In the middle of a year that promises to be a good, if not great, year for Republicans nationwide, Minnesota Republicans are hoping to flip the House, so as to at least contest control for the state, and praying for an upset in the Senate and a come-from-behind miracle for Governor.
It was ten years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Minnesota was purple, flirting with red.
Today, it’s a bluish-purple state – some bright-red points, some dingy blue swamps.
In 2002, after the death of Paul Wellstone, the DFL was in disarray; they lost the state House, the Governor’s office and Wellstone’s Senate seat. The grownups controlled all of the state offices except the Attorney General; the DFL held the State Senate by a hair, and was well behind in the House.
Inside six years, they turned that into nearly-complete domination of Minnesota. They held Mark Dayton’s old and barely-used Senate seat, they took Coleman’s they took both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, lost them in 2010, and took them back in 2012, and have controlled all of the state Constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor – for eight years now.
How did they do this?
The 24 Month Campaign: Ben Kruse got it mostly right Monday morning on the morning show on the lesser talk station; Republicans need to learn something from the Democrats. For them, their 2016 campaign will start in earnest on November 5. The Republicans, in the meantime, will meander about until State Fair time, 2016.
I know – to be fair, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson started their governor’s races back in 2012 in all but name; Mike McFadden was aggressively moving his Senate candidacy at the State Fair in 2013.
In contrast, the DFL’s attack PR firm “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota” never stopped campaigning. The group – financed by unions and liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, including Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger – does something that goes beyond campaigning.
It bombards Minnesotans with Democrat propaganda, 24 months every campaign cycle.
The Communications Gap: The Minnesota GOP has plenty of strikes against it; while it’s made up a lot of financial ground since its nadir two years ago, it’s still in debt, and still scrambling to get back to even.
But even when it’s in the black, it only does so much communicating – and then, it only does it in the run-ups to elections and, maybe occasionally, during legislative sessions (and that’s mostly the jobs of the GOP legislative caucuses).
In the meantime, the Democrats (with the connivance of regional media whose reporters may not overtly carry the water for the DFL, but whose management largely most definitely does) shower the Minnesota voter with a constant drizzle of the Democrat version of “the truth”.
Which means the low-information voter – the one that might start thinking about next month’s election any day now – is kept on a constant drip, drip, drip of the DFL’s point of view. It means the baseline of thought for those who don’t have any strong political affiliation of their own leans left of center; they assume that raising taxes helps schools, that Republicans are rich tax evaders who hide their wealth out of state, that there is a “war on women”, and on and on.
There’s No-one To Fly The Flag – Nobody Seems to Know It Ever Went Down: So how was the situation different when the GOP was contending to take MInnesota away from the left?
Other than the DFL having an endless parade of checks from plutocrats to cash?
For starters, back then Minnesota had a number of overt conservative voices on the media, statewide, day in, day out. It was when Jason Lewis was at his rabble-rousing peak; I call him the Father of Modern Minnesota Conservatism, and I’ll stand by it. With Lewis on the air, a lot of people who didn’t know they were conservatives, figured it out – and a lot of conservatives who figured they were alone in the big blue swamp realized there were others out there.
And Joe Soucheray was on the air three hours a day talking, not so much directly about politics, but about the absurdities that the left was inflicting on the culture. It may have been a decade before Andrew Breitbart noted that Politics springs from Culture, but Soucheray knew it, and made it a constant topic for a long, long time.
Lewis and Soucheray had record audiences – not just in the Metro, but outstate, where both had syndication in Greater Minnesota.
And between the two, the media’s left-leaning chinese water torture had competition.
And for a few years, MInnesota had a couple of voices that did for conservatism in the state what Rush Limbaugh helped do nationwide; dragged it out of the basement, aired it out, made it relevant to the challenges Minnesotans faced then and today, and made being conservative, unapologetic and smart a thing to be proud of.
And this happened at a time when Minnesota conservatism…came out of the basement, aired out, and started grabbing Minnesota mindshare.
Feed The Cat: Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own. While conservative talk radio is still, along with sports, the only radio format that’s paying its bills, the format has atrophied – largely because it’s become, for money reasons, a national rather than regional format. Syndicated network programming – Limbaugh, Hannity, Prager, Hewitt, Michael Savage, what-have-you – delivers ratings on the relative cheap. And they deliver political engagement, nationwide.
But they don’t have a local political effect like a solid, firebrand local lineup does.
But radio stations pay for very little in the way of “local lineup” anymore; KSTP has turned Soucheray into just another sports talking head; AM1280 has the NARN; AM1130 has Jack and Ben and, temporarily, Dave Thompson.
Minnesota business – at least, the part of it that realizes that a conservative outcome benefits everyone, themselves included – needs to pony up and sponsor the next generation of rabble-rousing Conservative media with a cause; the fact that it’s actually a good ad investment is a collateral benefit, compared to flushing money down ABM’s drain.
And yes, I’m focusing on radio – but this rabble-rousing presence would need to cover all of the social and alternative media, not just the traditional AM band. Still – there is no (affordable) medium that reaches, or can reach, more Minnesotans.
And through that, maybe, we start turning the intellectual tide in this state.
It’s happened once. It can happen again.
Needs to happen again, really.