There once was a time when a principled voter would declare, “I vote for the person, not the party,” but today that is a fool’s errand.
As a half-dozen Senate races in 2018 prove, voting for party first is voting for principle. Pay attention to what the Democratic Party or the Republican Party says — because once elected, your candidate is going to fall in line with every other elected member of his or her party.
It doesn’t matter how good a person your candidate is, he or she is not going to check in with you before casting a vote on tax cuts, or health insurance or Supreme Court justices. They are going to check with Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi if they are Democrats, and they are going to check with Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell if they are Republicans. If you think that Senate candidates are telling you the truth about how they will vote once elected, I encourage you to visit the undercover reporting of , in which campaign supporters admit that Democratic candidates will say whatever is necessary to get elected.
A Republican who votes for a nice-guy Democrat is just giving Minority Leader Schumer an extra bullet to use in the firing squad that is lining up against Trump, his judicial nominees and his band of deplorables. The situation isn’t quite as perverse for Democrats who want to cross over and vote for “nice-guy Republicans” because many Republicans aren’t reliable Republican votes. Just look at Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who are more interested in their own approval rating at MSNBC than in representing their constituents.
Even so, a committed Democrat who votes for a Jeff Flake type is going to be disappointed more often than not when it comes to votes, despite the senator’s willingness to take cheap shots at a Republican president.
Face it, we live in a deeply polarized nation, and the two great political parties exist at this point in time as polar opposites. If you voted for Donald Trump as president in 2016 because you wanted change, and then vote for Democrats Claire McCaskill or Jon Tester or Joe Manchin to remain senators in 2018, you aren’t just confused, you are drowning — you’ve been overwhelmed by The Swamp.
Let’s talk about Tester since he’s the senior senator from my home state of Montana. He was elected in 2006 by promising to bring Montana values to Washington, D.C. He was just a small-town school teacher and rancher from the town of Big Sandy (pop. 598) who also happened to be a citizen legislator — indeed, he’d risen to a powerful position in the state legislature. But a strange thing happened when he got to Washington. He became a reliable Democratic vote and was handsomely rewarded for his party-line adherence. , Tester is the No. 1 recipient of money from environmental, foreign policy and Indian gaming special interests. He is No. 2 on the list for commercial banks, hedge funds, and securities and investment. What’s going on there? Do hedge funds really serve Montana interests? Or does Sen. Tester serve hedge-fund interests? The top contributors to his campaign committee are lawyers and law firms, donating more than $2.2 million. Imagine that!
Yet Tester is down-home friendly and has an appealing Montana story to tell, so he has won election twice and has a slim polling lead against Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale in the race that will be decided tomorrow. Rosendale is not an unappealing candidate, but he made the mistake of being born in another state, so Tester’s supporters have painted him as “Maryland Matt” Rosendale, who is somehow out of touch with Montana voters. But if you put aside the rhetoric, and look at how they would vote for the next six years, Rosendale lines up closely with the average state voter, and Tester doesn’t.
Tester voted against Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation; he voted against Republican tax reform; he is not a safe vote for protecting the Second Amendment; although he promotes border security, he always talks about the border with Canada, not Mexico. Rosendale, on the other hand, is a vote for judges like Kavanaugh and future Trump judicial nominees; he touts the tax cuts; he is strongly supportive of gun rights; and he backs President Trump’s attempts to build a border wall and to ban sanctuary cities.
If you support Donald Trump, it doesn’t really matter whether Matt Rosendale grew up in Maryland; it just matters how he votes. There are plenty of liberals in Montana, and they can be trusted to vote for liberal Jon Tester to protect their agenda. They know they can count on Tester.
But there are still many more conservatives than liberals in the Big Sky State. If they don’t vote for Rosendale, they have no one to blame except themselves when they get six more years of Sen. Tester collecting millions of dollars from lobbyists and voting against the Trump agenda. If they don’t vote for the party that stands for their principles, they simply aren’t doing their part.
Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA to comment on this column or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter .