What If?

On the weekend before the official kickoff of the GOP nomination season, Donald Trump would seem to have the momentum.  Now, both of “my guys” for this race – Walker and Jindal – are long gone, so my short list is (in very rough order) Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Christie.

Trump’s ascendancy has, of course, brought out the usual jeremiads about the oncoming implosion of the GOP (to which cooler and more historically-grounded heads reply “What?  Again?  This happens every eight years or so“).

But I keep getting asked – what if Trump is, at the end of the day, the nominee?

Simple.  I’ll hold my nose and vote for Trump.

It’s not just because I regard third-party candidacies as irrelevant exercises in personal philosophical navel-gazing – that’s between you and your conscience, and is none of my business.

And it’s not that I’m a “my party, right or wrong” guy; I’m a Tea Party Conservative who votes GOP because it is, to evoke Buckley, the most conservative party that can win.  And if Trump, heaven forefend, is the most conservative person on the ballot who can win next November, then I’ll vote for him.

But Trump promises to be a rerun of the Jesse Ventura years, only coast-to-coast.   So why bother?

Three reasons:  Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Scalia – one of the better conservative minds in the history of the court – lamentably can’t last forever.  Having Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders nominate his “replacement” – or that of Kennedy, the most powerful “Moderate” in the history of the universe – would turn the SCOTUS bright blue for decades to come.  Kiss any chance of rolling back Obamacare, getting control of immigration or voting or the borders, or the Second Amendment, goodbye right now.

And by the opposite token, if Kennedy retires, or Ginsburg gets called by her overlords back to her mothership, during a GOP administration, there’s at least a chance of getting a much better, more conservative justice on the bench.  And don’t be caterwauling at me about what disappointments Roberts and Souter turned out to be as conservatives; without a GOP president and GOP Senate, “eventual disappointment” is the best you can hope for.

Remember – Trump may well nominate a complete idiot.  But the Senate has to confirm them.  And if both a hypothetical President Trump and a GOP Senate are idiots, then we’re screwed – but those are both “maybes”; you can bet a hypothetical President Sanders will nominate Saul Alinksky, and Clinton’s nominees will make Sonia Sotomayor look like John Marshall.

So yeah.  I’ll hold my nose and vote Trump.

And then set to work on fixing the rot that led us to this point.

Pretense Aside

SCENE: Mitch BERG is waiting in line at the Rack Shack on South Robert.   Stephanie Marie ANNAN – Community organizer for the 5th CD Libertarian Party – enters with a great clatter, vigorously stomps off her boots, and gets in line, finally noticing BERG. 

ANNAN:  Hey, Merg!  I don’t like all that stuff you’ve been saying about how us Ron Paul people just like to throw…what do you call it?”

BERG:  “Turd bombs”.

ANNAN:  Yeah!  The GOP did it first, back in 2008!

BERG:  Yeah, so I’ve been told.  That was about three years before I got involved in the GOP beyond going to caucuses, by the way.  I know there’s been going on eight years of tit-for-tat between the Ron Paul clicque and the “establishment”, which I’m told I’m part of, even though I got involved in the party after the Tea Party.

ANNAN:  You’re already boring me.

BERG:  That seems to happen a lot.  You all apprently got “bored” with Kurt Bills after you you all went to Tampa in 2012…

ANNAN:  Hey – there’s a special primary coming up in a house district 68B!

BERG:  Yeah, it’s been in all the papers.

ANNAN:  I suppose you’re supporting the Republican candidate, like some mindless sheeple?

BERG: No, I support the endorsed Republican candidate because I’m an intelligent, informed voter. I think the endorsed candidate, Mindy Pilph, is an excellent choice.  Although I don’t actually live in the district.

ANNAN:  I plan on supporting her primary opponent!

BERG:  Who?  Jesse Duff?

ANNAN:  Yes!

BERG:  Duff supports doubling the gas tax, banning civilian firearm ownership, rolling back school choice and instituting an entirely grievance-based curriculum, and adopting the North Korean style socialist philosophy of “Juche“, an isolationist firm of Stalinism based on all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent state.  Which seems – pardon me for saying so – counterintuitive for someone who was a high ranking functionary in the Ron Paul campaign four years ago.  Since Duff would seem to be the polar opposite of Libertarian, I gotta say, that’s a zig when I expected a zag.

ANNAN:  But he’s independent from the Minnesota Republican Party.

BERG:  Well, with good reason. He stands for everything the party rejects.

ANNAN:  But he’s independent!

BERG:  But he’s the exact opposite of Libertarian.

ANNAN:  So?

BERG:  So yet again, it seems that “libertarian principle” isn’t really as big a deal as trying to TP the MNGOP….

ANNAN:   Squirrel!

(ANNAN leaves the room.  And SCENE)

Un-Abeler To Compute

I rarely if ever endorse candidates, per se.  I figure it’s not my job – who am I, after all?   I inform; you decide.

But I live in Saint Paul.  The Fourth Congressional District; Senate District 65; House 65A.  I’m “represented” by Betty McCollum, Sandy Pappas and Rena Moran.   And while I do my best to get involved in politics in my own neighborhood, let’s be honest; I probably have a greater  impact elsewhere.

Of course, Andy Aplikowski is a longtime friend of this blog.  And of mine, for that matter.  One of the co-founders of True North, one of the smartest political numbers guys I know, half of one of the genuinely nicest couples I know.  Andy’s running to replace Brandon Petersen in the Senate.  And I hope he wins.

Andy’s got the endorsement of the SD35 party apparatus.  But he’s gotta get through a primary against long-time former rep. Jim Abeler.

Now, I’ve interviewed Abeler a few times.  He’s a great guy; there are those who choose to demonize those they disagree with, and neither Abeler nor I are them.  And in his interviews, Abeler makes a solid case for some of the votes he’s taken.  Not solid enough to convince me, but nothing to brush aside, either.

But one vote that concerned me, as someone who’s gone around and around with the public school system, is a vote he took that ended up denying vouchers to students in Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools. Did Abeler have his reasons?  I’m sure he did – but they pale against the opportunity that arises when you allow the free market, personified by giving the parents the fiscal clout to say “no” to the district system, to have its effect.

So while I’m not sure what Abeler’s policy reasons are, I know that the vote did earn him some powerful friends. No, I mean some very powerful friends, friends with deep pockets and heavy-duty outsized clout in Minnesota politics.

Anyway – if you’re in SD35, or have friends there, by all means let ’em know where the School Choice vote goes.

The GOP’s Keystone Kommittee

One of the downsides of being a GOP activist and officer is that you have to get involved, even passively, in GOP inside baseball.   Ever.  For any reason.

And of course, it’s important; without a viable challenge to the DFL, Minnesota is a few downturns away from turning into California.  Or Minneapolis.

So I go to the meetings.  I vote on stuff.  I do my bit to try to help get better people elected to office; not just Republicans, but conservative Republicans who support limited government.

And I try to get as informed as I can about some of the “inside baseball” issues in the GOP; the budget deficit (how the hell…?), the collapse in the Cities, the turnout issues in the first and second ring ‘burbs…

…and of course, the Judicial Elections Committee.

That Buzzing Sound That Never Goes Away:  The JEC is an obscure fixture in the MNGOP, focusing both on endorsing judicial candidates and fighting for judicial reform.

As re the second?  The subject is a deadly combination of intensely technical and very important.   It’s intensely picayune – and absolutely vital.  The judiciary has turned into an unaccountable, opaque, lifetime sinecure in Minnesota; judges have extremely disproportionate power as a result, and the ability to make sweeping decisions with almost no accountability.  And the power extends beyond just the courtroom; the past several state redistricting processes, including the 2010 redistricting – gerrymandered enough to make Bull Connor and George Wallace sit up in the grave and say “Hey, bucko, you’re getting a little carried away, here”.  “Shall Issue” carry reform was struck down in 2004 by a judge whose home was a DFL hamster wheel and who, ignoring the fact that every state budget is a combination of omnibus bills full of unrelated amendments, struck down the law because it wasn’t closely enough related to the bill that was originally amended.

So there is a problem that needs to be solved.

There’s a lot of history to the notion of judicial endorsements, and the creation of the JEC, and its activities since it was established; I’ve written about them in the past, and I won’t rewrite it all now (search my site for references to the phrase “My brain went blank and my ass went numb”).

But it’s the JEC’s recent history that concerns me most.

Last Saturday was the GOP’s State Central Committee meeting.  I didn’t attend – but the future of the JEC was one of the subjects up for discussion.  And my butt went a little numb just reading the accounts on Twitter.

Business:  Of course, the JEC’s main claim to “fame” was the endorsement of Michelle McDonald to run for State Supreme Court.  This happened at the MNGOP State Convention in Rochester in May of 2014.  McDonald turned out to have a pending year-old DUI charge – about which the convention was not told.   We’ve written about this at some length in the past.

Let’s fast forward to last Saturday.  A series of handouts was waiting for the SCC delegates as they arrived at the event, or distributed during the convention; a friend scanned and sent them to me (the scan is included below the jump).

In it, the JEC explains the reasons for its existence – and, to be honest, does it fairly well, in places (and let’s be honest – the handout was written by logorrheacs, and you have to dig to find the good stuff.  But it’s in there).  In all my years of listening to JEC members trying to explain why judicial endorsements, and judicial reform, are good and vital, and why retention elections are bad, this is the first time even the faintest hint of a light has gone off above my head.

And so partly as a result of this handout, my previous determination to tear down the JEC, with flamethrowers if necessary, has been tempered just a bit.

I said “the JEC”.

The JEC’s membership is another story.

Twenty Octogenarians Driving A Clown Car:  If you recall – and I completely forgive you if you do not – the history of and beef with the McDonald endorsement goes a little something like this:

  1. The JEC recommended Michelle McDonald – a controversial family-law lawyer – for nomination to run for the Supreme Court (SCOM).
  2. At the State Convention, after the delegates had endured a 20-odd-hour endorsement battle for Senate, the JEC brought McDonald to the stage for a speech and a motion for endorsement by acclamation.  Many delegates were out – grabbing a bite, or in the bathroom, or stretching their legs after the endless Senate battle – and many that were in the room reported feeling bum-rushed – but the motion for acclamation passed, and McDonald was endorsed.
  3. The following week, the media reported that McDonald had a pending DUI charge awaiting trial.
  4. Reports emerged that the JEC had been aware of this charge, but had voted to nominate McDonald anyway, and had voted to not inform the delegates, including blocking an attempt to issue a minority report to the convention that would have brought up the legal issues for the delegates’ consideration.
  5. McDonald and the MNGOP brass spent the next five months fighting each other, under a blazing media spotlight, rarely managing or bothering to engage the DFL’s candidate, Darth Lillehaug, on any level.
  6. McDonald went on to lose the election against Lillehaug.  According to some reports, her campaign raised less that $1,000, and spent about $8,000.

The handouts give a couple of insights into the JEC’s performance – or “performance” – at the 2014 State convention, in the first two pages (the pink ones, whose order is reversed; page 2 is actually page 1).   It’s also full of opinion-driven weasel words – “the chair appeared…”, “in the committee’s opinion, the chair…” and the like.

There are two quotes from the handout, though, that display…something about the JEC’s opinion of itself; whether that something is arrogance, incompetence or malfeasance, I’m not sure and I’ll leave it to better judges than I.

It should be noted that the purpose of any endorsing committee is to spare the convention the task of sorting through a candidate’s personal life.  the job of any endorsing committee is to do the work in confidence and present a yes or no to the convention.  Committees focus on a candidate’s message, their willingness to campaign hard and their ability appeal (sic) to voters.  The idea that the Judicial Election Committee (or any other nominating committee) should air a candidate’s personal information to the convention is badly misinformed.

Exactly what a nominating committee is supposed to do is a subject worthy of discussion. And the passage may be right; a nominating committee should concern itself with competence and electability.

But a legal proceeding that is guaranteed to provoke a media feeding frenzy is both not “personal information” – it’s a public record, available online from the courts – and of direct impact to the candidate’s electability.

So this quote – along with the rest of the information in the handout, brings up three possibilities:

  1. The majority of the JEC genuinely believed that an arrest record is “personal information” that was nobody’s business.  If this was the case, then we’re dealing with some stupid people.  Arrest records are public!  Public!  Public!  Anyone who thought this was “personal information”, and believed that the media and DFL would treat it that way, needs to be publicly (rhetorically) horsewhipped.
  2. They knew about the arrest record, but figured it wouldn’t be a problem, since McDonald assured them the charge was BS:   You’ll note how many media figured led with the whole “Michelle McDonald is innocent until proven guilty, and gosh, she looks like she has a strong case” tack, right?  Somewhere less than zero?  Part of a nominations commission’s job is to try, as far as possible, to prevent media poo-storms like…the one we had.
  3. The JEC figured the news would be a problem, but wanted to jam McDonald down anyway, leading a supermajority to vote against the issuance of a minority report.   This is the worst kind of malfeasance.

We also see in another quote that the JEC is wallowing in either wishful thinking or an arrogant desire to bullshit the rest of the party:

…in spite of the flap over a now resolved (not guilty) DWI case, Michelle McDonald for Supreme Court won 46.54% of the vote.  This is higher than Johnson, McFadden, Severson, Gilbert and Newman – all the other MNGOP endorsed candidates

How stupid do these people think the rest of the party is?

The DWI is “now resolved” – but it wasn’t at election time.  And the media certainly didn’t harp on “innocence until proven guilty”.

As to her turnout?  As we pointed out the first time the JEC tried to use this chanting point to gull the gullible, it was BS.  McDonald got 46% against Lillehaug, it’s true – but John Hancock got 42% against Mimi Wright, and virtually every contested judicial race in the state got 35-40%.  McDonald outscored random, obstinate, uninformed noise by 4-6%. And while it’s possible she outperformed “background noise” due to her brilliant campaign, it’s also possible that a few thousand shooters voted against Darth Lillehaug, and would have no matter who was nominated.

My Conclusion, For Those Who Care?:  The JEC exists for good reason.  Minnesota’s judicial system needs changes, and the GOP needs to help drive those changes.

But most of its members need to go.  Decency would involve resignations of the sitting membership for their malfeasance, or at least stupidity, in the McDonald flap.   The JEC process is almost completely opaque to delegates, and even officers at the BPOU and Congressional District level.   I’m an officer, and I have no idea how Judicial Districts elect officers and do business.  It’s not just me.

The JEC, in my opinion, is a nook and cranny of the GOP that was built by, and is controlled by, a group of people who have turned it into their little political playground.  This doesn’t serve the mission that the JEC has set out for itself.

Just my opinion.  But I’m not alone.

As we’ll see, I’m sure, come the next State Convention.

 

Telling Tangent: Want to know something ironic?  I might well have voted for McDonald even with the pending DUI charge, had the JEC tried a little honesty, and had McDonald spent more time tackling Darth Lillehaug than Keith Downey.  But if I’d known about her involvement in the Grazzini-Rucki custody battle, I’d have voted for Charles Manson before I’d vote for McDonald.   If McDonald was involved with kidnapping and brainwashing a couple of kids against their custodial father, she deserves much worse than losing an election.

Continue reading

Doakes Sunday: Buried

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Why would Senate Republicans vote on a budget bill at 1:00 am?

Because they’re ashamed of it.  They know the line “I’ll gladly pay you in 2025 for $85 billion today” is a lie, the same lie they told in every other “out-years” budget going back for decades.

Kudos to Ted Cruz for speaking the truth about it.  Shame on Senate Republicans for going along with it.

Joe Doakes

Keeping freedom is a full-time job.  The bulk of it involves keeping your side on the right side.

Well, Crap

Walker’s out of the race.

And I couldn’t  be more bummed.

Walker was the *only* candidate in the race that has actually walked the walk when it comes to pushing back on the public employee unions, whose pensions are going to bankrupt this nation long before any war will.

But he built a stadium for the Bucks!”, some chant. Yeah, he’s not perfect. No candidate is.

“But he’s weak on foreign policy”. He could appoint his motorcycle Secretary of State and have a better foreign policy team than the current occupant.

“He’s a warmonger!” No, he isn’t. Appearing strong and resolute leads to peace; begging for peace brings war.

 

But he’s got no charisma!”. Good God, people – voting for charisma is as likely to get you Barack Obama as it is Ronald Reagan. I’ll take an “uncharismatic” president who not only knows how to *talk* about drawing and holding lines, but *has done it, successfully, against brutal, ruthless opposition*, over some “charismatic” candidate for whom it’s all theory, however charismatically expressed.

Given a choice between Calvin Coolidge – an uncharismatic president who shrank government, getting it out of the way of epic prosperity – and a “charismatic” hamster like our current president, is it even a choice?

This is a lousy day for America.

OK, Fiorina and Rubio people. I’m listening

Game Afoot

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is prowling the aisles at Fleet Farm in Lakeville, looking for .22 Long Rifle ammo.  

He rounds a corner, and runs into Bill GUNKEL, former Republican and now chairman of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of “Former Republicans for Ron Paul”,

GUNKEL:  Hey, Merg!

BERG:  Hey, Bill.

GUNKEL:  The RINO statist John Kline is retiring from office!

BERG:  Yeah, Representative Kline wasn’t the most conservative congressman we’ve had.

GUNKEL:  He may as well have been a Democrat!

BERG:  Enh.  And in an R+2 district…well, bygones is bygones.  The real question is who’s gonna replace him?   I’ve heard talk of State Senator Dave Thompson, Mary Pawlenty…

GUNKEL:  Why elect another RINO?

BERG:  Um, what? Dave Thompson is a RINO?

GUNKEL:  He never criticized Kline!

BERG:  Er, why would he do that?

GUNKEL:  Why not?

BERG:  Violating Reagan’s 11th commandment by attacking other conservatives, even imperfect ones?  Alienating Kline supporters in his own district, to no benefit to himself?  Spending political capital on something that gains him nothing?

GUNKEL:  Gains him nothing?  He’d get the respect of the Liberty voters!

BERG:  You mean the people who bum-rushed the 2012 State Convention to send a slate of delegates to Tampa to make a symbolic vote for Ron Paul, and then largely went home and never came to another GOP meeting?  Who pushed Kurt Bills to the nomination, then abandoned him when he actually acted like he was part of the party that endorsed him?  A group that seems more focused on bashing Republicans than winning elections?

GUNKEL:  Principle!

BERG:  Right.  OK, so Dave Thompson is insufficiently pure.  Gotcha.  So who do you support?

GUNKEL:  David Gerson.  The only candidate to support if you care about Liberty!

BERG:   Gerson says all sorts of things I support.  I’ve got no problem with him.  I’d love to have him on the show.   It’s just that last go-around, he raised less money than a typical Saint Paul Republican legislative candidate.

GUNKEL:  So?   Money isn’t everything.

BERG:  Right.  But it’s a leading indicator.  If someone can’t raise money from supporters to run a campaign, it’s a fair question to ask whether they can raise votes.

GUNKEL:  Well, it’ll be different this time!

BERG:  Well, that’d sure make the race more interesting!   I think a solid, credible challenge from the Libertarian wing of the party would be a very good thing.   But the candidate – and especially his campaign – have got to ramp up the game.

GUNKEL:  Oh, we will, by the time of the election on March 1.

BERG:  Um, what?

GUNKEL:   We’ll get the support out in droves by the time the battle for all the marbles, on March 1, happens.

BERG:  Um, March 1 is the caucuses.

GUNKEL (looking confused):  Riiiight?

BERG:  Not the general election.

GUNKEL:   (Shrugs extravagantly, indicating non-comprehension)

BERG:  March 1 is when he’ll try to knock off other GOP…Oh, never mind.

And SCENE

Residual Force

Former mayor of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers Andy Aplikowski is throwing his hat in the ring for a lateral transfer, declaring his candidacy for the Minnesota State Senate in SD 35.  He’s running to replace retiring Senator Branden Peterson.  

He’ll probably have an easier race in reliably read SD 35, in the far north suburbs of the Twin Cities, THAN he did winning the famously fickle MOB race..  He’ll definitely have an easier time representing that district than he did the MOB.  

Good luck, Andy. Have your people call my people..

Free For All

With the announcement that Senator Branden Petersen is not going to seek re-election in SD35, a crowd of Republicans is jumping in line to run for the seat:

Those possible candidates include Republican party activists Andy Aplikowski and Don Huizenga, state Rep. Abigail Whelan and former state Rep. Kathy Tinglestad.

SD35 is a pretty reliably GOP district; pretty much any Republican up there can count on a three-digit margin of victory.  It’s sort of the anti-Saint Paul.

While I very rarely endorse anyone for office, I’ll note that Representative Whelan seems to be leaning against – which is, I think, a great plan (another term or two of incumbency can’t be a bad thing).

And I’m going to have to do my bit to put the kibosh on former Rep. Tinglestad; she was one of the “Override Six” who famously gut-shot Governor Pawlenty’s veto of a DFL spending orgy in 2008, joining with Ron “I’m Gonna Blow Your Head Off” Erhardt and making herself a darling of the DFLMedia.  I haven’t forgotten, and neither should SD35.

Andy Aplikowski would certainly be a great choice for the office.

Dear Karl Rove

To: Karl Rove

From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant

Re:: Agenda item

Karl,

Say what you will, but you did, once upon a time, teach Republicans an important lesson; if you don’t win elections, all the principles in the world are just wind in sails.

But the mercenary, “anything to get elected” dross of your philosophy has caused a lot of problems for the GOP.

And with this latest remark of yours, perhaps it’s time for you to take up gardening. Just saying.

That is all.

Money In Politics: Talk Dirty To The DFL

The DFL is in the midst of an extended campaign of sniveling about the amount of money in politics.

A look at this list of independent expenditures registered from the 10 Minnesota House races that flipped last election shows you why:

The DFL spent more.  Sometimes a helluvva lot more.  And it didn’t work.

IMG_3251.PNG

Courtesy John Rouleau of the MN Jobs Coalition, via Twitter.

The candidate with the most indy spending in each race is color-flagged.

Of 10 races, DFL groups outspent GOP groups in eight of them, notching a little over 10% more independent spending.  And that doesn’t even tell the whole story.

  • Remember all the whining Zach Dorholt did the Twin Cities media did on Zach Dorhold’s behalf about big money in his district?  His independent expenditures were 20% higher than Knoblach’s.
  • The GOP spent more on Peggy Bennet than the DFL wasted on Shannon Savick – by about $4,000.  That speaks to what a terrible campaign Savick ran, and what a lousy term she had in office – and the power of the grass roots that turned out to bounce her.  Don’t screw with the Second Amendment outstate!
  • On the other hand – Erickson vs. Hancock (over 2:1 in favor of the DFLer) and Fritz vs. Daniel (almost 3:1 for the DFL?)  Holy cow.
  • Against that, the GOP indies only outspent the DFL in two of the flips; the Bennet/Savick race, as already noted, and a 15% margin in the Heintzelman/Ward race.

So no wonder the DFL is so concerned about rationing money in politics; theirs didn’t work.  They need less competition.

Saint Paul Republicans: It’s Go Time

If you live in St. Paul, and I’m a Republican, or conservative, or just someone who’s tired of St. Paul being a one party city, then I hope you can turn out tonight.

It’s the St. Paul Republican City Committee caucuses, and they’re being held tonight in the auditorium at St. Paul College.

It’s hard enough being a Republican in StPaul – and over the previous few years, the city committee fell into near complete your relevance. There’s new leadership – full disclosure, I’m part of it – and we’re hoping to change that. Starting tonight.

We’ll have a couple of guest speakers – Sen.Dave Thompson, and Andy Richter of “CommunitySolutions”, which has turned around politics in the city of Crystal. Will also be talking about the nuts and bolts of turning the cities political culture around.

St. Paul College is a block north of the Cathedral, at Summit and Marshall. If you park in the college’s parking lot, save your ticket – vouchers will be issued, so parking won’t cost you.

Come on down!

Open Letter To The MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee

To:  The MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant Who Resents The Time He’s Wasted Listening To You People Over The Years
Re:  Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Dear JEC,

Quick – without looking at a ballot, tell us – who was running for the other Supreme Court  of Minnesota (SCOM) seat on Tuesday?

We’ll come back to that. 

Some of you are giggling like schoolgirls that Michelle MacDonald, after all of the back-and-forth over her endorsement and legal issues, got 46% of the vote for Supreme Court against Darth Lillehaug (who came in at 53%). . 

Hold the giggling.  Did you remember who was running for the other SCOM seat that was up for grabs?

It was Mimi Wright against John Hancock; Wright won 56/42.  And Hancock didn’t have the benefit of five months of media attention to his (non-existent) endorsement fiasco, party wrangling and legal travails. 

And perhaps more importantly, he wasn’t running against Darth Lillehaug

Look at every other judicial race in the state.  The challengers in the (very few) races that weren’t opposed generally netted 35-40% of the vote.  And why?  Because they weren’t incumbents. Random noise. 

So 35-40% of Michelle McDonald’s 46% were votes the GOP could have gotten by nominating Sharon Anderson or Leslie Davis or Clu Berg, my golden retriever. 

So don’t go claiming any credit for outperforming the GOP as a whole.

Now, this blog has already spent plenty of time castigating the JEC for the sleazy way you got McDonald endorsed – trotting her across the stage as a convention hall full of delegates with numb asses from 20 hours of wrangling over the Senate endorsement were getting ready for another half day of untangling a 5-way Governor race, and – unforgiveably – voting to not disclose to the delegates that Ms. McDonald had a pending court case for driving while intoxicated, rushing her through an acclamation endorsement without bothering to mention that the woman had “Media Poo-Storm” written all over her. 

We apparently didn’t need to know that. 

She spent the next five months, camera diliigently thrust in front of her, roaming the state, trashing the GOP, getting headlines from a media whose mission is also trashing the GOP, mostly winning her legal case…

A camera. Michelle MacDonald is standing behind it.

…and making people who follow these sorts of things wonder what was going on in there?

So let’s recap:

  • The JEC performs a dishonest sleight of hand, and gets Michelle MacDonald endorsed.
  • MacDonald spends months getting the kind of media attention no SCOM candidate ever, ever gets.
  • She runs against David Lillehaug – one of the few other SCOM candidates this side of Alan Page with a media profile.
  • She gets 4% better than a complete unknown running in an unknown race against an unknown opponent. 

This tells us a couple of things:

  • A good 30-40% of the vote in any contested judge race will be anti-incumbent, no matter who it is. 
  • Apparently that 30-40% doesn’t care if someone was charged with DUI, or wouldn’t know if they did. 
  • Either people liked Michelle McDonald, or they hated David Lillehaug. 

So – how could things have gone differently? 

What if you, the JEC, had tried just a skosh of honesty?  What would have happened?

Maybe you’d have lost the nomination.  And then again, maybe a straightforward minority report, coupled with an honest explanation of the exigencies from Ms. McDonald, would have won the delegates over.

Of course, the media would have have bellowed “GOP ENDORSES ACCUSED DRUNK DRIVER”. 

Which they did anyway! Only this time the GOP would have been at her back (although that would have taken some cojones).  And then it would have been off to the general election, Where 30-40% would have voted for her or Sharon Anderson or Paula Overby or Clu Berg. 

And 4-6% would have voted for her because they’d heard of her. 

And then Minnesota’s Second Amendment lobby, convinced they were backing a viable candidate instead of a skittery liabililty, could have called in the tribes and fired off some of their carefully-hoarded political capital against David Lillehaug, their sworn enemy.  If there’s anyone who wants Lillehaug to go into retirement, it’s Minnesota’s shooters.  Most of their races won; their support turned out the tribes in support of not just a few longshots.  To take down Darth Lillehaug? 

It could have been a match made in heaven.

Instead, you – the JEC – tried to manipulate the convention, and did it very badly. 

And I haven’t the words to express my contempt for what you all did.

That is all.

And Now The Real Problem

So the GOP has won, and won big.

That’s great. And it’s still worth taking a moment to savor the win.

But the time is coming soon  – tomorrow?  Monday? – when it’ll be time to ask the GOP “OK.  Now – what have you done for us lately?”

And the answer is, outside the realm of the Tea Party, it’s been pretty mixed.  The Karl Rove “Slick Consultant” wing of the GOP – which is less allied to conservative/libertarian principle than it is to at least theoretically putting numbers up on boards – still wields way too much control over the GOP.

This piece from Politico is clearly dated; it was written last week, before the election results blew away some of its statements…:

It doesn’t seem to matter much that the political track record of this GOP consultancy-industrial complex is execrable. Targeted Victory, LLC—which was co-founded by Michael Beach, the “national victory director” for the Republican Party during the 2008 campaign—played a key role in the development of “Project ORCA,” the now infamous Romney technology effort to win in 2012. It failed spectacularly. The manager of that effort for Targeted Victory was Tony Feather, who is now the “F” in FLS Connect, a powerhouse Republican consulting firm that handles much of the GOP’s voter contact. The “L” in FLS is Jeff Larson, who had been chief of staff for the Republican National Committee. FLS Connect also, at one time, employed Rich Beeson, who also worked at the RNC and went on to become Mitt Romney’s political director.

Understanding the incestuous ties between Republican consultants—the unending referrals of business between these friendly and insular consultant cliques—and the group think they promote is vital to comprehending the Republican predicament in 2014. Many of the groups that profited from Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 are now helping Republicans in 2014. Ron Bonjean, who worked for former establishment Republican leaders like Dennis Hastert and Trent Lott and is also a partner at a bipartisan firm, Singer Bonjean Strategies, in September took up an independent position with the NRSC. (The “Singer” in that firm, by the way, would be one Phil Singer, who worked for Chuck Schumer and served as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s communications director in 2006.)

The coveting of power for the sake of power and consultant-led group think have misdirected the GOP to strategic blunder after blunder.

…that are dated in terms of specific facts but still accurate.  Indeed, that may be the big downside of Tuesday; the consulting class is going to claim the victory, notwithstanding the fact that it was more a vote against Obama, his policies and his malaise than for the GOP.

Republicans in Washington who declared war on their very base are now shocked that conservative voters have little interest or motivation in helping Pat Roberts, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, or a host of other candidates. A Republican establishment that has spent several years badmouthing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and outside groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund now find themselves openly begging the Senate Conservatives Fund to engage in races while they fly Ted Cruz around the country to motivate the base.

And so the base was motivated.

But are the GOP’s problems fixed?

Not by a long shot.

It’s still the party that went with the flow with George W Bush on his deficit spending.  It’s still the party that caved in to a bunch of neanderthals in purple Viking outfits and yellow wigs to give public money (appropriately laundered) to Zygi Wilf, to try to avoid losing political points.

Ask Jeff Johnson how many political points that saved us.

And I get it – compromises are going to have to happen, and no politician who actually gets into a position to to change things escapes without some compromise to their ideological purity (unless they turn themselves into self-satirizing caricatures like Paul Wellstone and Ron Paul, always voting pure unadulterated principle and rarely actually affecting policy).  But it would be just great if the GOP would provide a consistent, sharp contrast to the Democrat Party and the DFL.

Republicans who are congratulating themselves this week had best keep it short and tasteful.  The GOP has a lot of problems, and even some of us in the party are questioning the party’s commitment to being different from the Democrats in Washington and the DFL in Saint Paul.

Which GOP is going to show up at the capitols in DC and Saint Paul next January?  The real one that is an actual meaningful alternative – the Tea Party – or the chuckleheads in the suits and the binders and binders full of excuses?

So Let’s Say The GOP Wins Big On Tuesday

So what?

The driving conceit of most third party approaches is that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.  And they have a point.

Half the point is “duh”, of course; politics, especially in legislatures, is all about reaching one degree or another of compromise with the other side.  The closer one’s legislature is divided, the more compromising is going to happen, provided anything happens at all.  If you mix a cup of orange juice and a cup of grape juice, there’s little way around the fact that you’re going to get orange-y grape juice, or grape-y orange juice. 

I get it.  Some compromise is inevitable.

But some of it has added insult to injury.  The GOP got a great start toward standing for conservative principle with the “Contract with America” – but by 2000 the party had largely gone beltway. 

Here in Minnesota?  The GOP legislative majority in 2011 opened weak and conciliatory on Governor Dayton’s budget hikes, and settled for “decreasing the increase”, seemingly almost without a fight.  And then they went on to collaborate with the DFL in capitulating to Helga Braid Nation, and giving Zygi Wilf hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to improve the Wilf investment portfolio. 

Pure principles do, inevitably, get sullied by contact with the opposition – at least if you want to effect policy; Ron Paul and Paul Wellstone both were sole principled dissenters on many fractious votes; neither ever really had much legislative effect on policy.

So negotiation – compromise – is an inevitable part of politcs

But at least make it a freaking fight. 

And I’ll be fair, here; the Tea Party class of 2010 has done a generally good job of making it an actual battle; they’re hobbled by the seniority system; most Tea Partiers don’t have much of it, and had less in 2011.  But they’ve largely stuck to doing what they were elected for.

And it has mattered.  Because who have the Democrats been running against this cycle?  How many GOP candidates has the Democrat noise machine labeled “Tea Party”?  Demonizing the Tea Party has been Democrat Job 1 since 2010.

And the Tea Party are effective conservatives because they know that the larger Tea Party movement is still out there, still motivated, still paying attention.

The entire GOP class that may be going to Washington and to Saint Paul needs to know this.

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Just saying – the real job, making sure a GOP majority actually acts like a conservative, limited-government, liberty-restoring majority –  will actually begin on November 5.

Unicorns Vote 100% Third Party!

SCENE:   Mitch BERG is biking in the southwest suburbs.  He pulls over into a coffee shop.

As he sits down, he notices Stephanie Marie ANNAN, Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.   She is wearing capri pants and a t-shirt with “He Gave His Only Begotten Son”, and a picture of Ron Paul walking across the water toward the camera.

ANNAN:  Hey, Mitch.

BERG:  Hey, Stephanie Marie.  Ready for the election.

ANNAN:  Yep.  I’m voting Libertarian. 

BERG:  Kinda figured.  So – why? 

ANNAN:  Because big changes need to happen.

BERG:  Yeah, that’s true.  That’s why I’m voting for Jeff Johnson as many times as Mark Richie will let me get away with it. 

ANNAN:  He won’t bring any changes.  The GOP is just as big a part of the problem as the DFL is. 

BERG:  Er…why do you say that?

ANNAN:  When people put the GOP in power, they were just as bad as the Democrats.  There is no difference between the parties. 

BERG:  Yeah, the GOP can be frustrating.  Although you’re oversimplifying.  Bobby Jindal has made a huge difference in Louisiana; under his leadership, the New Orleans Public Schools went all charter.  Other GOP governors – Pence, Haley, Walker, Martinez – have made inroads in reducing the size and power of government.  The GOP – and GOP candidates – have made a difference at limiting government and its impact over the years.   Reagan’s tax cuts were a huge help…

ANNAN:  Reagan grew the deficit!  He raised taxes!

BERG:   Bingo.  You’re making my point for me.  Reagan, being a Republican president dealing with a Democrat Congress run by a big-government ward heeler like Tip O’Neill, had to make compromises.  One of those compromises was that he had to trust O’Neill to keep up his end of the bargain on cutting spending – which, of course, he didn’t.  And for all of that, his “tax hikes” were a fraction of his tax cuts, and they happened at a time when the economy was humming along.  If you don’t think Reagan’s tax cuts in the early eighties helped immensely with the recession, you’re dreaming. 

Anyway – the GOP in 1994 made a huge difference in paring back Bill Clinton’s megalomania.  Remember “Hillary Care?”  Either does anyone else.  And the Tea Party class of the GOP, the people elected in 2010, have largely kept their promises. 

ANNAN:  But the Minnesota GOP had the governor’s office from 2002 to 2010, and the House until 2008, and both chambers in 2011 and 2011, and nothing changed. 

BERG:  Plenty changed.  “Republican” used to mean Arne Carlson.  It used to mean “go along with the DFL in turning surpluses into more permanent spending”. 

ANNAN:  The GOP raised the budget in 2011, and built the stadium. 

BERG:  Yep.  And both were wrong.  And in neither case did the Tea Party class of 2010 go along, at least without a fight. 

ANNAN:  Bla bla bla.  The GOP always compromises.

BERG:  Parts of the GOP – the older, “Moderate” wing of the party, especially, which still exerts way too much control over the party at the Capitol – certainly does.  Parties don’t change overnight.   The GOP still caves in on way too much.  It’s improving, as conservatives slowly replace moderates. 

And let’s be honest; Minnesota is a blueish purple state at best.   Minnesota is split between various shades of red and hard, deep blue.   When a conservative goes to Saint Paul, and wants to get anything done, compromise is inevitable.  There is no way anyone who gets elected to office as a conservative in Minnesota doesn’t have to defile the purity of their principles at some point or another. 

ANNAN: Yeah, well, I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils all the time.  I’m going to vote my absolute, pure principles and vote Libertarian. 

BERG:   And that way, you’ll promote liberty.

ANNAN:  Yep.  

BERG:  So let me get this straight; you won’t vote for Republicans because previous generations of Republicans have had to compromise the purity of their principles when they actually got into a room with the other side and had to actually try to get things done, to say nothing of having to stop the other side from getting worse things, like daycare unionization and gun control, done. 

ANNAN:   Yep. 

BERG:  And you’ll vote for someone who’s never had to test the purity of his precious principles by trying to enact any kind of policy at all, much less over the votes of a legislature that is at least 50% completely hostile to everything your candidate says. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I could see myself supporting Rand Paul for President.   

ANNAN:  Ew.  He’s abandoned his principles.  Not like Doctor Paul.

BERG:  You’re proving my point.  “Doctor” Paul never got elected to anything outside of a House district in Texas.  And for all his big talk about policy – auditing the fed, disengaging abroad, yadda yadda – he admits, albeit quietly, that he never could have done it.  He had no support in Congress. 

ANNAN:  Why do you hate liberty?

BERG:  Actually, I clearly respect liberty more than you do. 

ANNAN:  Hah!  How can you say that? 

BERG:  Because the only way you’re going to get your agenda passed is to elect a libertarian monarch who takes office, sweeps away a century of noxious policy by decree, and then steps down.  Hopefully.  And that’s fine, if “magical thinking” is good enough for you.   But that’s really all voting for a third party gets you.  A third party vote is a wasted vote.

ANNAN:  It wasn’t with Jesse Ventura!  He had principles and he stuck with them!

BERG:  No, he didn’t.  He ran on a promise of returning the entire plus to the people. And once he got elected, he had to deal with the fact that was a governor with no caucus in the legislature – two Democrats flipped over to the Independence Party over the next year, and that was it. So we had to run with his hat in hand to Roger Moe, the DFLSenate majority leader, and cut deals like a madman. Meaning that about a third of the surplus got paid back. And the rest of it got turned into permanent spending, the way the DFL wanted.

So where was the principal?

ANNAN:  He sent a message!

BERG: Yep. And that message was “voting for a third-party candidate is of nothing but symbolic value”.

ANNAN:  (Plugs ears, turns, starts running).  Bla bla blaaaaa can’t year youuuuuuu bla bla bla bla bla).

[And SCENE]

Three Shockers

Three new polls indicate that the “good year for the GOP’ might not stop at the Saint Croix:

The first two are, of course, internal polls.  It’s possible they’re self-serving – although generally the parties are paying good money for the internal polls, and want them to be accurate.  They are, of course, intended to start a “bandwagon effect”, convincing voters who are inclined to be friendly that their support can be rewarded, and likely opponents to stay home and avoid the futility. 

Sort of like the DFL, ABM and mainstream media (ptr) have been doing to make DFL wins feel inevitable. 

Three weeks ’til the election?  This is huge. 

Also – with the Democrats pulling their money out of Kentucky and Colorado, look for Al Franken to get a wad of cash, as Democrats around the country start to realize Senator Smalley is a lot more vulnerable than the local media let on.

What Conservatism Needs In Minnesota

In the middle of a year that promises to be a good, if not great, year for Republicans nationwide, Minnesota Republicans are hoping to flip the House, so as to at least contest control for the state, and praying for an upset in the Senate and a come-from-behind miracle for Governor.

It was ten years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Minnesota was purple, flirting with red.

Today, it’s a bluish-purple state – some bright-red points, some dingy blue swamps. 

In 2002, after the death of Paul Wellstone, the DFL was in disarray;  they lost the state House, the Governor’s office and Wellstone’s Senate seat.   The grownups controlled all of the state offices except the Attorney General; the DFL held the State Senate by a hair, and was well behind in the House. 

Inside six years, they turned that into nearly-complete domination of Minnesota.  They held Mark Dayton’s old and barely-used Senate seat, they took Coleman’s they took both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, lost them in 2010, and took them back in 2012, and have controlled all of the state Constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor – for eight years now. 

How did they do this?

The 24 Month Campaign:  Ben Kruse got it mostly right Monday morning on the morning show on the lesser talk station; Republicans need to learn something from the Democrats.  For them, their 2016 campaign will start in earnest on November 5.  The Republicans, in the meantime, will meander about until State Fair time, 2016. 

I know – to be fair, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson started their governor’s races back in 2012 in all but name; Mike McFadden was aggressively moving his Senate candidacy at the State Fair in 2013. 

In contrast, the DFL’s attack PR firm “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota” never stopped campaigning.  The group – financed by unions and liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, including Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger – does something that goes beyond campaigning. 

It bombards Minnesotans with Democrat propaganda, 24 months every campaign cycle.

The Communications Gap:  The Minnesota GOP has plenty of strikes against it; while it’s made up a lot of financial ground since its nadir two years ago, it’s still in debt, and still scrambling to get back to even.

But even when it’s in the black, it only does so much communicating – and then, it only does it in the run-ups to elections and, maybe occasionally, during legislative sessions (and that’s mostly the jobs of the GOP legislative caucuses). 

In the meantime, the Democrats (with the connivance of regional media whose reporters may not overtly carry the water for the DFL, but whose management largely most definitely does) shower the Minnesota voter with a constant drizzle of the Democrat version of “the truth”. 

Which means the low-information voter – the one that might start thinking about next month’s election any day now – is kept on a constant drip, drip, drip of the DFL’s point of view.  It means the baseline of thought for those who don’t have any strong political affiliation of their own leans left of center; they assume that raising taxes helps schools, that Republicans are rich tax evaders who hide their wealth out of state, that there is a “war on women”, and on and on.

There’s No-one To Fly The Flag – Nobody Seems to Know It Ever Went Down: So how was the situation different when the GOP was contending to take MInnesota away from the left? 

Other than the DFL having an endless parade of checks from plutocrats to cash? 

For starters, back then Minnesota had a number of overt conservative voices on the media, statewide, day in, day out.  It was when Jason Lewis was at his rabble-rousing peak; I call him the Father of Modern Minnesota Conservatism, and I’ll stand by it.  With Lewis on the air, a lot of people who didn’t know they were conservatives, figured it out – and a lot of conservatives who figured they were alone in the big blue swamp realized there were others out there. 

And Joe Soucheray was on the air three hours a day talking, not so much directly about politics, but about the absurdities that the left was inflicting on the culture.  It may have been a decade before Andrew Breitbart noted that Politics springs from Culture, but Soucheray knew it, and made it a constant topic for a long, long time. 

Lewis and Soucheray had record audiences – not just in the Metro, but outstate, where both had syndication in Greater Minnesota. 

And between the two, the media’s left-leaning chinese water torture had competition.

And for a few years, MInnesota had a couple of voices that did for conservatism in the state what Rush Limbaugh helped do nationwide; dragged it out of the basement, aired it out, made it relevant to the challenges Minnesotans faced then and today, and made being conservative, unapologetic and smart a thing to be proud of. 

And this happened at a time when Minnesota conservatism…came out of the basement, aired out, and started grabbing Minnesota mindshare. 

Coincidence?

Feed The Cat:  Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own.  While conservative talk radio is still, along with sports, the only radio format that’s paying its bills, the format has atrophied – largely because it’s become, for money reasons, a national rather than regional format.  Syndicated network programming – Limbaugh, Hannity, Prager, Hewitt, Michael Savage, what-have-you – delivers ratings on the relative cheap.  And they deliver political engagement, nationwide.  

But they don’t have a local political effect like a solid, firebrand local lineup does. 

But radio stations pay for very little in the way of “local lineup” anymore; KSTP has turned Soucheray into just another sports talking head; AM1280 has the NARN; AM1130 has Jack and Ben and, temporarily, Dave Thompson. 

Minnesota business – at least, the part of it that realizes that a conservative outcome benefits everyone, themselves included – needs to pony up and sponsor the next generation of rabble-rousing Conservative media with a cause; the fact that it’s actually a good ad investment is a collateral benefit, compared to flushing money down ABM’s drain. 

And yes, I’m focusing on radio – but this rabble-rousing presence would need to cover all of the social and alternative media, not just the traditional AM band.  Still – there is no (affordable) medium that reaches, or can reach, more Minnesotans.

And through that, maybe, we start turning the intellectual tide in this state. 

It’s happened once.  It can happen again.

Needs to happen again, really.

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.

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