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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.