Cue Captain Renault

The big news in the alt-media world in the Twin Cities last week was the MinnPost’s profile of Michael Brodkorb.

Michael has been rhetorical catnip for both sides of the aisle for the past decade or so.  When he was “Minnesota Democrats Exposed”, especially in his pseudonymous phase before 2006, he was the Minnesota left’s Public Enemy #1.

And his role in the scandal that whipsawed the GOP’s majority in the Senate a few years back made him non grata in a lot of GOP circles.

I’m not one of the conservatives that tossed Michael under the bus; I’ve considered him a friend ever since I first met him – when he revealed on my show back in ’06 that he was MDE.  I’m not going to say that I agree with all his choices, but I’m not the one to cast the first stone.  I’m also not on board with his approach to politics these days – but that’s something I’ll tackle issue by issue.

And I have some questions over a lot of what he says in the MinnPost profile.   Which would make for an interesting conversation, on or off the air.

But to me, the interesting part of the MinnPost profile isn’t so much the unpacking of the past couple years of Brodkorb’s life; it doesn’t cover all that much new ground.

No – the interesting part for me is lines like…:

“Republicans couldn’t distance themselves fast enough. It was a vicious mix of schadenfreude and shunning.”

“You understand the tactic [of scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners PR]? Now you see it as having become counter­productive?

“Do you advise Republicans that [an aggressive, ideological approach to the media] only marginalizes them among general voters?”

“The “fringe of the fringe” of course is great fodder for the media. Every experienced reporter knows they’re fringe people saying fringe things”

“Well, the obvious irony is that for a lot of people around here they look at you and see the guy who kind of invented the partisan bomb-­thrower game”

And especially this one:

“But the tone and traffic you generated with [your writing] certainly helped … in establishing your bona fides within the party and achieving the post you held with the Senate”

The writer, of course, is Brian Lambert.

Now, Lambert’s not a bad guy.  But while I laud his sudden commitment to civility and reason, it’s hard to separate the Lambo in this piece from the Brian Lambert who was throwing partisan rhetorical rocks and garbage at conservatives years before it became the fashion.  Literally – my first encounter with Lambert was on December 18, 1985 – my first day as a screener at KSTP.  And Lambo was sitting in for Geoff Charles.  And he was not an iota less disdainful of and condescending to conservatives then than he was in his years at the Pioneer Press (when the “tone and traffic he generated with his writing helped establish his bona fides” for a job with then-Senator Mark Dayton), his turn as the liberal id of the old “Janecek and Lambert” show, and pretty much everything he’s ever written at the Twin Cities Reader, the Rake, MinnPost, and whatever I’ve forgotten in between.

And I’m thinking his solicitousness toward Brodkorb is going to be a new corollary to Berg’s 11th Law (“The conservative liberals “respect” for their “conservative principles” will the the one that has the least chance of ever getting elected”); perhaps “the Republican that Democrats don’t pelt with rocks and garbage is the one that does their throwing for them”.

Status Quo Ante

While this blog has repeatedly referred to Sally Jo Sorenson of Bluestem Prairie as “one of about five Minnesota liberal bloggers that don’t deserve police surveillance” – not the highest compliment I can give, but the highest warranted under the circumstances – one should not presume that I agree that Ms. Sorenson will go out of her way to tell a story that the DFL doesn’t want, or  pay to have, told.

So with yesterday’s post about the Minnesota Senate “tightening” media credentialing rules, which was signal for including just the bits that fit the DFL’s narrative about media and communications:

Via David Montgomery’s post at the Pioneer Press’s Political Animal blog, MN Senate tightens rules for press credentials and The Uptake’s MN Senate Tightens Media Credential Rule, we learn that ““individuals affiliated with a political organization” can no longer be credentialled as journalists or keep their press pass at the Minnesota Senate.

Now, the mainstream press is noplace to get information about this issue, since they’ve been blissfully above it all from the beginning.  And the Uptake has a bit of a conflict of interest, as it was the DFL’s favoritism toward them (they gave credentials to the stridently partisan Uptake, but denied them to conservatives) in 2010 that led to the whole “Senate Media Rules” fracas in the first place.

Back when the GOP took over the Senate in 2011, then-Senate-GOP-comms guy Michael Brodkorb convened a working group to come up with new rules for media credentialing.  I was part of the group, along with David Brauer.  And we did a really good job; they were among the best, fairest rules in the country, balancing the investment the big mainstream media outlets had made in coverage with the access for alternative media sources.

And to prevent the system from being hijacked by the parties, the rules barred people who were on party payrolls from getting credendialed.  Period.

In 2013, the DFL took control of the Senate:

Montgomery reports:

That’s a pretty broad definition, but the background appears to be related to a blogger named Shawn Towle, who received a Senate press pass while also being paid by the Senate DFL.

Republican senators made a stink about Towle in April of 2014, putting out a press release accusing DFL leader Tom Bakk of “secret payments” to Towle.

Introducing the proposed change today, Bakk described it as “something the rules committee had considerable conversation about near the end of the session last year.”

In other words, Bakk is reiterating the process that we came up with in 2011.  With a great deal of noise, he returned the Senate to the rules it had before.

Thank goodness.

One presumes that the DFL will find some way to sneak Towle, their favorite hit-piece writer, into the room – but it’ll be the traditional Democrat way; rules be damned!

And that is the rest of the story.  

Six Of One…

Turnout was low at Tuesday’s primaries.  Was a bad omen for the GOP, or just another data point with some interesting context?

Bad Omen:  Michael Brodkorb at throws up a warning sign:

Back in February, in my pre-precinct caucus primer, I encouraged people to compare the number of total attendees at precinct caucuses for the DFL and GOP. If the numbers were close, I wrote this could be a sign of malaise amongst Republican activists. Even with multiple candidates not abiding by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement for statewide offices, Republicans should have more attendees at their precinct caucuses. But they didn’t.

At the time of precinct caucuses, the Minnesota DFL has only one contested statewide race, as Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is not seeking re-election. Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken faced no opposition within the DFL Party. There were also 12 Republican statewide campaigns – six for governor and six for the U.S. Senate. Republicans also had contested endorsement races in the 6th, 2nd, and 1st Congressional Districts of Minnesota. The battles between the Republicans candidates for congress and statewide office should have encouraged more participation by Republicans on the night of precinct caucuses than Democrats. But the Minnesota DFL won the night. This should be a warning sign for Republicans.

Michael’s knows his politics.  I’d be hard-pressed to argue, much.  But to play devil’s advocate – what percentage of the state’s total population is “the GOP base” that turns out for primaries? 

And among those who are the “soft-core” base – the ones that’ll do primaries, but not usually caucuses?  Does a fractious, contentious primary make them more or less likely to come to the polls for a primary?

Finally – there were some crowded races (and at the legislative level, some interesting ones).  But one might be forgiven for thinking…:

  • the Senate race was a foregone conclusion, and didn’t need any given person’s vote
  • in August as in January (at the AM1280/Northeast Metro GOP debate), we had a four-way race among governor candidates who just weren’t all that different.  Wonks like Michael and (to some extent) me could tell the difference between Scott Honour and Kurt Zellers.   Outside the GOP wonk class?

Again, I’m just devils’ advocatin’.

Interesting Context:  On the other hand, Andy Aplikowski at ResFor – a person from whom I’ve learned more about political number-crunching than any single person in the MNGOP – writes:

All the focus on failure is on Republican turnout.

2010 GOP

Candidate Totals





Total 130408

2014 GOP

Candidate Totals






Total 183941

Wait, the GOP turned out 53,000 more voters than in 2010.

I think why you see some people trying to paint the narrative of GOP voter apathy is because DFL apathy has reached toxic levels.


2010 DFL

Candidate Totals





Total 442137

2014 DFL Totals




Total 191162

The DFL saw a 251,000 drop off in voter turnout and barely drew more voters than the GOP in 2014.

To go back to devil’s advocate mode:  you can expect a drop-off; in 2010 there was a highly contentious governor’s race on the DFL side.  The only real competitive races on the DFL side this time were the State Auditor and the Secretary of State (which we discussed yesterday, and don’t look like good news to the DFL candidate to me). 

A drop-off of over half?   

My Admittedly Wishful Take:  I’m going to hope – and I am admittedly basing this on hope – that the numbers are sign of diminished enthusiasm on the Democrats’ part, and hope that the GOP candidates can appeal to the non-primary-going public this fall. 

Which is the big challenge.

The Great Crisis

First, some history.

Untangled:  Back in 2010, when the DFL last controlled the Legislature, the media credentialling system was a shambles.  The Senate Rules specifically listed the media outlets that had permanent credentials – the major metro newspapers, the state’s various TV and major radio stations, MPR, the Legal Ledger and a few others.  You could count them on your fingers and toes, if I recall correctly (and I may well not).  However, any Senator could vouch for any “reporter” they wanted, and give them essentially a “day pass” to get into the gallery, the press room, and onto the floor (at a table reserved for the media between gavels, and out on the floor proper outside the session).

It was never much of an issue until the mid-2000s, with the growth of an alternative media.  Suddenly, new media – blogs, talk radio, and video and audio streams – began demanding a place covering the Legislature.  Being part-timers and hobbyists, most of us only needed credentials on a situational basis – but others, flush with activist budgets, had the time and manpower to make it a full-time “job”.

In 2010, the DFL made a hash of things; they credentialed “The Uptake”, a stridently progressive video-blog, but denied a day pass to Saint Cloud conservative talk host Dan Ochsner.

After the legislature flipped in 2010, the 2011 session began with tat following tit, with the GOP initially getting payback and ejecting the Uptake from the Senate.

Michael Brodkorb, brand-new in his job as Senate GOP Comms czar, took matters into his own hands.  While Michael’s a polarizing figure even inside conservative circles these days (and someone I still consider a friend), he undertook a really superlative project; give the Minnesota Senate the best, most open, transparent media credentialling process in the United States.  Period.

With that in mind, he enlisted left-leaning journo David Brauer, a few capitol comms staffers (including Senate DFL comms guy Beau Berendson and, briefly, then-House-DFL communications person Carrie Lucking, in her last gig before becoming Alita Messinger’s propaganda minister) and yours truly to craft a new Senate media credentialling rule.

I chronicled the process leading to the new news credentialing policy, from conception to passage into the Senate’s permanent rules, in a series of blog posts.

One of the rules was as follows (and it reads this way in the Senate’s permanent rules today):

Organizations owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations (defined as organizations registered with the Campaign Finance Board or the Federal Election Commission) shall not be granted credentials.

It seemed pretty clear at the time.  In fact, it still does.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t controversy.

The Point Being:  the issuance of press credentials, and the (limited) access they give you to Senators on the floor, is non-partisan.  Utterly, utterly non-partisan.

So when the Strib’s  Baird Helgeson notes in a story about a credentialing tempest in a Senate teapot that…:

Republicans have questioned Senate press credentials for the left-leaning Uptake, while Democrats are critical of press credentials for conservative blogger Mitch Berg.

…that everyone – the Republicans questioning Uptake, the “Democrats” who bagged on me [1] , and I suspect Helgeson himself – misses the point.

Anyone can get credentials – provided they aren’t “owned or controlled by registered lobbyists, political parties or other party organizations”.

Credentials are issued by the non-partisan Sergeant At Arms – the eternal Sven Lindquist, who’s been there close to thirty years, through every possible combination of political power.

Seems simple, huh?

Muddied:  Shawn Towle is a Saint Paul would-be pundit.  For years, he ran the website/protoblog Checks and Balances.

More recently, he’s “famous” for reportedly having tweeted a link to an anonymous photo of a former Minnesota legisator – a female conservative, naturally – in her underwear, apparently while doing a little galavanting, as they used to say.  Did Towle publish the photo?  Let’s assume it fell out of the sky and hit him on the head, for all I care.  Either way, the episode was one of the more disturbing bits of “gotcha” “journalism” I’ve seen, part of a wave of (and I say this with all due respect to Towle as a journalist) prurient panty-sniffing from Twin Cites left-leaning alt-media, thinly disguised as diligent reporting (about the private and semi-private lives of female conservatives and, it seems, nothing more).

But that was last year,  We have a new controversy.

Helgeson  notes that Towle has been paid nearly $40,000 in the past few years by the DFL, including money just before the current session:

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk’s “failure to disclose political payments he made to a member of the credentialed press is dishonest and damages the integrity of the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Monday. “How can the public trust what’s going on at the Capitol if the reporters are being paid by the politicians?”

There are really two points here:

  • Why does the DFL feel the need to pay Towle – who, according to sources in the Capitol, apparently shows up at GOP Senators’ press conferences acting like a Reagan-era Sam Donaldson?  They don’t have enough mainstream media to do the job for free?
  • I’m not sure that this story affects the public trust in the Senate – there are bigger reasons, like a $90 million office building and three years worth of lies about property taxes to do that.  But one might certainly wonder what Shawn Towle’s angle is.


Hann is demanding that Bakk have Towle’s press credentials revoked. The press passes allow journalists to get on the Senate floor during debates, but they do not grant any special access to members.

It’s a little more complicated than that – it allows access to the press gallery, to press office handouts and info and – when space is available – to a small table on the floor (limit: 6) during the debates, with precedence given to the permanent press corps members that rent space in the basement.

But it’s not much more complicated than that.

An Aside:  Helgeson’s piece has this curious interjection:

Despite Hann’s insistence, Bakk had no role in getting Towle his press credentials.

Helgeson is talking for Bakk?   I mean – according to whom did Bakk had no relationship with Towle’s credentials?

Of course, it’s irrelevant, or should be.  You don’t need connections to get press credentials anymore.  That was one of the goals of the rules we passed in 2011!

And while Bakk needn’t have had any more role in Towle getting his credentials than in me getting mine, Bakk most certainly knew and had plenty to do with the fact that…:

  • The Senate paid Towle
  • The arrangement broke the Senate rules.

Dwelling in the Irrelevant:  Helgeson:

Towle said he actually got his Senate credentials when the Republicans controlled the body and Hann was an assistant leader.

Around that time, Towle was also on the payroll of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s payroll. The state GOP paid Towle a combined $15,000 in 2010 and 2011, records show.

Towle, in many forums (including in a phone conversation with me, over the winter when this story first came out) keeps repeating that he’s been paid by both sides.  The DFL is leaning on the same point:

DFL Senate Caucus Communications Director Amos Briggs points out that Towle has “been credentialed under DFL and GOP majorities, although you will notice that the credentialing authority named in the rule is nonpartisan.”

All of it is true – and it’s irrelevant.

When Towle was first credentialed, up through the beginning of the 2011 session, there were no formal rules against paid lobbyists or affiliates of lobbying organizations or parties being credentialed.  That restriction began in 2011, well into the session.

The partisanship – or even the bipartisanship – of Towle’s contract employment isn’t the issue.  It’s the fact that under the post-2011 Senate rules, he’s getting paid by any political organization.  Period.

And some observers get this.  The City Pages’ Aaron Rupar spoke with the Senate’s sergeant at arms, Sven Lindquist – the non-partisan staffer whose office is in charge of issuing press credentials.  Lindquist notes…:

“In the case of Towle, if he is working for one or both political parties — and I would have no knowledge of that — the rule does state that he should be responsible [and let us know about] any change in his reporting status,” Lindquist said. “What I’m hearing now about this, it will have to be looked at further… we’ve never had to go down this path before.”

Lindquist said the one significant thing a Capitol credential allows reporters to do is to “have access to the Senate chamber, and with God as my witness I’ve never had [Towle] attempt to gain access to the Senate floor, and he’s been credentialed since perhaps ’99 or 2000.”

During most of which time, up to 2011, partisan affiliation wasn’t an issue – or, rather, it was as much an issue as the party controlling the Senate wanted to make it.

So To Sum Up:  Does Shawn Towle get paid by the DFL?  So it seems.  Hey, a guy’s gotta earn a living.

But the problem is in Tom Bakk’s office.  Bakk either thinks “rules” are for mere mortals, or he isn’t in control of what his staff is doing.

I’m dying to find out which.

[1] I’d like to challenge Mr. Helgeson to show me a single Republican since 2011 who’s given a rat’s ass about The Uptake.  As to Democrats and yours truly?  The only Democrat I’m aware of who’s whined about my credentials was Mark Gisleson, one of the DFL’s intellectual thought leaders and former blogger and current “where are they now”-fodder.

The Wind Beneath The Right Wing

I mentioned it on the air last Saturday – because that’s when I’m on the air! – but today, March 6, is the actual tenth anniversary of the first Northern Alliance Radio Network broadcast.

I think it was John Hinderaker who predicted the show would probably go about three weeks before AM1280 kicked us off the air.  By the end of that first day, I think everyone was amazed at how fast that first three hours had gone.

The NARN has changed a lot over the years, of course; as befits an outpost in the bumptious, fractious alternative media, there’ve really been a bunch of different incarnations of the NARN:

  1. 2004-2006 – the original three-hour show, with Brian Ward, Chad Doughty, King Banaian, Ed Morrissey, John Hinderaker and me (along with Scott Johnson ’til 2005, JB Doubtless for a couple months, and Atomizer for exactly one segment).
  2. 2006-2010:  The station gave us an extra hour – so we split into two different shows; John Hinderaker, Brian Ward and Chad Doughty from 11-1, and Ed, King and me from 1-3PM.  A little later that year, AM1280 had two more hours became available – so King joined Michael Brodkorb from 3-5PM.
  3. 2010 to Today:  Chad and Michael left the show, for family and political career respectively; Brian and John followed sometime over the winter because…well, it’s a long story.   King moved to AM1570 around the time he decided to run for the Legislature, and stayed there.  Brad Carlson joined a little over two years ago, and Ed left in November of 2012.  Which is where we’re at now – Brad, King and me.   For now.

You know why I love doing the NARN?    I’ll tell you.

I worked – full-or part time depending on the station, but always as my primary career – in the radio business from 1979 to 1992, off and on.  And I learned that the radio industry in general is one of very few businesses that can not look used car salesmen, sports and music agents, entertainment industry lawyers or pimps in the eye with even the faintest air of judgment.   I say “in general”, because Salem Twin Cities is a huge exception, and I’d say that even if they hadn’t been letting me use their station for two hours a week for the past decade.   But in general?  The radio industry is one of the scuzziest industries in the world.

But there is almost nothing in the world more fun than talking with an audience on the radio.  Don Vogel once talked with me about the “Talk Radio Bug”, a subtle addiction to reaching out to an audience, and having them reach back, to putting a point out there and fielding challenges to it from whatever random assortment of drunks, cranks, and brilliant people happen to call in to talk with you.

So for the past decade, I’ve really had the best of both worlds; all the fun, but none of the misery of trying to earn a living and raise a family working in one of the world’s nastiest, most dysfunctional businesses.

But as I said, Salem is a whole different thing.   For starters, think about the gamble they took – putting seven guys, most of whom hadn’t done radio, two of whom hadn’t done it in at least a decade, on the air without any particular guidance or creative leash (or, for a while there, a dump button of any kind).   And then staying with it for a decade, through three different management regimes.

Anyway – thanks to Salem; to the three general managers (John Hunt, Ron Stone and Nik Anderson) and the three operations/program managers (Patrick Campion, Nick Novak and Lee Michaels) who’ve kept putting us on the air.

And to the producers who’ve made us sound less bad than we should have; the late, great Joe Hansen in the beginning, followed by Irina Malanina, Matt Reynolds, Sam Holmgren, Jon Osburn, Tommy Huynh, and, today, Maegan Fatale (and a few others tucked in there from time to time in between).

And of course, a million thanks to Atomizer, JB, Michael, Chad, Brian, John, Scott, King and Ed – nine random guys with blogs, seven of whom I’d met exactly twice before ten years ago today, who went on to become some of my best friends. 

And that is ten years well-spent.

Pol Position Deux – Frankensense

We return to look at the nascent Minnesota GOP race for U.S. Senate.  We broke down the GOP governor’s battle royale here.


While the Minnesota GOP governor’s race has attracted most of the attention from the state’s punditry and conservative activists, the race for U.S. Senate has been at best a political red-headed stepchild – an electoral Clint Howard.  A bevy of unheralded candidates and little money raised hasn’t fundamentally altered the state of the race since July.  This despite the increasingly polling weakness of Sen. Al Franken.

Much like the man who he’ll likely be sharing the top of the DFL ticket with, Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken has seen his approval rating collapse, with the last six months essentially undo six years of polling gains following his contested 312-vote margin of victory.  Franken’s approval rating has dipped to 39%, with a bare majority of 51% disapproving.  Ideologically sympathetic pollsters have pegged Franken’s percentages much higher, but his 10-12% early head-to-head numbers against a mostly unknown GOP field suggests Minnesota’s junior senator hasn’t found the political elixir that Sen. Amy Klobuchar rode to victory just a scant 12+ months ago.  The question remains whether Republicans can take advantage. Continue reading

I’ll Take A Moment…

…to send my best wishes and prayers to my friend and former NARN colleague Michael Brodkorb and his family.  Michael was critically injured in an accident last night.

And whatever your political point of view, I’d urge you to do the same.

Not much information is available.

UPDATE:  A demented ghoul tried to comment that I was “defending (alleged) drunk driving”.  No; for starters, it’s alleged.  Beyond that?  The time for hashing that out is after he’s recovered.

It’s been a big day for dementees on this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions V

Here are some of the questions that’ve come over the transom lately.

“Hahahaha!  Kurt Bills is going to lose!  That’s a loss for you!”:  Well, I am not on the ballot, so it’s not a loss for me. And I supported Severson at the convention.  Now, it is a fact that Kurt Bills would be a much better Senator than A-Klo; I support him, and will vote for him as many times as many times as Mark Ritchie will let me.  I’m praying – seriously – for an upset victory.  America’s future is not assured until modern “progressive” liberalism is peacefully extincted from politics, and getting Klobuchar out of the Senate would be a great step.  But this is going to be a tough race.  No doubt about it.

“Why don’t you shut up?  Minnesota votes Democrat!”:  OK, so what?  I still have a right to dissent.  So far. Chris Matthews notwithstanding.

“Why haven’t you taken on Michael Brodkorb!  You have no integrity”: Partly because there’s nothing to “take on”.  It’s a court case.  I don’t agree with Michael about everything, including inside-the-party politics, and I don’t endorse (or poke my nose into) his personal life choices, but he’s a friend of mine.  If you don’t like that, you’re free to give yourself a stroke fretting about it, but it won’t make any difference.   To the extent that the whole incident is portrayed as a symptom of the problems the MNGOP got itself into?  There’s a case to be made.  I don’t know, and my only real interest is in the party’s future.  Michael’s a brilliant political operator, and his career will no doubt resume its upward parabola.  If you have a problem with that, then say so.  Good luck; as long as Michael is a wedge within the GOP, he’ll be the media’s BFF (above and beyond his value as a source, which Michael earned). And if you have a problem with the fact that I’m letting other peoples’ personal dogs lie and moving on to the GOP’s future, grow some balls and quit the passive-aggressive sniping and take it up with me directly.  You’ll lose, but you’ll lose with some shred of honor.

“Hahaha, you are teh heppocreet!  When the polls were showing Obama ahead, you attacked them! But now that they’re showing Mittens in the lead, you are teh silent!  You are TEH HEPPOCREET!  You is sucks!”:  I don’t know that I’ve written a whole lot about the polls showing Romney ahead, but here’s the kicker;  the partisan turnout model of the polls are still mostly showing more Democrats than Republicans (Susquehanna poll in Pennsylvania and perhaps a few others excepted).

“So how about the Congressional and Legislative races?”: I think if Romney comes close to tying in Minneosta, we’ll hold the Legislature with votes to spare.  Some of the open seats in the ‘burbs are looking good, and the 8th CD is looking better.  And I hear rumors of another possible surprise outstate.  We shall see.

“Hahahah!  You are teh Springstein fan, but he’s endorsing Obeama! Hahaha, you looser!”:  This wasn’t even news in 2000, chuckles.  And stay tuned – because there’s a case that Springsteen may be America’s best conservative songwriter.  And there’s only one blogger that’s gonna tackle that job.  After the election.

“Hahahaha, you are teh Republican in Saint Paul!  You are teh PWN3D!”:  As Abraham Lincoln said, “the likelihood that he might fail ought not deter a man from a cause he believes just”.  And there is no more just cause than bringing democracy to Saint Paul.  It’s going to be a long job.  I’m not going anywhere.  (Because it’s impossible to sell a house in St. Paul).

“You support the Marriage Restriction Amendment?   You ave full of teh hate!”:  I”m ambivalent about the Amendment.  I don’t so much support it as I reject the arguments of most of its opponents.  More next week.  Probably.

“How about those Bears?”:  As I wrote a few years ago, the Bears are truly America’s barometer.  Stay tuned to their record over the nest few weeks.  It’ll be a kety barometer, not just for this election, but for the future of this nation and our civilization.

Who Do Minnesota Liberals Hate, 2012: An Ever More Vast Conspiracy!

Two years ago, we had 30 nominees with a significant number of votes that we could actually rank.

This year, there were 40.

And so in this episode, I’ll give the results from 40 up to 21:

40. Bridget Sutton: The southeast metro activist, Inver Grove Heights school board member, wife of former GOP chair Tony, and potential candidate for many things, Sutton makes her first appearance on the poll.

39. Jen DeJournette: One of the heads of “VOICES of Conservative Women”, DeJournette was one of a big surge in female nominees and vote-getters.

38. Katie Kieffer (2010 Ranking 30): Kieffer, the up-and-coming conservative columnist, actually got about the same number of votes as in 2010.  The competition was just that much more intense this year.

37. Alan Quist (2010 Ranking: Nominated): Quist would probably have finished around this point in 1998, if I’d had a blog then…

36. Gretchen Hoffman: The no-nonsense – and, unfortunately, retiring – Senator from northwest Minnesota will be missed, here and especially at the Capitol.

35. Any Corporation that stands up to them: Pretty self-explanatory.

34. Sarah Palin: I did label the poll “Minnesota” conservatives – but I think this is accurate enough.

33. Michael Brodkorb (2010 Ranking 5): The former Senate Commo director, Party deputy and NARN co-host dropped sharply this year.  Liberals apparently hate him less because he’s not focusing on, and shredding, them.

32. All Female and Minority Conservatives: This may have been the overriding theme of this poll; it’s the women and the “Minorities”.

31. Scott Walker: You don’t have to be a Minnesotan for Minnesota liberals to hate you.

30. John Hinderaker (2010 Ranking 13): The acerbic Power Line blogger dropped out of the top 20 this year.

26. Tony Sutton (2010 Ranking: Nominated):  Sutton’s profile as the target of lefty ire certainly grew in the past two years.

28. Tom Hauser / KSTP TV: Hauser and The Five got some votes this year, from people who noted that Twin Cities liberals have been whining that they are “conservative flaks”.  Which is apparently a Twin Cities liberal term for “actually reports facts about Republicans”, even if they’re not unflattering.

27. Twila Brase (2010 Ranking 28): Brase – my neighbor – stays at about the same level of general loathing.  This next two years may change that.

26. Sara Anderson: The majordomo of the Republican redistricting plan was certain to be  the target of plenty of lefty animus, given the left’s propensity for attacking people when they can’t attack facts.

25. Steve Drazkowski: The Senator from southeast Minnesota certainly spent this past session fielding the brickbats.

24. Pat Garofalo: The Lakeville rep took his share of flak and then some for leading the challenge of Minnesota’s big herd of sacred cattle, Education Minnesota, and raising his hand for Minnesota taxpayers.

23. Kurt Bills: The MN Senate candidate made a strong debut showing.

22. Matt Dean: The House Majority Leader also had a strong debut.

21. Bradlee Dean (2010 Ranking 17): I’m not sure that Dean is actually hated any less; it’s just that with the Minnesota “Independent” out of business, there’s not somebody writing about him eight hours a day, every day.

We’ll have 11 through 20 tomorrow morning, and wrap up the contest with the top ten tomorrow at noon!

Who Do Minnesota Liberals Hate, 2012 Edition: The Voting Continues!

Who do Minnesota Liberals hate?

Feel free to particpate in this vital sociological research through Monday night at 11:59PM!  Just leave your list of the top ten or so in the comment section (or email it to “”), in order from most to least hated.

Results will start coming out on Tuesday.

Nominees so far are below the jump.

Continue reading

Piling On Penalty

Question:  What’s the best way for a Republican to get an op-ed printed in the Strib?

Answer: Throw a rhetorical urine-soaked balloon on the GOP.

I can’t say anything about Joe Repya that others haven’t said better; notwithstanding the fact that he’s spent the last three years telling anyone whose ear he could bend but mine that “every time Mitch Berg opens his mouth, someone leaves the GOP” after a falling-out with the editorial staff at True North (proving that he has me confused with someone with actual power), Repya’s a great living American who’s served in three wars and contributed immensely to his country and his political worldview.

Would any of that get him a plum spot on the op-ed page in the Strib?

Perhaps.  But he is reading out the GOP.  And that gets anyone kicked to the front of the queue:

For the Republican Party of Minnesota (MNGOP), 2011 may have ended with a thud, but 2012 is shaping up to be a very bad year indeed. Will the MNGOP survive the one-two-three punch it has taken since the beginning of the year? Some within the party leadership are unsure.

“Some…” people should form a fifth literary perspective; like First Person Omnisicent, only using unnamed-yet-omniscient Third Persons as the actual agents of the perspective.  ‘Some People”, listed without any other context, can support just about any stance imaginable.

Within the party leadership?  I’m sure “some” are feeling pretty pessimistic now.  “Some” are also feeling hopeful.  “Some” more still are no doubt just hoping to carry on.

And it’s irrelevant.  We’ll come back to that.

First, the party of fiscal responsibility found out that its trusted and twice-elected party chairman, Tony Sutton, resigned after over-spending nearly $2 million the party did not have.

We talked about this last week; the “Tu Quoque Ad Hominem”; “Oh, look!  You claim you stand for fiscal responsibility, but you’re behind on your rent!”.  It’s the shortest of all short-bus insults.  Leaving aside that institutions, like people, learn more from their mistakes than from their successes, it’s also a fact that no institution’s principles ever live up to the transgressions of its individual members.  As if Dave Thompson and King Banaian and Mary Franson’s work in the Legislature is undercut by bookkeeping problems in a body whose only connection with them is an endorsement from a district committee.

No matter.

We’ll come back to that.

The party, it appears, had no checks or balances on its leader. Since MNGOP is flat broke it has not been able to conduct a forensic audit to see if any inappropriate spending took place.

That news is in fact six months old. As watchdog (or as DFL lackey Jon Tevlin calls him, “watchdog”) Jeff Johnson’s put it, the forensic audit would have cost a ton of money, and led to the same results they have now.

On Dec. 31, 2011, the party faithful elected a new chairman, Pat Shortridge, hoping, it seems, that he could work some of his Enron lobbyist magic and bail the party out of its financial mess.

I’m wondering – what’s Repya’s point, here?  Shortridge lobbied for Enron.  Is he saying that any association with Enron, at any level, in any capacity, makes one dishonest?  Everyone?

That seems a little stretchy.

The party had been under Federal Election Commission (FEC) scrutiny since 2006, when Sutton was the party treasurer from 2005 to 2009. The FEC finally leveled a heavy fine of $170,000 for the period of 2006-2008. The party now faces even more FEC review and possible fines.

Now, for whatever reason, Repya likes to tie me to the former management at the GOP.  It’s a bit of an overreach; in 2008-2009, the highest office I’d ever held in the GOP was precinct convener.  I didn’t know a whole lot about the inner workings of the Minnesota GOP.  I didn’t even know where the office (three miles from my house) was, to be honest.  I did know that I’d gotten to know Michael Brodkorb as a blogger, and got him on the air as a NARN co-host, and counted him as a friend, at least in a vocational sense.  And I don’t cave on my friend.  I’ve never run a business that employed more people than me, I do well to keep my own budget in line (thank God for Quicken and YNAB); I was almost as unsophisticated at how politics is done (and still am).  So I wasn’t especially equipped to criticize Sutton’s management as Treasurer, or Chair.

Truth be told, I’ve never wanted to care much about the inner workings of the MNGOP.  All I really care about is getting conservatives elected to office and affecting policy.   Parties are the vehicle to doing that – hence, I try to get and stay involved – but energy spent fighting inside the party is energy not available to destroy the DFL at the polls.

I’ve taken some flak for that.

And just this week, the landlord of the party’s St. Paul headquarters filed court papers to have the GOP evicted for failure to pay rent.

Which is true.

Or was.  It’s old news now.  The new management at the MNGOP is doing what hundreds of thousands of other people have had to do when circumstances or their own irresponsibility have left them behind on their bills; worked out a deal.

As if all this were not bad enough, with a second punch the party of personal responsibility and family values was rocked by a sex scandal involving former party deputy chairman Michael Brodkorb and his state Senate employer, then-Majority Leader Amy Koch.

Repya seems to be borrowing his lines from Two Putt Tommy.

Are the party’s principles diminished because there are some who don’t live up to them?

It was a sordid little episode (not least due to the media’s 24/7 attention – which they’d never have paid to Democrats in similar, or worse, positions (I’m talking about you, Barney Frank, John Edwards, Tony Weiner and Bill Clinton. Move on!  Just mooooooooooove on!

Yet it’s the third punch that has many within the strong national defense party wondering if there is any chance for MNGOP to survive the upcoming election in November. In a stealthy, below-the-radar maneuver, most of MNGOP has been taken over by the Ron Paul movement…When asked whether they would support Mitt Romney if he wins the nomination, many Paul supporters said no, unless he selects U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Paul’s son, as his vice presidential running mate.

It’s true. And lots of Gingrich and Santorum supporters said the same thing.  And it remains to the rest of us to convince them, if we can, since the Paul crowd is all full of whiz and vinegar and doing their end-zone happy dance these days.

But they did, in fact, out-organize “the rest of us” – including an awful lot of us who agree with 80% of what they say, albeit not about Ron Paul – just like we said they’d have to do when they were bellyaching about not being carried to the podium on the establishment’s shoulders in 2008.  They learned something.

That more than anything has the establishment MNGOP in a dither. Rightly or wrongly, they see many of the young, undisciplined and politically naïve Ron Paul movement members as anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-national defense and pro-legalization of drugs.

Just as Repya (and the Democrat pundits, and not a few others) mix up the party’s larger principles with the actions of its agents and administrators, they also confuse the party’s operations with the party’s messages.  The MNGOP – the people who work in the office at 525 Park, until they can find someplace cheaper, anyway – don’t really do policy.  That’s the job of the candidates.  Oh, in theory the party is supposed to make sure its candidates can follow its platform – but that document is as large as the Talmud, and contradicts itself in so many ways that few have even read it (and I’m going to be pushing this next two years to adopt the ten-point statement of principles from a few years back).

Which is a niggling little point that addresses a larger issue; I don’t suspect that the Paul crowd’s policy initiatives are the issue (barring the odd anti-semitic whacko that might slip through – and we know there are a few of them) that’d tar the party’s image and electability.  No, it’s the idea that that the entire leadership at the GOP could get tossed hither and yon and everyone would have to start over with the rebuilding process.


If, as in 2008, Ron Paul fails to endorse the party’s nominee and his minions go home, the national GOP will be hard pressed to beat President Obama.

Well, there’s the good news.  Paul is probably not going to do that.  He’s retiring – but he wants to leave his movement to his son, Rand.  And Rand is working within the party, and is working to bring his dad’s views into the mainstream, an effort many of us appreciate.  Paul’s not going to mess that up; he’s most likely going to be a team player, this year.

Fingers crossed, naturally.

I don’t have a crystal ball to see how all this will end.

Nor, it seems, does he have any news to offer that dozens of other bloggers haven’t been pounding on for months and months.

But that’s not why the Strib printed this op ed.

But from where I’m sitting it does not look good for MNGOP, which won the state House and Senate in 2010 and whose lawmakers are all up for re-election.

And whose legislative caucuses – who actually won the 2010 elections (the MNGOP’s slate got swept), and which is feeling fairly confident outstate – have nothing to do (Koch notwithstanding) with any of the MNGOP’s flailing.

The DFL smells blood in the water and sees an opportunity to regain both legislative chambers. We are very possibly witnessing the death of MNGOP as we know it. If so, it will have died from within, not from outside causes.

And on one level – so what?  The MNGOP runs conventions, prints stuff, raises funds and occasionally does some messaging.  It’s only really heavily involved elections for governor, Senate and the constitutional offices, and only Senate is up this year, and I don’t think any of the Senate campaigns has ever counted on much help from the MNGOP.   The MNGOP has to rebuild.  It’s a fact.  They’ve got two years to do it (Senate race aside).  They’re working on it.

And on another level?  Who cares, even more.  The principles by which Republicans try to run and win elections – limited government, lower taxes, national and local security, upholding the family, individual liberty – live on no matter what happens to the party, and even no matter how those principles might get betrayed by its managers or legislators.  There should be accountability – and there has been.

Most of us know that.

And I’m going to guess that the Strib would never carry an op-ed saying anything of the sort.

Is the MNGOP in a sorry state?  Of course it is!  While I believe the new management is well on the way to bringing the GOP back to the right path, the party is on a fiscal diet that conservatism in Minnesota doesn’t need, facing the fiscal wealth of the unions and Alita Messinger, and with the Strib working as an unpaid PR flak for the DFL.  It’s a bad situation.

Let’s not pretend that any of this is news, though.  The only thing that’s newsworthy is that a Republican is telling it to the Strib.

They loooove that.

UPDATE: Although, mirabile dictu, they carried a letter to the editor that did!

And It’s The Top Of The Ninth

I woke up this morning and realized I hadn’t written anything about the big anniversary yesterday.  So I’ll do it today.

March 6 was the eighth anniversary of the first-ever broadcast of the Northern Alliance Radio Network.

In the beginning, the idea was a simple trade;  AM1280 would get the promotional mojo that came from associating with a bunch of the leading bloggers in a conservative blog scene that, then as now, was the biggest and best in the US.  We’d get time to do a show.  Everyone would win.

And everyone did win.  I have no less fun doing the show today than I did on Day One.  In fact, it may be more fun – because those first two years made for some weird, if fun, radio.

The first two years, the show basically involved hourly relays from among the crowd of bloggers involved – and it was a crowd.  Ed, King Banaian, John HInderaker, Scott Johnson, Chad the Elder, Brian “Saint Paul” Ward and (at the very beginning) JB Doubtless and Atomizer all tramped in and out of the studio, along with the occasional guest, with me usually directing traffic making sure only one person talked at a time and (often as not) introducing them so the audience would know which of the mass of voices was which.  It’s not a kind of show you hear often on talk radio.  There’s a reason for that.

So those first two years, I was probably more of a traffic cop than a talk show host.  I like being a host a lot more.

It was two years later we split into two, and then three, shows.  People left (John, Scott, Chad, Brian), people joined (Brad Carlson) and joined and left (Michael Brodkorb), but we’re still at three shows on two stations on two weekend days.

It’s also a whack upside the head to note that in my first go-around in radio, I probably had actual jobs for eight of the 13 years; in other words, half of my “radio career” has been spent doing the NARN.

And I gotta say, it’s been the good half!

So as we kick off Year Nine of the NARN, I’d like to thank everyone involved.  General Manager Ron Stone, like John Hunt before him, continues to let us use his valuable air time.  Lee MIchaels, like Nick Novak and Patrick Campion before him, is a great, supportive program director.  Tommy Huynh, like Matt Reynolds and Irina Malanina and the late great Joe Hanson before, keeps making us sound good.

And of course Ed, King and Brad, like John, Scott, Chad, Brian, Michael and even JB and Atomizer before them, continue to help make the NARN the most fun I’ve ever had on the radio, and remain among my best friends off the air, and help make the show one of the highlights of the week.

I joke that “the worst day on the air is better than the best day off the air”.  It’s not really true – or at least, I feel sorry for anyone for whom it is true.  But week-in, week out, for the past 416 weeks and probably close to 400 broadcasts now, doing the NARN has been one of the highlights of my week.

And for way, way more of you than anyone would have figured eight years ago, it’s at least a stop on your weekend listening, too.  And for that I’m profoundly grateful.

14,000-Odd Posts

2612 weekdays of waking up at 5:30AM and writing til 7-ish.

520 weeks of following the Minnesota news cycle.

Two Presidential, three Gubernatorial, three Senate and 32 Congressional contests, plus five complete legislative election cycles and 11 Legislative sessions.  One wrestler ushered out of office; one Senatorial plane crash and two electoral train wrecks covered.  The decline of two major cities chronicled (keep checking back, that story’s not done).  One complete conversion, from conservative public school supporter to implacable enemy and charter school zealot.

A national convention, three major state conventions.

A couple of dozen Instalanches, and heaven knows how many Hot Air-alanches.

Two desktop and three laptop computers gone through, along with three blogging platforms and counting.

Hundreds of Nick Coleman, Lori Sturdevant and Brian Lambert columns and “Alliance For A Better Minnesota” memes disposed of.

Dozens of leftyblogger attacks met, trashed, humiliated and, in more than a few cases, out-lived.  One Soros publication outlasted.

Decades?  One.  So far.  Working on number two.

This one kinda snuck up on me; Shot In The Dark turns ten years old today.  And when I say “snuck up on me”, I mean, yeah – I knew after last year’s “ninth anniversary” that there would likely (God willing) be a tenth.  But I woke up this morning and it kinda smacked me upside the head.

I’ve told the story a bunch of times – including every year on this anniversary; I started this blog in 2002, at a time when, after fifteen years out of talk radio, with two kids and working at a failing dotcom, I was keenly feeling the absence of an outlet for my inner pundit.  I read an article in Time about the “New Breed of Conservative Intellectuals”, featuring – ahem – Andrew Sullivan.  The piece mentioned Sullivan’s main outlet – his “blog”.  There was a little sidebar piece on “What Is A Blog”, which led me to “”.  At home from work that night, I started the original Shot In The Dark.  And other than a week off at the end of 2003, and a few odd days off here and there, I think I’ve had something up every weekday, and most weekends, since then.  At the time, I plugged it on a couple of E-Democracy forums, and held steady at about 10 hits a day for the first nine months or so.

My traffic has grown, and remained, really big by regional standards since then.  But as I’ve said for years, I have always done it for me, and would still do it if I were my only traffic.  The blog has brought an avalanche of blessings, the greatest of which has been a great group of friends – Brian, Atomizer, Sisyphus and Chad (an email from Brian was the first indication I found that there were other bloggers in the Twin Cities, back in mid-2002), Ed, John and Scott, Mr. D, King Banaian (whose blog is offline for the duration of his legislative career, which for Minnesota’s sake had best be long and successful), Brad Carlson, Michael Brodkorb and his various successors at MDE, James Lileks, Learned Foot, Derek and Nancy and Guy and the whole crew over at the DogsKatie, Gary, SheilaPianomomsicle,  Ringer, Roosh, Bogus, and the entire True North syndicate, and the whole MOB, really, which led to the radio show (which is itself headed for an anniversary next month).  Beyond that, it’s been a long train of personal and intellectual growth – or maybe “growth” – and a constant introduction to opportunities that I’d never dreamed of ten years ago.

So I’d still do it just for myself – but I’m glad I don’t have to!

Anyway – thanks to all your regular readers, and the new friends (and occasionally adversaries) that’ve popped up over the past (gulp) decade.  God willing and with a tailwind, we can do it again!

Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar

And sometimes “I haven’t said anything” has an implied “…yet” after it.

One the most dull-witted bit of comment-section rhetoric is the old “I see you’re silent on…[some issue you haven’t written or spoken about]”, usually written to imply “silence equals assent”.

I’ve had a few commenters, tweeps and other people say “I notice you’re completely silent on the issue of the MNGOP “Sex Scandal”, the “coverup”, and the principals involved”.

Well, there’s a grain of truth to that, in that I haven’t written anything on the subject.


There are a few good reasons for that.

I Have Little To Say:  All of the principals in the case are, to some degree or another, friends.  More importantly, they all have families.  Others may believe that their ends – pillorying the opposition – justfify their means, including piling on a couple of families who, let’s be honest, didn’t ask to be part of this.  So go read them, if that’s what you want.  But before you do, remember…

If You Ever, Even Once, Said “It’s Just About Sex” During The Clinton Administration, You Need To Just Shush: Seriously.  It’s private business.  It didn’t affect government.  Move on.  Just mooooove on.

Some might respond “But the relationship was inappropriate!  What kind of management style is that?”  To which I respond:

It’s An HR Issue:  Is every complaint about “inappropriate relationships” aired out in the media where you work?  Not until it goes to court, if at all.

Yeah, I know – Koch is an elected official in a position of some considerable power, so it’s a little different.  Suffice to say I have no opinion.  Yet.


Much Of The Discourse On The Subject Has Nothing To Do With Amy Koch:  The “relationship” with the unnamed male staffer is the issue that’s got a good chunk of the Twin Cities leftyblogosphere cackling away with their prurient, projection-addled glee.  A name has been popping up, over and over again.  But none of the MSM’s sources on the subject have gone on the record with that name yet – not to a standard that a “real” news media outlet can run with yet.

And I’ll confess this to you all right now – I hope the “rumor” is wrong.  And I hope that the reason the subject of the tittering speculation is lawyering up is because so many of the Twin Cities’ leftybloggers and less-scrupulous media outlets have stuck their tender extremities into a meatgrinder; that they’ve defamed the “rumored” staffer, and done it because they  ignored the standards of fact-checking required to defend a defamatory assertion, and exercised “reckless disregard for the truth” – which is a form of “malice” under Minnesota defamation law that might, with a good lawyer, be enough to void the First Amendment protection they’re all hoping to hide behind.  I’ll cop to it; my Christmas cheer is marred by a hope against hope that the next year sees an awful lot of smug leftyblogging and City-Pages-writing prigs bussing tables at Panera to pay off a humongous legal judgment.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

But What About The Coverup?:  We’ll see.  I’m going to do something that a whoooole lot of – I’ll be frank – dumber bloggers could stand to try; waiting until I know enough to have a perspective worth writing.

Now – as to all of you leftybloggers and comment-section-lawyers who haven’t specifically condemned the massacre at Katyn Wood?  Why do you support Russian genocide against the Poles?

Does your silence speak volumes, or what?


What The Hell Do We Do About The MNGOP Now?

Last week was a big one for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

On the eve of the winter Central Committee meeting, chairman Tony Sutton resigned.  As I noted last week, Sutton – and his deputy until last October, Michael Brodkorb – were transitional figures for the MNGOP.  Speaking as a D-list pundit rather than an insider, they did a great job of making the party more available, and giving access to the party and its people to the only media they have on their side, the conservative alternative one.

Of course, there was the matter of the budget.

On the one hand, Sutton spent some money.  The party is at least a half million in debt.

On the other hand, the MNGOP had a big challenge; in the middle of a terrible economy, to try to beat the DFL…

…well, no.  The DFL isn’t really a party anymore.  It’s a holding company that manages a brand and farms out the actual work, and fundraising, and spending, to outside groups like Take Action MN and Alliance For A Better MN and Alida Messinger (whose idea of fundraising is reaching into her purse for a checkbook) and Minnesota’s unions (whose idea of fundraising is taking dues from their membership, 46% of whom vote Republican, and giving 92% of it to Democrats).  Anyway – Sutton and the MNGOP had to fight against an avalanche of outside and union money.  It takes money to fight money.

On yet another hand, at the party level, the spending doesn’t seem to have worked; the GOP lost all of the races for which it was primarily responsible – the State Auditor, Attorney General and Secretary of State races.

On another of those hands, it was sitll a great cycle for the MNGOP brand.  Perhaps you recall – we won quite a few races.  Flipped the House and Senate. Came within 8,000 votes of winning the governor’s race; I’m convinced there’d be at least 8,001 do-overs for Emmer if we held the election today). It was a good cycle.

Then again, those races were mainly the job of the Legislative GOP caucuses – which did a great job of raising and distributing money effectively, and helping with the campaigns that made such a huge, crucial difference last election and (more importantly) last session.

And on the final hand, if you look at the budget today, it’s hard to tell where the money went, or who we even owe money to.  And it’s causing quite a bit of dissent within the party; at last weekend’s Central Committee meeting, the budget – which normally gets rubber-stamped without a lot of thought by a room full of delegates that just want to get out of there – was tabled until a meeting in the near future.  And that is going to be a donnybrook, as new Deputy and Acting Chair Kelly Fenton and the remains of Sutton’s Executive Committee face a Central Committee that is laced with dissenters who are looking for solid answers.

And the media just loves it; as the Party airs three years of dirty laundry in public and monday-morning-quarterbacks the 2010 election cycle.  (Anyone seeing the wisdom of the DFL’s approach – not really being a party at all – yet?  All of this happens in private, in the offices of non-profits that answer only to themselves and their hand-picked boards, with not an iota of elected scrutiny).

The media – which is, now and always, in the bag for the DFL – is going to love this.

And yet the GOP – which, for all its faults, is the only actual transparent political party in this state (if only because nobody, but nobody, cares about the Independence Party) – is going to have to get through some of this BS to go forward.

So – what the hell do we do about the MNGOP, at this fraught and unprecedented fork in the road?

That’s the subject this week.

I Heard It On The NARN

Talking with VOICES of Conservative Women’s Jen DeJournett.

Now talking with Linda Lee Tarver, outreach director for the Michigan GOP..l

Now we have Sarah Walker, of  the Coalition for Impartial Justice and and the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition.

We’ve got Tony Sutton, MN GOP Chair.

Now, talking with Chris Fields, who’s running for the Congress in the Fifth CD.

Finally, Michael Brodkorb, deputy director of the MNGOP.


The Later Debate

Why, yes – I did spend a bit of time talking redistricting over the weekend, now that you mention it.

On the NARN, it was my pleasure to interview MNGOP Chair Tony Sutton and his deputy, Michael Brodkorb (punctuated by a surprise appearance by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker; I’ll be posting the podcast link as soon as I find it) about the redistricting process and all the outside money the left is pouring into Minnesota to try to skew the process in their favor.

And then, last night, I drove out to Ramsey to appear on “The Late Debate” with Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse.  I was on a panel with Gary Gross of Let Freedom Ring, Mike Dean of “Common Cause Minnesota”, and Kent Kaiser, who is part of Draw The Line Minnesota’s (DTL-MN) “Citizens’ Commission”.  In the interest of accuracy, I’ll note that in my piece last week, I lumped Kaiser in with the Commission’s liberal hypermajority, because I personally didn’t know any better; Kaiser is of course well-known in GOP circles as one of the good guys; I regret the error…

…especially since he was the unquestionable star of last night’s debate.

I’m not going to try to reconstruct the whole thing from memory – you can check out their podcast at their site, and Gary Gross did an excellent rundown of the proceedings over atLFR.

I’ll recap this bit, though; I walked in there with two main points:  I walked out with four:

Who’s Politicized?:  As Kaiser noted, the GOP legislative majority’s proposal follows the letter of the law, and the spirit of the last several judicial decisions, pretty closely.  The DFL’s map was…well, nonexistant.  They never drew one up.

It was Governor Dayton’s veto that was, as Kaiser noted, exceptionally politically capricious.

And this entire process recaps a pattern we started seeing during the 2008 election, and rose to a crescendo in last year’s gubernatorial race; the DFL isn’t so much a political party as it is a political holding company, outsourcing its actual policy and boots-on-the-ground work to its “strategic partners” – the unions, and the array of astroturf pressure groups like “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, “Take Action Minnesota”, MPIRG, and “Draw The Line”.

Outside Money: Behind all of Draw The Line and Common Cause’s noble chatter about getting people involved – nay, getting them interested – in the redistricting process, the fact remains that a raft of “progressive” organizations are doing their level best to try to jimmy the redistricting in their favor, in a census period in which GOP-leaning districts exploded and DFL-districts continued withering.  The demographics aren’t a state phenomenon – and either is the left’s effort; “Draw The Line” is a regional, not state, entity, focusing on trying to attenuate (at least) the gains the GOP should get from pure demographics.  More below.

Competition: One of DTL-MN’s priorities – because it’s one of the priorities of its supporting groups (Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the MN Council of Non-Profits and Take Action MN), is “competitive elections”.  On a policy level, this goal – making sure that politicians are accountable to electoral pressure from their voters – is laudable enough.

It’s at the implementation level that it either breaks down or shows its ideological stripes, depending on your point of view.  Minnesota is a divided state – but not evenly or consistently divided.

Let’s look at the example of a hypothetical state of about five million people, which is closely divided on a statewide basis – but where the division stacks up as follows:

  • An urban core – three, really – of about a million people that votes about 70/30 Democrat.
  • An outer-suburban and exurban ring that votes, in a good year, maybe 52-55 percent GOP.  Let’s assume a huge year, and say it’s 55-45 GOP.
  • The rest of the state – about half the population – which, to arrive at the sort of dead-even split that the last three statewide elections have shown, would be divided about 52-48 in favor of the GOP.

Of course it’s not hypothetical at all.  Minnesota is exactly that; a couple of big blue boils, the Twin Cities and Duluth, two Congressional and 20 legislative districts that routinely deliver 70+% to the DFL, surrounded by an exurban ring that, in a blowout year, might go 55-45 GOP (only two GOP-owned legislative districts topped 70% GOP, as opposed to 20 for the DFL), and an outstate that tips a little bit GOP, but is close enough to send Tim Walz and Collin Peterson to Congress.

So to make Minnesota “competitive” across the board, the legislative map would have to look like a couple of bicycle wheels, with spokes radiating out from the Marshall-Lake Bridge (and Canal Park in Duluth) all the way out to the state’s borders; the Congressional map would look like a big Key Lime (mmm, Key Lime) pie.

That is, of course, not acceptable practice.  New boundaries must, as much as possible, preserve existing community boundaries.

The answer, of course, is that Common Cause want the Republican parts of Minnesota to be competitive, and to leave the DFL-dominated Twin Cities and Duluth, and their 20 districts, pretty much alone.

“When did you stop beating your minorities?”: As Gary noted at LFR last week, there is a noxious little bon mot tucked away in the DTL-MN’s site:  “Historically, redistricting has been done out of the public eye, without meaningful public input, and used to dilute the voting power of communities of color“.

The next sentence helpfully adds “Minnesota has a reputation for fair and clean government, but we believe we can do better“.

So if Minnesota has a “reputation for fair and clean government”, why mention trait that was a part of redistricting in Mississippi and Illinois and Alabama?  Because any thinking person knows that it’s immaterial to Minnesota’s history, right?

Of course; but the quote wasn’t included for the benefit of the thinking and literate audience; it was included to provide an inflammatory, polarizing soundbite for the ignorant – TV reporters and Strib columnists, for example – to latch onto.  Otherwise, if it has nothing to do with Minnesota’s history, why include it at all?


That said, it was a fun time, and a generally good debate.  Up to the end, anyway.

I have been duking it out with Mike Dean of Common Cause for quite some time, mostly on Twitter.  I have been inviting him on the Northern Alliance to discuss Common Cause’s agenda and funding for a little over a year now; like many Twitter arguments, it’s been curt and acerbic.

And I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve had a bad attitude about Common Cause.  While they are disingenuous about being “non-partisan”, that’s fine; it’s a free country, you can say anything you want.  Hell, I can call myself “non-partisan” – but, of course, I don’t. More importantly, most of my impressions of Common Cause were formed in the early-mid 2000’s, when they agitated for a lot of really noxious policies, especially campaign finance reform speech rationing.

In person, Dean’s a heckuvva nice guy.  And he held his own pretty well, and stayed on his point, for the first 118 minutes of the show,. One of the points on which he stayed was an idea on which we all agreed at the beginning of the show; that we all wanted people to get more literate about and involved in the redistricting process, across the political board.

And so with that in mind, I reiterated my invitation to Dean to appear on the Northern Alliance one of these next weekends.

He turned it down – and then kept going.  “What do we gain from it?”  he asked, noting that in my blog’s coverage of Common Cause I (paraphrasing him closely ) published “fairy tales” and “made things up”.

Nope.  Never.  In almost ten years, this blog has published things I don’t reasonably believe to be true only when I’m pretty clearly writing satire.  No exceptions.

Oh, I may err at times, and on a point or two I was in fact wrong; as Dean noted, the Joyce Foundation doesn’t get money from George Soros.  But I can concede that point, without changing the conclusion that actually matters; while Joyce (and Common Cause MN, which is supported by Joyce) may not get money from Soros or his various shell groups, its’ goals nationwide are indistinguishable from those of the Open Society Foundation, Media Matters, the Center for Independent Media or any of the other Soros joints; to slap a phony “non-partisan” sheen on a partisan pressure industry.

So at the end of the day – literally, at two minutes to midnight – it became clear what the real mission is.  It’s not to reach out to people of all political stripes.  It’s to reach out to those who don’t know what their stripes are, but who can be inveigled into exerting themselves to fight against a vague, sorta-racist boogeyman.

And so the battle will continue.

Thank to Ben Kruse and Jack Tomczak for the invite – and to AM1280 for letting me appear off of Salem turf for an evening.

I Heard It On The NARN

Many thanks to Chairman Sutton, Deputy Chair Brodkorb, and our special surprise guest, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Lady Logician has written about redistricting here and here.

Gary Gross has dialled in “Common Cause’s” map proposal, and dug into “Draw The Line’s” background, not to mention their identity-politics orientation.

The Examiner here, here and here.