature of the Gianforte campaign. Last week, Gianforte sent out a mailer featuring the image below, an image that no doubt has Jennifer Fielder holed up somewhere in her bunker.
It’s a repugnant, fear-mongering piece of nonsense, one that has been repeatedly debunked by experts who go to great length to explain that no refugees come to the US without extensive vetting. No scary stock image search of “meany terrorist” changes the fact that the fears about refugees, who are literally fleeing for their lives, will be researched and vetted before coming to American shores. That’s US policy; that’s the law.
Even if there were truth to Gianforte’s fearful, pandering claims, he’s repeatedly refused to acknowledge that, as a governor, he would no power to stop refugees coming to Montana. There’s the trouble of the constitution, which clearly puts migration issues under the control of the federal government. As I have noted in this space before, in the United States, people are free to move from state to state without showing papers like in the old Soviet Union.
Unless Mr. Gianforte plans to stand on the Capitol steps shrieking “Discrimination now, discrimination tomorrow, discrimination forever,” there is little he could do—and even Governor Wallace lost. It’s hard to imagine that a “leader” like Gianforte who runs from the press and hides behind a team of spokespeople will be able to resist the law. Not that he should be able to.
I’m sure, unfortunately, that it’s a winning political issue in some corners of Montana to demonize people because of their national origin and/or religion, but it’s not a policy question for a gubernatorial race, and all the xenophobic noise doesn’t change the fact that neither Governor Bullock nor (God forbid!) a Governor Gianforte can block people from entering our state.
The emptiness of Gianforte’s positioning on refugees was revealed in an unfortunate Great Falls Tribune story yesterday. In the story, as during the entirety of his campaign, Gianforte was unable to articulate an actual policy he would implement. His brave spokesman echoed the GOP’s message when he told the Tribune that Bullock “was doing nothing to keep Montana safe,” but the reporter neither asked nor reported just how Mr. Gianforte would do anything differently.
The worst part of the story, though, was its treatment of the governor’s power in this case. The story gave equal weight to the idea that governors can block refugees, despite the fact that it simply isn’t true. Balance doesn’t mean letting one side present a dishonest case and the other present an honest one, letting the voters decide what’s true. Journalism means evaluating competing claims, something the reporter in this case could have done simply by talking a local expert or spending six minutes online.
I think it’s probably past time for the Montana press to stop indulging this discriminatory spectacle. Until Mr. Gianforte can point to a specific policy he would implement to “keep Montanans safe,” the press should report that he can’t, and another round of editorials should probably start condemning his use of empty fear to win votes.
This has been an unbelievably ugly campaign. A man whose primary political record has been donating to groups that advocate for discrimination has spent the past few months stoking fear about the prospect of dying women and children being welcomed in our state, where they can contribute to our collective well-being and give us the opportunity to practice the charity that all faiths demand.
Shame on you, Mr. Gianforte. Your lip service about sympathizing for families does nothing to obviate their suffering and your repugnant fear mongering only inflames the divisions that lead to hatred and intolerance.