Trojan Horse

To: Members of the MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  Weasel Words

JEC,

First things first; I’m an elected party officer, so I’ll support our party’s endorsed candidates.  So – yaaaay, Ms. McDonald.

Of course, Ms. McDonald’s candidacy has turned into a Bolivian Goat Rodeo;  the DFL and Media (ptr) on the one hand are caviling and gamboling about the story like happy little pixies.  And some of the Ron Paul clacque – who were non-factors in this year’s caucuses, for the most part – have latched onto the whole episode as a way to try to stick it to the state GOP.

Now, I’ve asked a number of members of the JEC – in this space, in other online fora, and in person – to explain…:

  • Why the committee voted to endorse Ms. McDonald, if they did, and…
  • …more importantly, why the committee voted to suppress the “minority report” – supported by the committee chair – that would have informed delegates about Ms. McDonald’s legal issues.

The “answers” I’ve gotten have been, to be charitable,  weasel words.  The kind of thing that would shame a punch-drunk fourth-grader.  Silence, or idiotic little cutiepie resopnses (“Ask Chairman Downey!”).

So far, I’ve thought of this whole episode as incompetence on the part of the JEC – and knowing a few of the people who are on the JEC and/or heavily involved in JEC business, it’s not a stretchy theory.

The other possibility that jumps out at you, seeing some of the people involved?  It was an intentional sandbagging of the GOP by people who have a bone to pick with the party’s leadership.

The more I hear about this sorry episode, the more I’m leaning toward “sabotage”.

The MNGOP’s Judicial Goat Rodeo

I was at the GOP booth when endorsed Supreme Court of Minnesota (SCOM) candidate Michelle McDonald came to the building.

It was awkward; the GOP wanted her out, she and her volunteers wanted her in. 

 

The flap, of course, was over McDonald’s pending trial on a variety of charges related to an attempted drunk-driving arrest.  This Strib story lays out the initial round of particulars; Aaron Rupar at the City Pages updated the story in July along with a heaping helping of his peculiar partisan glee.  So did Cyndy Brucato at the MinnPost.  As did…

…well, hell – just about everyone with a keyboard and some server space, from the Daily Kos down to every leftyblogging hamster in the Metro.   Indeed, the media has been having a ball.  And they had another, when she got pulled over again, for allegedly violating the terms of her limited driving license (which is directly related to the pending charges, fair and accurate or not).  And they were waiting outside the GOP booth when I arrived yesterday morning, like carrion-feeding animals, looking for a spectacle.

Not sure they got a “spectacle” in the classic sense of the term, but it was a thoroughly modern flap; McDonald’s supporters and volunteers, defying instructions from the MNGOP that she not appear at the booth, and operating under their own directive to appear every single day at the booth, arrived.  Most of the pack of volunteers held cameras in front of them, including Ms. McDonald.  They marched into the booth.  Some of her volunteers very intentionally blocked the GOP booth staff from getting to Ms. McDonald. 

Oh, yeah – the Twin Cities media was looking on with carrion-feeding glee, recording every single contortion.  And they talked with Ms. McDonald – who responded, holding her camera out in front of her, recording her every interaction with the media, notwithstanding the knot of volunteers standing around her doing exactly the same thing. 

To summarize:  in a year where the MNGOP has been recovering its organizational and financial mojo, the party endorsed a candidate who may as well have been tailor made to garner immense, entirely negative media attention. 

To put it in terms recognizable to anyone who has grown exhausted from the MNGOP’s capacity to shoot itself in the foot, it was best termed a “goat rodeo”.  A “dumpster fire”.  Perhaps even a “Hungarian cluster-cuddle”. 

And it didn’t have to be that way. 

Let’s break it down.

Continue reading

The Strib And Berg’s 11th Law

Over the weekend, theStribissued its endorsements for the GOP primaries.

And they were mostly utterly predictable – if you keep Berg’s Law in mind.  In this case, “Berg’s 11th Law of Inverse Viability” (“The conservative liberals “respect” for their “conservative principles” will the the one that has the least chance of ever getting elected”), and especially the Huckabee Corollary to Berg’s 11th Law (“The Republican that the media covers most intensively before the nomination for any office will be the one that the liberals know they have the best chance of beating after the nomination, and/or will most cripple the GOP if nominated”). 

It’s largely the Strib’s history of endorsements – endorsing the most moderate Republican for “reaching across the aisle”, but supporting the most extreme liberals for their “rock solid principles” – that ledShot in the Darkto the law in the first place. 

Race To The Middle:  The Strib endorsed Jim Abeler for Senate

Now, I’ve got nothing against Abeler, a longtime House rep from Anoka.  I’ve interviewed him more than any of the other Senate candidates.  He’s a sharp guy.  Too moderate for my tastes, of course – he was a member of the Override Six, among other things – but he states a good case for much of what he does.  I disagree with him, but I respect him.

But he came in around the bottom in the endorsement race at the convention.  The GOP left the moderate wing of the party (not that anyone’s told the moderates, like Dave Durenberger).  The Strib is doing its best to buff of the “moderate” wing of the party.  But only the GOP, naturally.

Coming from the Strib – which will surely endorse extreme liberal Al Franken for the race in November – how can this be seen as anything but trying to split their opposition?

Sivarajah:  I like Rhonda Sivarajah.  She’d make a spectacular Congresswoman.  Had Tom Emmer, and his name recognition and money, not entered the race, I think she’d have been a walkover to replace Michele Bachmann, and I’d have been happy to throw whatever I could offer behind her campaign (although that’s minimal, as is my impact on the race, as I live in the Fourth CD).

A lot of Republicans are like that. 

And what other reason could there be for the Strib to endorse her?  I mean, reading the part of the endorsement where they note Sivarajah helped build a conservative majority on the Anoka County Board, you can practically imagine the writer throwing up in their mouth.  But there is division to be sown, and the Strib will sow it, trying divide the GOP, and give the DFL candidate (whose name eludes me as, I suspect, it does all the voters in the 6th CD) a fighting shot. 

As always – Berg’s Law explains everything.  At least when it comes to politics.

Slouching Towards St. Paul

The Invisible Primary heads for it’s exciting dramatic interesting necessary conclusion.

There have been no polling updates.  No shocking endorsements.  No conflicts.  A candidate ended up in the hospital…due to an ulcer.

The slouch towards the Minnesota GOP choosing a candidate to go up against Gov. Mark Dayton will end in the next two weeks, and perhaps finally usher in some interest in what has proven to be a deadly dull campaign cycle thus far.  So how can the four major contenders to be the GOP nominee win on August 12th?

Businessman Scott Honour

Why He’ll Win: In the words of Jimmy Buffett, Honour has spending money – money to burn.  Having raised more money than any other candidate running for governor, including Mark Dayton, Honour has the highest cash on hand of the GOP field in the primary’s closing weeks.  While those figures are highly inflated by his self-contributions totaling over $900,000, Honour has demonstrated the ability and willingness to spend freely – a desirable quality when third party interest groups have raised $11 million (most of it for Democrats) for the cycle…

Why He’ll Lose: …but have you seen how he’s spending it?

 

Zzz…huh?  Oh, it’s over?

Honour may be playing on his “outsider” credentials, but he’s running the most “insider” looking campaign of the four major Republicans in the race.  His advertising hasn’t been unique, either in terms of style or substance, nor particularly plentiful for a man whose raised $1.7 million.  Even a sympathetic profile of his candidacy suggest he “hasn’t run a highly visible campaign.”  That’s not surprising given Honour’s massive payments to consultants.  Long-time GOP consultants Pat Shortridge and Shanna Woodbury have combined to cost Honour’s campaign almost $270,000.  Considering the last polls on the race showed him in 4th place, Honour may wonder what exactly he paid them for.

Former Speaker Kurt Zellers

Why He’ll Win: Give the former Minnesota House Speaker credit – he’s taken what should be a huge vulnerability (his uneven performance as Speaker) and leveraged it about as well as he could into a narrative of his opposition to Mark Dayton.  Granted, Zellers’ narrative ends in 2011, when the legislature forced Dayton to end the government shutdown on their terms, and leaves out the messy details such as the controversial constitutional amendments or the Vikings’ stadium debate debacle.

 

Much like his TV ad, Zellers is doing nothing wrong, even if he’s not excelling at doing anything right.  His branding isn’t unique, but it’s on message.  His no new tax pledge may be an albatross in the general election, but he’s running to win the primary.  He doesn’t have the greatest amount of cash on hand or legislative endorsements, but he’s second in both those categories.  Plus, he’s been either in the lead or tied for it in most polling (what little has been done).

Why He’ll Lose: A low turnout election, which this race is shaping up to be, isn’t great news for a man whose reasonably high name ID comes from a poor performance as Speaker.  Zellers has never been adored by the GOP rank and file, and his advertising isn’t abundant enough to necessarily undo memories of 2012 and a lost House majority.  The real question may be if Zellers has invested his limited resources into a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) organization or not – a likely better use of money than TV or radio advertising.  Zellers may win in a divided field where just enough Republicans vaguely remember his name without his political baggage, but that’s not a great winning strategy.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson

Why He’ll Win: The nearly 20 Minnesota GOP Victory Centers.  Neither Johnson nor the State GOP may have bountiful resources to contribute to the primary, but the endorsement process still has some value in the form of thousands of dutiful volunteers making GOTV phone calls.  And while that sort of internal support hasn’t been as consistent as it once would have been for an endorsed candidate (see the 8th Congressional District’s pushback, for example), it’s been more the exception than the rule thus far.

 

Despite being the endorsed candidate, Johnson’s advertising (what little there is of it) has leaned more on quirk than his endorsement (Scott Honour could have learned something here).  Given the state’s penchant for electing candidates with memorable advertising (Paul Wellstone/Jesse Ventura), the tactic is likely a wise one.  And with an independent expenditure group also running TV ads on his behalf, Johnson looks less likely to get buried in a last minute blizzard of ad revenue.

Why He’ll Lose: Johnson’s week off the campaign trail to deal with surgery for an ulcer is the least of his concerns; especially as his campaign took kudos for their handling of the situation.  The problem is that Johnson’s health was the most campaign coverage he’s received since the endorsement battle.

Nor has Johnson exactly leveraged his endorsement well.  Only 44 current and former legislators have endorsed his candidacy.  Rep. Erik Paulsen throw his support behind Johnson, but there’s little sense that the GOP powers-that-be are overly willing to spend political capital to ensure Johnson wins in August.  Even Johnson himself acknowledged a “wait and see” approach from at least the donor class.  If that attitude exists with the average activist, Johnson could certainly lose.

Former Rep. Marty Seifert

Why He’ll Win: He’s a “maverick.”  He’s courting voters in the rural regions of the State.  He’s completely unapologetic about his parliamentary maneuver at the State GOP Convention…wait, I’m writing about why he’ll win.

The former House Minority Leader certainly has some name ID with GOP activists, having won both the 2010 and 2014 caucus straw polls.  And despite all the attention being paid to the endorsement tiff, relatively few primary voters will have really heard about it, and even fewer will understand what the angst is about.  What voters in outstate Minnesota will hear is a consistent message targeted to rural issues, as Seifert has furiously toured the non-metro sections of the state.  The result should likely be Seifert dominating in districts like the 1st, 7th and 8th Congressional…

Why He’ll Lose: …but those districts don’t comprise nearly enough voters to win, especially if Seifert under-performs in the Metro.  Despite being the first GOP candidate to air a TV ad, the buy was small and not really focused on the Metro.

 

Nor does he have the resources to likely compete.  Seifert has raised the least amount of money of the four major candidates and has the smallest amount of cash still on hand – $71,000.  His totals aren’t massively different than Jeff Johnson’s, but Johnson has the party apparatus and an independent expenditure group to provide support.  Seifert’s ground game is totally up to him to fund.

While the resentment from Seifert’s endorsement exit may be hard for non-politicos to fully understand (or care about), it doesn’t help that in a race that’s been defined by the lack of conflict, Seifert’s candidacy is the only one having any significant anger directed towards it.  Under the old, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” rule, some primary voters – even those who may not understand the anger – may simply steer clear of Seifert based on the reaction his candidacy causes among others.  If Seifert had a well-funded ad campaign, it’s highly doubtful such anger among a small, but vocal, minority would impact the race.  In the absence of a strong counter-message (in particular in the media-heavy metro), Seifert’s candidacy looks like an outlier with segments of the base.

Why I’m Never Running For Office

About ten years ago, a sitting (at the time) GOP representative and long-time friend of this blog told me “you do realize, Mitch, that between the blog and your show, you can never, ever run for political office, don’t you?”

The fact that my written body of work is, no doubt, some oppo researcher’s dream has certainly served to keep me from getting too enthusiastic about pursuing a life in politics. 

And that’s largely a good thing.

Of course, opposition research on both sides – but especially the Democrats – is dedicated to making running for office as personally gruelling as possible for anyone who’d want to try.

Which is why the leftymedia’s on-cue jumping up and down like a bunch of poo-flinging monkey’s over Sheila Kihne’s old, excellent but long-dormant blog is so unsurprising. 

Of course, since it’s a primary battle, some Republicans are pitching in to defend incumbent Jennifer Loon against Kihne’s challenge. 

I suppose that’s one good thing about the blog; it’s cut down on any temptation.

The Invisible Primary

The electorate hits the snooze button on the Minnesota Republican gubernatorial primary.

It’s been 20 years since the Minnesota GOP had a competitive primary for, well, anything.  And with just over a month to go before voters chose Gov. Mark Dayton’s general election opponent, that rust is showing.

Whether it’s the airwaves, newspapers, or even political blogs, interest/coverage in the GOP primary has been as invigorating as an Ambien with a warm milk chaser.  What little polling on the race has been done bares out that fact, with 22% having no opinion of the four main candidates running, and 33% either undecided or choosing none of the above.

The result isn’t surprising.  Of the four major candidates, only businessman Scott Honour is running any sort of campaign advertising – a modest radio ad buy hitting Dayton on his handling of MnSure.  But having blown through the better part of $1 million on infrastructure and staff, Honour has been reduced to recycling his material.  The nearly exact same ad ran in May.

The rest of the field isn’t exactly making news, either.  Kurt Zellers’ campaign seems to exist solely by press release, with few direct campaign actions.  Marty Seifert’s endorsement by former Governor Al Quie is the campaign’s biggest story to date, as Seifert seems intent on winning the primary by eschewing the state’s major media markets to focus on outstate voters.  Jeff Johnson’s endorsement by Rep. Erik Paulsen carries some weight, but largely seems to reinforce that most of the state’s Republican endorsers are staying out of the fight.

If you can call this primary a ‘fight.’  Despite the ill-will following the Republican Convention in May, the interactions between the campaigns have been downright Marquess of Queensbury:

Last Friday, TPT’s Almanac hosted the first debate between the Republican candidates for governor since the Republican Party of Minnesota’s state convention in Rochester…I watched it three times this week, looking for some spark of energy, some sign of life in the Republican race for governor. I found none, as it was a non-event.

I reviewed Twitter, expecting to see a flury of public jockeying by the campaigns or their supporters. Nothing.

No press releases were sent out by the campaigns after the debate, boasting about the performance of their candidate. Nobody claimed victory, nobody really said anything. There were no debate parties, where supporters of a candidate gather to watch the event.It is almost like the debate didn’t happen.

Avoiding the traditional circular firing squad may be the prudent choice, but against the backdrop of such a vanilla campaign, one has to wonder how any of the four candidates expect to even reach November.

Most assuredly, August 2014 will not resemble the August of 2010 as Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza spent wildly, with Margaret Anderson Kelliher doing her best to keep up via her organization.  Indeed, the question of 2014 may be what candidate (if any) can create the organization necessary to match the GOP’s GOTV efforts on behalf of Jeff Johnson.  The endorsement may no longer carry the same monetary value, but the organizational value of numerous BPOUs making phone calls definitely has a price-tag for those seeking to replicate the effort.  In a low-intensity, likely low-turnout field, the GOP’s GOTV efforts will likely prevail.

The GOP’s greater challenge may be to have a nominee that’s prepared to contend after August.  A GOP candidate having won by a minimal amount, and armed with a poor campaign account – as would likely be the case for three out of the four candidates – isn’t in the best position to challenge Mark Dayton.

ADDENDUM:  Marty Seifert may slightly regret getting former Gov. Al Quie’s backing, given Quie’s decision to now also support US Senate long-shot Jim Abeler.  Nor does it likely help that the Star Tribune is reminding readers that Quie also backed Tom Horner four years ago.

Becoming The Enemy To Defeat The Friend

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Thad Cochran, RINO Senator from Mississippi, was challenged in the primary. He won by 6,000 votes of which 30,000 were cross-over Democrats, voting for the RINO instead of the Conservative challenger, McDaniel.

Take a look at the flyer distributed to help the mainstream establishment Republican against his conservative Republican opponent in the primary. This would be low even for a Democrat:

20140629-153531-56131085.jpg

Politics may not be beanbag, but this is a serious violation of Reagan’s 11th Commandment if there ever was one.

Doakes Sunday: The Only Real Hope

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

President Obama has always wanted to do more to remake America into his vision of Utopia, but he’s been constrained first, by the need to get elected, then by the need to get re-elected.  He is constrained now by the need to avoid doing anything to imperil Democrats getting re-elected to retain control of Congress for his last two years.

After the mid-terms, there are no constraints.  He can do whatever he wants, confident that Congress won’t stop him.

Freeing The Taliban Five was one in a series of conditioning exercises, designed to get the American people used to living under an unrestrained dictator. Starting in November, the gloves come off.

The RINOs have done nothing to reign in the emperor.  The Tea Party has been ridiculed and marginalized by the MSM and others, emboldening the endless string of fiats.  But suddenly, Cantor is out.  Clearly, there is a large segment unwilling to let the RINOs continue to do nothing.  

If the Democrats continue to hold their seats, The One will run wild.  If namby-pamby Republicans continue to hold their seats, The Emperor will run wild.  Our only Hope is for Change.

Might make a good slogan:  Hope For Change.

Joe Doakes

My sympathies – that the Tea Party is the only real hope for genuine change – are obvious enough.

There’s no real way around it at this point.

Open Letter To Representatives Paulsen, Bachmann And Kline

To:  Representatives Paulsen, Bachmann and Kline
From:  Mitch Berg, “Extremist”
Re: 

Representatives,

Who do you plan on voting for to replace Eric Cantor for Majority Leader? 

It’s a fairly simple question – but one that’ll tell us, the voters, a lot about where you stand on the future of the GOP majority. 

My sentiments should be obvious; I say vote for Raoul Labrador.  Put a serious conservative in the office.  While there is a place and time to play nice with the Dems, and make political compromises that need to be made, the time to do that playing and making is not right out of the gate.

The GOP needs to be an alternative to the Democrat party – not an extension of it. 

I’d appreciate, personally, a vote for Labrador – but I’m not in any of your districts, so you needn’t concern yourself with my opinion.

But you should tell your constituents, and Minnesota republicans, where you stand on the future leadership of the House conference. 

That is all.

Fortune Favors The Bold

Rand Paul, speaking in Iowa, nailed a few key points the GOP needs to remember, nationally and here in Minnesota:

“There are people who say we need to be more moderate,” he said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”

“I think the core of our message: we can be even more bold,” he added. “When Ronald Reagan won a landslide, he ran unabashedly … that’s what we need … It isn’t about being tepid.”

It’s “moderation” – and its idiot cousin, compromise with Big Left – that have left the nation in the mess it’s in.

The American people – the ones that can be reached, anyway – know this, whether they can state it in as many words or not.

Go conservative/libertarian, or go home.

Twins

When it comes to politics, Corey Sax is a little like Jesse Ventura.

He makes a a lot of noise.  No, more noise than that.  Think “professional wrestler”-level noise, only in writing.  Some of those noises are vaguely libertarian, mixed in among a lot of self-promotion and background noise [1]

And like Ventura, once in a while he gets something right.   As in this piece from about a week back on the aftermath of the GOP State Convention:

[During the convention] something dawned on me. The “Liberty vs Establishment” battle wasn’t as monochrome as some “old guard” activists have painted it. I have often confused some of these “old guard” folks as the establishment themselves, and discrediting and insulting the establishment in the process.

Well, yeah.

Concealed within the “establishment” (that I found myself hilariously lumped into in 2012) are a lot of people with a lot of very diverse beliefs.  Some – like me – are libertarians who developed pragmatic streaks; some are pragmatists who discovered the importance of liberty.  Virtually all of the GOP are people who appreciate liberty – religious freedom, the right to keep and bear arms, due process, enumerated powers – on some level.

For all of their “New Guard” rhetoric, the Ron Paul clique in 2008 and especially 2012 used one very “establishment” tactic, straight out of Saul Alinsky; the good “us” framed the “Establishment” as the bad “them” (and yes, it went both ways), blustering past the observation Sax just made.

And no, I’m not picking on “Paulbots”; the pro-lifers did the same thing when they rose to control the party; I sat through more than one convention in the late ’90′s and early 2000s  where it was made clear that 99% agreement was no better than 100% disagreement with the pro-life agenda.

The pro-lifers eventually developed a pragmatic streak, too.

Which brings us to Sax’s next observation:

The results of the state convention brought us an establishment Senate candidate with an unlimited fundraising channel who needs an activist base to execute his campaign and a well respected gubanatorial [sic] candidate that draws support from all of the factions within the MNGOP. Jeff Johnson can bring credibility to Mike McFadden in return for campaign cash and suppport. The real winner of the State convention was Keith Downey. He painlessly united the party under a set of candidates that can win without alienating any of the factions. I’m impressed with this remarkable gamesmanship.

Downey did a great job – but then, so did the party’s activists.  The crowd in Rochester was pretty no-nonsense this time around; they seemed, as a group, to be much more focused on winning elections than preserving or realigning the party’s status quo than 2012′s tense, fractious festivities in Saint Cloud.

The best move for liberty activists within the MNGOP is to decide whether or not they can get onboard and to field other candidates in other races and to really build alliances with establishment types like McFadden. The liberty movement could use more resources to win more races and advance our agenda. We could use more people like David Fitzsimmons and Branden Petersen, and they have shown that such an approach can be successfull. I think it is clear that the real establishment wants to win, but they also realize that the MNGOP has to move in a more libertarian direction, but not by alienating older and more socially conservative activists. Liberty activists are in a great position to build momentum for a Rand Paul 2016 run.

For all the theatrics of the “hard-core” of the “Ron Paul” clique from 2012 – some of whom are off dabbling with one pseudo-libertarian sideshow or another – Sax notes that the Liberty movement has built itself a decent springboard within the party for bigger and better things and greater influence. The presence, and influence, of the likes of Senator Branden Peterson should tell you that the efforts are going somewhere.  And last night’s upset loss by Majority Leader Cantor should tell you that there’s an audience. 

It’s taking longer than some of the 2012 wave thought it would – that movement was far too focused on magical solutions and personality cultism, both of which are a lot more fun than, well, politics.   Because here’s the dirty little secret; politics sucks.  The process of getting people elected to office is the most niggling, passive-aggressive ordeal known to humanity that doesn’t involve involuntary captivity. 

And the worst thing about it?  The alternative to participating in the whole toxic mess is turning it – and its big reward, control of the state’s monopoly of power, especially power overyou and me- over to people who are much, much worse than us. 

And, like it or not, those really are the only choices. 

[1] I’m talking about the public persona he’s developed over the past few years.  Privately and in person, Sax is a personable, approachable, interesting guy, and a fun fella to talk with.  I’ll invoke the Corleone codecil; my description was business, not personal.

Inconclusive

I went to the Minnesota GOP convention in Rochester over the weekend.

The atmosphere could hardly have been more different than the 2012 convention, with its factions and intrigues and cliques full of giggly partisans with their secret handshakes and code words.

This year, the code word was “pragmatism”; the GOP base is sick to death of losing.

Dahlbmentum:  The big shock out of the gate?  The collapse of the Julianne Ortman campaign.  She fell under the statutory 20% minimum by the 5th ballot (candidates that don’t have 10% on ballots 2-4, and more than 20% after ballot 5, are dropped from contention).

But St. Louis county commissioner Chris Dahlberg came out swinging, leading the balloting from the first ballot through the end of Friday evening.

Friends from greater Minnesota tell me it could only have been a surprise to people in the Metro; Dahlberg has been working outstate delegates constantly and intensely.  And I think he was a protest vote as well; a backlash against the impression that McFadden – who had said he’d go to a primary if he didn’t get endorsed – was the hand-picked candidate of Norm Coleman and Vin Weber.

If you have any friends who were delegates, they will no doubt tell you all about it today, yawning as they do; the balloting continued until 2AM, with Dahlberg leading by 54-45 when the convention voted to suspend voting until 9AM Saturday; people were getting pretty exhausted.

It may have kept Mike McFadden in the endorsement chase.  We heard that the McFadden people had called out no-show delegates to get to Rochester, and with the morning’s first ballot the race was nearly even; by Ballot 10, McFadden and Dahlberg had switched positions from the night before, with McFadden in the fifties.  Around 1:30 in the afternoon – as the Northern Alliance was on the air – Dahlberg conceded.

So the Senate balloting ended half a day later than expected.

Maneuvering:  Then came the governor race.

The conventional wisdom called it a three-way race between Jeff Johnson, Marty Seifert and Dave Thompson (with Scott Honour and Kurt Zellers skipping the convention and going straight to the primary).

The first ballot reflected this; Johnson had a slight lead, but the top three were bunched in the low-thirties to high twenties.  Rob Farnsworth dropped out after Ballot 2 (he fell under 10%) and sent his delegates to Johnson (to whom it looked like most of them had already gone).

Ballot 3 saw Johnson extending his lead, with Seifert and Thompson falling further behind.

Here’s where it gets complicated.

After ballot 3, Dave Thompson withdrew and, in a superbly crafted concession speech, told his delegates to go to Johnson – strictly because Johnson and pledged to abide by their endorsement – and urged Seifert’s delegates to think hard about Seifert’s position (he’s always said he’d go to a primary if he wasn’t endorsed).

Not long after, Seifert took to the stage, and released his delegates, saying many of them had long drives home.

Jeff Kolb describes the strategy and the effect:

In his speech Seifert released his delegates and told them they could go home. The move was an attempt by Seifert’s campaign to block the endorsement of Johnson. Endorsement requires 60% of the votes that are cast, but that number needs to be more than 50% of the delegate count at the time of the last credentials report. So if enough people leave, it becomes impossible (or very difficult without some crazy rules wrangling) to obtain an endorsement.

The non-Seifert part of the floor erupted in anger.  And it turned out that there were enough votes left to beat the 50% requirement; Johnson topped 60% on the fourth ballot, for the endorsement.

Summing Up:  We’re basically going to go to the primary with the same exact governor field (sans Thompson), and a horde of pundits saying this year was the death of the endorsement process.  We’ll see, of course; if the endorsement gives Johnson the clout to win the primary, then rumors of its death may be exaggerated.

And I have a newfound respect for the likes of Tom Scheck, Rachel Stassen-Berger and Bill Salisbury, who have to not only cover this stuff for a living, but make it readable and listenable to boot.

So we’ll see you out on the primary trail!

Why I’m No Longer A Libertarian

My old friend Gary Miller is giving a speech to a Young Republican group tomorrow.  Or maybe a College Republican group.  And it might have already happened, for all I know.

But the particulars aren’t as important as the theme of his talk; “Why I’m No Longer a Republican”.

Gary was of course the proprietor of “Truth Vs. The Machine”, one of the great paleocon GOP blogs of the mid-2000s.  Over the past year or two, he’s left the GOP and become a Libertarian; at times, he’s even described himself as an “Anarcho-Libertarian”, one of the small crowd of Libertarians who believe that the only good government is a non-existent government.

And, I suspect, he’s going to describe the genesis of his disenchantment with the GOP, and his eventual move into the Libertarian sphere of things.

I’m sure it’ll be worth attending.  Although I’d probably get carded and 86ed.

But for the benefit of those YRs that might be interested, I thought I’d describe a full circle.  Because where Gary is now, I was, close to 20 years ago.  The details were different, but the disenchantment was the same.  As to the final results?  Well, we won’t know that for quite a while.

Underwhelmed:  I’ve told the story on this blog, and on my show, many times; in 1994, disgusted with Republican support for the 1994 Crime Bill (the last great successful push for gun control in this country), I quit and joined the Libertarians.

I called myself a Libertarian with a big L for four years.  I ran for State Treasurer, and won a moral victory in the 1998 election; my only platform plank was to abolish the office of State Treasurer.  That election, the people of Minnesota voted in a Constitutional initiative to abolish the office, proving they didn’t need pols to do their abolishing for them – and you can’t get more Libertarian than that).

And then I left.  There were really two reasons.

Screaming Into The Void:  If a Libertarian proposes a policy in the woods, and nobody hears them, do they really exist?

Judging by how American government has morphed over the past two decades, the answer is obviously “no”.

I left the Libertarian Party because it’s a party of great, brilliant ideas, declaimed with authority to rooms full of people who vigorously agree, and who remain magnificently above the fray, neither having to try to implement any of those ideas as policy nor, in many cases, claiming to want to try.  To some, the fact that politics is about compromise – battling to a consensus with people who disagree with you – is an invitation to perdition; one might need to compromise ones’ core principles!

So while they think their big thoughts in their salon full of other big thinkers, the non-Libertarian do-ers, unworried about sullying their principles because “getting power for ourselves” was their guiding principle, would be out on the street actually convincing the unconvinced to give them more of it.

And the more I tried to discuss this, the more I realized that while Libertarians paid lip service to the idea of actually winning elections and affecting policy, to way too many Libertarians the goal seemed to be able to say “I told you so” to the rest of society as it slowly turned away from the light.

And that struck me as completely pointless.

So I thought “where can I go where I can work on pushing more Liberty into actual policy that affects real people?”  I went back to the GOP more or less by default; I figured it was a more hospitable party to the idea of “liberty” (and I was right – there is not and can never be a Tea Party, or any Pauls, Rand or Ron, in the Democrat Party).

Quixotic?  Sure.  No moreso than trying to change society from within an echo chamber, though.

Reality Bites:  The other reason?  Libertarians – collectively and singly – are right about just about everything.  Freedom is better.  Government largely is the worst possible solution to every issue.  Decentralized is better than centralized.  Markets are better than regulations.

But there are threeissues about which Libertarians – individually, rather than as a Party – are dead wrong:

  • People are social
  • Human nature is not a construct.
  • Evil exists.

The classic Ayn-Randian Libertrian vision – and to some extent, our founding fathers had it as well – is that society is a mass of autonomous, disconnected equals, whose fate is governed entirely by their own merits and talent in navigating The Market. 

But humans are social animals.  We gather instinctively into groups – marriages, families, clans, tribes, villages, congregations, religions.  Some of them are voluntary, some aren’t.  All of them have rules.  Those rules sometimes take the form of “laws”, and laws are by their nature enforced by something, whether it’s Don Knotts or Catholic Guilt or a SWAT team. 

Of course, those rules – “laws” – exist for a bunch of reasons, the most useful and justifiable of which trace back to our evolutionary imperative to make sure our next generation grows up healthy and able to take care of us and able to raise yet another generation.  Rules like “if you have a kid, take care of it, dont’ run off, don’t kill it”.  Then ” don’t kill other peoples’ kids”.  Then “Don’t kill the people that take care of those kids”.  Then “don’t steal the means by which people feed and care for the next generation – food, land, property, means of production”.   And finally, “don’t go taking the land and killing the people that are the who and where our next generation gets raised”. 

Put another way – thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, cheat, covet other peoples’ stuff or piddle on whatever order we do have. 

And in a nearly perfect world, those rules have to be arrived at by consensus – so we, the people, end up with the bare minimum of “government by consent of the governed”, meaning me.  I want my government to be my employee, not my self-appointed master.

And I want that government to exist for, and deal with, a strictly limited list of things; enforce our contracts, impart consequences on those who do violate the bare minimum of rules we do have (mostly related to using force and violence against others)…

…but, most importantly, when I find my property crawling with Methodists with guns and bombs and knives, to respond with snipers and paratroopers and tanks, to drive the Methodists from all of our property as we sing “Constitutional Capitalist Collective, F**k Yeah!”, and “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the Strictly Limited Government way…”.

Those are really the only three reasons why anyone should have to interact with anyone else on a non-social basis.  And as it happens, they are the only three that matter…

…and are the ones on which libertarian purists are the  most lost in the philosophical clouds.

So that’s why I’m no longer a Libertarian.

I’m a libertarian-conservative who votes to prevent as much damage to liberty as possible, election by election.

To some, the distinction is meaningless.  To others, it’s meaninglessly precise.  Either way, that’s me, and that’s why.

The No-Brainer

A majority of Minnesotans support Sunday liquor sales.  And every year, as another generation of Minnesotans runs out of beer for a Sunday cookout for the first time, that support rises.

And yet the Minnesota Senate killed an amendment to an omnibus booze bill that would have legalized Sunday liquor sales for the first time.

In a state where taxes are booming and small business is being strangled, it seems like a minor issue – and it is.  But it’s also a no-brainer if you claim to support limited government and scaling back on pointless, mindless regulation – which are things Republicans talk about a lot.

Walter Hudson goes over the reasons,and finds them wanting:

While liquor stores near the border may clamor to compete with stores in surrounding states who enjoy a surge of business from exiled Minnesotans each Sunday, most of the liquor industry likes their state-mandated day off. Union contracts would have to be renegotiated if Sunday sales were legal. Routines would have to be adjusted. Staff might need to be hired and trained. Things would change, and change is icky.

Other special interests include moralizing theocrats who believe the state should force others to conform to their religious preferences, along with mother hens concerned that a seventh day of drinking invites untold carnage…Can you smell the nanny-statism? Do you see the cronyism at work? This is why rank-and-file activists and average everyday Minnesotans find this issue so provocative. There’s no plainer case of special interests wielding undue and wholly illegitimate influence over the rights of individuals.

And you’d think this’d be a no-brainer for Republicans.

And for a little over half the Senate GOP caucus, you’d be wrong.  While the DFL voted overwhelmingly to kill the Amendment, at the behest of their union benefactors and one of the state’s main booze-retail lobbies, the Senate GOP also voted 14-12 to kill the amendment.    Here are the votes.    And the s

And while it is a minor issue – to me more than most, since I go to liquor stores maybe once or twice a year – Hudson explains as capably as any I’ve read why that makes it, in some ways, even more important:

Why does this issue matter? Because if we can’t conjure the political will to overcome special interests in defense of individual rights when it barely matters at all, how are we going to champion rights when the stakes are huge?

If we can’t achieve consensus on the political Right that people should be free to open their businesses when they please, how are we going to win the argument that parents should educate as they please, or that individuals should own their healthcare, or that any of us own our life in any meaningful way? If the legislature can cite some social benefit to banning Sunday sales, why can’t they cite a social benefit to banning anything imaginable?

While 12 of the GOP caucus supported the Amendment (proposed by Branden Petersen, who is fast turning into the Rand Paul of the MN State Senate, and I mean that as a good thing), we need to have a word with Bruce Anderson, Gary Dahms, Michelle Fischbach, Paul Gazelka, Dan Hall (to whom I give a partial pass at voting for a higher principle as a Catholic lay priest, but it’s only a partial pass), Bill Ingebrigtsen,  Mary Kiffmeyer,  Warren Limmer,  Carla Nelson,  John C. Pederson,  Eric Pratt,  Julie A. Rosen,  Bill Weber and the normally-excellent Torrey Westrom.

Taken For Granted

At Saturday’s Cinco De Mayo event in Saint Paul, the Fourth CD Republican Party had a total of about twenty people working at their booth, on Cesar Chavez Boulevard just east of Robert Street.  And that was just workers, not counting candidates.

And here was the DFL booth:

Photo courtesty Andrew Ojeda

There were three people there, when there was anyone in the booth at all.

4th CD chair Jim Carson notes “Never saw a candidate nor an office holder [in the DFL booth.  The GOP booth] had MANY candidates and several legislators, a couple of whom (Hall and Pratt) are not running for statewide office. At one point, we easily had twenty people in our 10×20 booth. It was a madhouse.”

I know, I know.  It’s a Democrat town.  It’s going to be a long way back to relevance for the GOP in Saint Paul.  And sometimes the GOP in Saint Paul is its own worst enemy (more on that in a few days, here).

But it was a great event, and a great step forward.

And I gotta ask all you Latino voters on the West Side (and everywhere else in the Metro) – how does it feel being taken for granted like that?

While Out And About Thursday Night

The CD4 and CD5 Republican Party committees are presenting the first ever “Liberty Gala”, Thursday night at the MN History Center.

From the event website:

As an unofficial countdown to the 2014 State Republican Convention, you’ll have the opportunity to visit personally with all the candidates, chat with legislators, and meet fellow Republicans from around the area and beyond. You’ll enjoy Hors D’Oeuves, entertainment and several cash bars throughout the multi-leveled great hall and atrium with breathtaking views at every angle.

Or to put it on Bond-Movie-Trailer form…:

Pass the word – and I hope you can make it!

Tickets are on sale through today.

Kill National Popular Vote With Greasy Fire

Word is starting to leak out; a number of GOP politicians are flirting with supporting the idea of the National Popular Vote.

Let me be blunt:  This idea must be stomped, and stomped some more, until the convulsions stop. 

This is an utterly wretched idea, favored by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets to give the nation’s population centers a stranglehold on presidential (and eventually, all)  politics.

The National Popular Vote means that presidential candidates will not, ever, need to campaign in flyover land.  They need only to play to the coasts.

It completely guts the “protection of minority states” that the Electoral College has given this nation, to its immense benefit.

Need a reason to oppose it?  Here are seven to start with, all of them worthy of a rhetorical death sentence. 

The campaign to institute it has been sneaky, under the radar, and not a little bit sleazy.  The supporters are clearly trying to gull a mass of low-information voters (swaying them with talk of “majority rule”) without fully airing out the consequences. 

It’s even sucked in a number of Republicans who should know better.  I’m not naming names.  But it’s going to happen, sooner or later.

Republicans:  I, for one, will support an NPV supporter about the same time I support a gun controller.   You support NPV?  We’re going to have a pointed conversation. 

This shall not pass.

“…Nothing To Fear”

Republicans.

At our best, we are the party of individual rights, liberty, and limited government.

At our best, we are the party that actually believes in the original intent of the United States Constitution – including all ten amendments of the US Constitution.

At our best.

But the GOP isn’t always at “its best” – or, perhaps more accurately, politicians end up making compromises.

We had both on display this past week at the Capitol.

Senator Branden Peterson, Roger Chamberlain and Sean Nienow - three solid conservatives – co-authored Senate File 2466 with DFLers Bobby Joe Champion and Scott Dibble.  The bill, if passed into law, would require law enforcement to have probable cause and a search warrant to locate and track peoples’ cell phones via GPS. 

This is in line with the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution – which says we have an inalienable right, endowed us by our creators, to safety and security in our homes, papers and possessions, and that the burden is on the government to prove via due process that it has a compelling legal reason to need to do things like track our whereabouts.

And in a rare display of near-unanimity – and a rarer-still case of a useful bit of bipartisanship – the Senate voted for the bill 56-1 (see page 8233) – a vote that put Lyndon Carlson side by side with Roger Chamberlain, and Dave Osmek with Sandy Pappas, politically as well as alphabetically.  The lions laid down with the sheep.

All but one.

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, GOP from Alexandria, was the sole vote against the bill (see page 8232).

Why?

He’s been quoted saying “If you’re following the law, you have nothing to fear.”   The quote – assuming it’s accurate and in-context – is an unfortunate one; in all the millions of pages of state and federal laws and regulations that exist, surely everyone is a criminal in one way or another these days.  And even if that’s not the case?  That’s just not the attitude a government that governs a free association of equals should ever view law enforcement.

I emailed Senator Ingebrigtsen for his side of the story.  He responded very promptly, and I’ll carry his response in full:

There were already search warrants in place for this Law Enforcement function. This basically didn’t change much at all. Also this has nothing to do with pbone conversations between anybody. It is technology that aids the cops in locating a person registered to a specific phone. Again, no wireless tapping for voice. It would be used to locate abducted people, known offenders who are stupid enough to keep their cell phones on them after committing a serious crime. In defence of the bill, it does allow emergency personel to use if it’s determined a medical emergency or for lost kids.

So my vote was to not deter the possibility of other LE agency from wanting to obtain this very, what could be life or death, tool.

Again, LE has always dealt with evidence and how it is obtained with the search warrant process. Without this, they don’t have a case

I appreciate the response, and the answer.  He’s right about a couple of points; it doesn’t cover tapping phone conversations (as some assert), and warrants already cover most telecommunications, officially.

I disagree with it, of course; while as Ingebrigtsen notes the law already calls for search warrants to tap phone calls (and their attendant GPS data), there are loopholes; SF2466 closes them.  And as the NSA scandal shows us, the “official” legal stance doesn’t always govern how government actually handles its powers.  That overreach was what this bill was intended to forfend, at the state level. 

As far as finding children goes?   I’m not sure if the law allows parents to consent to searches for their childrens’ phones without need for a warrant - perhaps my lawyer readers can sound off about that – but that would certainly be a statute most could support while still defending our Fourth Amendment rights.   (And I can’t imagine a judge hedging on signing a search warrant for a missing child if a parent or guardian couldn’t be reached in an emergency). 

So I understand and respect Senator Ingebrigtsen’s reasoning – but disagree with it strongly.  And I’m happy that the GOP was able to lead this bipartisan effort that, in a dismal era for civil liberty, struck a tiny blow for the good guys.

That’d be “all of us citizens”.

Front Runner?

Scott Walker.

He’s conservative.

He’s got a killer track record.

He’s got killer approval ratings, and has them in a state perhaps even more purple than Minnesota, notwithstanding (or – ahem – because of) his tough, conservative stances on vital issues. 

He’s withstood four years of the most scabrous liberal and media (ptr) campaigns in the history of American politics (not directed at a woman or minority conservative, anyway), and come out stronger than ever

Revealingly, Walker fares well in an electorate that does not seem particularly conservative and that, if anything, appears to be slightly to the left of American voters in general. Among those surveyed in the WPR/St. Norbert’s poll, 48 percent had a favorable view of President Obama; 50 percent had an unfavorable view. Obama generally fares worse than that in national polling. In addition, Wisconsin’s liberal Senator Tammy Baldwin had a positive rating — 44 percent approve; 33 percent disapprove.

In this context, Walker’s popularity is particularly striking. 59 percent approve of his performance, while only 39 percent disapprove.

And despite the left and media’s (ptr) attempt to sand-bag his accomplishments (for instance, the left’s meme claiming Minnesota is “doing better” than Wisconsin, which depends entirely on ignoring the structural differences between manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin and service-heavy Minnesota, or Wisconsin’s commanding lead over MN in climate for new businesses), he’s got his own constituents basically on board - especially amazing considering the manufactured rancor of his first 18 months in office:

 Walker’s approval numbers basically track the right direction/wrong direction numbers for his State. 57 percent said that Wisconsin is moving in the right direction, while 38 percent said its moving in the wrong direction. By contrast only 32 percent believe the United States is moving in the right direction. 63 percent think we’re moving the other way.

If the GOP has a brain…

…well, Jeb who?

Bulletproof

Scott Walker is revolutionizing midwestern politics in Wisconsin.  And it’s driving Wisconsin Democrats crazy.  They are pulling out all the stops – and all the dirty tricks that decades of Democrat rulers accreted to help them try to keep their power – to try to depose him. 

Including an anonymous, unaccountable “John Doe” investigation that is essentially an extended prosecutorial fishing trip…

…that has found nothing against Governor Walker.  And, arguably, was never intended to – so much as it was to create a long, extended smear of Walker in the compliant press. 

It doesn’t seem to be working.  Walker’s approval is at 52%, and…:

The latest Marquette Law School poll, released Wednesday, shows Walker’s lead on presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke in the run-up to Wisconsin gubernatorial race in November has crept up a percentage point, to 48 percent to 41 percent. Walker led Burke, a wealthy Madison liberal and Commerce Secretary under former Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle, 47 percent to 41 percent in the law school’s last poll in January.

The poll of 801 Wisconsin registered voters was conducted by cell phone and landline March 20-23, a month after the release of Rindfleisch’s emails, which proved somewhat embarrassing for Walker and his associates but showed no evidence of illegal activity by Walker.

Wisconsin Democrats may wind up “attacking” Walker all the way to the White House at this rate.

Notes From My Short List

I don’t endorse candidates – well, rarely, anyway – but my fantasy ticket for 2016 is Scott Walker and Rand Paul.  Since neither is likely to settle for Veep, it’s probably fair to say that either of them (maybe with Susana Martinez for Veep) is my current front-runner.

Why Walker?  Look at Wisconsin. 

Why Rand Paul?   Because he’s putting the GOP – and more importantly conservatism – into places where it’s not been seen in decades.  And – the bleatings of too many establishment hamsters notwithstading – convincing people that conservative-libertarianism is the right answer to this nation’s problemsisthe future of conservatism, and especially the GOP, if there’s going to be a future at all.

And Paul gets this:

Historically, the Republican Party has been just what the public thinks it is, largely a bunch of risk-averse white men who are totally clueless at public relations, even though they are on the right (correct) side of almost every issue. Meanwhile, the liberal Democrats haven’t had a decent rational argument about anything for years, if they ever did. They ream young people, blacks and virtually every other “interest group”that supports them with their policies and they still win most national elections. What a disgraceful group of losers that makes the Republicans…Rand Paul is smart enough to realize this and actually goes out and does things about it…The country is changing. Whole new groups are ripe for the picking, most obviously the young who are being so completely raked over by the Obama administration via Obamacare and the rest of the entitlements so many of them know they will never see. They were ready to applaud at Berkeley.

The whole thing is worth a read. 

And, if you’re a GOP activist, a little bit of internalizing.

In The Wake…

…of the Instapundit straw poll that showed a convincing (if meaningless) lead for a ticket I’ve quietly dreamed about, I figure that’s an idea I should copy.

So here we go; the first Shot In The Dark Straw Poll.

(and not likely the last one of this campaign).

Who would you like to see running for President?

Who do you support for the GOP Nomination for President in 2016?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Polls open until probably tomorrow sometime.