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.

Continue reading

The Strib And Berg’s 11th Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of Republicans are like that. 

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

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

Slouching Towards St. Paul

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

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

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

Businessman Scott Honour

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

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

 

Zzz…huh?  Oh, it’s over?

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

Former Speaker Kurt Zellers

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

 

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

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

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson

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

 

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

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

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

Former Rep. Marty Seifert

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

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

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

 

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

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

Why I’m Never Running For Office

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

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

And that’s largely a good thing.

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

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

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

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

The Invisible Primary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming The Enemy To Defeat The Friend

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

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

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

20140629-153531-56131085.jpg

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

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!