June 19, 2006

The Only Good Republican...

To: The Alan Fine campaign
From: Mitch Berg
Re: Mortal Danger.


I'm Mitch Berg. We met at the state GOP convention. You are the GOP's endorsed candidate to run in the Fifth Congressional District, which is normally equivalent to being a platoon's "endorsed candidate" to hold off the enemy to the last shot while the rest of the guys escape. Conditions this year - a DFL candidate with a radical Moslem, black-separatist, anti-semitic history, a primary fight, and a probable strong Greenie showing - give you a much better chance at a showing than most Republicans can have in your depressingly one-party district, but you know that you face a brutal battle.

And you know that I'm totally behind you. We're clear on that, right?

Now, about Lori Sturdevant's column. It sounds favorable enough, from the title ("GOP Might Learn From 5th District Candidate Fine") on down.

But let's look more closely:

Last weekend, as DFLers amassed in Rochester, the Minnesota Republican Party interrupted its patter of partisan criticism to post some breaking news on its website. The item: "Rise in Minneapolis crime topped Midwest, FBI says."
Regular consumers of GOP propaganda caught on right away: Minneapolis is a DFL town. As of last weekend, its chief criminal prosecutor, Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, is her party's endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Klobuchar's candidacy has made crime in the urban core an almost gleeful theme in Republican pronouncements. A whole page is devoted to the topic on the GOP's blame-Amy website,

[Note to Ms. Sturdevant: Perhaps you've heard of blogs? Independent writers who live in Minneapolis, and who are also writing about the crime wave? I suspect you have]
You'll look in vain there for mention of Republican-backed cuts in state aid to Minneapolis in 2003 and 2004, which prompted the shrinkage of the city's police force from about 900 to fewer than 800 today.
[And another aside; you'll look in vain in Lori Sturdevant's column for any mention that Minneapolis' police department was always too small, as a matter of long-term strategy -and that the Minneapolis Police Department shrank not because of Aid to Local Government budget cuts, but because of institutional unwillingness to either budget the remaining money appropriately, or to eat the political pain of raising their own taxes to get the same money they'd previously gotten, concealed deep within the state budget]
Neither does the page mention the 20 percent increase in adult prosecutions by Klobuchar's office in the past 18 months, over the comparable previous period. That increase outstrips the 15 percent increase in violent crime the city reported last year.
[Sorry, Alan. One last aside. Ms. Sturdevant seems to think that a 20 percent raise over "inadequate" trumps a 15 percent jump in "already shockingly high", or that we are all too stupid to know that prosecutions aren't the meaningful measurement here; Klobuchar has an entire department full of staff lawyers whose job that is. No, sentencing has been the problem in the Hennepin County Attorney's office, and it remains the problem. Sturdevant, you are really becoming too predictable. I digress]
Maybe those omissions and the page's tee-hee tone pass for campaign de rigueur in a state where geopolitical fault lines have widened into chasms.
Ironic, huh?
But I had to wonder: What if the party that aspires to dominate Minnesota the way it now dominates Washington didn't have a hole in its state map where Minneapolis should be? What if the state's Republican leaders saw big-city ills not as hammers with which to beat the opposition, but as shared problems that they have a responsibility to help solve?

If they did, wouldn't both Minneapolis and Minnesota benefit? Minneapolis is dealing with complex, high-stakes societal issues. They warrant the attention of more than one political team and the application of more than one set of ideas.

OK. Here's the beef.

Mr. Fine; Sturdevant is onto some things that you and I both agree on: The Minnesota GOP will never really control Minnesota until we make more serious inroads into the inner cities; the state GOP has neglected inner-city campaigning to a maddening extent, even as the city becomes more and more full of people who should be receptive to the GOP's message, immigrants who live in close-knit families and treasure free enterprise and crave an education for their children that will help them get ahead in the new country, people who largely keep faith close to the center of their lives. We Republicans should be hitting the inner cities hard - and, in my Fourth District as in your Fifth, our district party establishments make brave noises and concentrate their resources in Saint Louis Park and Shoreview.

And yet you have to know the DFL is terrified; if we ever do crack the code, they will never control Minnesota again.

Which is why people like Sturdevant want to lead you astray:

The whole state is affected when its biggest city suffers. But more than that, the whole state is ill-served when it is governed by a party that is concerned with less than the whole Minnesota enterprise. Such a party is prone to crafting winners-and-losers policies that pit one part of the state against another, to the ultimate detriment of all.

Why don't other Republicans talk about Minneapolis crime the way Alan Fine does?

[Note to Sturdevant: Because they're not running for office in a traditional DFL stronghold?]
Fine is the GOP's Fifth District congressional candidate. He's 44, a management consultant, author, lecturer at the Carlson School of Management, and a self-described "middle-ground candidate." He's the youngest of five brothers in a deep-rooted Minneapolis family. One of his brothers, Bob, is a DFLer who has spent nine years on the city's Park Board.

Unlike his state party, Fine does not do a blame-the-DFL litany on crime. His riff is about remedies. He links the recent spike to inadequate education, particularly of non-white young men. His position paper argues that to fight crime, society must fight illiteracy. He touts the results of a program in which he taught business skills to minority youth.

He even links crime-fighting to job-producing stem cell research at the University of Minnesota. "That gives hope to all the kids growing up in this community, that there will be good jobs waiting for them here when they grow up," he says.

Gotta love the parts of your message, Alan, that she focuses on: this program, that program...
Fine is a man on a mission to plug the hole in the Republican state map. This humble realist advises him to prepare for a multiyear task. It likely will take more than one congressional campaign to turn the depleted ranks of Minneapolis Republicans into a respected force. This year doesn't look like Fine's year -- not when the Republican president's cup of approval is down to the dregs and congressional seats the Republicans once considered safe suddenly look vulnerable.
While it may take several campaigns - something most of us inner city Republicans accept - Sturdevant's long history of being a couple of news cycles behind events is oozing back to the top.
Still, the Fifth District seat is open, with Rep. Martin Sabo retiring. The four (or more?) DFLers vying to succeed Sabo could wound themselves in the effort. The crime wave, the school funding crisis and the heaviest property tax burden in the state should soon have Minneapolis casting about for new ideas and alliances beyond the city's borders.

Come October, all of that might make Fine a Minneapolis Republican of more than usual interest -- even within his own party.

Mr. Fine: Sturdevant is hammering on the parts of your message that are most palatable to an all-but-paid DFL stooge.

You know the challenges you face. And more than many inner-city candidates, you know the compromises you will have to make to win in a district like the Fifth.

But beware the muted approval of stealth DFL hacks like Lori Sturdevant: they see an elephant; they want to to get on your knees and hold your nose in the air so you look like a RINO.

Posted by Mitch at June 19, 2006 07:19 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?