It comes down to three words.
More on Monday tomorrow.
It comes down to three words.
More on Monday tomorrow.
One of the most frustrating things about being in the Minnesota GOP is that the factionalism gets downright awful at times.
It’s unavoidable, of course; the GOP is the big tent party in this state, for better or worse.
But Reagan once said that to succeed as a party, we – the good guys who share a big tent, and disagree about a few things here and there – need to focus on the things we agree on -the 80 or so percent of conservative/Republican belief that most of us have in common.
Unfortunately, Minnesota Republicans tend to beat each other to death over the other 20%.
I’m not talking about the Override Six – because hammering out differences in opinion is for the run-up to elections and sessions. Once your party’s governor has stepped out onto the high wire is no time to untie one of the wire anchors. Screw the Override Six; two of them retired from politics, two got fumigated at the polls, and here’s hoping the other two get religion.
I am talking about how we hammer out consensus – almost a dirty word, in some GOP circles – among each other and, more importantly, how we proceed forward against the bad guys. And it’s something we need to wrangle out, because the next time I hear a “conservative” say he’ll never vote for Tim Pawlenty (as good as giving a vote to Mike Hatch or whomever) because he “isn’t a conservative” and ignoring the fact that he has done more to limit government growth and hold the line on taxes than any governor in recent history, I might not be responsible for my actions.
We know the things that separate us: some of us are spending moderates, others are tax hawks; for some gay marriage and abortion are the biggest issues, and for others they get nodding points; there are ideological purists and political pragmatists. We are a “big tent”, all right – and that’s not a good thing. The Democrats are a small tent in that you can be of any race, orientation or class, as long as you believe in redistribution and big government. We have to satisfy a lot of different demands – or resign ourselves to being like the Independence or Libertarian Parties.
What we need to do is find the things we agree on. And unite behind those things.
So what are those things?
A long time ago, True North posted our “manifesto“; we focus on:
Of course, True North is conservative, rather than Republican – so those are the things that we agree on.
So how about the party at large? Especially you pragmatists, all you moderates, and those of you who are more motivated by party than ideology? What do you agree on, to the point where you’d downplay your differences over other points for purposes of presenting a unified party with a positive message the voters?
What, in biblical terms, would it take to make the hawk lie down with the RINO?
No, I don’t expect this thread to drive any discussion in the GOP. But it’s something the party needs to think about. Short, positive messages sell – and Reagan showed that that message can be more robust than “yes we can” and still spark the imagination.
Which is what we need to do next year.
Note: Thread is restricted to Republicans – or at least to parties interested in this discussion Snarks will be expunged sooner than later.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US military was faced with a challenge unlike any they’d faced, ever; how to root out and depose a government that was providing a safe haven for the terrorists that had launched the 9/11 attacks?
Attacking Afghanistan, the mountanous anarchic home of peoples who’d been warring with each other since the Stone Age, dominated by people who put the “war” in “warlord”, was a formidable challenge. In theory, it was all the more so given that in the previous decade the US military had downsized precipitously; of the eighteen ground combat divisions in service at the end of the Cold War scarcely a decade earlier, we were down to ten on 9/11.
Our response? The US Special Forces (the “Green Berets”) airdropped several detachments of soldiers – fewer than 100 men, initially – into Afghanistan, along with some CIA paramilitaries. Using their primary strengths – flexibility, cultural and language skills and a cultivated ability to think outside the box in life-and-death situations – they made contact with the Northern Alliance (the guerrillas, not the radio show), hatched a plan, and went on the offensive. Using weapons both bleeding-edge (laser designators for guiding bombs in from orbiting aircraft, GPS systems, radios) and timeless (exceptional fieldcraft skills, mastery of small-unit tactics, bravery), those 80-odd men, riding horseback, led the Northern Alliance to, over and after the Taliban, routing them to and out of their main strongholds, and toppling their government in weeks – sometimes by bringing in B1s to carpet-bomb Taliban attacks, sometimes leading the Northern Alliance by example, closing in and rooting the Taliban out themselves with rifles and grenades.
One of the keys to this stunning victory? The Special Forces operators had boundless power, right there on the scene. A Master Sergeant with a designator and a radio could call almost directly to the Air Force, orbiting high above in their F16s and B52s and AC130s (and yes, Fingers, the Navy and Marines in their FA18s as well) and get air support on the scene in moments. He did not have to file a request with his headquarters, to be bounced up through higher echelons of approval and then back down the Air Force’s chain of command, hours or days or weeks too late too do any good.
Robert Kaplan in Imperial Grunts, writing three years after the stunning victory, noted that the Special Forces’ approach was not unlike that of a good, bleeding-edge company that decentralized the power – and the decision-making and tools that enabled and supported that power – down and out through the organization. For the liberation of Afghanistan, the military did the unthinkable; pushed power downward from the Pentagon, down from CENTCOM, down from the higher-level headquarters in the ‘Stans, down to the three-man teams of Green Berets and their Air Controllers in the field; it short-circuited layers, and generations, of bureacracy, moving the decision loop down as close to the sergeants in the field, and the pilots in the air, as has ever been done.
Of course, decentralization is a hothouse flower even in lean, limber corporations; in the military – the most hidebound bureaucracy of all (and often for good reason), it was even more so. As the Taliban fell, “Big Army” came in, imposing the bureaucracy and chains of command and all manner of (to the Green Berets’ perspective, as related by Kaplan) impedimenta, including, most disastrously, requirements for multiple levels of approvals and accountability for every mission plan. This (say the Green Berets Kaplan interviewed) bogged down the pursuit of many of the Taliban and Al Quaeda hiding underground, leading us eventually to the situation we have today.
0f course, I’m not here to write about the liberation of Afghanistan. I’m writing about the Minnesota GOP.
But there’s a parallel dynamic at work, here. Empowered, motivated people with the right tools can do the impossible.
The Minnesota GOP is all a-froth in the process of selecting a new chair and leadership. It’s getting ugly out there, with people bagging on the current leadership and their associates, and the current leadership bagging right back.
I’m not going to bag on personalities. This isn’t about personalities (yet). This is about structure.
The GOP is a very top-down organization. Everything from “message” to the tools of the job – databases, voter lists and the like – flow or are mandated from the national office, down through the states, and finally down to the BPOU level.
“Well,that’s as is should be”, the party apologist will say; “the people who show up and work for the party should have the final say on things”.
Which makes sense, sort of. But it also gives conventions from the Congressional District level on up a sense that delegates are spectators at the Central Committee’s event -that all the real decisions were made months before. And when you live in a district that hasn’t put any winners on the board in years, it’s not hard to think maybe it’s time for new decision-makers.
Which we got, to an extent, last spring, as the Ron Paul candidacy sent ripples of panic through the MNGOP leadership. Make no mistake – Ron Paul is a nutcase. But his followers – at least the ones that weren’t awash in 9/11 truthiness and rambling on about Trans-American Freeways for hours on end – brought something to GOP caucuses and convos that they’ve needed for years; the sense that parts of the event were unscripted. Time will tell if the Ronulans will stick around the caucuses. I hope they do – which isn’t to say I’m not going to try to talk them into keeping the libertarian-conservative principles, but ditching Paul himself.
The GOP, nationwide and in Minnesota, needs to learn from its mistakes, to decentralize its thinking, and most of all get better at doing its job.
It needs to reward initiative; it needs to seek out, reward, cultivate and channel ideas and energy that come from outside the party’s bureaucracy, rather than getting paranoid about them.
Being this state’s genuine big tent party, it needs to come up with a way to get its message out, without turning on and eating carriers of other messages. It needs to focus on the parts the party agrees on, rather than ripping itself to shreds over the things it doesn’t.
And on the other hand, I say this as a fire-breathing Reagan conservative; it’s time for conservatives to grow up and play the damn game. The Ron Paul phenomenon can teach us all one thing; for decades, Libertarians sat with their feet firmly in the clouds and declaimed from a position of absolute ideological purity. Finally, they wised up, got into the game, organized, played to their strengths (and the MNGOP’s weaknesses) and came withing a trice of taking over the party’s agenda. Minnesota’s conservatives did the opposite, turning out in droves for the state caucuses and getting Mitt Romney endorsed, but then taking their toys and going home. They were underwhelmed with John McCain, Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty; their fit of pique helped doom the party in the last eletion cycle, and weakened the state and the nation. And in so doing, Minnesota’s conservatives weakened themselves and their cause, making Minnesota conservatives look like flighty, temperamental prima-donnas. Gary Gross calls this pathology out in one of the most timely political posts of the year so far. Politics, down to the root of the word itself, is about compromise; the art is in making the compromise as favorable to you as possible.
The Minnesota GOP faces yet another difficult situation in the next two years. And it’s a battle we have to win, because the stakes are this state’s future and the well-being of the nation itself. The DFL is the party of instant gratification, of taxing and spending and the tyranny of institutional compassion. This state needs a viable opposition like Afghanistan needed dead Taliban.
And Minnesota Republicans should take courage – and knowledge – from that lesson; empowered, motivated people with the right tools can do the impossible.
What does that mean for the GOP? We’ll talk about that in the coming weeks.
[NOTE: While this blog is as a general rule an untrammeled free-speech zone, this particular comment thread is mainly for Republicans talking about the future of the GOP in Minnesota and elsewhere. Non-Republican posts, especially snarks, are likely to get lost down the memory hole. Non-Republican snarkers are a free as ever to romp and play elsewhere on this site; this thread is for the grownups.]