Manfred Von Richtoven - better known to history as the Red Baron, the highest-scoring fighter pilot of World War I – was once asked for his “mission statement”, as they’re called in business today.
Paraphrasing closely, he said “My mission is to patrol my sector, and shoot down the enemy. All else is bulls**t”.
As I noted yesterday, Tim Pawlenty has done a great job as governor – in great part because he followed through on his promises. (And lest anyone think I’m disparaging Governor Pawlenty in any way in saying this, let me add right now that I echo what King says in every single particular. Thanks, Governor!)
And, as we noted yesterday, the promises that have mattered the most – indeed, the ones that have defined his administration – were the ones he made to get nominated; the No New Taxes pledge foremost among them. To his immense credit, Governor Pawlenty has largely kept that promise, especially with the big things; I’m willing to sacrifice a pawn to take a queen; I’m likewise wiling (if not thrilled) to trade “health fees” one year for unallotment this year; it’s not purist conservative gospel, and it’s pragmatic, but that’s politics for you.
Which means that much of the success of the Pawlenty Administration came from his reaction to a powerful, motivated insurgency within the party – the conservative candidacy of Brian Sullivan. Sullivan was a self-funded maverick (not a McCain kind, the real kind) who ran on a platform that’d have done Ronald Reagan proud. It scared the crap out of the party establishment – so much so that “their” candidate, Pawlenty, had to adopt one of their key tenets to get the nomination.
The rest, as they say, is history. The good kind.
Of course, motivated insurgencies are always a headache to the establishment of any organization, at any level. In 2006, many long-time Sixth District activists were turned off by Michele Bachmann’s organization; she flooded the precinct caucuses with supporters, which gave her a crushing majority of delegates at every level of the endorsement process. She went on, of course, to win twice, including last fall, when the Conventional Wisdom said she would lose; she’s the most conservative voice in Minnesota elective politics; thank goodness the establishment didn’t get their way.
Another insurgency, we’re still digesting; last year, Ron Paul supporters flooded precincts caucuses throughout the state. They brought boundless motivation, energy and (after one filtered out a few hundred thousand resolutions about the Trans-American Freeway and 9/11 being an inside job) some good, solid, libertarian-conservative politics. It scared the establishment, who in some cases had to resort to parliamentary maneuvering that baffled the newcomers; in other cases, they just plain had to organize their opposition.
None of those three insurgencies change the party, fundamentally. But all of them had their effects; the compromises that the parties had to make through the process made the party stronger, in each case.
There’s another insurgency this year. It’s not of quite the same import as the 2002 Sullivan assault. It’s not going to send anyone to Washington. It’s not going to shake the party down to its precincts. But it’s important; just different.
For one thing, the battle for State Party Chair doesn’t have the same constituents as a convention, much less a general election; it’s the party Central Committee that’ll be doing the voting. And nobody vaults into the Central Committee from nowhere. It’s something that comes from years of service to the party. Which means that, no matter what one believes, one has developed the network of connections and allegiances that are the building blocks of any “establishment”.
State Chairman elections, thus, are not unpredictable free-for-alls. The network, the connections, the establishment has a very, very strong voice in the process. As, perhaps, is entirely fitting.
Tony Sutton is a good candidate; I believe he will make a good State Chairman. I also believe that, since he is the establishment’s candidate, his connections with that establishment – the Central Committee – are strong enough that the election is his. That’s not a bad thing because – this is important – his job is not to define the party’s philosophy. That’s the job of the individual candidates, and the people who recruit them and, to some extent the districts they come from. The chairman’s job is to run the administrative wing of the party, and make sure the party supports the candidates, and above all to raise tons and tons of money to make sure that support is there when it’s needed.
I don’t believe there’s any real question that Tony Sutton is going to win. And I think he will do a good job (and if he doesn’t, I’ll be joining a hell of a lot of Republicans in pointing it out). While I don’t like “Next In Line” politics, I think Sutton’s experience in the party machinery makes him qualified to run the party machinery.
I fully expect to be congratulating Tony Sutton next Saturday (June 13) after the Central Committee elections, and sincerely offering him my support (for whatever that’s worth) in helping the GOP kick ass in 2010.
But the party does need a swift kick in the pants, too. The party machinery is decayed and complacent in some areas; the party has ceded the Fourth and Fifth Districts to the Dems for far too long; candidate recruitment and development is lagging badly in places like the First District, and is virtually nonexistent in the Cities. The party still acts like it’s the 1970′s in terms of decentralizing authority; ask anyone who’s sat at a Congressional District convention and fumed as debate was slashed to ramrod District Committee initiatives through the processes. The party machinery needs to make a contest of the entire state, not just the South, the Red River Valley, and the second-through-sixth-tier suburbs.
So while Tony Sutton will, I believe, be the next MNGOP Party Chairman, the party needs to put these goals – the need to not just embrace change, but conquer it; the need to adapt to a world where authority is decentralizing – out front.
They need not so much to fight the DFL, but to present the GOP in a light that wins people over to what the party represents, and to make sure the candidates that do that are supported.
I don’t “endorse” people on this blog. I’m just a workadaddy, hugamommy schnook from Saint Paul, with a couple of kids and a mortgage and a day job. And I am not on the Central Committee, so my opinion really matters only inasmuch as I have a readership and a modestly popular talk show – i.e. not all that much. To call my opinion an “endorsement” only makes sense as humor. So I don’t endorse.
But I support Dave Thompson for State Party Chair.
Part of it is that I like Dave, and I support his positions. Dave’s politics largely agree with mine. And I believe that if he were the state chairman, it’d send a message about the kind of candidate this party should be recruiting, and the kind of races we should be running; center-right, unapologetic, as tightly-focused on a solid, winning message as an hour of Dave’s talk show always was. I believe that Dave has a good command of what politics is turning into in this state – which isn’t so important for an administrator, but is vital for a leader.
It’s not a shot at Tony Sutton or his supporters. As I said, I believe Tony will win in the end, and I will work to support the party if and when he does.
But it is a warning shot across the bow of the state party; “I support you, but not without question. I expect results from you and your administration. The stakes are too high to be complacent“, not that I don’t believe Sutton knows that. “Come back with your shield, or on it“.
Whoever wins, the real challenges start June 14: recruit canddiates. Build a bench. Raise money. Get a message out there.
Further conservatism; limit government; promote growth, security, and limited government.
Win races, and make those victories matter.
As to everything else? Ask the Red Baron.