So Now What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP?

Wow.  It was a rough week for the Minnesota GOP, wasn’t it?

It’s not entirely a rhetorical question.  We’ll come back to that.

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When I am smack in the middle of a crisis, there are a few little aphorisms and bromides that I run through my mind; like rosaries if you’re Catholic, or mantras if you’re a meditator, or the Lord’s Prayer for that matter.  They tack on a bit of pithy temporal wisdom, and help put the mind…well, not so much “at ease” as “into focus”.

Keep Your Head Down And Your Thumb Up Your Ass And Keep Walking. – It’s an old British Army infantryman’s saying; let’s presume it’s a metaphor; it is certainly a crude way of saying “the greatest virtue is perseverance”.

A little less profane? This Too Shall Pass.  - most of you know this one.  It’s an ancient Sufi saying; Abraham Lincoln used it.  Nothing bad – or good – lasts forever.  Life – and poliitcs – is a marathon, not a sprint.

And while I try not to find ‘wisdom” from Hollywood, I have always loved the line “The Only Way Home Is Through Berlin”.  It was Tom Sizemore’s line in Saving Private Ryan; it means the job isn’t going away, so put your head down, and your thumb yadda yadda.  I usually think of it after “This too shall pass” – because “this” frequently won’t “pass” without a hell of a lot of work.

And one way or another, that’s pretty much what we have to do.   Tough it out.  Shake it off.  And remember what matters.

And we’ll come back to that too.

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Here’s another saying I love to remember at times like this:  it’s from P.J. O’Rourke; “LIfe is full of ironies, for the stupid“.

The blog posts and tweets started almost immediately after Tony Sutton resigned – “What?  The party of fiscal respnsibility is a half a million in bet?  Isn’t that ironic?”  And after Amy Koch resigned, and after Senators Hann, Gerlach, Senjhem and Michel held their press conference in which they revealed the “inappropriate relationship with a male staffer”, out they came – “G’huk’, g’huk – the “party of family values!  How ironic!” said the pack of …

…I was about the call them “drooling misanthropes”, but the American Union of Drooling Misanthropes called; they don’t want ‘em. I’m at a loss.  I’ll just leave it there.

People make mistakes; they err; they sin; that people aren’t perfect and can’t be perfected, especially not via politics and laws, is a key tenet of classicla conservatism.  People make mistakes; there are consequences.

The GOP leadership got out ahead of the story on Friday, more or less. About this, John GIlmore at Minnesota Conservatives wrote:

Then, as if to mock sanity, four lumbering senators, full to overflowing with themselves, held the Hindenburg of press conferences. Sens. David Hann, Geoff Michel, David Senjem and Chris Gerlach decided that a press conference of apparently endless proportions would be the best response to the unfolding calamities. Michel spoke and far too much. All the men sounded like Rush Limbaugh’s new castrati and the local premiere female conservative radio talk show host Sue Jeffers acidly noted today the lack of inspiration, push-back or general strength. Instead it was all hang dog and maybe the press will not flay us overly much. Please like us!

On the one hand Jeffers and Gilmore were right – the four Senators should have dug into the DFL and the Media; I think the phrase “anyone who said, in 1998, that “it’s just sex, and peoples’ private lives, and just moooooove on, because peoples’ personal business that doesn’t affect their jobs doesn’t count” should be sure to shut up” should have popped up.

On the other hand, can you imagine the GOP trying to sit tight and hope that the media wouldn’t get the story sooner than later?  And we all woke up on Monday morning with John Croman or Erik Black screaming “What was the MNGOP covering up?”

Because that was, pretty much, the alternative.

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Anyway – that was last week.  What about this week?

About the Koch kerfuffle:  calm down.  People make mistakes; sometimes they do the wrong thing.  As we noted above, conservatives know this (although Republicans don’t always).

Conservatism – and, when it’s working, the GOP – is about principles, not people.  People fall short; principles give you something to strive for.

The Democrats, and DFL, are all about people, and cults of personality; Mark Dayton won this past election not by dint of any princples or beliefs or even non-laughable campaign promises, but by a combination of Dayton’s name ID (as much about the Daytons stores as Dayton’s time in the Senate) combined with a sleazy, ‘third-party” personality-assassination campaign against Tom Emmer.

People come and go.  Principles go on.  The GOP must not go into this next session playing hurt.  We have the upper hand; if the Sutton and Koch stories weren’t intended to whittle that upper hand away to benefit the DFL, the media wouldn’t cover it to the extent they are (in the way that they didn’t cover the DFL’s own financial woes two years ago).

The Republican party is really two things – a set of principles (these days, largely conservative), and a non-profit organization with an office and a (acting) chairman and staff and a budget.

And it’s that last bit – fixing the Republican Party of Minneosta, Inc. – that’s going to be the big job.  GIlmore:

The way forward is straight forward. The wounded must be tended to, with simple basic human decency. The selection of the RPM Chair takes on even more importance although everyone seems to be looking for a magic bullet of a candidate. That candidate doesn’t exist. Senate leadership has much to account for; misdirection won’t work this time.

John sticks the landing – and that’s where you come in.  The MNGOP – the non-profit political party, not the principles – has often operated below the radar for activists. That has to change; at this next State Central meeting on December 31, people are going to have to buckle down and demand answers; where’s the balance sheet?  Who do we owe money to?  Why?  That’s just the beginning.   If party leadership doesn’t have the information needed for the Central Committee to make informed decisions about the budget distributed to the Central Committee by 12/31, the budget must be tossed.   We can accept no more excuses.

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So if you’re a Republican?  Gilmore wrote:

Today has been quiet although MC was reduced to tears when receiving a phone call in the middle of Costco detailing the human cost of these events. There’s nothing quite like crying in public, is there?

Relax.  Sack up, people.  Your dog didn’t die.  It’s a political party; we’re not curing cancer, here.  A politician fell short of our ideals; our party’s management revealed some deficiencies.

Question:  How much worse would this have been had it come out last March?  Or next October?  We’ve got 10 months to turn this thing around.  And not only is that doable – it’s also an eternity in politics.
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So where do we go from here?

To cop one more line from Hollywood:  Ed Harris in Apollo 13.

No, not “failure is not an option”, because it certainly is.  A bad one, but an option.

No, it’s the other one, the one the business writers never get but every Churchill fan does;

“With all due respect, sir, I believe this’ll be our finest hour”.

We owe ourselves, and this state, no less.

This too shall pass.  Of course, it’s going to be hard – but the only way home is though Berlin.

So it’s time to put your head down and…

…well, you get the idea.

20 thoughts on “So Now What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP?

  1. Good post Mitch.
    In the ’90′s we were told that Billy Jeff’s indescretions were no ones business and that we should just ‘Move On’. When I would point out that his actions totally betrayed him as someone feminists should support (what with the unequal power positions of the women he propositioned/accosted/slapped around) I was told to just shut up. In my mind, there was a larger principle involved – if you say are for womens rights, your actions should match your words.
    If you are the party of fiscal responsibility – be fiscally responsible! If you are the ‘pro-family’ party (not hard to do given the soulless death cult the Democratic Party has become) don’t do things that ruin your own family. Individuals will err, but the party has to hold them accountable (terminating their positions in leadership, etc.) and ‘move on’ so that the culture of the organization is re-enforced. The media (95% of whom vote Democrat – the 95%’ers) will heap scorn and in an attempt to burnish their ‘speak truth to power’ credentials, will ask snarky questions and point out the ‘irony’ of individual events. Who cares? Don’t try to please those who won’t be satisfied until the Republicans are run from all facets of political life.

  2. Back when Brodkorb was getting sued by a leftybologger in order to force him to reveal his identity, I sent him $50 for his defense fund. I e-mailed him to let him know that if it turned out he was in fact in the employ of the GOP (he’d been swearing he wasn’t) I was going to be pissed…..

    Now the party’s finances are a shambles and there is a question as to whether he may be involved in the Koch debacle and although I aver there is no evidence at this point, and there may never be, I want to go on record as advising him not to look my way for support this time.

    In fact, let me just come out and say it: You fucked up, Mike; HUGE.

  3. The left’s reaction to the Koch situation just shows how alien a principled understanding of matters is to them. Sometimes we defend the family by amending the constitution. Sometimes we do it by disciplining our own. The two are utterly consistent.

    I suppose the left is consistent in a way in that they have no public standards in such areas so consequently they take no action when their leaders are guilty of sexual harassment (Clinton) or statutory rape (Studds) in two obvious cases.

  4. I can’t wait for 2012 when President Obama is turned out of office, Republicans gain control of the US Senate and…

    …Minnesota reverts to complete DFL dominion.

    At what point do we just say enough is enough and start all over with a new party? The current version of the Republican Party of Minnesota has proved incapable of taking advantage of a politically favorable climate and can’t even manage its internal matters. There is no leadership right now and I don’t see any on the horizon either. I’m usually aversive to third party talk, but short of moving to another state, what other option do conservatives in Minnesota have? No matter how much bailing we do, this ship is going down.

  5. Appropos the Elders take…
    This PJ O’Rourke quote – “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

  6. The one bright spot I see is the shoe-in elevation of Dave Thompson in the Senate. He’s a well spoken, smart and thoughtful guy; I’m hoping for big things from him.

    Closed circuit to GOP Senators “shoe-in”; get it? I hope so.

  7. People, being people, screw up. Most often, then, they try and cover up for the “good of the party” (or “the program”, e.g. Penn State) so as not to bring embarrassment on their organization. Something always, and inevitably, leaks, though. While you’d much prefer that some one didn’t screw up in the first place; once it happens you must step up and take the hit, deal with it and be done with it. Trying to hide something in the hopes it will never be discovered is a sucker bet, and it covering up just makes the mess all the more toxic down the road.

  8. I’ve really been amused by the posts of several conservatives on different sites, all arguing the same line of thinking. Dave Gray attempts to argue it here…..about how much more “principled” Republicans are because they discipline their own. So now the rapist who comes clean about his offenses is “principled”? Actually, I’d define “principled” as someone with just enough character to not commit the offense in the first place…but that’s just me.

  9. Ears,

    So now the rapist who comes clean about his offenses is “principled”?

    Wow. Melodramatic much?

    I believe Dave was referring to the group, not the individuals.

    ctually, I’d define “principled” as someone with just enough character to not commit the offense in the first place…but that’s just me.

    Well, no, it’s most people.

    The only real options are to have a party of perfect humans (not possible) or a party where the media actively scuppers all coverage of party members’ transgressions (which is the DFL’s current arrangement).

  10. At what point do we just say enough is enough and start all over with a new party? The current version of the Republican Party of Minnesota has proved incapable of taking advantage of a politically favorable climate and can’t even manage its internal matters. There is no leadership right now and I don’t see any on the horizon either. I’m usually aversive to third party talk, but short of moving to another state, what other option do conservatives in Minnesota have? No matter how much bailing we do, this ship is going down.

    I’m not sure what the solution is but I’m not sure that the third party route would be more successful than trying to fix the MN GOP. For one thing, when people talk about going “third party” the question to be asked is which third party? The Libertarian Party? The Constitution Party? The Independence Party? I could see a lot of members within the Republican coalition who might opt for any of those three parties but not enough to make it a viable major party alternative to the DFL coalition. If we’re talking instead about creating an entirely party to replace the GOP (much like the Republican Party replaced the Whig Party), it might be just as easy to take over and reform the party we have rather than risk fracturing a coalition that may never be reforged.

  11. >I’ve really been amused by the posts of several conservatives on different sites, all arguing the same line of thinking. Dave Gray attempts to argue it here…..about how much more “principled” Republicans are because they discipline their own. So now the rapist who comes clean about his offenses is “principled”? Actually, I’d define “principled” as someone with just enough character to not commit the offense in the first place…but that’s just me.

    You are struggling here. Reason would tell us you are mixing apples and oranges. The Republican Party, made up of many individuals is a “rapist”? Wouldn’t you admire Democrats more if they both attempted to protect society both from the advocates of normalizing perversion (like liberals like Ed Muskie used to do) and to discipline those members who don’t live up to meaningful standards instead of excusing them like Clinton and Studds? Instead Democrats are now the advocates of such low standards that the average pimp could run for Congress, or at least the pimp’s roomate like Barnie Frank.

  12. It’s gonna take you boys a good long while to untwist yourselves on this one.

    So Dave wants to make the argument he’s talking about “the Party, not individuals”. Well, maybe he’s right…let’s go back and see who brought up “individuals” names like Clinton and Studds to indict an entire Party. Nope, actually it’s Mr. Gray who’s really struggling.

    Mitch, you can’t be the Party That Claims The Moral Highground and have members that behave like this. Look, the Dems are just as guilty on other issues (Al Gore and Hamline Univ. both come to mind). Like most of your columns, you try to distinguish these behaviors by political affiliation abd it just doesn’t fly.

  13. >you try to distinguish these behaviors by political affiliation abd it just doesn’t fly.

    Incorrect. I try to distinguish the response to the behaviors – by what I believe the MNGOP needs to do, and stand for.

  14. >So Dave wants to make the argument he’s talking about “the Party, not individuals”. Well, maybe he’s right…let’s go back and see who brought up “individuals” names like Clinton and Studds to indict an entire Party. Nope, actually it’s Mr. Gray who’s really struggling.

    So slow. No, it wasn’t Clinton and Studds, it is that the party indulged their actions and didn’t hold them responsible. The Republicans hold Koch responsible for what appear to be lesser actions. When will the Democrats grow up and do the same?

  15. The Republicans hold Koch responsible for what appear to be lesser actions. When will the Democrats grow up and do the same?

    Are you forgetting about Anthony Weiner?

  16. Anthony Weiner? Howabout Jon Corzine?
    Not only is he one time Democrat senator and governor, he was also a major figure in Dem fundraising at the national level.
    Oh yeah, also a million banker who stole his clients money.

  17. Terry, I don’t see how Corzine fits into a thread about how parties discipline office holders for their sexual indiscretions. Weinergate demonstrates that the Dems can actually force someone out over this issue, which they failed to do with Clinton and Studds. Unlike the situation with McGreevey, the party had to push for Weiner’s resignation. But these things aren’t a lock for either party, as Vitter and Craig showed. If they can stomach it, politicians can ride out their terms despite the wishes of their party, and if they manage to win re-election, well, there isn’t much the party can do about it.

    Corzine deserves to be treated like Petters and Madoff, but that’s a topic for another thread.

  18. PeterH said:

    “Weinergate demonstrates that the Dems can actually force someone out over this issue, which they failed to do with Clinton and Studds”

    I think Weinergate demonstrates that the Dems will force someone out if the optics get so bad that the power they lose with the individual is nothing compared to the constant PR damage the persons presence inflicts. And, at least with Clinton, it wasn’t that the party simply failed to force him out. That makes it sound like they didn’t circle the wagons and vigorously defend him against all accusations.

  19. Fair enough about Clinton and the reaction of most of the establishment Democrats. I am not old enough to remember how the Studds case played out.

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