Money And Organization

Great piece here from Mother Jones about how the DFL went from disorganized and on the ropes after Paul Wellstone’s death, to pretty much controlling Minnesota today.

I know.  It’s MoJo.  It shows obvious signs that it’s written from Alliance for a Better Minnesota press releases (did the DFL really “lower property taxes?”  Because I sure didn’t get mine lowered).

But check it out anyway.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP: 2013 Edition

It’s almost 2014.  Almost time for another mid-term election that’s going to pit the MNGOP – the party of plucky volunteers, creative fundraisers and circular firing squads – against the Minnesota DFL, the policy body on whose narrative’s behalf the Unions, the non-profits, the trial bar, the media, the Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota and a whooole lot of plutocrats with deep pockets and deeper white liberal guilt spend millions and millions and millions of dollars and hours of paid labor.

The Minnesota GOP has always been a party of uneasy factions – although it really became an issue after about 1994, when the Reagan Revolution finally poked its nose out into the Minnesota cold.

The GOP has quite a few factions these days:

  • The “Liberty” Movement.  The “Ron Paul” clique took the party by storm in 2012 with a very effective organization – and, arguably, waned badly by the end of the year, as people realized that some parts of the organization -some (by no means all) of their delegates to the 2012 RNC in Tampa, the leadership in CD5 and CD4 – were more interested in sticking it to the GOP than going after the DFL.  Maybe they waned as their activists walked away.  Maybe they’re keeping their powder dry.  Maybe the dumb ones went away and the smart ones – like most of the “Liberty” activists in CD2, or my own SD65, among others – focused their energies on actually winning elections.   Either way, they’re a faction.  As, for that matter, is the more-mainstream but equally liberty-conscious “Liberty Caucus”…
  • The Tea Party – The wave of activists that came out, in many cases for the first time, in the wake of Obamacare.   They’ve had a disproportionate impact on the GOP; many of the most effective conservatives in the Legislature came from the Tea Party class of 2010 and 2012; go ahead, count the number of Tea Party candidates on the Taxpayers League’s Best Friends of the Taxpayers list.  The Tea Party class of 2010 drove the GOP to the right – which was a very good thing.
  • The Social Conservatives – They’re out there.  They don’t get much press these days – the media has moved on to calling fiscalcons “extremists” these days – but there are enough pro-lifers, traditional marriage supporters and anti-stem-cell people to sway endorsements in a good chunk of Minnesota.  They aren’t the power bloc they used to be, but they are still important – and not just at endorsement time
  • “Moderates”:  We know they exist – the media keeps telling us so. And someone voted for Tom Horner.  Seriously?  I may have met two Republicans in the past decade who still pine for the days of Arne Carlson.  But the GOP still has the likes of Jim Abeler, in whose district the conventional wisdom says he’s the most conservative candidate who can win (as it once said about Steve Smith and Connie Doepke and Geoff Michel; the conventional wisdom was right once…), and places like Minneapolis and Saint Paul where that same conventional wisdom says that the likes of Norm Coleman and Cam Winton are the most conservative candidates who have a shot at actually winning elections.  And the record shows they have a point.
  • The Establishment:  Who are “the Establishment?”   Good question.  ”The Establishment”, as cited by the Liberty clique in 2012, sometimes seems a bit like Keyser Soze; everyone’s heard of it, but nobody’s seen it.  Who is “the establishment?”  I’ve been called “the establishment”, as recently as last winter at my “Liberty”-dominated Senate District.  Near as I can tell, “The Establishment” is the network of big-money donors that have been the party’s fiscal major muscles.  Pragmatic, not especially invested in any ideology, infuriating to the people in all the factions above for whom principle reigns and pragmatism comes in a distant second if it shows up at all.

The Liberty movement likes to claim that the GOP can not win without it.  There’s a germ of truth to that.  The GOP needs the Liberty crowd’s numbers – and Liberty movement will never win anything on its own, either.

Beyond that?  None of the GOP’s factions is worth anything on its own; all of them are minorities within a large minority in this state.

And as long as the factions are bickering with each other, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell the Party is going to be of any use helping candidates reach out to enough undecideds, “independents” and newcomers to activism to help them get to the majority.

And the shame of it is, the factions do agree on almost everything!

The Party – as in, the office full of functionaries down at 225 Park Avenue, kitty corner from the Capitol – needs to hold a “meeting of the five families”.  They need – in my humble opinion – to get the leadership of the various factions together to agree to put aside the things they disagree on (in public, anyway), and focus on the things that do, in fact, tie us together as a party.  Which involves negotiating – something most of the factions eschew – but negotiating with an aim toward changing the state’s (and the party’s) political climate so that all of the factions  have a shot at making the difference they want to make.

This might mean carving up some “turf”, ideologically.  It might also mean all of the factions realizing that even if you’re a liberty Republican or a pro-lifer, having a Tea Partier or a business-first conservative in office is going to be a better proposition for your cause than, say, two chambers full of Paul Thissens.

Idealistic?   Sure.  I’m a conservative in Saint Paul.  Idealism keeps me alive.

Pollyannaish?  About as Pollyannaish as Don Corleone’s “meeting of the five families”;  the MNGOP’s fratricidal bloodletting is a waste of everyone’s time and effort.

Making the GOP effective means finding a way to get the major factions to work together against the real enemy.

That’d be the DFL, for the benefit of some people I’ve met lately.

And – just a quick poll here – how has two years of circular firing squad done us any favors?

What The Hell Do We Do With Our Society? (Part 1: What Can We Learn From New Orleans, The Rockaways And Detroit?)

I grew up in pretty boring times.  If you’re reading this and you’re under the age of 86, so did you, really. 

And let’s be clear; when it comes to the march of human history, boring is good.  “May you live in interesting times” is often attributed as an ancient Chinese curse; it appears to be as “Chinese” as Leann Chin, but the sentiment is dead-on.  For most of human history (and the entire time before it), life was fascinating, brutish and short.

In contrast to most of human history, with its wars and plagues and cataclysms, human history as known to people alive today has been blessedly, wonderfully boring. 

Some react to the boredom by turning the idea of the collapse of civilization into entertainment, from campy “zombie” fiction (The Walking Dead) to breathlessly pompous asteroid fantasies (Armageddon) to moralistic sermons about being our own undoing (The Day After Tomorrow) to conjuring genocidal invaders from the world of fiction (from the sublime Battlestar Galactica  (the 2004 version, not the loathsome seventies one) to the ridiculous Independence Day). I find “end of the world” p0rn unseemly; I didn’t spend this much time and energy raising kids to laugh about the whole world collapsing.  (And may I add “stop being an idiot”).

Others react by hedging their bets against what, throughout human history, seems to be an inevitable. sooner or later; stocking up on food, land, ammo and other supplies to ride out a bad spell the best they can. 

What goes up must come down.  Things tend to move from a state of order to disorder. 

S**t Happens.

And it’s happening all around us. 

And not only is it inevitable – sometimes it can be a very good thing.

———-

A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Williamson of National Review Online.  We talked in re his new book, The End Is Near (And It’s Going To Be Awesome).   Like all of Williamson’s writing, it’s as breezy and readable as it is intellectually beefy.  He’s like a modern-day Paul Johson – and that’s a huge spiff.

I recommend you read it.  Like, go get a copy.  You’ll thank me later

I’ll oversimplify; the book has a few major premises:

  • Politics is the worst possible way to allocate scarce resources.  Not because people are evil or democracy is wrong – but because while every other aspect of life has evolved, politics remains essentially unchanged over the centuries.  Politics is a perfectly valid way of dealing with many of the human condition’s issues – contracts, justice, dropping bombs on people who try to kill you, issuing restraining orders and the like.  But for purposes of driving the allocation of our society’s resources, it just doesn’t work.
  • No, really.  It’s a disaster.  Our national debt is hanging around a years’ worth of our national GDP.  But the unfunded mandates that nobody wants to talk about currently equal, roughly, the GDP of the entire planet.  As in every single bit of economic output from every man, woman and child on the planet for a full year.  Every Big Mac sold, every Android Phone built, every bag of rice hauled in from a paddy in Bangladesh, every Justin Bieber download sold, everything – just to pay our nation’s mandates.  And most of the world’s other “advanced” economies are the same, and maybe worse – they have no senses of dynamism, little familiarity with the notion of “Creative Destruction”, and even nastier senses of societal entitlement than Americans have developed.  Go ahead – tell a Greek that she can’t have nine weeks’ vacation. 
  • It literally can not go on.  It’s like trying to run a family when your significant other is running off to Ho Chunk with the credit and debit cards six days a week.  It is not sustainable.  No matter how vigorously the world’s political bodies affirm their interest in building roadmaps and finding solutions, bla di blah di blah, it is virtually inevitable that the system is going to misallocate its way straight out of business.   Only instead of a divorce or a painful stretch of credit counseling, it’s going to involve some degree or another of the government running out of money, presuming it stops short of taxing every Big Mac sold, every Android Phone built, every bag of rice hauled in from a paddy in Bangladesh, every Justin Bieber download sold, everything. 

So eventually, and pretty much inevitably, government is going to grind to a halt. 

And to Williamson, that’s the good news.  Again, read the book.  You’ll thank me.   Because once you get government out of the way, things actually look pretty good.  We’ll come back to that later.

And you can thank the good folks in New Orleans, Detroit and – soon, I suspect – Camden New Jersey for giving us a previous of how it’s going to work.  Or not work.

And if you think about it, there is some good news in there. 

More tomorrow.

What The Hell Is Up With The MNGOP?: Truth And Consequences

There has been much sturm und drang within, and especially outside of, the Minnesota GOP over last spring’s coup de main by the Ron Paul campaign in Minnesota.  Paul activists, organized as tightly as a Marine basic training company, swarmed the precinct caucuses, the BPOU conventions, the CD conventions, and finally the state convention.  They completely took over some districts (including the Metro 4th and 5th CDs) and took the lopsided majority of the state’s delegates to the national convention.

Now, unlike my friend and longtime activist John Gilmore, I’m doing my best to see a silver lining to the takeover, especially in the 4th CD in which we both live.  Gilmore is the lightning rod of the anti-Paul faction in the 4th and the state, of course, and pulls no punches on the subject, and makes it clear he’s not in the business of finding silver linings.

Being a mere foot soldier, all I can do is note that whatever the problems the Paul takeover has brought at the leadership level (and, as I’ve noted, there are most definitely problems), the takeover has had a few benefits, at least at the grassroots level.  There are fewer “warm body on the ballot” candidacies this year in the Fourth CD than any year I can remember.  More of those races hit their number to get the state funding match than in any recent year.

That’s all to the good.

On the other hand?  I’ve documented some of the problems that we’ve had in the 4th CD from the top down rather than the bottom up.

And compared to the 5th CD, we’ve got it good.  Nancy LaRoche – a longtime activist in CD5 – chronicles the disintegration of the leadership in the CD5 GOP under the “watch” of some especially cynical Ron Paul personality cultists.

Nancy’s been trying to find if there’s even a faint sign of life among the elected “leadership”.  Money quote:

None of the executive leadership have responded to the web site bill as of today. Then I wondered, was the 5th District organization as a whole part of their kill plan? There has been no fundraising, no full committee meetings, and no sign of leadership since their election. Mitch Berg wrote about similar issues of idle hands in CD4.

Jason Lewis talked about the misled direction of some Paul supporters who can’t see the forest for the liberty trees. They refuse to elect a better President now to buy the country time for more liberty-minded candidates later. 5th district leaders appear to have no intention of shaping the party, only destroying it. I tend to agree that these Libertarian “tributes” are happily exploiting the Republican party only to advance their sponsor, Ron Paul — then trashing the vehicle they commandeered.

This, of course, was the big concern many in the “establishment” – including this former “establishment” member who in 2010 was one of those pesky Tea Party insurgents – had with the direction of so many of the Ron Paul crowd.  While many – including the vast majority in my own SD65, including its leader, Joe Schultz (who writes an excellent blog, by the way) came to stay and make a difference within the party, there are not a few that quite clearly did not, and have no intention of it.   And plenty of people are not amused.  And in a year when the Fifth CD fields one of its strongest candidates ever – Chris Fields – it would have been spectacular to have had him backed with a functional district.  (Likewise with Tony Hernandez in the Fourth).

On MPR this morning, I heard a bit by Mark Zdechlik comparing the reactions of the “mainstream” Republicans in the party and the Tampa delegation with those of the “Ron Paul”-faction, who were the majority of the delegates.   Zdechlik quoted a Mark Zasadny of Roseville.  I’ll add emphasis:

Minnesota Ron Paul delegate Mark Zasadny of Roseville said if the election were held right now he would vote for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president.

Mr. Zasadny: thanks for hammering home every stereotype the “establishment” had of the Paul movement; that you had not the faintest interest in the GOP, but hijacked it to serve as a vehicle for the Ron Paul Personality Cult.

(Yep, I said “Ron Paul Personality Cult”.  Anyone who doesn’t honestly think that a Romney/Ryan presidency won’t be better for the prospects of liberty in this country, especially and even if only economic liberty, but also the rest of the First Amendment, than a second Obama term seriously needs to get a grip.  Incrementalism is not a dirty word, if it’s incremental in the right direction, especially if that’s a springboard to further bigger increments.  Increments are better than excrements).

“It seems like the clear message was like the grassroots movement is not really welcome in the Republican Party. So that’s kind of hard to swallow when they come around and say, you know, ‘OK, are you ready to unite behind the Romney campaign and the RNC,’” Zasadny said. “And it’s like, ‘well you just tried to cut our throats.’ So how are we supposed to respond to that?”

Well, you can respond in any of a number of ways, Mr. Zasadny.

  • You can come back for the next round of caucuses and conventions, and try to consolidate your control of the MNGOP.
  • You can replicate your Liberty movement organization that suceeded so wildly – at least at conquering the party organization – in other states, and take over more states, to gain more control of the party apparatus so that the next time the rules fight comes up, you’ll fight the battle with more than just a thin rump of delegates from Minnesota and Nevada.
  • You can learn the lessons that every spunky class of political newcomers does; that politics is a marathon, not a sprint.  And all of you Ron Paul supporters that got into the game last February at the caucuses?  You’ve just been sprinting.  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Or you can react to the perceived “throat cutting” (which wasn’t; the party has every right to organize itself to present its winning candidate in as monolithically-positive light as possible, free of the yelping of what is, let’s be honest, a small minority of the delegates) by doing what Mr. Zasadny and the “leadership” of CD5 have done; taking the knife out of their throats and jamming it into their eye sockets, and twisting it 720 degrees.

Mr. Zasadny:  You were sent to Tampa to represent the Republican Party.  Part of being a delegate to a Party convention is supporting The Party.  Whether you agree with it or not.  That’s not to say you can’t be a principled dissenter – I’ve done that myself – but not   while speaking as an elected delegate at the party’s convention.

The MNGOP is, and should be, a big tent.  It should have room for fiscalcons and libertarians, and even the odd “moderate” who doesn’t screw the rest of the party on taxes and regulation.  As a Tea Party libertarian conservative, I’m more than sympathetic to the Libertarian cause; I came back to the MNGOP in 1999 mostly to try to push the libertarian-conservative cause in the GOP.  So not only am I a sympathetic ear – I was pushing the Liberty cause long before most of you were involved in the MNGOP.

But when you betray the party while serving as a party delegate?

The question isn’t “should Mr. Zasadny and those who think like him make themselves absent from future GOP events”.  The question is “how badly have people like Mr. Zasadny and the CD5 “leadership” hurt the cause of the genuine Liberty supporters that have come to the GOP to do some good – and in many cases, have delivered on it?

Because there are a few babies among the bathwater.

But Let’s Be Honest Here

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been listing a few reasons conservatives should take some limited encouragement from the outcome of the stadium vote.  The “Tea Party” freshman class largely did the job they were sent to Saint Paul to do.

But there’s an (heh heh) elephant in the room.  Every Republican in MInnesota knows it.

While Republicans coming off of epic Tea Party-driven victories elsewhere in the country are fighting the battles that come from being ahead of the bad guys – Walker apparently beating back the recall, Republicans in Indiana,  dispensing with the past-his-shelf-date Dick Lugar and the ones in Utah perhaps on the edge of doing the same with Hatch, thinking about taking the House and the Senate, making some serious headway against the Democrat/Union machine in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania – the sorts of things you can do when you’re focused on expanding on the gains like we got in 2010.

But here in Minnesota?

I remember in the early days of this blog describing Minnesota Republicans as “battered spouses” – people who are used to being dominated, controlled and abused, but think if they just give a little moreˆ, work a little harder to be a better partner, maybe it’ll all be OK.

I, like all Minnesota conservatives, had hoped that that had changed.  But this session was a trip back to the future.

I’m not going to say that the  GOP leadership  in the House and Senate spent tthe session pining for the approval of Lori  Sturdevant, or blithely hoping that iif they just gave enough, the DFL would come along and act like responsiblee adults,, or believing that acting in good faith with the Governor Dayton would cause him to act as anything but an office temp for Alita  Messinnger and Elliot Seid…

…but if I try to answer the question “if they were doing all of that, how would  they have acted any differently?”, I don’t have much of an answer.

The DFL is calling the past session a “Do-nothing” legislature.  And it’s a sad fact that the  best we can say about it is that it really wasn’t; as I noted yesterday, they weren’t.

But they dropped the ball on “Right to Work” and “LIFO” – as if giving in to the unions’ threats would keep the unions from working tirelessly against them?

And they bobbled the tax bill, letting the governor veto it twice while caving in on the stadium, giving the Governor a trifecta of cheap victories almost, it seems to the outside viewer, without having to break a sweat.

I’ve heard a few conservatives – angry business people – say they may not support the GOP this cycle, hoping to “teach the party a lesson”.  I think that’s a huge mistake – this state can not deal with two years of absolute DFL hegemony.   And I think most businesspeople know that.

But I think the takeaways from this past few weeks are::

  1. The Tea Party class of freshmen – obstreporous and savvy, with no real desire to win the Lori Sturdevant/Keri Miller “Good Bipartisan Schnook” seal of approval – are what we need more of.  They are genuine conservatives, and provide a genuine alternative to the DFL.  Collegiality with the DFL comes in well behind doing what they were sent to Saint Paul to do.
  2. The leadership has to change.  If it doesn’t, there is no reason to give the GOP any credibility as conservatives if they can’t work like they have a majority - which, after this session, we will have to work like hell to  hold.

Just as the MNGOP administrative operation needs to overhaul its financial opperation, the GOP caucus in both chambers needs to change its approach, and act like a majority caucus.

So Now What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP?

Wow.  It was a rough week for the Minnesota GOP, wasn’t it?

It’s not entirely a rhetorical question.  We’ll come back to that.

———-

When I am smack in the middle of a crisis, there are a few little aphorisms and bromides that I run through my mind; like rosaries if you’re Catholic, or mantras if you’re a meditator, or the Lord’s Prayer for that matter.  They tack on a bit of pithy temporal wisdom, and help put the mind…well, not so much “at ease” as “into focus”.

Keep Your Head Down And Your Thumb Up Your Ass And Keep Walking. – It’s an old British Army infantryman’s saying; let’s presume it’s a metaphor; it is certainly a crude way of saying “the greatest virtue is perseverance”.

A little less profane? This Too Shall Pass.  - most of you know this one.  It’s an ancient Sufi saying; Abraham Lincoln used it.  Nothing bad – or good – lasts forever.  Life – and poliitcs – is a marathon, not a sprint.

And while I try not to find ‘wisdom” from Hollywood, I have always loved the line “The Only Way Home Is Through Berlin”.  It was Tom Sizemore’s line in Saving Private Ryan; it means the job isn’t going away, so put your head down, and your thumb yadda yadda.  I usually think of it after “This too shall pass” – because “this” frequently won’t “pass” without a hell of a lot of work.

And one way or another, that’s pretty much what we have to do.   Tough it out.  Shake it off.  And remember what matters.

And we’ll come back to that too.

———-

Here’s another saying I love to remember at times like this:  it’s from P.J. O’Rourke; “LIfe is full of ironies, for the stupid“.

The blog posts and tweets started almost immediately after Tony Sutton resigned – “What?  The party of fiscal respnsibility is a half a million in bet?  Isn’t that ironic?”  And after Amy Koch resigned, and after Senators Hann, Gerlach, Senjhem and Michel held their press conference in which they revealed the “inappropriate relationship with a male staffer”, out they came – “G’huk’, g’huk – the “party of family values!  How ironic!” said the pack of …

…I was about the call them “drooling misanthropes”, but the American Union of Drooling Misanthropes called; they don’t want ‘em. I’m at a loss.  I’ll just leave it there.

People make mistakes; they err; they sin; that people aren’t perfect and can’t be perfected, especially not via politics and laws, is a key tenet of classicla conservatism.  People make mistakes; there are consequences.

The GOP leadership got out ahead of the story on Friday, more or less. About this, John GIlmore at Minnesota Conservatives wrote:

Then, as if to mock sanity, four lumbering senators, full to overflowing with themselves, held the Hindenburg of press conferences. Sens. David Hann, Geoff Michel, David Senjem and Chris Gerlach decided that a press conference of apparently endless proportions would be the best response to the unfolding calamities. Michel spoke and far too much. All the men sounded like Rush Limbaugh’s new castrati and the local premiere female conservative radio talk show host Sue Jeffers acidly noted today the lack of inspiration, push-back or general strength. Instead it was all hang dog and maybe the press will not flay us overly much. Please like us!

On the one hand Jeffers and Gilmore were right – the four Senators should have dug into the DFL and the Media; I think the phrase “anyone who said, in 1998, that “it’s just sex, and peoples’ private lives, and just moooooove on, because peoples’ personal business that doesn’t affect their jobs doesn’t count” should be sure to shut up” should have popped up.

On the other hand, can you imagine the GOP trying to sit tight and hope that the media wouldn’t get the story sooner than later?  And we all woke up on Monday morning with John Croman or Erik Black screaming “What was the MNGOP covering up?”

Because that was, pretty much, the alternative.

———-

Anyway – that was last week.  What about this week?

About the Koch kerfuffle:  calm down.  People make mistakes; sometimes they do the wrong thing.  As we noted above, conservatives know this (although Republicans don’t always).

Conservatism – and, when it’s working, the GOP – is about principles, not people.  People fall short; principles give you something to strive for.

The Democrats, and DFL, are all about people, and cults of personality; Mark Dayton won this past election not by dint of any princples or beliefs or even non-laughable campaign promises, but by a combination of Dayton’s name ID (as much about the Daytons stores as Dayton’s time in the Senate) combined with a sleazy, ‘third-party” personality-assassination campaign against Tom Emmer.

People come and go.  Principles go on.  The GOP must not go into this next session playing hurt.  We have the upper hand; if the Sutton and Koch stories weren’t intended to whittle that upper hand away to benefit the DFL, the media wouldn’t cover it to the extent they are (in the way that they didn’t cover the DFL’s own financial woes two years ago).

The Republican party is really two things – a set of principles (these days, largely conservative), and a non-profit organization with an office and a (acting) chairman and staff and a budget.

And it’s that last bit – fixing the Republican Party of Minneosta, Inc. – that’s going to be the big job.  GIlmore:

The way forward is straight forward. The wounded must be tended to, with simple basic human decency. The selection of the RPM Chair takes on even more importance although everyone seems to be looking for a magic bullet of a candidate. That candidate doesn’t exist. Senate leadership has much to account for; misdirection won’t work this time.

John sticks the landing – and that’s where you come in.  The MNGOP – the non-profit political party, not the principles – has often operated below the radar for activists. That has to change; at this next State Central meeting on December 31, people are going to have to buckle down and demand answers; where’s the balance sheet?  Who do we owe money to?  Why?  That’s just the beginning.   If party leadership doesn’t have the information needed for the Central Committee to make informed decisions about the budget distributed to the Central Committee by 12/31, the budget must be tossed.   We can accept no more excuses.

———-

So if you’re a Republican?  Gilmore wrote:

Today has been quiet although MC was reduced to tears when receiving a phone call in the middle of Costco detailing the human cost of these events. There’s nothing quite like crying in public, is there?

Relax.  Sack up, people.  Your dog didn’t die.  It’s a political party; we’re not curing cancer, here.  A politician fell short of our ideals; our party’s management revealed some deficiencies.

Question:  How much worse would this have been had it come out last March?  Or next October?  We’ve got 10 months to turn this thing around.  And not only is that doable – it’s also an eternity in politics.
———-
So where do we go from here?

To cop one more line from Hollywood:  Ed Harris in Apollo 13.

No, not “failure is not an option”, because it certainly is.  A bad one, but an option.

No, it’s the other one, the one the business writers never get but every Churchill fan does;

“With all due respect, sir, I believe this’ll be our finest hour”.

We owe ourselves, and this state, no less.

This too shall pass.  Of course, it’s going to be hard – but the only way home is though Berlin.

So it’s time to put your head down and…

…well, you get the idea.

What The Hell Are We Supposed To Think About The MNGOP?

Brian Lambert at the MinnPost h quoted me the other day:

Minnesota’s most prominent conservative bloggers are oddly quiet about the party’s exciting weekend.

Minnesota’s “most prominent” conservative bloggers – Powerline, Ed Morrissey – don’t do much coverage of local politics much less the inner workings of the MNGOP.

Of course, those of us who do cover the state – Gary Gross, True North and the Dogs - certainly did cover the “exciting weekend”; most of them were there at the Doubletree along with me.

But Lambert noticed I’d been writing on the subject:

But at Shot in the Dark, Mitch Berg takes a run at it:

Lambo grabbed a lengthy quote from this piece here.  It ended with this bit:

And yet the GOP — which, for all its faults, is the only actual transparent political party in this state (if only because nobody, but nobody, cares about the Independence Party) — is going to have to get through some of this BS to go forward.”

…and he added…:

… But just “some” of it.

Yep.  Just some.

I said it on the radio over the weekend, and I’ll stand by it; the whole incident is going to be a good thing for the MNGOP, if it tackles the issue head-on.  The party’s in debt:  so tackle the debt.  The party lost its statewide races and two recounts: so figure out what we need to do to fix it.  None of this is brain surgery – politicians do it, for chrissake.

And we’re going to tackle it a year before the election.  Oh, the media will do what they can to keep it current – but by next election time, the GOP will be out of the metaphorical woods, loaded for bear, with new leadership and (if a lot of us have our way) explicit confidence that we are on the right path financiallly.

The media – Lambert among ‘em – what the GOP grassroots to look at the task at hand and get depressed and discouraged.

There is no reason for this.  The turmoil of this past two weeks is good news.  The GOP will be a much stronger party – as long as we tackle this head-on.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP, Part V

More about the GOP Chair race,and the future of the position, later in the week.

The question for today is “what should a party look like these days?”

The DFL has followed a model similar to many IT companies; they are basically a shell.that administers groups of programmers in India, Ukraine and the Philippines.

The DFL is more or less the same. They’ve farmed out a lot of that policy, publicity, advertising, and interacting with the public stuff to other groups:  Alliance for a Better Minnesota,whose mission is to collect money from “progressive” plutocrats and unions to waterboard context about Republicans; “Win  Minnesota”, which collects money from plutocrats and unions to distribute to, well, Alliance for a Better Minnesota.  Then there’s the unions – the MFT,AFSCME, MAPE, the SEIU, Teamsters…

…and of course, the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, Take-Action Minnesota, Common Cause,the League of Women Voters, MPIRG,and all the other non-profit agenda pimps…

…to say nothing of Big Feminist, Big Environment, Big Gay, Big Minority and Big Grievance (by which I mean the big, institutional lobbying arms of those social movements)

So what does this mean for a political party?

It means that the party can focus on running endorsements and a few other things, and leave all of the complicated stuff – advertising, communicating with voters, fundraising – to other other groups.  This is especially useful when it comes to trying to appeal to “big tents” full of voters; the unions can reach out to their constituents, and have their messages carefully sequestered away from Big Environment’s countervailing message, and neither will be the wiser.  (I think that’s part of the reason that so much of the messaging coming from the DFL proper is so very very stupid; all the talented communicators are working for 527s.

Of course, this means that the 527s are a little more equal than the voters – and to the DFL’s activists. And if Republicans wonder about how their party’s budget’s been spent, and want more transparency?  The money spent getting Democrats elected is accountable only to a raft of non-profit boards, union leadership and private parties with deep pockets.

Not a few Republicans have pondered if that’s the future of political parties; since so many businesses are doing more or less the same thing.  It’s probably irrelevant at the moment; there are not enough Republican-leaning 527s.  I’m not sure it’s something the GOP wants to do; I like the idea of standing in contrast with

More later this week.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP, Part IV

OK, no substantive contributions to the debate this time – at least not me, myself.

But the ruling junta at True North has dedicated a section at the blog to the race for chair – and, more importantly, has sent out a questionnaire to the known candidates for the office.

And True North will run the candidates’ answers.  This is part of True North’s ongoing mission to make sure the Minnesota center-right gets the information they need – which used to be a pretty radical notion in GOP circles..

If you’re a MNGOP activist, you’ll want to watch that space.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP Now, Part III

OK – so we’ve established that the MNGOP needs to fix its finances, and knock off the circular firing squads.  That’s all fairly obvious – although seemingly inscrutable to some in the party.

But where do we go from here when it comes to leadership?

Derek Brigham at Freedom Dogs and True North wrote up the spec sheet:

My ideal chair would be a person who:

—Relates VERY WELL with the grassroots without alienating the establishment. Working the other way around has been the norm since I have been involved, but this will no longer work—honestly it never did. The numbers are with the grassroots, the leader should reflect this.

This is a tough one.  The “Grassroots” include a lot of people who come to their first meetings full of whiz and vinegar for an issue – who peter out as the reality of the long-term slog of party politics sets in.  And that’s where most of the energy comes from.  It’s a tough row to hoe.

—Envisions the MNGOP massively simplifying its tasks. As I wrote on Twitter a few days ago: “New agenda for party: do less, simplify, keep on track, let go of what you suck at, kick ass at what you do well”. The MNGOP at least for some time to come can not be all things to all people.

And it’s here that the DFL may have one of its few right ideas.  As I noted a few weeks back, the DFL is really just a holding company that outsources a good chunk of its organizing,media and policy work to outside groups with an interest in the subjects (where “subject” is something like, say, “running a toxic sleaze campaign against Tom Emmer” or some such). It’s not the dumbest idea they’ve had.

—Can pull in BIG Money players, and have several routes to bring in small (read: a buck at a time) donations.

Goes without saying. But it’s good Derek said it.

—Operates with transparency and honesty. People loathe the last many years of bad bookkeeping. Conservatives pride themselves on financial efficiency.

The next party chair is going to face very angry party electorate demanding a very high standard.

—Would not push morality issues. The world is in economic collapse, this should be easy. Get with the basics: Small government, Individual liberty and responsibility, Create an environment for prosperity.

Y’see, that should be a gimme.  The party isn’t supposed to push policy.  It’s a fund-raising, communications and logistics organization (I’m oversimplifying, but not much).

—Become THE friendly oasis for businesses with our message. The DFL and Dayton are an absolute cancer to business and productivity in this state. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

While that’s the candidates’ job, the party does need to make sure it’s clear on its message.  The 2010 elections showed that we can do it.

—Wants to take the bloated party platform down to fewer words than the Gettysburg address. Again, keep the principles strong and the words few.

Derek and I have been working on that for a while.

Another Twitter post I put up was this: “Want a party? Musts: Unite around core principles, Focus on opponents, Appeal to the Big money players, Avoid morality issues” Yes I do repeat myself a bit, but key in that statement was: Focus on opponents. There is a reason we play pin the tail on the donkey and not the other way around. You want to excel at in-fighting, go to a family reunion.

Let me sum it up: Win Elections For Our Principles.

And that’s gonna be an interesting order to fill.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP Now: Part II

I remember going to my first Fourth Congressional District convention.  It must have been in 2000; it was long before I had a blog.  I had been elected as a delegate from House District 66B; this was my first Congressional District convention, and my second convention of any kind at all.

And I sat in my chair, and waited for all the democracy to kick in.

And it did.  We listened to about two hours worth of speeches, if I remember correctly, before we got down to business.  Which was…

…about two hours of debating rules and picayune aspects of the Constitution.

Not the US Constitution, or even the Minnesota one.  The Fourth Congressional District COP Constitution.  And a group of three or four people, who seemed to live for this sort of thing, basically alternated back and forth on the microphones as the chair and parliamentarian fielded, processed and wove an ever-expanding web of motions, sub-motions leading to amendments, amendments to amendments…

…all to answer a question on the order of “do we allow the rules to be suspended to move the treasurer’s report in front of the teller’s report on the agenda?”, or something equally earth-shaking.

Of course, two things became clear:

  1. This wasn’t entirely about convention rules; there was some subtext at work; old feuds, the detritus from years of people doing politics together resurfacing in the form of a squabble over some picayune aspect of parliamentary procedure or other.
  2. But for some of them, it genuinely was about convention rules.  There are people on this earth who genuinely get exercised about that kind of stuff.
I was not one of them.  I’m still not.  I want to talk policy, and candidates, and get down to the business of subduing the DFL and putting their toxic policies on display in the “Museum of Stupid Ideas” where they belong.  Squabbling over convention rules gives me nothing but a numb butt and a craving for caffeine – and eventually cocaine.   That’s what I’m there for.

Judging by the utter boredom on the faces of the first-time conventiongoers around me – many of them last-time conventiongoers – I was hardly alone.

People who are drawn to the GOP don’t tend to be people who enjoy sitting in meetings, much less arguing about picayune parts of parliamentary procedure.  They – we – tend not only to be goal-oriented rather than process-oriented people, but to be the type that actively eschew politics for its own sake, preferring to actually change society for the better. It’s the same sort of things that draw people to the Libertarians or the Constitution or Green Parties – the urge to actually get out there and solve problems rather than sit in rooms and argue procedure until your butt falls asleep.

And yet to any party – the sheep-like DFL, of course, but the GOP too – are drawn people who do just love the whole “being a party” thing; people who love navigating the bylaws and codedils and playing politics, on the most venal possible level, for its own sake.

The rift over the weekend between Emmer Campaign and the Seifert/Party Establishment crowds was a bit of deja vu.  There may be no more beaten-down organization in this country than the Saint Paul Republican City Committee and its various wards and districts.  So nobody, perhaps, was more surprised than Saint Paul Republicans a few years back when, hard to the heels of two devastating electoral losses state and nationwide, Republicans captured a community council deep in the heart of stereotypically-DFL-dominated Saint Paul…

…and promptly proceeded to watch the victory dissolve in infighting, squabbling, backstabbing – the kind of stuff the Saint Paul City Committee is usually known for.

Too many Republicans seem to have forgotten Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment; duke it out with Republicans, but keep it in the house.  Never, ever bag on fellow Republicans in public.  Even ones you disagree with.  Even ones who you detest.   Especially not to the media, who are – never ever forget this – working for the other side.

(Some leftyblogger will chime in here with “what about the Override Six?  What about Arne Carlson and Dave Durenberger?”  Only half of that chime-in is dumb; Carlson and Durenberger endorsed Democrats and used their remaining political capital to attack the GOP; while as a Norwegian-American I might not have used the term “Quisling”, Tony Sutton was absolutely right to toss them from the party.  As to the Override Six – it was endorsing activists that got ride of two of them, and the voters that got the others).

A fair chunk of the GOP – the part of it that is into the “party” stuff more than the “getting government off our backs” bit – needs to remember what the actual goal of all this party-mongering is.  It’s not more party-mongering.

Much more later this week.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP Now?

Last week was a big one for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

On the eve of the winter Central Committee meeting, chairman Tony Sutton resigned.  As I noted last week, Sutton – and his deputy until last October, Michael Brodkorb – were transitional figures for the MNGOP.  Speaking as a D-list pundit rather than an insider, they did a great job of making the party more available, and giving access to the party and its people to the only media they have on their side, the conservative alternative one.

Of course, there was the matter of the budget.

On the one hand, Sutton spent some money.  The party is at least a half million in debt.

On the other hand, the MNGOP had a big challenge; in the middle of a terrible economy, to try to beat the DFL…

…well, no.  The DFL isn’t really a party anymore.  It’s a holding company that manages a brand and farms out the actual work, and fundraising, and spending, to outside groups like Take Action MN and Alliance For A Better MN and Alida Messinger (whose idea of fundraising is reaching into her purse for a checkbook) and Minnesota’s unions (whose idea of fundraising is taking dues from their membership, 46% of whom vote Republican, and giving 92% of it to Democrats).  Anyway – Sutton and the MNGOP had to fight against an avalanche of outside and union money.  It takes money to fight money.

On yet another hand, at the party level, the spending doesn’t seem to have worked; the GOP lost all of the races for which it was primarily responsible – the State Auditor, Attorney General and Secretary of State races.

On another of those hands, it was sitll a great cycle for the MNGOP brand.  Perhaps you recall – we won quite a few races.  Flipped the House and Senate. Came within 8,000 votes of winning the governor’s race; I’m convinced there’d be at least 8,001 do-overs for Emmer if we held the election today). It was a good cycle.

Then again, those races were mainly the job of the Legislative GOP caucuses – which did a great job of raising and distributing money effectively, and helping with the campaigns that made such a huge, crucial difference last election and (more importantly) last session.

And on the final hand, if you look at the budget today, it’s hard to tell where the money went, or who we even owe money to.  And it’s causing quite a bit of dissent within the party; at last weekend’s Central Committee meeting, the budget – which normally gets rubber-stamped without a lot of thought by a room full of delegates that just want to get out of there – was tabled until a meeting in the near future.  And that is going to be a donnybrook, as new Deputy and Acting Chair Kelly Fenton and the remains of Sutton’s Executive Committee face a Central Committee that is laced with dissenters who are looking for solid answers.

And the media just loves it; as the Party airs three years of dirty laundry in public and monday-morning-quarterbacks the 2010 election cycle.  (Anyone seeing the wisdom of the DFL’s approach – not really being a party at all – yet?  All of this happens in private, in the offices of non-profits that answer only to themselves and their hand-picked boards, with not an iota of elected scrutiny).

The media – which is, now and always, in the bag for the DFL – is going to love this.

And yet the GOP – which, for all its faults, is the only actual transparent political party in this state (if only because nobody, but nobody, cares about the Independence Party) – is going to have to get through some of this BS to go forward.

So – what the hell do we do about the MNGOP, at this fraught and unprecedented fork in the road?

That’s the subject this week.

What The Hell Do We Do Now?

So now we control the Legislature in Minnesota, and the House in DC.

So what do we do about it?

Yesterday, I said the new GOP majorities need to “go on the attack”.

Let me be clear; I don’t mean that in the Chicago Democrat/DFL sense of the term.

The GOP was sent to DC and Saint Paul, both, on an epic wave of popular focus on principle – small-government, lower spending, more accountability.

  • The GOP in Saint Paul needs to tell the DFL where they can stuff their $38 Billion wish list.  The Dayton “budget plan” needs to be scuppered; a plan similiar to Emmer’s – pared back to current spending plus any increases in revenue that comes from growth, not tax hikes – needs to be pushed.  Hard.  As in the first week.
  • And when Dayton vetoes it, they’ll need to pass it again.  As nearly unchanged as possible.  And keep passing it.  Over and over and over.  What are they going to do?  Is Dayton going to cave in – fatally weakening himself with his base (and likely causing him to close down the governor’s office and flee to Vail)?  Or shut down the government, fatally weakening himself with his base and making the GOP go “waaah, waaah, waaah” in mock mourning?
  • Vast swathes of state government need to be privatized.
  • The budget process needs to be converted to a zero-based sysem – especially heath and human services.  Our current system takes the previous budget, adds the projected increase in need, and factors in inflation – basically a recipe for nothing but budget increases.

One thing the GOP must not do; try to become popular with Lori Sturdevant, Keri Miller and Nick Coleman.  Or compromise with the DFL without exacting two pounds of budget-cutting, spending-slashing, entitlement crushing flesh in return for every pound they give up.

You have the power now. Make it matter, or we’ll find some legislators who will.  We’ve done it once now; we can do it again.

How The Hell Does Emmer Win This Thing, Part II

In this past week, Minnesota has been presented with four different polls on the Minnesota governor’s race; the risible Minnesota poll, the oddly-disconnected Humphrey Institute Poll, the Rasmussen Poll (which may or may not have overpolled Republicans, as opposed to the MN and HHH polls, which certainly overpolled Democrats) and, late last week, the SurveyUSA (SUSA) poll.  These polls showed a smorgasbord of results.  You can pick the one you prefer, really – as, indeed, most Minnesota political junkies have done.

I prefer Rasmussen.  Not because it showed Emmer in the lead – that fact made me happy, but then so would a “Berg Institute” poll that showed Emmer leading 100-0; the BI poll has no real track record, so I’d put no real stock in it – but because Rasmussen has been the closest pollster on the past couple of elections.

Still, the SUSA poll sort of splits the difference between the two.  It shows Dayton with a lead just outside the margin of error.

But it shows two other things that should be hugely encouraging to the Emmer campaign.

Peoples’ Hearts In Right Place – With Their Wallets: While the poll shows Emmer slightly behind, it asks the question “how should we resolve Minnesota’s budget deficit?”

And here are the answers:

Minnesota likely voters – however measured -prefer raising taxes over “not sure” by less than the margin of error.  38% favor some combination of spending cuts and tax hikes.  And 53% favor cuts in spending.

Given that there is only one candidate who favors getting government spending under control, the target of Emmer’s next two weeks should be fairly clear; reaching the 53% of Minnesotans who support Emmer, but just don’t know it yet.

Is The Big Break Here?:  The week before last, I reported on the landslide taking shape in District 32A, Kurt Zellers’ district in Maple Grove.  The DFL’s been targeting that district all year, but it’s just not working – Zellers is clobbering Katie Rodriguez by 24 points, even though Margaret Anderson-Kelliher proclaimed the district to be prime upset territory bare weeks earlier.

But the real development in that story, as I noted, was that independents – people who are non-GOP-affiliated in that GOP-leaning district – are breaking toward Emmer by a 4-1 margin.

And in this SUSA poll, we see for the first time in this cycle that Independents are trending toward Emmer, 37-35 (with 19 for Horner).  Independents tend to make up their mind at the last possible moment; this next two weeks is Go time.

It’s inside the margin of error, to be sure – but it’s trended up in since the last SUSA poll, while Dayton’s support has trended down.

So how does Emmer win this thing?

Show them that he’s got an actual plan: As this campaign has progressed, it’s become painfully clear that Dayton’s budget “plan” is nothing but wishful thinking; its entire focus is on taxes (barring a few ludicrous putative spending cuts that flunk every stink test from here to MPR), as opposed to the spending cuts a majority of Minnesotans favor.  Emmer’s plan is real, it’s rational, the numbers check out (unlike either Horner’s or Dayton’s).  Emmer must hammer this.  53% of Minnesotans, say SUSA, are ready and waiting.

Point out that Dayton and Horner’s “plans” are vaporware. There is no there there.  The plans don’t pass any fact-checks.  And Dayton’s is utterly dead on arrival with the legislature.  (“But so is Emmer’s”, the leftybloggers bleat, ignoring the fact that Emmer’s plan can virtually pass on pure inertia, as opposed to Dayton’s, which will require a legislative miracle – and to paraphrase Monsieur Ferrari, the Tea Party has outlawed legislative miracles that involve hiking taxes or spending).  In a legislative cycle where voters want things to get done, Dayton and Horner’s plans are both complete wastes of time, doomed from inception.

He Rides The Tide: It’s not just a, er, shot in the dark on my part.  Rasmussen notes a bit of recent history:

“And by two-to-one, voters say they prefer a congressman who will reduce overall spending to one who promises to bring a ‘fair share’ of government spending to their congressional district,” the veteran pollster said, adding that a plurality of Texas voters backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent decision to turn down federal dollars a program because federal strings were attached to it.

The Republicans’ strong position three weeks before midterm elections began, Rasmussen recalled, “when every Republican [in the House] said they would oppose the stimulus package…And support for it never recovered.”

“And by two-to-one, voters say they prefer a congressman who will reduce overall spending to one who promises to bring a ‘fair share’ of government spending to their congressional district,” the veteran pollster said, adding that a plurality of Texas voters backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent decision to turn down federal dollars a program because federal strings were attached to it.

So that’s how Emmer wins this thing; show that 53% of Minnesotans that he’s got the answer.

We can all, help, of course. Pass the word.  I don’t remotely believe that the major polls’ likely voter models accurately predict likely voter turnout – but there’s no reason not to make sure everyone gets the facts.

Emmer’s going to win this thing.  Suck it up and let’s make this happen.

How The Hell Does Emmer Win This Thing?

Let’s make no mistake about this; I’m predicting Tom Emmer is going to win this fall’s gubernatorial race.  It’s going to be tight – 3-4 points, very likely less – but he’s going to win.   On the chance – heaven forefend – that he doesn’t?  In the wake of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, Minnesota will have proven itself a fundamentally un-serious people for all time to come.

But I have more faith in the people of this state than that.

Still, there’ve been some of my fellow Republicans – that is to say, Republicans, as opposed to conservatives – cracking under the pressure of the campaign.  I’ve talked with a few otherwise-stalwart GOPers who aren’t sure that Emmer can pull this off.

I am sure he can and will.  But let’s break it down.

Here’s how Emmer wins this election:

Endure: Dayton’s family and cronies have subjected Emmer to the most expensive, slimy smear campaign in the history of Minnesota politics.  And yet, according to the latest MPR/Humphrey Institute poll, Emmer is tied, inside a fairly generous margin of error, and plenty of undecideds in a year with a huge tailwind for the right conservative candidates.  He’s stood up to it well, taking a consistent high road – knowing, I suspect, that behind all the slime, Dayton’s really got nothing.

It’s gotta be hard, sitting and acting like a punching bag for a bunch of dirtballs like “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”.  But eventually even bags of slime empty out.  And while the people of Minnesota have long shown a capacity for electing the shamefully bizarre – Ventura, Franken, even Perpich – these mood of the voter is not as dissipate as it was in 1998, and there’s no way Franken would have won without the Democrat tide in 2008.  All that remains, then, is to fill in the vacuum.

With what?

Be Tom Emmer: I’ve been saying it for three months now; when people meet Mark Dayton, they walk away feeling…weird.  On the other hand, when people meet Tom Emmer, even opponents get won over by the guy; if not by his policies, then by his energy and personality and regular-schnook bonhomie.

More importantly – much much more importantly?  When I first encountered Emmer the Candidate about a year ago, in a couple of radio interviews I did with him as both a host and a panelist, I noticed he has a gift that is exceedingly rare among partisans on the right or left; the ability to address a room full of people who don’t start out agreeing with him, and getting them to at least consider what he was to say.  It’s the same gift Ronald Reagan had; the ability to move people from “the center” over to him.

And it shows; in the gubernatorial debates I’ve seen, Emmer has mopped the floor with Dayton and Horner; Dayton comes across as a mumbling, skittery, dissipated professor; Horner, a PR flak who forgot his talking point sheet and is going from a very short list of lines he remembers.

Which is why I suspect you won’t see all that much media coverage of this year’s debates; Emmer, in person, is a dynamo.  The more people know and see that, the better he does.

The Plan:  The left has dusted off an old chanting point.  Last June, they were demanding to see the specifics of Emmer’s plan.   They’ve been doing their best to frame a plan whose details they know very little as yet about.  The chanting points, on the blogs, Twitter and the Strib, are growing increasingly desperate; “Where is it?  Since we haven’t seen it, it must not exist!  It’s probably just tax cuts!  That did SO well so far, didn’ t  it?”

The pace of the framing is picking up because the DFL knows it’s out there.  And, with the likes of Annette Meeks and the rest of Emmer’s policy crew working on it, it’s gonna be a doozy.

What’s in it?  I dunno.  I’m not on the campaign.  Never have been.  Oh, I can speculate – indeed, next week, I will.  In great depth.

But everyone from Emmer and Meeks on down to lil’ ol’ me knows this is the game-maker – and the game-breaker, potentially.  In a year that is more friendly to government reform than any in history, The Plan will be Emmer’s opportunity to throw Dayton and his pathetic “tax the rich” ( who make over $130,000 a year) plan on defensive for good.  A chance to show that there’ll be a grownup at the helm.

It’s a huge chance.

Like all huge chances, it could break good, or break bad.  My bet is on “good”.  Overwhelmingly so.

And that’s what the DFL is betting on, too.  It’s why a candidate like Dayton – rich, with 100% name recognition and “experience” – needs to throw such an incredibly slimy campaign, and call in so many markers from the media to insulate him.

As I noted in my original piece on the subject, Emmer is right to wait on releasing The Plan.  He’s going to be outspent three or more to one, to be sure – but the race, and most of the talk about it, so far has been among the wonks and the political junkies.  And all of them made up their minds about the time I did.

But The Plan should impact right about the time the people who really matter – the undecided voters – start to realize there’s an actual campaign going on and that they should pay it some attention.  And that window starts to creak open in about the next couple of weeks.

Take Back “Miracle”:  This is the big one, as far as I’m concerned.

It was forty years ago that the DFL stole the term “Miracle”.  The “Minnesota Miracle” was huge expansion of the Minnesota economy; it was accompanied by the institution of a huge government wealth-redistribution plan designed to subsidize poorer parts of the state with money from the then-wealthy Twin Cities.   It’s been presented over the past forty years as if the redistribution program caused the blooming of Minnesota as a business, educational and population center, as if Minnesota – a place blessed with immense resources and 150 years as the transportation, commercial, social and demographic hub of the entire north-central United States – would have remained a desultory backwater forever without “Local Government Aid”.

The fossils of the “Miracle” have been perverted over the years into a money-laundering scheme to help the DFL-dominated governments in the Twin Cities and Duluth hide their spending.

This is the “Miracle” at 40.

Emmer realizes, rightly, that there needs to be a new “Miracle” in Minnesota – one that puts government back in its proper role, and otherwise stays out of the way of Minnesotans’ natural industry and energy.

That’s the right message in this day and age.

No matter how much mindless flak the other side puts up.

What The Hell Is The Republican Party’s Problem?

The Republican Party stands on the brink of an epic comeback.  Dropping to near-third-party status in 2006 and 2008 in Washington and in state houses around the country, things looked very, very bleak for the GOP.

But the Obama administration’s overreach, and the Democrat-dominated Congress’ ham-fisted pettifoggery in enabling the overreach, and the spontaneous uprising of millions of people, including many “swing” independents with a bad case of political “coyote uglies” for the Democrats, are what’s causing the Dems’ problem.  The National GOP is not.

Now, a lot of people – including, until the last year or so, me – misunderstand what the national Party is supposed to be for.  It is in charge of fund-raising, logistics, and support for national GOP candideates.  It is not the ideological clearinghouse for the GOP as a whole; that’s the candidates’ job. 

So as messed-up as the National GOP seems to be, what with staffers going to lesbian strip joints and Michael Steele showing his malaprop collection (granted, with the connivance of a media that likes its’ black people to be quiet and stay on Democratic political plantation), that’s not the problem.  Or at least not much of it.

The Democrats are bleeding right now because the American people want something other than an eternity of debt and a future of servitude to the government.

And except for some uppity conservatives – Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn and a small legion of others – the party’s response seems to be “we’ll get to fixing things when we get around to it”. 

Look, I get it; politics is about compromise, and right now the GOP, being a superminority party in Congress, is having to fight like hell to even get bad compromises.  That’s life, when you lose elections.

But when it comes to life after January, 2011?  Now is not the time to compromise.  Now is the time for a bold, strong, clear vision that shows all those disaffected, disgusted people who are dumping the Administration and rejecting Pelosi and Reid that there is an alternative, not just ofay, incrementalist reaction.  

More importantly, the party needs to not merely atone for its role in getting us here – the corruption and democrat-style spending from 2000-2008 that helped put the Dems in office in the first place; it needs to reverse that course in a way that nobody can mistake.

The National GOP and all of its candidates need a message that says “we are for stoppping the growth, rolling back the regulation, reinstating economic liberty, cutting taxes, re-limiting government, and undoing the damage of the past ten years”. 

I’m getting that from Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan.  We get it from Chris Christie.  When we need it, Tim Pawlenty shows it. 

We need a party of Chris Cristies, Paul Ryans and Sarah Palins; we need to show the American people that we are on a mission.

And for the most part, we are not.

There are millions of voters waiting to be convinced.  I ran into hundreds of them at the Tea Party last week; they want to be convinced.

So convince them.

What The Hell Do We Do With The MNGOP Platform, Part II

Last week, we discussed what to do about the Minnesota GOP Platform.

It wasn’t just idle talk.  Last weekend at the 3rd CD GOP convention, Derek “Chief” Brigham of Freedom Dogs and True North brought the draft result of the work of a small group of us who wanted to see the platform change to a vote:

Rick Weible who is a Co-Chair at CD3 and I were talking at the SD45 convention and I learned that he also wanted to see this happen, and that the idea was popular with others in leadership. I told him I knew a few guys that would be good to bring in to help draft this thing and so it began. Mitch Berg (CD4), John LaPlante (CD2), Jan Schneider (CD3), Rick and I started a drafting a file that after many, many revisions eventually became the document you see below. Today at the CD3 convention, it passed by a nearly unanimous vote (I only heard one nay from the floor).

It’s very similar to the one I posted here last week:

Proposal from Third Congressional District Republicans of Minnesota

Guiding Principles and Values

Individuals, businesses and the country succeed and prosper when government stays out of the way of those who lead the way with integrity, responsibility, charity, hard work, humility, courage, gratitude and hope.

Government has a role in our society – but that role is carefully enumerated in the United States Constitution. The Republican Party of Minnesota believes that a good government does not eclipse roles that are best carried out by individuals, families, houses of faith, charitable organizations or businesses.

1) America is a great nation; we are the “Shining City,” an exemplar of virtues for all other nations and their people. The greatness of the American nation, the virtues of its people, and the success of the American experiment are a beacon of hope for the entire world.

2) Liberty is essential for our society to advance and prosper. The freedom to explore advances in culture, business, faith, science and government improves all of our lives; on the other hand, excessive government regulation and control hinders that development. The ability and freedom to disagree with each other and our government must also be protected; any hindrances to the free market of ideas will sap the ability of America to advance and to better herself.

3) We believe in the ability of the individual, by themselves or through families, businesses, groups and non-profit organizations, rather than the government to solve the problems of today and lead us into the future.

4) Faith is where we derive our moral compass and come to understand the eternal rules of order and rights which God himself has ordained. We believe each person needs to be free in order to explore his/her Faith.

5) Human Life is sacred; it must be protected at all stages.

6) The Family is among our society’s most important institutions. Government must not be allowed to infringe on the sanctity of the family.

7) The Pursuit of Happiness is essential to our existence; we support equal opportunities not equal results.

8 ) Charity comes best from the heart of individuals and cannot be forced or coerced via taxation and regulation.

9) The law must be applied to everyone equally; no one is above the law.

10) Law abiding citizens must be trusted to defend their life, family and property.

Drafted and submitted April 2010, by Rick Weible (CD3), Derek Brigham (CD3), Mitch Berg (CD4), John LaPlante (CD2), Jan Schneider (CD3)

So what’s the fuss about?  Mostly, it’s about giving the people of the party a succinct, clear statement of principles and values.

That’s good in itself, especially should the state party go through some sort of resolutions fight at the state convention and the platform ends up as even more of a beast. Don’t tell me it’s not possible.

As anyone that’s ever been to a MNGOP convention at any level knows, it’s the resolutions fights that drag on and on, as activists – who may or may not be especially experienced at how conventions, parties and platforms work, debate the finer points of resolutions whose sole intent…

…is to go into an already-overlong platform, to make it over-longer.

Now let’s consider a possible future for this document. CD3′s resolutions committee, can now take a vote tested and nearly unanimously approved document to the state resolution meeting to present it as a state party document to consider. They may make changes, or it may get totally shot down by the other CDs, or it may just make it through to the floor of the state convention for a vote as an approved party document.

I hope it comes to State.  It’d be a good statement to the delegates and the voters.  The GOP’s biggest problem in the past four years, besides dynasty fatigue, was the perception that they’d become a big part of the problem.

As the party goes through the ordeal of cleaning up its act, what could be better than cleaning up its defnining statement?

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP Platform?

One of the most useless exercises at any business is the process of “writing a mission statement”.  If you have a business that has a chance at success, the mission is pretty self-evident.  “The Mission of Muffy and Ian’s Kites ‘n Koffee is to provide better coffee and kite supplies to the consumers of West Buyaloopup, Oregon”.   

Most management know better than to ask me for a mission statement anymore – because for the past fifteen years, I’ve told ‘em all the same thing; there’ve been two mission statements in all of history that serve as templates for all others:  Baron Manfred Von Richthofen (“My mission is to patrol my sector and shoot down anything I see.  All else is bullsh*t”) and Conan the Barbarian (“The greatest joy mission is to drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentation of his women”).

The simple fact is, for most businesses the mission is bone simple, to the point of self-explanatory.  It’s true for most entities, whether people (“My mission is to be the best person, father and citizen I can be”), families (“The mission of the Berg family to make sure Bun and Zam grow up to be good people and citizens”), blogs (“the mission of Shot In The Dark is to drive liberals before it and hear the lamentation of whatever liberals’ distaff community is determined to be; all else is bullsh*t”), organizations (“The mission of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers is to provide a social outlet for bloggers and blog readers”), or whatever.

With political parties, it’s just as simple; the mission of a political party is to embody the principles that reflect their members’ vision of what government is supposed to be.    All the thousands and millions of ‘em.

The Minnesota DFL platform actually does a fine job of conveying that vision.  It states a long list of principles – most of them launching from the notion of “society” doing something, or government fully-funding this or that.  The DFL platform presents a grandiloquently statist vision - a high-level “to-do” list for big government – in elegantly-crafted wrapping paper.

The Minnesota GOP platform [danger - PDF file], on the other hand, is a dog’s breakfast of talking points.   It’s circulated in tabloid form at precinct caucuses; I’ve seen people try to make heads or tails of it, watched their eyes glaze over, and put it down, eyes rolling.   The document is literally written by committee – not just any committee, but one of the biggest committees in all of Minnesota.  At every year’s precinct caucuses, thousands of resolutions get forwarded for consideration to BPOU, Congressional District and finally State scrutiny; few actually get into the platform…

…but “few” of thousands still makes for a huge platform.  There are nine sections to the platform, each with 15-20 planks.  It comes to nearly 20 pages.

And it includes an amazing assortment of things – from lofty ideals (“…policies that reflect that every innocent human being, born and unborn, has an inalienable right to life from conception to natural death”) to practical principles (“Improving the quality of education by maximizing parental choice through expanded support for charter schools, school choice programs, parental rights to home school their children and more competitive and accountable public school systems”) to bald-faced sops to special interests (“Making the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program available annually in every Minnesota
elementary and middle school “) to low-level exercises in social micromanagement (“…pornographyblocking software should be installed on all computers having internet access in publicly financed institutions “) to things that principled conservatives should find abhorrent, if they thought about it (” The Minnesota legislature should pass legislation increasing the legal age for gambling in Minnesota to 21 years of age”) to stuff that just doesn’t make sense (“Opposing efforts to put all land and water under the control of the federal government” – I don’t think even Obama has suggested trying this yet). 

It’s time to put the platform on a diet – and make it focus on the things that a political party should focus on; the principles that should guide the party’s members, and especially the party’s candidates and elected officials.

A small group of conservative GOP activists – who shall remain nameless for the moment – have written a rough draft of a statement of princples; they intend, at some point or another, to introduce it as at least the beginnings of a discussion to replace the current War And Peace-sized platform with something a bit more accessible and to-the-point.

Here it is:

Individuals, businesses and the country succeed and prosper when government stays out of the way of the people – those who act on their own initiative, and who lead the way with integrity, responsibility, charity, hard work, humility, courage, gratitude and hope. 

Goverment has a role in our society – but that role is carefully enumerated in the United States Constitution.  The Republican Party of Minnesota believes that a good government does not eclipse roles that are best carried out by families, houses of faith, charitable organizations or businesses.

We, the members, candidates and elected officials of the Republican Party of Minnesota, support the following principles:

1) America is a great nation; we have been a “Shining City”, an exemplar of virtues for all other nations and their people.  The greatness of the American nation, the virtues of its people, and the success of the American experiment are a beacon of hope for the whole world.

2) Liberty is essential for our society to advance and prosper.  The freedom to explore advances in culture, business, faith, science, and government politics improves all of our lives; on the other hand, excessive government regulation and control hinder that development. The ability and freedom to disagree with each other and our government must also be
protected; any hindrance to the free market of ideas will sap the ability of America to advance and to better herself.

3) We have more hope and trust in the individual than the government to solve society’s problems, and to lead us into the future.  We value and protect the freedoms and the rights of the individual in preference to those of government.

4) Faith is where we derive our moral compass and come to understand the eternal rules of order and rights in which our creator has ordained. We believe each person needs to be free in order to explore their faith.

5) Life is sacred; it must be protected and defended from government control.

6) The Family is among our society’s most important institutions.  Government must not be allowed to infringe on the sanctity of the family.

7) The Pursuit of Happiness is essential to our existence, we support equal opportunities,  not equal results.

8 ) Charity comes best from the heart of individuals, and cannot be forced or coerced via taxation and regulation.

9) All citizens are equal before the law.

10) The law abiding citizen must be trusted to defend their life, family and property.

These are the principles we, the people of this nation and the members of this party, believe lead to a just society, a secure nation, and a better future for our children.

The committee struck out someone’s suggestion for a final line; “…, and to hear the lamentation of their women, and all else is bullsh*t”, but otherwise I like it.

Comments?  Feedback?  Leave a note in the comment section (and be advised that while all commentary is welcome, this is MN GOP business, and thus limited to the grownups; criticism is fine, but addlepated anti-Republican buncombe will be mutilated for the sole amusement of the blog owner.  While my comment section is generally the most open forum anywhere in the American media, this thread will be controlled.  Deal with it).

MNGOP Platform: From Scratch

John “Policy Guy” LaPlante, writing at True North, h talks about his experience at his first-ever BPOU convention last Saturday.

It’s a good story – read the whole thing, naturally, because reading John LaPlante is just a generally good idea.

Now, my own BPOU convention – District 66 – is tonight.  An  I echo John’s misgivings about one key part of the proceedings that generates a lot of heat, but almost no light at all; the resolutions for platform changes:

You say you want a resolution? As I paged through the packet we all received upon registration, I saw what I had dreaded: Page after page of the party platform, with changes that had been suggested during caucus night.

Why did I dread this, aside from the obvious time sink? First, it meant listening to people talk about items that are of marginal interest, at best, to a state party: the federal budget, the federal tax code, federal agencies, and foreign policy.

I spent a fair amount of time at precinct caucuses trying to filter out some of these, reminding people that nobody in state government has anything to do with, say, prosecuting the war in Iraq, or approving or opposing trans-American highways.

Second, some of the proposed changes are simply bad. One proposal was to repeal the federal income tax “and replace it with nothing.” Given the dynamics of Washington, that would lead to more deficit spending and thus (perhaps) hyperinflation. The measure narrowly failed, and I noticed a delegate in front of me shake his head. Another measure called for the “separation of school and state.” I rise and speak against the resolution, pointing out that the public-good argument for taxpayer funding of schooling is very strong. This is not, I continued, mean that government needs to actually run all schools. Indeed, we would be better off giving people vouchers or tuition tax credits, and let parents choose from among privately run schools and government schools. A defender of the resolution came after me, saying, in part, “we need vouchers.” Of course that’s a rejection, not an extension, of the “separation of school and state” argument. The resolution fails, narrowly.

There are a lot of resolutions that are spawned by angry people who’ve come to precinct caucuses to try to change the world; writing a resolution seems to be a fine way to give that concern a voice.  Which is fine, except that debating them inevitably ends up sucking up an hour of time at precinct caucuses, and will eat up much of the time tonight.

A third problem with the resolutions is that some are simply redundant. There were two resolutions on term limits (again, on the federal level), with specific numbers on years and terms. A third simply says something like “Heck they ought to just go home,” which is a spurt of outrage more than anything.

I remember my first precinct caucus, where we had no less than eight different resolutions calling for the outlawing of abortion.  Which is not only redundant within the caucus, but unnecessary, since the MNGOP Platform is not a pro-choice manifesto even now.

Even though it wasn’t 2008, I did see some Ron Paul-style activists at work. I missed the discussion a resolution to “abolish the Federal Reserve Board and allow free enterprise money and banking.” Unfortunately, I think that one passed. (Just now I noticed another sentence—tell me this is NOT in the platform already, please—“Opposing any movement toward a North American Union including any NAFTA superhighway.”)

The Ronulans made for an entertaining District 66 meeting two years ago; we had to wade through a solid ninety minutes worth of debate on resolutions – most of which had little to no bearing on the state offices we were dealing with!

But here’s the LaPlante’s most interesting point – the one I really wanted to get to when I started this post:

Finally, the document is simply too long. As I told several people, God had 10 commandments; why should a political party have a 17-page (or whatever) platform? At that length, the platform becomes not the statement of general principles that it should be but an internal version of the “Christmas tree” bills, passed by Congress and Legislature alike, that Republicans say they abhor. A paragraph here, a sentence there, many an article in the present platform is an attempt to buy off the support of certain factions in the party. (Maybe I should offer a resolution to abolish the platform and start over, and limit it to 100 words!)

Which got me to thinking; come the next Precinct Caucuses, I may propose exactly that.

Something along these lines:

Whereas the Minnesota Republican Party platform has become a long, meandering collection of sops to its own internal special interests, and…

Whereas no document this long and fragmented can possibly attract people to it on its own merits,

Be it resolved that the Republican Party of Minnesota shall scrap its existing platform, and replace it with the following statement of principles:

“As the Republican Part of Minnesota stands for liberty, the free market, and individual initiative, we resolve to support and uphold in every way the following principles:

  • Liberty: lower taxes, less regulation, and a focus on freedom, whether economic, intellectual or political.
  • Prosperity: the promotion of the freedom of the market to bring the most opportunity to the most people, and the promotion of merit that drives this prosperity.
  • Security: the defense of this nation from enemies abroad, the protection of its citizens from crime and criminals at home, and the security of our borders.
  • Culture: The recognition that America is a melting pot that welcomes newcomers who come with a desire to join in our novel experiment, enjoy freedom, wealth and a brotherhood of common principle, rather than view it as a candy store to be plundered.
  • Limited Government: A government that is focusing on whether you’re smoking or eating Big Macs is a government that has too much time, money and power on its hands.
  • Family: the belief that government needs to uphold, rather than undercut, the basic building block of all healthy societies, the family. “

Yeah, I borrowed it from here; why re-invent the wheel?

Yep.  February, 2012, I’m gonna do it.

What The Hell Is An “Extremist”, Anyway?

Earlier this week, I wrote about Dave Mindeman’s take (on his MnpACT blog) on the gubernatorial election. His basic assumption; without Norm Coleman in the race, the DFL will take the governor’s office.

I noted that that conclusion would indeed reflect the “conventional wisdom” in Minnesota, normally; that Minnesota likes center-left DFLers and “moderate” Republicans.

Of course, there are all sorts of larger reasons the “conventional wisdom” could come up lacking this year; Obama’s plunging popularity will sap votes in the DFL’s traditional powerhouses, the Twin Cities and their first-ring suburbs; the “tea party” movement and its populist offshoots are going to bring an energy back to the GOP’s powerhouses – the third tier of ‘burbs on out, the south east and southwest parts of the state, the Red River Valley – that they lacked during the dismal dismal years of Bush’s second term, when you could palpably feel the exhaustion on the part of an awful lot of the volunteers that are the backbone of the MNGOP.

But there’s one other thing that I think the DFL/media (as always, pardon the redundancy) miss in their assessments. 

Not to indulge in name-calling – that’s not my intent, here – but there’s an intellectual laziness behind the overuse of the term “extreme”.  It seems everybody to the right of Arne Carlson gets labeled “Extreme” by the left and their allies on the editorial boards.

It is, of course, a crude but effective way to frame the debate for the left; labelling everyone and every thought of the opposition as “extreme” at every possible mention.  If you’re a conservative, you’re not just pro-life, you’re a “pro-life extremist”; you’re not just for limited government, you’re an “extreme Tenther”; you don’t just favor constraining spending and cutting taxes, you’re an “extremist”; any Second Amendment activists…well, we’re used to being called that and much worse. 

Marty Seifert

Marty Seifert

A big part of me would like to think that this bit of framing is showing signs of backfiring – as with the term “teabagging”, which the left turned from a junior-high snark into a fairly universal slur to, through relentless overuse, a two-edged sword that says more about them than the actual protesters. 

“Extreme” is different.  While there’s a certain amount of self-caricature in the left’s overuse and devaluing of the term, I think the left has fallen into an even more pernicious trap; after calling everyone to the right of Arlen Lindner an “extremist” for a generation now, they’ve come to believe it.

The left has been working overtime to label Tom Emmer (and, comically, Marty Seifert) as “extreme” conservatives, smug in the belief that as long as they apply the label (and the media dutifully uses it at every opportunity), then it’ll stick with the people, while the “reasonable”‘, non-”extreme” left will mop up the votes, because (so say the left and media) that’s where Minnesota really is.

But they haven’t heard Tom Emmer speak to a mixed crowd.

 

Tom Emmer

Tom Emmer

Here’s the thing people like Mindeman miss about Seifert and – especially – Emmer; they state the conservative case to the middle and the undecided better than any recent conservative figures in Minnesota politics.  While some previous conservative leaders in Minnsota have been seen (rightly or, more usually, because of media connivance) as exclusionary dogmatists, the two GOP frontronners can actually get out in front of an undecided crowd and make an appealing, articulate, solid case for why those in the middle should be over with us on the right. 

And while it’s entirely possible that someone among the left’s pack of hamsters – Rukavina or Kelley spring to mind – can do the same, I’ve seen little to no evidence that they can preach to anyone that’s not fundamentally disposed to be in the choir.  And given how fast Obama, Pelosi, Reid and (let’s be honest) Kelliher have been piddling on independents this past year, I think it’s fair to say that Emmer and Seifert will have a more sympathetic audience than they might have a year or two ago.

So I’m a lot less convinced that having the left/media merely chanting “extreme!  extreme!” over and over again – as well as it’s served them in previous elections – is going to do the job for them this time.

What The Hell Do We Do With The MNGOP (Part II)`

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.

What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP, Part I

I was originally going to call this piece “What The Hell Is Wrong With the MNGOP, Part X”; there’s plenty more to talk about in that series.

But in the aftermath of the last legislative session, and especially Governor Pawlenty’s epic, lone stand against the DFL’s tax-and-spend orgy, I’m inclined to answer my question “not as much as there was eight years ago”.  Or last year, for that matter.

Nobody’s ever mistaken Tim Pawlenty for a movement conservative – and some of my Buchananite friends sputter angrily when I even mention “conservative” in the same paragraph as Pawlenty, who is certainly a pragmatist, front and center – but he’s delivered on the one big honka-lunka mega-issue that every conservative should agree on; curbing spending and the size and reach of government.

And while the GOP Senate caucus is too small to sustain any gubernatorial vetoes, the House caucus did itself proud this year, doing something many of us had nearly given up on seeing; doing what they were sent to Saint Paul to do; acting like a party; presenting Minnesota an alternative to the DFL, rather than acquiescing with the majority like a herd of hamsters.

It’d be much better to be in control – but the party showed big signs of hope.

And I think it all traces back to something that happened eight years ago at the State GOP Convention.

If you’re a Minnesota Republican, you remember the story; Brian Sullivan, a movement conservative, took Pawlenty, then the House Minority leader, to 3,000 ballots over forty days and forty nights of voting.  Pawlenty had to move sharply to the right of his normally pragmatic, legislative-negotiation-honed positions to win the nomination, finally taking the Taxpayers League’s “No New Taxes” pledge to secure the nomination.

Sullivan didn’t win the nomination – but had he not been in the race, Pawlenty would never have moved right; conservatism would have lost.

So what we have in Minnesota today – gubernatorial unallotment standing in the way of a state-bankrupting spending orgy – we owe to Sullivan (as well as a governor who has had the integrity to stick to his promises all these years against Thermopylean odds).

And this is what the party needs to recover from the last two drubbings: a coherent message, and the willingness to live and fight for that message when the heat’s on.

So on Saturday, June 13, the Central Committee of the Minnesota GOP is going to elect a new chair.  There are a couple of great choices on the ballot.

What are we going to do?

More tomorrow.

What The Hell Is Wrong With The MNGOP: Part IX

In 1993, disgusted with the GOP’s pusillanimous acquiescence on the Clinton Crime Bill (as gross an imposition on civil liberty as this country’s ever seen), I left the Republican party in disgust.

“What the hell was wrong with the GOP”, at that time, was that it had completely abandoned the notion of small government, and stampeded with a herd of Democrats to the left on a slew of privacy and civil liberties issues.

I figured that if the party actively subverted what I believed, and I didn’t have the capacity to change it myself or find enough people who believed as I did to change it, I shouldn’t be there.  So I joined the Libertarians.  I skipped the Gingrich Revolution (although I approved of it).  I even ran for office.  It was worth it; I developed an appreciation for what major parties are for; organization, mainly.

And in ’98, I came back. I figured I wasn’t going to win every battle, but it was worth fighting for in exchange for having a shot at getting what I believe actually in office.
———-
So after eight parts, I’ve said…what?

That the Minnesota GOP needs a message, one that attracts people.

Of course – as someone involved in party operations noted the other day – the party doesn’t put out messages.  The party works the people who do – the candidates and the groups of supporters who put them into contention.  The state party chairperson and the other officials elected by the Central Committee and, least of all, the party’s paid staff have very little to do with the message that candidates put out, other than making sure they don’t completely violate the platform.

All that’s true.

But there’s still a problem in the MNGOP.

As we all know, Norm Coleman trails in the “recount” process by something like 300 votes.  Leave aside for a moment the byzantine nature of the recount, or the  patchwork of “standards” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) that led to the 500 vote swing, or the danger this sort of uncertainty provides to democracy itself, what with not one in 100 voters being able to explain how we got here, and probably not one percent of those able to define the standards themselves.

Why is Norm Coleman behind by 300 votes?

Because he’s “too conservative?”  Please.  He was a DFLer.  He nominated Paul Wellstone in 1996.  He won two terms as mayor of Saint Paul as a moderate DFLer.

Because the opposition was so strong?  Well, it was a bad year for Republicans.  But the fact that such a relatively large number of people voted for Dean Barkley – the prickly wonk thrust into prominence by Jesse Ventura’s caprice and Paul Wellstone’s death – shows how little Barack Obama’s coattails were worth, even here.

All that is true.  But Coleman also lost because several “Republican party” factions actively campaigned against him, because of some of his votes (ANWR, among others). Did these factions bring up a viable alternative within the party?  Of course not. But they did actively sway people against Norm Coleman.  Was it 300 votes worth?  We will never know, but it’s not unreaonable.

These groups’ reasoning?  “The GOP needs to learn its lesson”. So what did we get for it?  If this recount wends its way to a Franken victory, we get an even more veto-proof Dem majority in Washington, to further grease the Obama Administration’s path, lubing up the skidway to hell.

So one of the things that’s wrong with the MN GOP is Minnesota Republicans themselves.  The party is crowded with people who are in it for a single issue (pro-lifers, God bless ‘em, in many cases), or a single candidate (Ron Paul).  That’s good, as far as it goes – but here’s a suggestion:  if you’re in the GOP, then by all means try to influence the GOP in the direction you want. That’s what caucuses and primaries are for.  And an organized, well-motivated group can have quite an effect on the party, there; the Ron Paul supporters made quite an impact last year (and if they have the attention span, they can extend that impact into some real gains).

But if at the end of the day you call yourself a Republican but find yourself actively subverting the party’s candidates, you should ask yourself – is this where I belong?  Is the damage I’m causing to what I believe in by, de facto, helping get Democrats and their entire agenda into office really the goal I had in mind?

No, I’m not saying “your party, love it or leave it”.  Far from it; I applaud the Ron Paul crowd for the organizing and work they’ve done.

But I am asking; if you find yourself subverting the GOP after the caucuses and primaries, from either side – whether you’re a Coleman-hating paleocon or a Sturdevant-hugging Override-Sixer – then why are  you in the GOP? Don’t you belong in the Constitution, Independence, DFL, Libertarian or Natural Law parties?

You’ve got a little over a year to think about it.

Monday:  Summing up.  I think.

What The Hell Is Wrong With The MNGOP: Part VIII

So what’ should the Minnesota GOP’s message be?

We’ve talked about prosperity – achieved through cutting taxes and spending – and education.

Today, Security.

Security means a lot of things; the Constitution refers to the people’s right to be secure in their homes and possessions.  National security is one of very few real clear mandates upon the federal government. Of course, if you’re a liberal, a complex formula of dairy price supports and support for the National Endowment for the Humanities are vital elements in national security.

But at a state level, it means a few really important things:

  • Afflicting the lawless and comforting the law-abiding:  Law enforcement should be a burden on criminals and ne’er-do-wells, not on the law-abiding citizen.  Quit finding new ways to criminalize legal behavior.
  • Laws are for enforcing: Dangerous people belong in jail.  End Minnesota’s revolving door for career criminals.  Quit subsidizing criminal behavior in this state.
  • Police are not social engineers: if people break laws, any laws, then prosecute them.  That means everyone from CEOs to illegal immigrants. Focus on keeping streets safe, rather than canoodling about as government social policy enforcers.

This makes sense if you’re a Republican – or a citizen who may not be a Republican, but pays their taxes, works hard, and wants to know their neighborhood is their neighborhood, not the scum’s.

It’s easy to make the case that…:

Republicans: Common Sense and Safety.

…presuming we manage to actually embrace common sense: punish criminals, leave the law-abiding alone, quit tolerating (much less subsidizing) bad behavior.

So what’s the alternative?  Revolving door justice.  Criminals who should be in jail attacking, raping and killing people, and illegal immigrants soaking up our resources while the DFL legislature looks for ways to punish the law abiding citizen (the gun owner) and harass those who run afoul of their picayune social policies (Saint Paul’s dwindling number of small landlords).  Our streets grow more dangerous, as the DFL diverts resources away from enforcement and into subsidizing more bad behavior.
Democrats:  Chaos and Fear.

It should be an easy sell:

Republicans: Common Sense and Safety. Democrats:  Chaos and Fear.

Tomorrow: Getting along.

What The Hell Is Wrong With The MNGOP: Part VII

When figuring out messages for the Minnesota GOP, I limited my scope to things that elected officials and representatives in the State of Minnesota actually have some control over.

And the biggest single thing the State of Minnesota controls is education.  Along with building state infrastructure, education is the biggest bill the state pays, year-in, year-out.

Now, on the one hand Minnesota putatively has much to be proud of; our state’s education system ranks at or near the top of the nation in most categories that matter on the major standardized tests – for those of you who place lots of value in standardized tests (which, let’s remember, test the ability of kids to take tests more than anything).

But in whatever part of Minnesota you live, we’re slipping. As per-pupil education spending skyrockets faster than inflation, inner-city minority graduation rates are falling.  In the rural areas, traditional town schools are being consolidated into big consolidated districts, gaining many of the disadvantages of big urban districts – the maddening bureaucracy, the stunted achievement, the addiction to infrastructure and administrative overhead, the “I’m lost in a huge school” effect that makes urban education such a morass – while losing all the benefits of being a small school, changes made purely for the convenience of the administrative beast.  If you live in a ‘burb with a successful school district, mandates on curriculum and funding formulas are having more and more affect on the schools your communities have built.  If you’re a charter school parent, the education/media complex is trying to draw a big bullseye on your schools’ foreheads.  And if you’ve opted to secede from the school system – like so many inner-city black Charter School parents, Christian homeschoolers, Latino catholic-school parents and Asian kids attending school in the ‘burbs due to Minnesota’s Open Enrollment laws, the DFL majority is aiming the whittle down your choices even as it whittles up the bill we all have to pay for all of those diminishing returns.

And while Minnesota’s test scores – whatever they’re worth – are still strong, you’d be blinkered not to notice that neighboring North Dakota pays vastly less per student for about the same results.

Against this backdrop of failure and anti-parent recrimination, the GOP has consistently stood for the full range of answers to the problem:

  • More accountability in the public system
  • More choices for parents, within and outside the public system.

Or, to sum it up:

Republicans: Parental Control, Choice and Learning.

Against this, the DFL has consistently fought for what’s best for Education – with a capitol “E”, anyway.  This isn’t just bagging on the teachers’ unions; Institutional Education at all levels, from Big Adminsitration to Big Consolidation to Big Union all have their role.  Against this, there is no Big Parent; indeed, the GOP is the closest we’ve got to such a thing.

And the best the DFL can come up with is “the GOP wants to cut education funding”.  It’s a powerful argument – if you don’t dig beneath the facility of the numbers.  Minnesota’s “best” public schools in terms of student achievement are its cheapest; the state’s few remaining one, two and three-room country schools.  Its worst, overall, are the ones that are most “blessed” with resouces.

So we can sum it up:

Democrats:  Bureaucracy and Failure.

The truth is out there; the track record is clear:

Republicans: Parental Control, Choice and Learning. Democrats:  Bureaucracy and Failure.

Tomorrow, “Security”