Republican logic about political responsibility goes something like this: a Democrat somewhere says something controversial, upsetting, or idiotic and Republican pundits and media sources try to tar all Democrats with it. It’s a technique that really took off in the early days of Rush Limbaugh and has been honed to perfection by Fox News since.
Take the Republican claim that Montana politicians should somehow be held accountable for every statement ever made by Representatives Omar, Tlaib, or Ocasio-Cortez.
This take from former Republican State Senator Jeff Essman illustrates the argument:
— Jeff Essmann (@EssmannJeff) July 15, 2019
This argument was amplified by the leading right-wing radio voice in Montana, Aaron Flint, a day later:
OK…now that the #MTNews had their field day asking Repubs why they support the Presidents remarks- Maybe time to ask the MT Dem candidates/officials why they support the remarks of Omar, Tlaib, and AOC? #MTPol
— Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) July 18, 2019
The “logic” of this argument is clear: somehow every candidate for office in Montana should be held answerable for remarks made by first-term Members of Congress from districts time zones away. It’s nonsense, as MSU Professor David Parker noted in responding to the claim:
Here’s the difference: A President is head of their party. One member of Congress is not. By your logic, should each Republican in Congress be asked to answer for Steve King’s remarks?
— David C.W. Parker (@dparkermontana) July 18, 2019
Parker is absolutely right, of course, but today, we’re going to think like conservative intellectuals and ignore the nerdy academics with their research and book learnin’. If we accept the argument that Democratic candidates for the Montana Legislature need to answer for remarks made by a representative from Minnesota, then surely Steve Daines needs to answer for why he let Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee block health care for 9/11 responders this week.
As you’ve no doubt read, Senators Paul and Lee blocked permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 First Responders Compensation Fund this week, citing concerns about the deficit.
Daines has connections to Lee and Paul that are far better established than any Democrat in Montana is connected to “the Squad.” Paul and Daines have campaigned together, Daines was one of the small number of Senators who voted for Paul’s bad budget bill, and Paul went for a visit to Russia right after Daines did.
The connection to Lee is also strong. Both represent Rocky Mountain states and have similar voting records, they’ve campaigned together, and both were among the very last Republicans to pull their endorsements of Roy Moore during his special election.
Daines has been in the Senate for years with Paul and Lee, time to build relationships and the kind of connections necessary to sway fellow Senators. In contrast, I assume almost no Montana Democrat running for office has ever met Representatives Omar, Tlaib, or Ocasio-Cortez.
If we accept the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Ben Shapiro/Aaron Flint version of reality that every Democrat in Montana is answerable for every Democrat in the US, the conclusion is inescapable: Steve Daines is responsible for the 9/11 first responders not receiving permanent funding for their health care.
In this case, of course, he actually is, because Daines voted against it in 2015:
Daines even voted against health care for 9/11 first responders in 2015. Even though the Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan vote, Daines voted against making funding for the 9/11 first responders permanent.
It’s hard to break through the Republican noise machine. When one of their own gets called out for what the Billings Gazette called “defending the indefensible,” they kick into high gear, desperate to distract from the bigotry and intolerance that characterizes so much of Republican base politics these days. It’s idiotic. We should just politicians by their own votes and their own words, not tie them to people whose views they likely don’t share.
But by Republican logic—and by his voting record—Steve Daines has blocked health care for 9/11 first responders. He–and his supporters in the Republican noise machine should probably keep the word “unAmerican” out of their damn mouths until we get a much better explanation for why Senator Daines doesn’t believe the heroes of 9/11 don’t deserve the best possible care.