In Kolb Blood

First, credit where it’s due; Jeff Kolb is a guy who walked the walk; in a city full of political activists with big ideas, he settled for big accomplishments, running for and winning a seat on the city council in last fall’s GOP sweep in Crystal. Now, it’d be inaccurate to call Kolb a conservative ideologue; he’s a Republican.

And he wants you to be absolutely clear about one more thing:

Let’s get this out of the way right away. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a Tea Party. I’ve never been to a Tea Party meeting. I don’t even drink tea. I know many people who have been involved with the Tea Party in one way or another, and many of them are fine people who care about their country, but choose to show it in a different way than I do.

And let’s be clear; I am a Tea Partier.  I don’t think that there’s any rational doubt that the Tea Party brought the GOP back – to the extent that it is back – from its 2008 nadir, and brought the party a relevance among the limited-government conservatives that had largely deserted the party.

But Kolb’s focus is here in Minnesota – and he gets some things right…:

Here in Minnesota, two opportunists in particular have done a great job of establishing themselves as self-appointed “leaders” of the Tea Party movement, they being Jack Rogers and Jake Duesenberg of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance. They have a sweet URL that makes them seem extra legit, teaparty.mn and they operate the MN Tea Party PAC.

…and a few things wrong…:

Jack and Jake haven’t been as successful as the guys from FreedomWorks, only raising $8,200 in 2014. They spent $8,900. The irony of the deficit spending is probably lost on them. A total of $0 was spent to support the election of any candidates.

…but then that’s true of most Tea Party groups; very few endorsed, much less spent money on, candidates at all.

And he gets a few things that are worth talking about: 

Credit where credit is due, Jack and Jake may not raise a lot of money, but they have perfected the art of over the top symbolic gestures as a way to generate media coverage.

We’ll come back to that.   

A quick search of the Star Tribune archives shows Jack has been mentioned in 12 recent stories, Jake, sadly, only 6. In most of these stories you can find Jack and Jake bad mouthing Republicans. About the only candidate they seemed to like in 2014 was Jeff Johnson. Take from that what you will.

I sure will; I liked and supported Jeff Johnson.  Kolb, if memory (and a quick Google search) serves, supported the Scott Honour for Governor juggernnaut, and has joined in with the avalanche of second-guessing that followed Johnson’s loss.

But I came here not to slag on Kolb.   

Jack and Jake’s most recent stunt was an over-the-top tantrum aimed at notorious RINO Tom Emmer. Emmer, you see, chose to attend an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march in Selma. Or as Jack put it: “a parade in Alabama.” You see, Jack and Jake would have preferred that Congressman Emmer instead attended a small gathering of local Republican activists, so those activists could yell at him about how he is a sell-out who hates the constitution or something because Emmer didn’t commit career suicide in his first vote in Congress by voting against John Boehner for Speaker of the House and/or didn’t think gambling with the safety of the nation was a good strategic move.

I saw Jack and Jake’s attack on Emmer for skipping the BPOU conventions to go to Selma, and thought it was extremely ill-advised; anyone who thinks freshman Congresscritters have a lot of freedom in their votes is either not paying attention, or is demigogueing like mad.

During the 2014 US Senate campaign Jack and Jake infamously told US Senate candidate Mike McFadden to “Go to Hell” during a meeting. I think it’s high time Republicans say the same thing to Jack and Jake. No serious candidate for office or elected official should attend any event sponsored by the MN Tea Party Alliance. The group seems to exist for the sole purpose of promoting Jack and Jake. It’s time other Republicans stop playing along.

Well, no.  That’d be a horrible idea.

Think Jack and Jake are hucksters?  What?  Hucksters in politics?  The hell you say.

But the worst mistake the GOP can make is to try to position itself as “above and better than” the Tea Party.  It’s bad PR, and its just not true.

Engage?  Call on BS?  By all means.

Boycott?

Bad idea.

The “Shutdown” Cage Match

On the one hand, Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo points out 15 signs shutdown fans have “drunk the koolaid“:

There has been, to put it mildly, some mass self-delusion going on in right-wing circles. Here’s how to tell if you are suffering from the ill-effects of the echo chamber.

On the other hand?  Steven Hayward atPower Lineis a convert:

First of all, like the sequester, have the majority of Americans noticed its effects beyond what the media has been screaming about?  The bullying tactics of forcibly shutting off public spaces like the World War II memorial on the mall has surely inflicted damage on Obama that, had he behaved with minimal restraint, he might have been spared.

Beyond this, have there been riots or even public demonstrations against the shutdown?  The political-financial crises in Europe and elsewhere in recent years have seen mass protests and street riots (Spain, Brazil, Greece, Bulgaria, etc).  Where is Occupy Wall Street when Obama needs them?  To the contrary, much more of the political energy appears to be on the Tea Party side right now.  Pretty clearly the shutdown terrifies liberals and journalists—and that’s about it.

Of course, it might be pointed out that this is a faux-shutdown: 80 percent of the government is up and running.  This is analogous to TSA airport security: it is shutdown theater rather than the real thing.  Stop sending Social Security checks and see what happens.

A fair point, but this leads to the next big question: which party most needs the government to be up and running?  Ask yourself which party is the party of government and you’ll know the answer.  With 90 percent of the EPA furloughed, what’s the downside here for Republicans?

More seriously, to the extent that shutdown and “government dysfunction” in Washington causes the public to hold Washington in even greater disgust than usual, who does this hurt the most?  Democrats need the public to have some degree of confidence in government for their expansive schemes to succeed.  Which brings me to the latest soundings on public opinion that Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg have put together and displayed in the charts below. 

Bottom line: public confidence in Washington D.C. is at lows not seen since the 1970s.  (And we know what happened at the end of that decade.)

The takeaway?  I think a competent GOP leadership could make this into a net win in 2014 for the GOP.

Which means we’re screwed.

But for the Tea Party, anyway.

Future Shock

One of the reasons the Democrats and media are working so hard to drive a wedge between the “establishment” GOP and the Tea Party is that the Tea Party wins elections and, more importantly, represents the real future of the GOP.

 Haley, a little-known state senator before being elected governor, would never have had a chance at becoming governor against the state’s good ol’ boy network of statewide officeholders. Scott would have been a long shot in his Republican primary against none other than Strom Thurmond’s youngest son. Marco Rubio, now the hyped 2016 presidential favorite, would have stepped aside to see now-Democrat Charlie Crist become the next senator, depriving the party of one of its most talented stars. Ted Cruz, the other Hispanic Republican in the Senate, would have never chanced a seemingly futile bid against Texas’s 67-year-old lieutenant governor, seen as a lock to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison.

But all those upset victories–all of which at the time seemed shocking–took place because of the conservative grassroots’ strong sentiment for outsiders who campaigned on their principles, and not over their past political or family connections. Even a decade ago, party officials would have been more successful in pushing these outsider candidates aside, persuading them to wait their turn. (In Rubio’s case, it almost worked.) Now, in an era where grassroots politicking is as easy as ever thanks to the proliferation of social media, more control is in the hands of voters. And contrary to the ugly stereotypes of conservative activists being right-wing to the point of racist, it’s been the tea party movement that’s been behind the political success of most prominent minority Republican officeholders.

That, of course, is not the current left and media (ptr) narrative about the Tea Party.  The media, and its rhetorical camp followers in the Leftyblogosphere Stupid Caucus, have been banging the “Teh Tea Partie is teh ignerent racisst” drum for close to four years now.

And in that time, the GOP overtook the Democrats in the number of elected minorities at the state level.

This is potentially good news, in the long term.

If the GOP deserves to keep it going.

Looking at Boehner’s performance this year, I’m seeing an obstacle or two.