As we’ve discussed earlier, the Star Tribune has two goals in its “Endorsement” process:
- Promote the DFL. At the least, an endorsement is free advertising. Beyond that? It gulls the gullible.
- Ensure that whatever GOP does get elected causes the DFL as little trouble as possible. It’s why all and sundry among their columnists, except Katherine Kersten, constantly harken back to the bad old days, when the GOP was basically the DFL with better suits.
Rep. Steve Smith of the southwest ‘burbs is at best a “moderate” Republican, conservative only only law-and-order issues, and would give “RINOs” a bad name on most other topics – or, as the Strib puts it, “thoughtful and pragmatic”.
And that’s the least of his problems. Talk with any mainstream conservative Republican in the legislature about Smith and you get a lot of head-shaking, eye-rolling and “Oof-da”-ing. From the partisan to the political to the personal, Representative Smith is reportedly a poster child for the downside of life as a professional politician.
But he’s not even a speed bump for the DFL on most issues. and that means “Strib Heart Smith“:
Or as the Strib – and I have it on fair authority that Lori Sturdevant wrote this one too – puts it:
To function well, the perennially divided Legislature needs mavericks — independent-minded centrists willing to occupy the battle-scarred ground between the two parties and to stretch in both directions to strike deals.
But only so long as they stretch to the left.
Seriously – you’ll look long and in vain for similar praise for DFLers who inch to the right. Partly because the DFL excises them from the party like they’re tumors (See Norm Coleman, Randy Kelly, Jerry Blakey, John Harrington). Partly because to the Strib Editorial Board, sticking to one’s guns goes by two names; “populist pugnacity!” on the left, “partisan extremism” on the right.
Smith, naturally, “stretches” obligingly and solely to the left:
For 22 years, state Rep. Steve Smith, 62, a family law attorney [we’ll come back to that] from Mound, has played that difficult and increasingly lonely role. He gets our nod on that basis over Southwest Metro Tea Party founder Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen, who has party endorsement.
Not just party endorsement – like Dave Osmek, she had overwhelming party endorsement.
Which is yet another reason the Strib is endorsing Smith – to do its bit to undercut the GOP – a goal at which Smith is a reliable ally:
Unlike most Republicans, Smith is allied with organized labor — eight unions had endorsed him as of late last week. He opposes the same-sex-marriage ban that most Republican legislators voted to put before the voters this year. He voted for the stadium bill; Pugh says she would have voted no.
On vote after vote after vote, Smith tossed the caucus, and a Republican mainstream that has moved to the right over his decades of incumbency, under the bus – to the point where the caucus finally had to do something:
Speaker Kurt Zellers broke with customary practice two weeks ago by endorsing Pugh over his caucusmate Smith. After the 2011 session, amid rumors about Smith’s relationship with a female staffer (he is divorced), Zellers stripped Smith of the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. (The woman in question no longer works for the House.)
Want double standards? The Strib’s got ’em!:
By comparison, Pugh, 55, a former general manager of Dayton’s in St. Paul, is an energetic, personable apostle of free-market conservatism….By her own admission, if District 33B voters send Pugh to the Capitol next January, she’ll have a lot to learn.
Pugh is a successful businesswoman, and a key organizer of a political movement, the Southwest Metro Tea Party, that has been turning the formerly “purple” Third CD redder and redder by the year for for the past three years. She is a dynamo. Like many of the recent conservative “Tea Party” class of current legislators, she’s got a lifetime of real accomplishments outside of politics. While the Strib may well prefer someone who’s spent an adult lifetime growing roots in the Capitol, one suspects the voters are getting smarter.
And I did mention double standards, right? You’ll scour the Strib in vain for any patronizing references to the inexperience of, say, Carly Melin, a 25 year old DFL drone-ette whom the DFL trucked straight from Hamline Law School in Saint Paul to the Iron Range just in time to meet the residency requirements, for an insta-endorsement and perfunctory election to the House, notwithstanding the fact that she had no useful experience at anything, much less politics.
If they send Smith, he’ll have a different set of challenges.
He’ll have the kind of challenges that, were he a conservative like Tom Hackbarth, would have gotten obsessive coverage in the Strib.
We hope voters give him a chance to overcome them. Legislative mavericks are in grievously short supply.
No, we’ve got mavericks; a majority of them in both chambers. They broke from the Strib’s orthodoxy.
As to Smith? He’s a RINO. That is forgiveable, personally if not politically. He’s a throwback to an earlier, more useless era in the Minnesota GOP; the Carlson/Durenberger years, when the “Indendent Republican” party went along to get along. May those days be soon forgotten.
What is unforgiveable is that Smith has been one of the leading forces against custody reform in Minnesota. It’s a system that intentionally exacerbates divorces, by enshrining a “winner takes all” custody and support system that inflames divorces (and racks up billable hours for Smith’s fellow “Family Court” lawyers) and, make no mistake, operates in the precise worst interest of children in the vast majority of cases. Minnesota’s current child custody system is a barbaric monstrosity that should be rooted out and killed.
For his decades of supporting this inexcusable barbarism, there is no circle in hell hot or dark enough for Smith (rhetorically and morally speaking, at any rate). He deserves to be pelted with rocks and garbage, mocked and exiled from polite civilization.
But I, and nearly 90% of his district’s Republicans, would be happy to settle for simply retiring from politics, starting Wednesday morning.