I’ve heard not a few conservative voters groan in frustration over the stadium vote this past few weeks: “why did we even bother voting for the GOP in 2010?”
And watching the way some “conservative” legislators caved in at the first sign of beer-gutted yahoos and their husbands flouncing about the halls of the capitol with their faces painted purple and the bratwurst-grease stains on their sweatpants concealed by the crocodile tears they were squirting at the thought that the taxpayers would let Zygi Wilf take all their precious family memories to California, it was easy to feel discouraged.
One might feel justified in asking – do any of these people have any cojones at all?
But a look at the numbers from the vote shows there’s a little more than that to be hopeful for.
As I noted this morning, the Legislature voted by a thin majority to support the stadium. That majority included a sizable minority of the GOP caucuses.
Most of the GOP caucus did, in fact, vote against the stadium.
But it’s when you break down the caucus by class that you see the real distinction.
Let’s look at the House first.
Of the 71 House GOP caucus members, 33 voted Yes and 38 voted No. Ten of the votes came from Freshmen Republicans (Fabian, Kiel, Kriesel, LeMieur, Murray (Rich), O’Driscoll, Schomaker, Swedzinski, Vogel and Woodard ) voted “Yes” – all of them but the retiring John Kriesel from outstate. The other nine certainly owe us some answers.
But 18 of the “No” votes came from first-term Representatives (Anderson (Diane), Banaian, Barrett, Benson (Mike), Bills, Crawford, Daudt, Franson, Gruenhagen, Kieffer, Mazorol, McDonald (Joe), McElfatrick, Myhra, Petersen (Brandon), Quam, Stensrud and Wardlow). They’re from all over the place; they were a majority of the GOP “No” votes, while the Freshmen were about a third of the “Yes” total.
Put another way? The “No” voters had served an average of less than 2.5 terms; the “Yes” votes, an average of four terms.
In other words, the average “No”-voting Republican in the House came to office after the debacles of 2006 and 2008, and most of them in 2010; they remember the price of moderate hamsterism, and they rejected it when the chips were down. The average GOP “Yes” voter has been there a while – in the cases of some of the old-timers, maybe too long.
In the Senate, the pattern holds: of 37 Republicans in the Senate, 15 voted “Yes” and 22 “No”. That’s 60% of the Senate GOP caucus holding the line (it was 54% in the House).
And if you look at shelf life?
Of the “Yes’ votes in the Senate, only five (Carlson, Magnus, Miller, Nelson and Pederson) were freshmen.
But on the “No” side, of 22 votes, 15 were freshmen (Benson, Brown, Chamberlain, Dahms, Daley, DeKruif, Gazelka, Hall, Hoffman, Howe, Kruse, Lillie (Ted), Newman, Thompson and Wolf).
Put another way, the average “Yes” voter has spent just shy of three terms – almost 12 years, on average – in Saint Paul (and if you leave out the freshmen, it’s closer to four terms on average).
On the other hand, the average “No” voting Republican has been there a little over a term and a half (the seven long-timers voting “No” included indefatigable conservatives like Gerlach, Hann, six-termer Warren Limmer, Nienow, Ortman, Parry and Vandeveer, people who survived the debacles of 2006 and 2008 for good reason).
So what’s the conclusion?
Conservatives can console themselves ever so slightly in the wake the stadium debacle in the fact that legislators elected after conservatives took real control of the GOP did, in fact, vote overwhelmingly conservative during the stadium debacle.
And fortify themselves with the absolute knowledge that we have to get more of the same in Saint Paul.
So what do we do about it?