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.

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!

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.

“…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”.

Onward

Fitz is gone.  Long live Fitzsimmons.

Now, it’s time for libertarian-conservatives caucusing with the GOP to move on to the next crisis. 

Republicans are still hashing over the Fitzsimmons/Lucero bout in Wright County last weekend.  It’s in the blogs, and on the talk shows – mine included. 

But that’s a die that’s been cast, and can’t be called back (short of a primary challenge that I don’t suspect FItzsimmons will launch) for two more years. 

Barring that primary challenge, Eric Lucero’s the guy.  Not only does he need to win this fall to keep the House GOP caucus at its current level – but we need to flip four seats to turn the House red. 

And ideally these four flips (and hopefully many more) should be good, solid, Tea Party conservatives.  But I have no say in that; that’s up to the candidates at the BPOU level, and the activists who support them.

And along the way – like, as soon as we get done with the various BPOU endorsement battles – the various factions of the GOP need to bury whatever hatches we’ve accreted over this past few months, and start pulling in the same direction.   I’ve called for this – arapprochementbetween the “five families” of the MNGOP (the Tea Party, the Socialcons, the Moderates, the Chamber of Commerce estalbishment and the “Liberty” crew, or whatever’s left of them) to agree to disagree on the details until February of 2016, and quit the pointless fratricide and grudge-mongering that’ve made being a Republican such a trying thing this past five or six years, and work toward a much greater good.

A Liberty activist should accept that a Social Conservative is going to be a more sympathetic ear in office for liberty than any DFLer will be; a Chamber of Commerce “Good Government” fixer shouldn’t worry that a Tea Partier is going to make their life suck worse than a DFLer will; they won’t.

Don’t get me wrong; now is the time of the political season for the different flavors of Republican to go to the mat for their beliefs, to leave it all out on the mat in pursuit of exactly what you want in office. 

But the time is almost here to put up for the greater good, or shut up. There will be chits to be paid in 2016.  But unless the GOP is back in power, it’s all a pointless sideshow. 

Conservatism needs to be back on this state’s policy center stage.  After that, everything will be much easier to work through. 

Nothing succeeds like being successful.  We need to re-learn that.

Open Letter to Pretty Much Everyone Involved In Last Weekend’s Rhubarb In Buffalo

To:  Dave Fitzsimmons, the Lucero delegates, the Minnesota Family Council, the Taxpayers League, the Media, and Mr. Lucero
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  The HD30B Convention

So many things to write to so many people.  Let’s start at the top:

To Dave Fitzsimmons:  Thanks for all you’ve done so far.  I hope you come back and do more.  You’re one of the best.

To Anyone Who’s Used This Incident To Say The GOP Is A Tiny-Tent Party: Nope.  This is a sign that a candidate – Eric Lucero – got a slew of single-issue activists to bum-rush the caucuses on his behalf.  It’s exactly how Michelle Bachmann and Kurt Bills got their respective nominations (for Congress in 2006 and US Senate in 2012, respectively). 

You’ll note – if you are intellectually honest – that of the four Republicans who voted for the Marriage Amendment, Pat Garofalo cruised to an easy endorsement in Farmington, which is every bit as blood-red conservative as Wright County, and Jennifer Loon will do the same this next month in her neck of the woods (Andrea Kieffer, unfortunately, is retiring – but she’d have been re-endorsed in a walkover).

This is what happens, sometimes, in a party that truly embraces local control.  The DFL would never have allowed this to happen, for better or worse – DFL money interests would already have the primary challenge planned and the votes paid for – and events like last Saturday aside, most of us believe it’s better our way.

To The Lucero Delegates:  I heard the talk from Buffalo while I was on the air on Saturday.  Many of you apparently came strictly to vote for Lucero against Fitzsimmons; you agitated loudly to cut to the voting without bothering with all the other business that the district convenes to take care of.  Many of you had never darkened the door of a GOP event, ever.  You had your mind made up about one issue, and one issue only.

I wonder – what would you say if I asked you what Eric Lucero intends to do, if elected, about taxes?  Booming social and HHS spending?  The budget bloat?  How he plans to work, potentially, in a minority, and at best with a single GOP chamber against a DFL senate and possibly Governor?  What his legislative priorities might be, other than…

…well, what precisely are Luceros’ priorities?  Because near as I can tell, the only agenda on which Lucero ran was punishing Fitzsimmons for one single solitary vote in the entire 2013 session.

We’ll come back to that.

The Minnesota Family Council and the Taxpayers League:  What the f***?  I mean, what the f***ing, f***ing f***?  The Taxpayers League gave Fitzsimmons a perfect 100% score and labeled him a “Friend of the Taxpayer” – presumably because Fitz perfectly supported the TPL on its brief, cutting taxes and spending .  And yet there was your former boss, Phil Krinkie, writing a scathing hit piece on TPL stationery, attacking Fitzsimmons, for reasons utterly opaque to me.

And the Minnesota Family Council?  You gave Fitzsimmons a 92 out of 100 – up near the top, even in a legislature full of perfect 100s.   And yet over one vote, over a stance Fitzsimmons took before the GOP fell into a complete minority absolutely ensuring the passage of gay marriage - via pushing legislation that was mostly your organization’s work, by the way – and, most likely, the eventual oppression of those who dissent against it, you threw him under the bus as hard as you could.

What precisely is a good rating from either of your organizations worth, again?

Shame on both of you organizations.  You both harmed both of your causes immeasurably this week among the people who’ll be showing up next week, next month and next year, if you catch my drift.

The Media:  Um, not every candidate you disagree with is Tea Party.  Lucero certainly isn’t.  The Tea Party largely stays out of social issues.  Many of us Tea Partiers have strong social beliefs, but our priority is trying to forestall the mindless liberal governments in St Paul and Washington from completely collapsing the entire economy, if we can.

Mr. Lucero:  I saw you speak two weeks ago, at a Tea Party event.  Near as I can tell, you have two issues; re-fighting the 2013 marriage debate, and…data security.

Assuming you get elected – and Wright County is, at least, fairly safe GOP territory, with minimal chance of the DFL flipping the seat – by all means, Mr. Lucero, tell us; what do you stand for that is material to the coming session.  Because Gay Marriage ain’t coming up.

Taxes?  Fighting a DFL Senate and possibly Governor?  Fighting against the DFL’s drive to institute as much control over this state as it can?  Getting the budget under control?  Exporting conservatism from the third-tier suburbs into the parts of the state that need it?

You have some huge shoes to fill.  Go ahead – convince those of us who work more than one issue that you’re fit to hold Dave Fitzsimmons’ briefcase.

Go.

That is all.

The Circular Firing Squad

The Marriage Amendment and the legalization of gay marriage is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Walter Hudson writes about the socialcon push to unseat Dave Fitzsimmons - I almost called it a “Fatwa” before catching myself – and its commentary about the state of the MNGOP in 2014.

First things first:  Fitzsimmons is a Tea Party and libertarian-conservative stalwart – a guy who ran on rock-ribbed libertarian-conservative principle, and delivered on it during his freshman term in the House.

Hudson:

Cycle after electoral cycle, activists pine for candidates who will stand on principle and do the right thing regardless of political consequence. Cycle after cycle, candidates claim they will meet that challenge and take bold action to serve their constituents. Cycle after cycle, voters remain disappointed by bland performances delivering lack-luster results.

Perhaps we get what we deserve. Perhaps we only say that we want bold statesman who will do the right thing without regard to their next election. Perhaps we actually reward bland performance while punishing aggressive leadership.

A case study presents in Wright County, where activist-turned-legislator David Fitzsimmons serves Minnesota House District 30B. This Saturday, Fitzsimmons will seek his party’s endorsement in the face of three challengers hoping to wrest it from him.

Two years ago, Fitzsimmons was a shoe-in for endorsement and handily defended a primary challenge before earning his freshman term. His victory seemed predestined, given the conservative leanings of his district and a well-earned reputation for effective activism on behalf of his party and its candidates.

Hudson notes that in a party full of talkers – myself included – Fitzsimmons is a do-er.  He’s a guy who’s actually made things happen; a long-time activist, he engineered Tom Emmer’s campaign up through the convention (before handing it off to less-successful management), and has been a founding chair of the GOP Liberty caucus.  He’s been a right-libertarian Godfather, including to Hudson himself:

Coming up through the Tea Party, I learned the ropes from candidates and activists who owed their political education to Fitzsimmons. His name became synonymous with expertise, hard work, and discernment. He blazed a trail of credibility which up-and-coming activists were able to follow into the Republican Party, growing its ranks and sharpening its conscience.

And, as Hudson notes, with that sort of resume he could have followed the usual Freshman route and made himself a very small target while he learned the Saint Paul ropes and built a political career.

But that’s not who David is. He didn’t go to Saint Paul to be something. He went there to do something. When the opportunity to make a difference presented itself, he seized it at great risk to his political future.

Long story short:

  1. With the collapse of the Marriage Amendment and the sweep to power of the DFL, the passage of a gay marriage statute was a foregone conclusion.
  2. Fitzsimmons – a gay marriage opponent – tried to offer an amendment that would have made same-sex marriage a matter of civil law, preserving clergy’s right to abstain from performing or recognizing same-sex marriages on religious grounds, thus protecting the First Amendment freedom of religion in a way the DFL wasn’t going to.

Hudson:

Democrats consented to the amendment. However, Fitzsimmons knew that his amendment could be stripped out of the final bill unless he sat on the conference committee which would reconcile the House and Senate versions. To ensure his place on that committee, he would have to vote for final passage.

Surely, he understood the political fallout which would occur in Wright County – likely the most conservative political district in the state – if he voted yes on final passage. He also understood that voting yes was the only way to ensure some protection of his constituents’ religious liberty.

As the vote for final passage took place, Fitzsimmons watched the vote totals to make sure his would not decide the question. Only once it was certain that the bill would pass did Fitzsimmons cast his vote for final passage, securing his place on the conference committee to preserve his amendment.

I’ve seen arguments over the mechanics of the amendment; I’ve seen none that convince me Fitzsimmons offered his amendment for reasons other than the ones Hudson detailed.

I’ve only been acquainted with one of Fitzsimmons’ challengers – Dayton city councilman Eric Lucero.  While I’m told Lucero is a capable enough activist, the first impression I took away was that he didn’t really speak to any issues beyond marriage (and information security), that he was fairly inarticulate about even those issues, and that he couldn’t possibly fill Fitzsimmons’ shoes.

And the propensity to judge an entire political career – a stellar one, one of the ones that needs to be emulated all over this state, one of the ones this nation is going to need thousands more of if it’s going to survive - by a disagreement over the mechanics rather than principles behind a single vote – is one of the Minnesota GOP’s biggest handicaps today.

District 30B’s activists have a chance to make a clear declaration on this, one way or another, at their convention.  Here’s hoping they choose wisely.

Caucasus Tonight

It’s Caucasus night throughout Minnesota tonight.

Mount Ushbra, Georgia

Throughout the state, people will be joining their favorite tribe, dancing traditional their traditional folk dances, getting drunk on fermented goat milk, arranging marriages, and firing guns randomly into the air.

At the end of the evening, all the tribes will declare war on each other, duke it out, and adjourn til next year.

A Caucasus event in Chaska, 1994.

Hope to see you there.

UPDATE:  Ooops.  My bad.  Tonight is Caucus night.  Not Caucasus night.  I regret the error.

Tonight’s the night the the four major parties in Minnesota (the GOP, the Independence, and the DFL/Take Action Minnesota) pick the delegates that will lead to the endorsements to run for the major offices – Governor, Senate, and the various Congressional and State Legislative seats.  If you don’t like the way your party is working, tonight’s the night to try to do something about it.

I’ve never been to a DFL caucus, but I know Republican caucuses are usually not a huge time investment, especially if you duck out before the endless debates over the meaningless resolutions. Which I usually do.

DFL and Take Action Minnesota canvassers at caucus night, South Minneapolis, 2012.

If you’re new to caucuses, here’s the deal:  the point is not to write resolutions about issues that matter to you.  It’s to get people who support your candidates for the various offices – Governor, Senate, Congress, the Legislature – elected as delegates to the various rounds of conventions.

  • If you get selected as a delegate tonight, you’ll go to your “BPOU Convention” – that usually means your legislative House or Senate district, although in outstate Minnesota it might mean your county party convention – in March.  Those usually happen on a weekday evening, an hour or two.  No big deal.  There, you’ll endorse legislative candidates, and elect delegates to go to your…
  • …Congressional District convention, in (I think) April.  They usually eat up a Saturday morning.  There, you’ll endorse people to run for Congress, and elect delegates to the…
  • State Convention, in May, in Rochester.  This eats up a couple days.  There, the delegates that are at the end of the chain will endorse candidates for Governor and Senator.

It seems convoluted – but it makes sense, more or less.  To the extent the “Ron Paul” faction took over the GOP two years ago, or the Tea Party four years ago, or Michele Bachmann did it in the 6th CD eight years ago, they did it by getting their people out to caucuses and electing delegates that moved up the chain and elected more delegates. That’s pretty much it.

(On the DFL side, the conventions are run according to a system designed for utmost political correctness, so they are long and grueling, and lead to a series of conventions that end in the endorsement of candidates who will then lose in the primaries to whomever Alida Messinger and Take Action Minnesota support).

For further information on where and when your party’s caucuses are:

Hope to see you there!

Debate

Last Saturday, Brad Carlson and I had the great pleasure of hosting the first ever North Ramsey County Republicans Gubernatorial debate.  The event was put on by the three BPOUs in northern Ramsey county – House districts 42A, 42B and 66A.

We had five of the GOP governor candidates on stage with us; Marty Seifert, Jeff Johnson, Rob Farnsworth, Dave Thompson and Scott Honour.

We had about 100 people in the house at Concordia Academy – which, for a first-time GOP event deep in Blue Ramsey County on a day with greasy roads was excellent turnout.  A lot of people also tuned in via the live stream and, of course, on AM1280 (the debate was during my show’s regular time slot).

Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press was there, and wrote about the event in a piece titled “Debate reveals similar messages from GOP’s five candidates for governor” – which was a perfectly valid first impression of the event.  Candidates are being cautious now, playing largely to the party base (for caucus purposes) while trying to woo uncommitted and non-activist Republicans (for the primaries, which look pretty inevitable at this point).

Salisbury:

But the audience of about 100 partisans and students at Concordia Academy wanted to know: Who is the most electable?

That’s the biggest difference between this year’s Republican contest and the party’s 2010 nomination battle.

“No one asked that question four years ago,” former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said after the 90-minute debate. In 2010, Seifert lost the GOP gubernatorial endorsement to conservative firebrand Tom Emmer, who then was defeated by Democrat Mark Dayton despite a wave that swept Republicans into control of both houses of the Legislature for the first time in four decades.

This year, Seifert said, grassroots Republicans are hungry for a win and less concerned about ideological purity.

It’s a different race than it was four years ago; bidding to replace Mark Dayton is different than trying to follow-up Tim Pawlenty.

The audience questions were sharp and incisive, and I think they accurately reflected the concerns of real Minnesotans pretty clearly; the economy, the disintegration of health insurance under Obamacare and MNSure, and – most poignantly – a lot of high school kids wondering what kind of economy they were going to be graduating into.

From my perspective as a co-moderator?  The candidates were pretty similar; all various shades of “conservative enough”.  Farnsworth was pragmatic, and a bit of a homespun technocrat, with fairly detailed ideas for solutions to problems raised.  Seifert was sharp – like someone who’s spent four years working through the questions, having a brisk, calibrated answer to everything.

m.twincities.com/twincities/db_295955/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=604T07tB

When Out And About This Weekend

This Saturday, AM1280 will be joining with the North Ramsey County Republicans in putting on the first really good gubernatorial candidates’ debate of the season!

Brad Carlson and I will host the event, at the Concordia Academy in Roseville (just north of Highway 36 on Dale Street).  The debate will start promptly at 1PM, and will be heavily audience-participation focused. 

As this is written candidates (in alpabetical order) Rob Farnsworth, Scott Honour, Jeff Johnson, Marty Seifert and  Dave Thompson are all on the line-up.  This may be the best debate you’ll hear before the caucuses. 

It’s a fund-raiser for the North Ramsey County Republicans (House districts 42A, 42B and 66A).  Admission is $10 if you register in advance.  Refreshments will be provided, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume some of us are going to adjourn to a local watering hole afteward for a post-debate wrapup. 

So sign up and come on out!  It’s going to be a fun event!

Take Heart

2013 was a decent year for grassroots Real Americans. 

In Minnesota, we shut down a full-court press for gun control, in a DFL-controlled legislature that should have passed at least some gun-grab bill in a walkover.  The good guys – and there were plenty of DFLers among those good guys, from outstate – broke the unaminity of the DFL majority, and issued the Metrocrats, their media praetorian guards, and their darlings “Protect” MN and “Moms Want Action” a humilating rebuke. 

Of course, guns are about principle; when money’s involved, the DFL cracks the whip even harder.  Minnesota’s home daycare and home-care providers, working in their spare time around their jobs and families, couldn’t quite beat back the unions’ lavishly-funded onslaught; with $2 million a year in union contributions to the DFL at stake, no dissent could be tolerated.  But the plucky providers launched a grass-roots effort that not only won the moral battle and showed the DFL to be even more cynical and craven than we thought before – but they took the fight to court.  And, so far, won. 

Of course, in Colorado Real Americans came within a trice of taking back the state Senate via a meticulously-organized recall campaign against Democrat senators who served as puppets for Michael Bloomberg’s gun-grab campaign; the Democrats held the Senate only because the next target resigned (allowing her seat to be filled with a Democrat) rather than get tossed in a recall (which would have flipped the Senate). 

This past five years have at times been discouraging for conservatives; we’ve felt like the GOP at the highest levels is in the thrall of people with careers and pals to look out for, and the money to make it stick, and who are not above defeating their unruly grassroots erstwhile allies before worrying about the Democrats.  It’s felt at times like the Beltway GOP is more worried about the Tea Party – which is the real soul of the conservative movement – than about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. 

The GOP needs to learn something from its grass roots, here and nationwide.

Pol Position Deux – Frankensense

We return to look at the nascent Minnesota GOP race for U.S. Senate.  We broke down the GOP governor’s battle royale here.

____

While the Minnesota GOP governor’s race has attracted most of the attention from the state’s punditry and conservative activists, the race for U.S. Senate has been at best a political red-headed stepchild – an electoral Clint Howard.  A bevy of unheralded candidates and little money raised hasn’t fundamentally altered the state of the race since July.  This despite the increasingly polling weakness of Sen. Al Franken.

Much like the man who he’ll likely be sharing the top of the DFL ticket with, Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken has seen his approval rating collapse, with the last six months essentially undo six years of polling gains following his contested 312-vote margin of victory.  Franken’s approval rating has dipped to 39%, with a bare majority of 51% disapproving.  Ideologically sympathetic pollsters have pegged Franken’s percentages much higher, but his 10-12% early head-to-head numbers against a mostly unknown GOP field suggests Minnesota’s junior senator hasn’t found the political elixir that Sen. Amy Klobuchar rode to victory just a scant 12+ months ago.  The question remains whether Republicans can take advantage. Continue reading

Pol Position Deux – The Race to Summit (Ave)

We breakdown the state of the GOP race for governor.  We offer a similar analysis of the GOP Senate contest here.

___

The seasons have changed significantly since our last detailed analysis of the GOP governor’s race – and so has the political climate.

Last July, Minnesota’s political commentariat had all but official declared Gov. Mark Dayton the winner in his 2014 re-election effort.  Sporting a 57% approval rating, despite a legislative session that saw no shortage of controversial bills (including a warehouse tax even the Star Tribune editorial board begged Dayton to reconsider), Dayton looked in good position to cruise through the fall and winter political doldrums.

Fast-forward six months and Mark Dayton’s numbers are dropping as quickly as the temperature.  Dragging a 52% disapproval rating into the 2014 session, Dayton has been eager to recast his imagine as a traditional tax-and-spend liberal, suggesting he’d return the bulk of Minnesota’s projected $1.1 billion surplus (minus erasing the shift in education dollars) as tax cuts.  The reception to the concept has only been slightly warmer than absolute zero in the DFL caucus, framing a potential conflict between Dayton’s yearning for re-election aid and the legislative desires for more spending.

Tax cuts or not, Dayton’s greatest potential saving grace may simply be his opposition. Continue reading

12%

That’s what got Betsy Hodges the victory in Minneapolis’ mayoral election last night.  About a third (36.55%) of a 34% turnout in the first round.

Cam Winton came in just under 10% with 7,500 votes.  Which is about ten percent better than a Republican did in the last Minneapolis mayor race.  Or the one before.  Or the one before that.  Ad infinitum (or at least back to the nineties, which was the last credible GOP candidate I can recall in Minneapolis).

Now, we know there are more than 7,500 Republicans in Minneapolis.  240,000 people in Hennepin County voted for Mitt Romney, for crying out loud – and the “Republican districts” in Henco would fit into a phone booth and leave you enough room for someone to come in and ask you what a phone booth was.  If even 20% of those 240,000 were in Minneapolis, and they’d come out to the polls last night, Winton would have crushed Hodges.

But Republicans never come out for local races.  My theory:  they’re so used to getting beaten down in local, county and Congressional elections, they only come out for statewide and federal races, where their votes actually end up mattering; a GOP vote from Longfellow is worth exactly the same as a GOP vote from Dassel.

The upsides last night?  The fake Republicans, Bob “Let’s Build a Bike Skyway” Carney and Ole “Will Run For Office For Food” Savior, got less than a percent of the vote.  In a cycle in which the 5th CD GOP started out being run by people whose main goal was to destroy the GOP, that’s not a bad job of protecting the brand – although most of the credit goes to Winton, who ran a great race.

Nationwide?  I can’t be too disappointed.  Christie isn’t my favorite Republican, but he had my favorite result – crushing his opponents in a blue state.

Ken Cuccinelli outperformed expectations immensely last night, coming within two points in a race everyone counted him out of – and (this is important) losing to a Democrat vote surge in the only part of the country that’s doing well financially right now, the DC suburbs.

Takeaway?   A good candidate is better than a bad candidate.  A well-organized party in an area is better than a party that’s a Bulgarian goat rodeo.  A two-party city is a better prospect for a challenger than a one-party cesspool.   And all three factors matter, every election,every time.

And it’s going to take either a Detroit-style calamity, or several cycles of rebuilding the GOP as credible contenders, to change either Minneapolis or Saint Paul.  Which would mean spending less time in a circular firing squad shooting other Republicans and more time actually making a case to actual voters.

And I think I started saying that seven years ago, and it’s only gotten worse in the metro.

Winton For Mayor Of Minneapolis

I don’t “endorse” candidates on this blog or on my show. 

Partly because I’m not under the illusion that anyone cares what I think.

And partly because on the off-chance someone does care what I think, I’d much prefer they make up their own mind for themselves, rather than piggyback on anything I, or anyone, says. 

But if you live in Minneapolis, I’m going to urge you to vote for Cam Winton for Mayor.

If you’re a Republican in Minneapolis?:  Here’s the deal; 25-30% of Minneapolis is Republican.  The DFL vote is split six ways – or, perhaps most realistically, two ways (the DFL-endorsed Hodges and the well-funded Warner).  If every GOP voter in Minneapoliscomes to the polls and closes ranks and puts Winton as their #1 choice, he’s got a decent shot.

If you’re a conservative voter:  Winton’s no paleo.  He admits it up front.  He’s a former DFLer and it shows.  But Buckley’s dictum holds true; if you’re a good conservative, you vote for the most conservative candidate who can win.  There is no way around it – if there’s a more conservative candidate on the ballot, they are not in a position to win.  Seriously – who’s raised any money?  Who’s knocked a single door?  Who’s gotten any media?  Nobody.  Winton is not a movement conservative – but in the context of Minneapolis in 2013, it’s a miracle that someone even this close to conservative is on the ballot at all.  Winning would be a great step forward. 

If you’re a “Liberty” voter:  one of the biggest problems too many “liberty” voters have is that they have nothing analogous to the Buckley commandment; for too many of them, anything less than 100% agreement is disagreement.  Because Winton is imperfect on a couple of Libertarian issues, he’s not perfect “Liberty” candidate:

  • He favors hiring more police.  The current fad among big-L libertarians is to distrust, even hate, the police.  I get that.  But Winton is running for office in a city that’s 60+% DFL and a fraction of 1% “Liberty” purists – and many of those DFL voters live in North Minneapolis, a place where abstruse Libertarian principle comes in way, way, way behing “stopping gangbangers from terrorizing the neighborhood”.   Public safety is one of very few legitimate jobs of government.  Follow-up question:  Who do you think is more likely to reform Minneapolis’ police department – a mayor from the establishment that made them what they are today, and is utterly beholden to the union that makes any reform via the DFL impossible? 
  • He supports background checks at gun shows – provided they can not be turned into a confiscation list.  Which is both a palliative for DFL moderates who might be thinking about coming over and voting for him, and a statement with no teeth whatsoever; it’s impossible to make a background check anything but a confiscation list, ergo he has no plan.  And – more importantly – Minneapolis’ pre-emption statute prevents the City of Minneapolis, or any city, from imposing gun controls more strict than state law.  And let’s not forget – while Winton may favor background checks under conditions that can never occur in nature, every DFL candidate in the race favors outright bans; they will throw your guns into a smelter if they get a chance.  But either way, anything Winton or any of the other Mayor candidates say about gun control is completely irrelevant.  Tell you what – we elect him Mayor, I’ll undertake the job of convincing him he’s wrong on gun control.  Deal?   
  • He supports modifying, rather than scrapping, the Southwest Light Rail:  The problem is, the mayor of Minneapolis has little influence over the project.  It’s the Met Council.  The SWLR is going to happen, barring a major change in state government – as in, a GOP (or, sure, “Liberty”, whatever) Governor and Legislature to completely gut the Met Council.  So – at election time, you want the mayor to piddle away potentially thousands of “moderate” DFL votes over an issue he has no meaningful control over, to win Minneapolis’ literally dozens of hard-line 100%-er Liberty voters? 
  • His company is in the wind power business:  Lots of misinformation here; I’ve seen “liberty” people claim his company builds wind turbines and collects the big government subsidies.  It does not; it maintains existing turbines.  Someone has to – why not his company?  If you’re a Libertarian who opposes bike paths but rides ‘em anyway because you already paid for ‘em, sound off here. 

For some “Liberty” voters, it’s like talking to the wall – and that’s leaving out the ones who aren’t voting because they just want the whole system to collapse anyway.  For those that are left?  Incrementalism may be a dirty word, but incrementalism in the right direction is better than the wrong direction.  If that makes any sense to you at all, please vote Winton.  Or vote your principle and put the “liberty” candidate, whoever it may be, as first choice but put Winton second. 

For DFLers who care about Minneapolis:  Minneapolis’ current system is unsustainable.  There is no way for the current system to keep running the way it is.  Minneapolis is going to bankrupt itself – maybe later than sooner.  Not only can you not tax yourselves to prosperity, but in Minneapolis under the DFL machine you can’t even tax yourselves to competence.  The streets are terrible.  The schools have among the worst achievement gaps in the United States – worse than Philly or Detroit, for crying out loud.  The North Side is a shooting gallery.  And yet Minneapolis is laying off cops but proposing building a trolley from where people aren’t to where they don’t want to be, at exquisite city expense ($53 million a mile!), and socializing the city’s power system. 

If you’re a DFLer with some common sense – and I know there are a few of you out there – isn’t it time to say “enough?”  To stop the crazy train?  To run a city like a city, and not an excellent frat party for government hangers-on? 

I can’t vote in Minneapolis.  I wish I could.

Money And Organization

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

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

But check it out anyway.

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

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

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

The GOP has quite a few factions these days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Pains

 Some of you know my political backstory – I’ve written about it a time or two.  In 1994, disgusted by the GOP’s capitulation to Clinton on the 1994 Crime Bill along with George HW Bush’s reversal on taxes, I left the Republican Party and joined the Libertarians. 

Over the course of four years, I did what most libertarians do; thought big thoughts about liberty.  I also ran for office under the Big “L” banner - and did better than I thought I would.

But it was mostly thinking big thoughts.  Libertarians were big on debating principles, and even bigger on deriding those who, by their calculus, didn’t – or at least those whose principles weren’t drawn in as big, stark letters as their own seemed to be, to them and each other. 

I left the Big “L” after about four years.  I had – and have – principles. 

  • One of them is “don’t screw up the country, and try to prevent other people from screwing it up too bad”. 
  • Another?  A slight modification of Buckley’s Eleventh Commandment:  “Vote for the most acceptable candidate, from a fiscal, security and liberty perspective, that can win
  • One last one?  “Perfect is the enemy of good enough”.  If I eschew imperfect candidates – say, candidate who champion my principles 51%-85% of the time – then I’m doing my little bit to make sure someone who agrees with me even less, as in “0-15% of the time” (that’s the current, extremist version of the DFL’s track record) is actually running things.  Raising taxes.  Vacuuming my personal info into “MNCare”.  The whole nine yards.

 And I figured there was a better chance of doing my part toward that end, and actually having some effect in the great scheme of things, by working within an actual party that had a chance of doing something useful than via endless navel-gazing in the Libertarian echo chamber. 

And so I left the Libertarian Party – partly because the party line on foreign policy and national security is (I’ll be charitable) simplistic, but mostly because the Big “L” Party is never, ever, going to have anything to do with passing actual policy into law; the most it can ever hope for is to serve as a spoiler, taking liberty voters’ votes away from the other parties, mostly the GOP.

And in 15 years of varying involvement – from observer to amateur pundit to even-more-amateur activist – the party has come a long way.  In 1998, Arne Carlson’s legacy loomed large in the party; today, it’s virtually gone, and good riddance.  It’s been largely squeezed out (everywhere but in the media’s consciousness) by an uneasy, sometimes fractious assembly of business conservatives (who may or may not care about social issues or liberty), Tea Partiers (who focus on the “limited government” aspects of “liberty”) and, over the past couple years, “Liberty Republicans”. 

These last came to the party in 2012 as an organizational juggernaut that acted about as “libertarian” as a North Korean synchronized dance team - at least in terms of taking control of party functions and sending people to Tampa.  The best of them – the ones in CD4 were among ‘em – brought with them the pragmatism that led to a couple of really promising campaigns.  The worst of them – I’m not naming names – left us a display of nihilistic principles-over-pragmatism that bordered on onanistic

None quite as dismal, thankfully, as the recent resignation by a group of libertarian Maine Republicans, who resigned in protest over…

…convention rules?

Walter Hudson has an excellent piece over at Fightin’ Words on this whole deeply dumb incident.  And I think there are lessons for both of the “sides” of the debate in the GOP – especially the “Liberty” clicque’s penchant for walking away from it all when the “establishment” doesn’t carry them up to the front of the room on their shoulders:

The critical failure which informs this move manifests from activists’ perception of the party as a servant which ought to work on their behalf, rather than a vehicle which must be actively steered in a desired direction. If I had a nickel for every time I heard an activist whine about the party not treating them well, as if that were its purpose, I’d be set for life…This common sentiment from libertarian activists completely absolves them of any responsibility for changing the party. Instead, they proceed from the rather absurd notion that Republicans ought to advocate views they do not agree with in order to earn libertarian support. That’s not how politics works.

Or, in many cases, endless prate and gabble about how stupid – racist, homophobic, war-mongering – Republicans are for not folding like a Wal-Mart end table. 

And then there’s this line’s first cousin – the “Under Thirty” crowd.  The GOP, we’re told, must embrace the Ron Paul Agenda in whole because so many under-thirty conservatives and Republicans are so very libertarian.   More on this next week.    

Libertarian Republicans need to dispense with the notion that their “individual integrity” is defined by the party’s compliance to a libertarian agenda. Holding the reigns of power in a party office does not mean you “support” every little thing anyone in the party says or does. If resignation remains the default response to any deficiency within the party, it only enhances the victory of those who remain.

Yep. 

Principles – or at least saying you have them, as opposed to having to defend them against a lifetime of real-world experience – are easy.  Convincing other people about them is not.

No one has ever “learned their lesson” from an activist resigning in protest. The concept ignores political reality and smacks of a narcissistic valuation of one’s political worth. “Oh, you resigned?! Well then, let me completely realign my entire worldview in order to get you back,” said no party officer or elected official ever.

And the corollary of that truth, as I’ve been saying for years; political parties don’t “learn lessons”.  They respond to the will of those who show up. 

Which is why I, and my impure mutt’s-breakfast of conservative and libertarian and pragmatic beliefs keep showing up.

Read Walter’s entire article, if you would please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S**t Happens.

And it’s happening all around us. 

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

———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tomorrow.

Pol Position – The Race to Summit (Ave)

We broke down the GOP race for US Senate here.  We now take a similar look at the Governor’s contest.

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To listen to the polling establishment that gave us Govs. Mike Hatch, Skip Humphrey and the ’02 version of Sen. Walter Mondale, Republicans should just give up any notion that Mark Dayton could be defeated in 2014.  Dayton posts a 57% approval rating, up from 43% just this past February.  Of course, Tim Pawlenty was sporting a 54% approval rating around this time in his first-term, in what turned out to a nail-bitter of an election decided by Mike Hatch’s failure to attend his anger management class.  And Dayton’s polling numbers, like most politicians, seem to go up when the legislature is out of session and thus his name is off the front pages.

Unlike with the Senate race, GOP interest in the gubernatorial nomination is high and has attracted among the best Republican office-holders still standing after 2012.  The highest profile Republicans may have passed on running (Pawlenty, Coleman, Kline, Paulsen), but if the current crop of candidates represents the GOP “B Team,” they’re certainly stronger than the 2010 field.  And unlike 2010, they probably are more aware of what advertising deluge awaits the winner from the Alliance for a Better More Expensive Minnesota.

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