I was originally going to call this piece “What The Hell Is Wrong With the MNGOP, Part X”; there’s plenty more to talk about in that series.
But in the aftermath of the last legislative session, and especially Governor Pawlenty’s epic, lone stand against the DFL’s tax-and-spend orgy, I’m inclined to answer my question “not as much as there was eight years ago”. Or last year, for that matter.
Nobody’s ever mistaken Tim Pawlenty for a movement conservative – and some of my Buchananite friends sputter angrily when I even mention “conservative” in the same paragraph as Pawlenty, who is certainly a pragmatist, front and center – but he’s delivered on the one big honka-lunka mega-issue that every conservative should agree on; curbing spending and the size and reach of government.
And while the GOP Senate caucus is too small to sustain any gubernatorial vetoes, the House caucus did itself proud this year, doing something many of us had nearly given up on seeing; doing what they were sent to Saint Paul to do; acting like a party; presenting Minnesota an alternative to the DFL, rather than acquiescing with the majority like a herd of hamsters.
It’d be much better to be in control – but the party showed big signs of hope.
And I think it all traces back to something that happened eight years ago at the State GOP Convention.
If you’re a Minnesota Republican, you remember the story; Brian Sullivan, a movement conservative, took Pawlenty, then the House Minority leader, to 3,000 ballots over forty days and forty nights of voting. Pawlenty had to move sharply to the right of his normally pragmatic, legislative-negotiation-honed positions to win the nomination, finally taking the Taxpayers League’s “No New Taxes” pledge to secure the nomination.
Sullivan didn’t win the nomination – but had he not been in the race, Pawlenty would never have moved right; conservatism would have lost.
So what we have in Minnesota today – gubernatorial unallotment standing in the way of a state-bankrupting spending orgy – we owe to Sullivan (as well as a governor who has had the integrity to stick to his promises all these years against Thermopylean odds).
And this is what the party needs to recover from the last two drubbings: a coherent message, and the willingness to live and fight for that message when the heat’s on.
So on Saturday, June 13, the Central Committee of the Minnesota GOP is going to elect a new chair. There are a couple of great choices on the ballot.
What are we going to do?