Minnesota’s Potemkin Party

Minnesota’s Independence Party has been, since its founding in 1998 from the remains of the Minnesota Reform Party, the traditional refuge of people who like their government big, but “good”. Moderate Democrats like Tim Penny, “moderate” Democrats like Peter Hutchinson, liberal Republicans like Tom Horner, and lots of well-meaning moderates who like thinking big thoughts and playing responsibly with the gears and levers of government have flocked to the IP, if only briefly.

Of course, there’ve been surprises – and according to MPR, there are more still

And the point of the story is not that the Independence Party got surprised.  The real point is…

…well, we’ll come back to that.

First, according to Tom Scheck, news that some of the Indy Party’s traditional base – wonky center-lefties – are shocked, shocked that the party’s Senate candidate Steve Carlson believes some things that most conservatives either reject or present with a lot more nuance than Carlson does:

Carlson, who could not be reached for comment, has posted several rambling video monologues on his website. One tells voters that he is “a serious politician who writes, performs and raps.” Others cover everything from the federal health care law to his opposition to light rail transit and a call for stronger prohibitions against usury. But Carlson’s victory on Tuesday means that on the November ballot he will appear on the top of the ticket for the Independence Party.

Of course, the Indy Party “activists” could have figured this out had they dug into the fact that Carlson ran on the same precise platform in the Fourth CD.  Twice – in 2010 against Teresa Collett, and in 2012 against Tony Hernandez.  In both cases, he ran well to the right of the Republican in the race.

Which goes to tell us one of two things:  Eithier:

  • The IndyParty actually has no activists, or
  • The ones they have aren’t that bright

But Carlson is well-placed to siphon some conservatives’ votes away Mike McFadden. 

Now, I’m not saying the DFL is going to get “behind” Carlson.  But why precisely would they not? 

In a similar vein, I’ve noted the IP’s candidate for Governor, Hannah Nicollet, is a former (oh, heck, current) Ron Paul activist.  And as I noted three months ago, any actual IndyParty activist would gag up their skull over the Paul clicque’s beliefs, and vice versa. 

If either the party or the campaign were about either of their actual principles. 

Oh, yeah – and Nicollet’s campaign is floundering, so far, even by the IndyParty’s modest standards:

Hannah Nicollet, the endorsed candidate for governor, failed to qualify for a public subsidy that would have helped fund her campaign. She needed to raise $35,000 from other sources to qualify for the subsidy, which would have totaled about $178,000.

See also “The Gerson Effect”.

So let’s get this straight:  four years after endorsing Tom Horner, a moderate Republican who seemed designed to wedge the GOP’s dwindling moderate faction away from Tom Emmer, the “Indy Party” endorses two candidates who violate most of the “principles” in the IndyParty’s putative platform, with whom tradidional Indies agree on virtually nothing, but who seem to the casual glance to be ideally selected to siphon off a conservative vote here and a libertarian vote there (Carlson from conservatives; Nicollet from the GOP’s “Ron Paul” faction) in an election cycle that is gonna be a tough one for the DFL.  

So the point of the story isn’t that the Indy Party got surprised.

The point is that the Indy Party is a sham.  And while I have no evidence – yet – I’ll bet dimes to dollars at some point that the IP gets whatever money it has from Democrats with deep pockets, to try to wedge whatever GOP constituency might be vulnerable to being wedged  Not necessarily in the form of direct contributions to the IP, Carlson or Nicollet; but as we saw in 2010, the DFL’s soft-money machine did spend plenty of time and effort setting Horner up as “a Republican” in fora where moderate Republicans could get the message.

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota or some other astroturf DFL propaganda mouthpiece is going to spend some time and effort telling Minnesotans what an awful, icky conservative Carlson is (compared to McFadden), and how crazy libertarian Nicollet is (compared to Johnson) at some point here.

15 thoughts on “Minnesota’s Potemkin Party

  1. But wait — my FB feed tells me that Nicollet is teh best and that she’s gonna be the next governor because TRLBERT and haterz.

  2. You’re on, Mitch. I’ll put down $100–against your $1000–that the IP does not acquire its funding solely from rich Democrats. You’ve got a week, okay?

  3. Not “Solely”. Just enough to make them competitive – where “competitive” means “a wedge in the GOP”.

  4. And since you want to get all literalistic on me – if you wanna be literal about my “bet”, I’m gonna be literal about the stakes.

    I’m in for a buck. I’ll see your dime.

  5. Having taken a brief trip down the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board lane, here’s what the CFB shows as the Independence Party’s major contributors. Yes, I have too much time on my hands this morning.

    For any sense of the party’s contribution base, you have to look back to 2010, because the IP’s raised only $3,459.06 so far this year. That’s not a typo. Their two contributors, Robin Carpenter and Robert Evenson, have historically only given to the IP since 2004. Neither have given much. Carpenter’s given $7,035 over the years and Evenson $400.

    The IP raised much more in 2010 – $36,707.46. I identified at least 10 major contributors, and their giving runs the gamut.

    4 of the 10 have given exclusively to the IP in the last 10 years. Most of these contributions were on the smaller side of major – the top being $4,250 and two of the 4 being $1,000, with 2010 being their only year of any real donating. The other 6 have given to the IP as well as Democrats, with only 3 of those six having given anything to GOP candidates in the past. A Dayton is among the IP contributors.

    Much of the donations are a confusing mess of ideologies…perhaps not surprising with the IP. Marjorie Kolderie has given to Tom Horner, the IP, DFL St. Sen. Steve Kelley and GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo. George Pillsbury has traditionally given a lot of money to the GOP, but has also donated to Mark Ritchie and others DFLers. Elson Spencer, whose given $17,625 since 2004, has perhaps the oddest donation history – Pawlenty, Steve Kelley, Tom Horner and a massive $12,000 contribution to the Vote Yes campaign to ban gay marriage.

    Take from it what you will…

  6. You’d have to give me odds on that, POD. There are always between 5-37% of Minnesotans who’ll Prank The Vote.

  7. Bill Clinton: “I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I have changed government policy solely because of a contribution.” What does that mean . . . you didn’t change it, or the change wasn’t solely for that reason, or it was but you’ve hidden the evidence so we can’t find it?

    Gavin: the IP does not acquire its funding solely from rich Democrats. So . . . the IP isn’t funded by them, or not solely by them, only mostly?

    Kind of cuts the heart out of the denial when we need to lawyer-parse it to find out what the meaning of “is” is.

  8. Straight up Mitch, but I want to wait to see the first MN Poll to be sure. I say this is the year one or both of their candidates get below 5%

  9. They don’t realize it yet, but Carlson is the best thing that ever happened to the IP. Put them out of their misery.

  10. I believe Lenin correctly characterised similarly helpful if ideologically different people two generations ago as “useful idiots.” Nicollett and Carlson definitely qualify.

  11. Pingback: Waves | Shot in the Dark

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