After politically unknown banjo musician Rob Quist clinched the Democratic nomination to run for Congress this Sunday, partisan Democrats spent the last few days feigning excitement. While conservatives and progressives predictably have been quick to characterize Quist as a socialist, Bernie Sanders-style “left-wing populist”, partisan Democrats have been markedly quiet on Quist’s actual liberal bona-fides.
Perhaps that’s because Quist’s nomination was a gut-check to the liberal grassroots of the Montana Democratic Party. How can an older, white male who comes across outwardly conservative really represent the left’s best response to President Trump?
This is more evidence that unhinged, uber progressive authoritarianism present in the Democratic grassroots is still being strangled by the very elites they hate the most. And it’s also show of a Democratic party that’s dying from self-inflicted wounds.
For years in our state, the progressive grassroots has languished as under appreciated and exploited by the supremacy of the older, white male, elite wing of the Democratic Party. Former Governor Schweitzer liked to patronize the progressive and feminist wings of his party, but would show his true colors with sexist and homophobic remarks. Current Governor Bullock also has a very public history of silencing strong, independent liberal women in his administration. No surprises then that one of the early backers of Quist was Schweitzer.
With a younger, idea-driven progressive like Obama in the White House, it made sense for the party leaders to continue this contrast at the state level, allowing Amanda Curtis the party’s blessing as the 2014 senate nominee. With Trump in power, the democratic elites are running to the middle.
But is this really a good campaign strategy? The 2016 election showed the consequences of ignoring the liberal grassroots in favor of a vanilla candidate cozy with the party leadership. Rob Quist is not the Montana version of Bernie Sanders, he’s Hillary Clinton.
How can Quist square his western demeanor with his radical anti-gun views? How can Quist speak to helping rural eastern Montana when his left-wing environmental agenda fundamentally attacks their way of life?
Just like Hillary, Quist will lose all campaign energy when forced to reconcile to the public his folksy outward Montana values with the rabid progressive authoritarianism of the liberal grassroots.