Sunday, July 24, 2016

Minnesota Republicans In The Age Of Trump

Donald Trump delivered what was required of him last Thursday night: the speech of a lifetime in which he accepted the Republican Party's nomination for president. It was a remarkable climax to a year in which every bit of political wisdom was discarded outright or turned on it's head. The acclaim for his speech was near universal: even critics praised it before condemning it. Of course, the media were quick to see its effectiveness and branded it as dark, possibly dangerous.

In a 76 minute performance that never flagged, Trump leveled with the American people, telling them that the time for lies was over, that he'd talk about those things they never see on television or in their newspapers.

He then set out in systematic and devastating fashion to describe our current condition. Afterward, a CNN instant poll found 75% of those who saw it had a positive view of the speech. This was not what media wanted and they commenced to redouble their efforts to talk it down. Too late: the American people liked what they heard.

Earlier in the week Michael Moore told Bill Maher that Trump will win the election. The despair on the left was almost complete. It's worth seeing the video when Moore speaks the truth few democrats will utter: move to the 9:45 mark after you click here.

Ivanka Trump introduced her father and herself delivered a thoughtful and well received speech. Having his children speak each night of the campaign was Trump's idea and highly unusual for a political convention. It proved to be a masterstroke. Fashion mavens pointed out that the modest but beautiful dress Ivanka wore was from her own collection and cost $138. I'm told women noticed: millennial women in particular.

Remember: Trump has no idea what he's doing.

* * * * 

For the most part, the Minnesota republican delegation to Cleveland acted consistently with how I've branded them: the dumbest republicans in the nation. Again, in case you're not a regular reader, I mean this collectively and on the political plane, not in any individual case or ad hominem manner. Political acumen, or its absence really, is what I'm speaking about. 

It would be easier to explain if most of the delegates weren't bright but that's just not the case (well, for the most part). Accordingly, the mystery as to why Minnesota republicans seem unable to grasp the times in which they live this political cycle and use it to their advantage only deepens. 

The delegation made a fool of itself Monday night when it joined, then withdrew, from a last gasp Never Trump effort to have a roll call vote on issues that had been addressed in the Rules Committee, which met the week before. Apart from that, Minnesota was largely invisible nationally, fit only to be the subject of stories by the hapless local democrat reporters who were sent to cover them. In typical grifter fashion, a couple MNGOPe types thanked them for their coverage. 

But Minnesota media's coverage of the convention was uniformly mediocre and unimaginative, although the cover of that Friday's Star Tribune made up for it somewhat, eliciting complaints from liberals that the coverage wasn't tilted toward them for a change. Click here to see the front page of the Star Tribune the morning after Trump's speech. 

* * * * 

I don't know how republicans in Minnesota will do this fall but I'm fairly certain it will be less well than should be the case. The mentally retarded political reaction to Trump in this state by the republican establishment was simultaneously nauseating & infuriating. They forced me into calling them the dumbest republicans in the nation: I had nothing to do with it.

Initial reluctance to embrace Trump was completely understandable. People forget I started out as a Scott Walker supporter. His shrewd decision to leave the race early only helps his stature now. I moved to Trump by degrees, by fits and starts really. I hadn't seen anything like him before either.

There was no one moment I can recall being the tipping point. It's like how dreams have no beginning: we're just in them, that's all we recall, never the beginning.

At one point I understood. The Trump "red pill effect"some call it and there is something to that. Outside of up and coming apparatchiks, can anyone take the "rising stars" in the party seriously? Can anyone avoid the obvious influence of donors who make indentured servants out of those laughable "stalwart conservatives" who preen but never deliver?

The majority of Minnesota republicans didn't get it, preferring virtue signaling instead of substantive engagement. These types get taken down by their provincialism every time. The problem is that they have so much company at the bottom.

They're so Minnesota-centric it's no wonder we miss out on national wave elections.

Now we have crouched down Minnesota republicans, unknowingly used by local media to play into their anti-republican narratives, republicans who are spooked by not knowing what they stand for.

How could such a hollow group not be threatened by Trump?

* * * * 

When I look at Minnesota republican politics I never see a plan, a strategy, some sort of political IQ over 85. Instead, I see a disparate set of often conflicting policy positions, reflecting its ad hoc nature which is one neither of principle nor certainly of competence, engaged in by people who know each other but who just aren't very good at politics.

Trump opened enormous opportunities for a variety of republican interests in Minnesota to message against the dominant culture here. The themes were endless and could be tailored to any particular locale  in the state. 

Virtually no republicans have picked up on this amazing chance. Democrats in this state wouldn't win at the rates they do if we had a competent opposition party. We do not. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How Much Zeitgeist Can MN Republicans Ignore?

Three days ago Great Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union of which it had been a member state for 43 years. The results were rightly characterized as a global political earthquake.

Before the vote the Remain camp was smugly confident of victory, with every tool of the modern welfare state arrayed against the Leave camp, including laughable accusations that wanting to regain lost sovereignty, control over its borders and powers of taxation amounted to racism.

All was for naught with 52% of the country voting Leave with 48% voting Remain. The media in Great Britain, America and throughout the world proclaimed the end of days. Markets declined because they got it wrong; they always decline when they get it wrong because they failed to make money. Such are the ways of the market. As of this writing they are already stabilizing. Such are the ways of the market. The alternative is Venezuela: take your pick.

It's too bad there are more failed cultures than successful ones, more failed nations than successful ones, but the West has no moral obligation to destroy its achievements by importing backward, frequently rapist, cultures in order to make guilty white liberals feel better, wholly aside from the fact that they exempt themselves routinely from the worst consequences of their disastrous ideas.

Get stuffed, I believe, is the British expression.

* * * * 

How tight a leash does Ben Golnik have Speaker Daudt on? It seems to me they're both choking, so an adjustment might be in order.

I'm trying to figure out why Daudt so often seems stricken, unprepared but, worse, unsure. How can you not anticipate the questions the hilariously self-important, mind-numbingly liberal, local media will ask you, especially about Trump? 

Daudt seems to think that doing what Golnik advises constitutes leadership. Who will tell him?

Both men are friends of mine in a general sense; we don't socialize but they return my phone calls, which are rare. For someone who tries to write honestly, that's the best I can hope for, even (or especially) from my own "side." 

I always joke it's a good thing I didn't become involved in Minnesota republican politics to make friends. I'm continuously taken aback at it's fundamentally high school nature. 

The Speaker can't speak coherently about Trump. It's almost July. It's ridiculous.

There are any number of variations on the following: "I support our nominee, as I have all previous nominees. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and the evidence for that is everywhere [insert Minnesota specific details here]. What no one wants is the most corrupt person ever to run for president being elected. The big banks and Wall Street own Hillary Clinton; she got rich while making others poor. She's never been a friend of the middle class."

Etcetera. Just think it through but stop avoiding the question because your advisors are afraid the DFL will tie you to Trump. They're going to try anyway but the old playbooks don't apply this cycle. We've seen it time and again. Just laugh as Minnesota progressives crank up their outrage machine. People no longer buy it.

Trump, if nothing else, has destroyed political correctness. The media hate him because their power lay in enforcing it. Now everyone just laughs at the media who are increasingly left to talk to themselves.

Minnesota republicans simply don't know how to play the game in this new age and it shows. Stewart Mills and Jason Lewis are notable exceptions.

Daudt recently said that Trump will do well in rural Minnesota so perhaps he's changing his approach from paralysis and equivocation to something approximating effective messaging. Much remains to be seen but I hope he continues in this direction.

Currently, the Speaker has been given a vision so myopic that it amounts to political blindness. His advisors have a bunker mentality, pretending a good defense is a substitute for a good offense.

Trump was an American Brexit before Brexit. Brexit itself has broad themes to be deduced from it. Our impoverished political commentariat says that if something can't be wholly applied to something else, then we need pay no mind, nothing of Brexit applies to the American presidential cycle. They're wrong: it's called the zeitgeist.

Brexit applies but only because the American political cycle got to what it represents first: a revolt against the established order set in place by the elites to benefit the elites. 

* * * * 

The day after the Brexit vote I saw in the early morning four local media anti-Trump tweets within a short span of time. Two were from Star Tribune editors and two were from MPR reporters. These democrats with a byline knew instinctively what the Brexit win meant for national politics in America. And they were unhappy.

How can Minnesota republicans be so politically obtuse? Why are they not seizing upon the extraordinary times this election cycle presents them?

Because they're not very good at their jobs; in fact routinely terrible.

This particular Occam's razor took some time coming to me, resisting it as I did given the fact there was little I could do about it if such were true.

The delegates being sent from Minnesota to Cleveland are a depressing lot; some exceptions apply. I expect tweets about jorts, the Tastiest! Burgers! In! Cleveland! a few craft beers comments and how they compare to Minnesota's and similar idiocies.

These people, as well as the people who know them in their political network, and those networks themselves, and their donors, are what I refer to as MNGOPe. It's nothing personal at all: most are very nice.

Politically, they're insisting they are purer republicans than Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom have endorsed Trump without reservation.

What to do with such types? They'll scuttle to Cleveland, come back to hang onto the Minnesota House narrowly and set themselves up for an even worse performance than what we just saw in the last legislative session, where DFL spending was enacted into law but where Republican tax cuts got vetoed.

But they'll still be getting paid, which is their highest priority.

Looking to the 2018 gubernatorial race, they'll be poll tested, focus grouped and still out of touch, with messaging both feckless and unappealing. The wholly manufactured political persona of Marco Rubio appeals greatly to them and with good reason: in that fraud they see themselves.

They seem incapable of understanding at any level the enormous changes unfolding in America and the wider world. Large areas of the political terrain are theirs but for the asking. Ask they won't and serious observers must then wonder, if they won't take advantage of the zeitgeist, will they survive as a meaningful political party?

On balance Minnesota republicans are heading to a status similar to California republicans: irrelevant, a fossil that is tolerated with amusement by those who wield real political power. It doesn't have to be this way but, until Minnesota republicans realize only they can save themselves, it looks increasingly likely this will be the outcome they'll suffer.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Stanek

In January I wrote a piece called "The Coming of Governor Tina Flint Smith." The title of the piece was, essentially, its substance. It can be read by clicking here.

At the end of it I suggested that there was only one republican who could beat Smith in a general election. Many thought that I was referring to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and, in fact, I was. In the five months that passed since I wrote that column, however, I was uncertain if he had any interest in the job. I'm not a confidante of the Sheriff and would hardly share anything here if I were. That said, the people I know who know him much better have been saying they see no indication of him running for governor. Yesterday I concluded he is.

Stanek is a sui generis republican: the largest vote getter of any republican in the state and consistently so. Police work has been thoroughly politicized--you might have noticed--and Stanek deftly has stayed on top of that process while not succumbing outright to it. Frequently it's hard to discern whether cops in Minnesota are law enforcement or social workers with clipboards. External, highly organized elements outside of it have taken their toll: what would otherwise constitute straightforward police work is now tinged with politically correct language and posturing so as not to offend the perpetually offended. There really is nothing that progressives touch which they don't make worse.

Stanek's politics are both obvious and obtuse. Centered in the world of policing, he strikes moderate positions on the issues du jour: opioid abuse, bad! human trafficking, not cool! bike theft from self-absorbed yuppies in south Minneapolis, wrong! And so forth. If he's done or said something controversial lately I've simply missed it and I've been paying attention. In some ways, his appeal to too many factions is the most off putting thing about him to me. I'm happy to live with it, though.

He says he loves his job and from all appearances this seems to be the case. Some say he has no desire to be governor but, rather, to become head of the National Sheriff's Association. This has always struck me as wanting more cowbell: how appealing is it really to be head of an association you've been a member of for a long time? Then again, every Elks Lodge must have its grand master or whatever.

Yesterday Stanek addressed the Minnesota Republican Party state convention in Duluth with his wife in attendance. Had he declared the day before that he was running for governor his speech wouldn't have needed to be changed in the slightest. Indeed, I thought it was unambiguously blunt: he bragged about his vote totals in Hennepin County, he condemned go along to get along governing which only results in bigger government (the managed surrender style of House Speaker Kurt Daudt seemed to be the target here) and said that a tax increase is a tax increase, not a "user fee" with respect to higher license tab fees put forth by republicans.

But it was more than that: he pointed out he carried all 45 cities in Hennepin County his last election, and then went on to a crowd approving recitation: calling for immigration enforcement (he's weak on this subject and must improve), protecting gun ownership, pressing for prosecution of Hillary's email national security crimes, and coming down on the side of Apple in the privacy wars (doesn't he update this speech?).

All that could reasonably be said to be just so much red meat to a red meat audience. Well and good. Yet Stanek immediately went on with no transition to speak about issues far afield from Hennepin County policing. He was unsubtle but I liked that; I would.

For example, Stanek came out against the paid family leave initiative in Minneapolis, disparaged any need for an increase in either the gas tax or license tab fees, reminded the party it had endorsed him a mere 8 times, and used the word "great" about a dozen times in his closing remarks.

Here is what I found to be his most directly political comment:

"You know folks I think as republicans we need to be much clearer with Minnesota voters in our message about what we stand for. We need to break down the walls of the party, get rid of the party test and the "not conservative enough" messaging that gets in the way of winning winnable elections."

His demeanor was refreshingly, unapologetically what we used to think of as republican. The contrast to the sad heirs of the failed Pawlenty governorship (and style) could hardly be starker, yet without being strident. Stanek, if he wishes, can win big in Minnesota by doing what I've advocated all republicans do: strip out Trump, win on Trumpism.

Make Minnesota Great Again.™

The Uptake provided exceptional coverage of the convention and Stanek's speech can be seen in its entirety by clicking here.

Photo credit: Left to right Janee Harteau, Richard Stanek, President Barack Obama
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump's Triumph & Minnesota Republicans

On the night of the Indiana primary, which effectively sealed Donald Trump's victory as the republican nominee for president, progressive powerhouse and CNN commentator Van Jones cautioned his fellow democrats about mistaking this candidate for one who could easily be beaten. To the contrary, and running against the grain of smugness for which liberalism is justifiably known, Van Jones perceptively admonished his peers to build the sandbags high because "there's a wave coming."

Since Trump has become our nominee (enough with the "presumptive" lingo), Minnesota republicans have displayed their trademark incompetence, dithering and, worst of all, hollowed-out virtue signaling, in trying to fashion a response to the attacks from the well oiled astroturf groups on the Left who believe, mistakenly, that their old playbook can be used once again this cycle.

Elsewhere it would fail aborning: Trump has destroyed the suffocating miasma of political correctness and the unwarranted influence the media has had for too long in the selection process of republican nominees. Please like us, please clap. Those same toadies exist in Minnesota and account in no small measure for why republicans haven't won a statewide race in a decade. Wake me when we have someone who can defeat Tina Flint Smith cum Elena Ceausescu.™

Here it might work because Minnesota republicans don't know how to fight, push back, stand up or advocate for what they believe in, to the extent they believe in anything not up for sale to the highest bidder. Compromise is their m├ętier and they expect to be applauded for routinely surrendering on the most favorable terms possible. That it's a surrender is, to them, beside the point. Look at the terms! No wonder Trump's emphasis on winning scares them so: winning isn't in their vocabulary.

* * * *
We have far too many republicans, in or out of office, on Almanac or At Issue or not, who simply don't know how to message in this environment. Of course, they've not very savvy in the best of circumstances and with Trump the mediocrity of Minnesota republicans takes on an especially high profile. But, as Dan Rather would say, "courage."

Overwhelmingly Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The hackneyed phrase "change election" is certainly warranted in being applied to this one. For Minnesota republicans, not to fasten onto this is malpractice. 

"Yes, I support the nominee as I have every presidential election year. Like those prior nominees, there are some things I agree with and others I don't. But what's clear is the damage President Obama and the far left have inflicted on this country. Hillary wants an Obama third term but the Minnesotans I talk to don't seem interested. Forget Trump as the messenger, we can all agree on the areas that he has highlighted."

One then proceeds to tailor to their area, district or cause those issues which help them gain and maintain traction. There's no shortage: stagnant wages, zero good jobs creation, America's low standing in the world's regard, foolish wars that Hillary will only continue or--Rubio like--start new, i.e., Syria, illegal immigration & its attendant crime wave, the refreshing and correct characterization of the American media (scum) and so on. I would suggest that the variations on these themes are only limited by one's imagination but that quality is in short supply amongst republicans here. 

The DFL, for a change, is looking stale and outdated. Is there anything Trump can't do? The press conferences, press releases, sound bites and quotes in the local liberal media should be laughed at because they're not to be taken seriously. Laugh when they call Trump racist; no one believes it. Laugh when they call Trump misogynist; no one believes it. Whatever the over the top characterization, laughter is the best response. He's had ten months of national coverage, national attacks, and none of those smears have stuck because they're not true in the slightest. In other words Minnesota republicans, he's withstood far more than you ever could and has already done the work for you this cycle. The least you could do is pick up on it.

Republicans on the Iron Range should be flat out running on Trump's themes of populism and nationalism. His appeal to a significant portion of democrats is nowhere more in evidence there. By not affirmatively seizing those themes and echoing them, republicans let democrats escape once more. The very idea of holding Minnesota democrats responsible for failure seems anathema to Minnesota republicans. Strip out Trump: run on Trumpism. I should charge for this column even though it points out only the bleedingly obvious. And to think of those who get paid for helping our candidates routinely lose.

* * * * 

At present there seems to be a significant Chicken Little brigade in Minnesota republican politics (cringingly they attempt to pass themselves off as the smart set, except they're the type you just know don't read books). They've always existed but this cycle they want more than usual to be liked by the press and the democrats. Some are lobbyists, some are in staff positions or ensconced in low level office. None are leaders and few possess actual skills to make them good in their political role. The chief goal of such types appears to be the approval of similar types. Why republicans haven't won a statewide race in a decade is no mystery.

Running away from Trump this cycle will be a disaster for Minnesota republicans. Using his political phenomenon and resulting political earthquake can yield real benefits. But you have to be good, you have to take the initiative and you have to attack the corrupt left. As John Lennon sang about a different topic "it's easy if you try."

The trying is all. Why not do it? Think if the DFL had socialist Bernie Sanders atop their ticket. Would you see chuckleheads on local political television say that they won't support him for this reason or that? Would you see their leader in the House make a hash of things in declining to endorse him until he was instructed otherwise by his political svengali?

Of course we wouldn't. They'd distance themselves from the least helpful aspects of Bernie, cherry pick themes and issues that work best for them and trash relentlessly the republican opponent. The latter point is key: democrats in this state are shameless, frequently unethical and routinely demagogic. The republicans tend to be weak, insipid and full of unwarranted self regard.

Can this change in a single cycle? The people who said it was going to be Jeb, or Rubio, or Cruz are hardly the ones to ask. Those of us who understood we were witnessing a political upheaval, even as we tried to understand it, have a different view. At a minimum, we're optimistic that things can change in ways never before thought possible. That includes Minnesota republicans becoming politically competent.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trump's New York Landslide As Felt In Istanbul

I've been in Istanbul for approximately the last week but committed to my Canadian readers to write something about the pivotal New York state primary. Below is what ran at Blazing Cat Fur where I've been asked to blog the 2016 presidential races.

* * * * 

Our American Friend: Trump’s New York Landslide As Felt In Istanbul

Yes, our American friend was cornered in a flat in a middle eastern metropolis. Briefly deprived of Twitterfeed (to him what Kryptonite is to Superman), he agreed to write this for us:


I’m finishing up a week’s vacation in Istanbul and today was awoken before the morning call to prayer. Let me assure you that that is indeed early (for those of you who know Istanbul, I’m staying in a private flat just off Sultanahmet Square with a view of the Blue Mosque from one of my windows). I was awoken by notices cascading into and onto my iPhone about the early New York returns and what they portended.

Trump Towers, blared the New York tabloids later in the day and that, in fact, was the case.

As of this writing it appears Trump will receive 90 of the 95 delegates available in this primary. His win was wide and deep, forcing even some of his most relentless critics to admit that he had, in a single primary, made the path to the requisite 1,237 delegates substantially more likely. This was a bitter admission from those who had for months denied the reality of Trump’s appeal to a base that hasn’t been this energized in several generations.

Ted Cruz, Trump’s sole remaining substantial competitor, was destroyed by the Empire State, earning a pathetic 15% of the vote and zero delegates.

The upcoming states–Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey & Rhode Island–will favor Trump as well. This gives him quite a stretch of doing nothing but “winning.”

To be candid, this comes as a relief to his supporters, who are often derided as ignorant or worse. In fact, they know more than anyone the strengths and weaknesses of their candidate. The last two weeks saw Trump quiet by his standards, tweeting much less often and speaking in measured tones with an eye toward the convention in Cleveland in July and beyond.

Trump’s victory speech was short, gracious and focused. Everything, in a word, that it should have been. He was scrupulously on message and when he is, he’s at his most effective.

Thank Paul Manafort, says the conventional wisdom, which for a change is not wrong or facile. Manafort is an experienced player in this realm and his management of Trump’s campaign is increasingly obvious and increasingly effective. He was recently hired and with not much time to spare. Having said that, the more reality based observers are starting to admit that Trump will be the nominee, for good or for ill.

I’ve said in this space that if he won South Carolina, which he did handily, he would be the republican nomination. The GOP establishment has shown itself to be hide bound, blinkered and incompetent, content with feeding at the trough of the status quo whether elections were won by it or not.

The discussion going forward will now be how Cruz is simply unable to compete with Trump in large areas of the country, cementing a reputation for losing. “Lose with Cruz” applies both to the nomination and the general election.

A “tell” is something in gambling which gives away the game, usually denoting a bluff. The most interesting tell of the night (and early morning here) came from Anthony Scaramucci.

He is one of the GOP’s top fundraisers in a cycle which has shown their ownership of the republican party to an unprecedented degree and concomitant contempt for the base.

He tweeted: “If [Trump] doesn’t get to 1237 it won’t be by much. Stealing nomination from him at that point would be party suicide.”

Quite. And the party will not commit suicide no matter how much bravado is currently being thrown about. Then it’s on to the general election against Lady Macbeth, who handily won New York over Bernie Sanders.

Trump has a knack for succinctly and fatally defining his opponents. He call Jeb Bush low energy and referred to Senator Rubio as Little Marco. Of course, he continues to call Cruz Lyin’ Ted.

He unveiled this week his moniker for Mrs. Clinton: Crooked Hillary.

This will stick because it’s true. The next seven and a half months will prove to be remarkably interesting and unusual.

As I’m fond of saying on Twitter: “Never end, cycle.”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Do Minnesota Republicans Believe In Anything?

Political parties by definition exist because they are one thing and not another. They define themselves both by what they adhere to, what they promote and that to which they stand in opposition.

The current highly unusual presidential cycle is what a political realignment looks like. As I've said to Diana West in private correspondence, I was naive for thinking that it would be interesting and relatively painless. Instead it's been quite painful and ferociously divisive, at least to date and at least on the Republican side. I do think that similar sorts of struggles are coming to the Democratic Party but that's for another time.

Recently former Minnesota House of Representatives member Ryan Winkler (D), now resident in Belgium, Exhibit A in the failed experiment of multiculturalism, or as Hitchens tired of it "one way multiculturalism," and I found ourselves in broad agreement about wage and income stagnation and the abandonment of the average American worker of any color or gender (there are only two) by both parties. This is what political realignment looks like and I hesitate to put a substantial term on such a small interchange. Still.

The problem for party elites is that the base of my party and Winkler's agree in one way or another with what we were saying. The surprise to my fellow republicans may be in realizing democrats are not happy with their elites either: this is how Trump wins but I've gotten ahead of myself.

* * * * 

In a reverse Ozymandias moment, I looked upon the works of Minnesota republicans and despaired. A review of their handiwork leaves little room for satisfaction.

In the 2010 election republicans won both chambers of the Minnesota legislature. Unforgivably, however, in a national wave election we lost the governorship to a profoundly flawed democrat.

Having won an unprecedented majority in the Senate, and a not rare win in the House, Minnesota republicans were set to stop the far left agenda of Alida Rockefeller's ex husband, so programmed, robotic and medicated that he makes Marco Rubio look authentic.

But no: a staffer wanting to sleep his way into controlling the Senate via, rather literally, its Majority Leader, was brutally put down once republican senators realized the psychological & emotional manipulation of their leader, with spectacular and ongoing damage to republicans across the state throughout their remaining terms. There was no one to root for.

Minnesota republicans are the last to understand media, even with Trump now showing them how daily. In 2011 they were tossed about at will by a press keen to advance the most damaging narratives possible. Given the subject matter, not even I could truly blame them.

The rest of the legislative session saw no accomplishments but only incompetence and foolishness going into the fall election. As if to answer "how does a party top a sex scandal?" republicans saw fit to put on the ballot not one but two dubious Constitutional propositions: enshrining one man/one woman as the definition of marriage as well as implementing voter ID. I happen to agree with both matters but making them a matter of the state constitution was hardly the route to have been taken.

This encore of incompetence proved enormously damaging, untethered from what the voters who put them into office wanted but no matter. As today, Minnesota republicans were controlled by their donors.

The last discussion you'll ever hear in open Minnesota republican politics is a candid discussion about their donors.

In the 2012 elections the Republican Minnesota legislative majority was voted out in as little time as humanly possible. Both chambers: that takes some doing, even for the stupid party. Please clap.

Don't forget, however, that republicans at this time saw fit to nominate Kurt Bills, a genuinely nice guy but wholly inexperienced, to run against the buzzsaw of Senator Amy Senator For Life Klobuchar with predictable results.

Minnesota politics frequently strikes me as boring, as endlessly small potatoes, but that's mostly because there appears to be only one party in the state that knows what it's doing.

* * * * 

Yet in combining amazing overreach by insufferable Twin Cities liberals, as well as targeting races in rural Minnesota, Republicans clawed back a majority in the House in 2014. It's as yet unrealized what good this has done, besides stopping one or another far fetched thing. To be sure, that's not nothing but it's also not a program of governing principles.

We've seen little results so far. When republicans went along with a shocking degree of spending by democrats, people who have no business being in politics framed the matter thusly: it was the third smallest increase ever. Republicans seemed to be saying they were not so much an opposition party but a series of (increasingly ineffective) speed bumps.

At the same time in 2014, republicans ran an untested millionaire to run against Al Franken for US Senate. Like Klobuchar in 21012, this race was never close, was never "competitive" to use consultant speak. If Minnesota republicans don't take themselves seriously in whom they nominate for high office, why should voters?

It's even money whether republicans can hold the House this fall, or so I've been told by those in a position to know. The Senate was never in reach. Join the Minnesota Republican Party: together we can dream small.

* * * * 

Nine years after I became (what was I thinking) involved in politics my side still does not have its equivalent of "The Uptake." Nine years. I realize Stanley Hubbard isn't in the business of throwing away money but could he and his chums not have found a lousy 250K and help start something?

I use "The Uptake" as a stand in for every organization and group the left in Minnesota has created and funded. They're so well known I don't need to list them by name. And they're good: it bugs me.

Sometimes they fail but they're always working. They can do so because they know what they believe and are able to advance those beliefs at almost every turn, sometimes truthfully, often times not. The fuel of these organizations is their message because they actually believe in something.

Republicans message badly because at any given time they're not really sure what their message is. In any event, it's the job they care about, not its substance. This shows.

* * * * 

Besides spending a disproportionate amount of money to beat candidates like my friend Sheila Kihne when challenging an incumbent in leadership (but virtually indistinguishable from a democrat), what is it that Minnesota republicans are about?

Yes, keeping your gig is understood. But for any approximately conservative cause, what do they actually do?

Precious little, it turns out, aside from feathering their own nests. The feathering takes the most innocuous forms, it is true, but feather nesting it remains.

You'd think I'd be over my shock at how easily Minnesota republicans are bought but I'm not. I don't think I ever want to be, really.

Not long ago republicans shilled for money to talk about the glories of National Popular Vote, whose local lobbying agency was Ainsley Shea. Big name republicans signed up, betraying without a second thought the most universally conservative idea of preserving federalism and the Electoral College. Nothing came of the effort legislatively but the republicans involved got their money.

This is who we've become and we think nothing of it. #MNGOPe

* * * * 

Smaller government and lower taxes are said to be among the hallmarks of republican belief in this state. Of course, there's precious little evidence of success on these fronts but no matter, it's the platitudes that count to those who mostly care about keeping the position they have.

Minnesota republicans don't believe in anything sufficiently persuasive to the voters to have won a statewide office in ten years. I've already written off 2018 so let's make it a dozen years.

We live surrounded by states governed by republicans. Only here does that stop.

That Minnesota republicans aren't embarrassed by this tells you all you need to know about them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Interregnum: Thoughts on a Primary Pause

Note: I've been guest blogging the presidential race for Canadians at Below is what I wrote for them today.

America is currently in the middle of a hiatus in the republican presidential campaign. This consists of two weeks with no primaries or caucuses. The next primary is April 5th in Wisconsin, the state directly east of Minnesota, where I live in St. Paul.

The pause has not been refreshing. Instead, old narratives that have failed previously are doubled down upon and reiterated with greater desperation. These consist mostly of animosity and opprobrium directed toward Donald Trump. They themselves don't seem to be doing much damage but Trump appears to be close to or over the line concerning Ted Cruz's wife Heidi.

The short version is that allegations about Ted Cruz's infidelity were fed to a tabloid newspaper (we surprisingly have very few of them, which makes it difficult for the average educated American to stomach most of the British press). These allegations of multiple affairs were shopped by supporters of former candidate Marco Rubio; this much is an open secret. They have played out as a dirty trick from the Trump campaign, however.

In the Twitter back and forth Trump retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi next to his supermodel wife Melania. This was not well received, even by such staunch supporters as Ann Coulter who complained that Trump sometimes reminded her of your 16 year old that you had to keep bailing out of jail. Naturally opponents gleefully seized upon such candor as evidence--yet again--that the wheels were coming off of the Trump campaign.

No, but the episode should provide Planet Trump with an occasion to recalibrate its approach to the election. No one expects Trump to cease being himself but the furious need to respond to each and every slight or insult must, at some level, be tempered. Personally, I think this will happen because it requires so little not to be consistently outrageous.

More substantively, Trump has hired an old hand, Paul Manafort, who knows how to collect the delegates he has won previously and keep them. The arcania, like most arcania, is tiresome so, again, the bottom line is that a campaign previously unaware of the shenanigans that can happen, leading to a stealing of delegates, is wide awake now, in plenty of time it must be said.

This underscores the fight going on mostly just below the surface: the Republican establishment seeking any and all ways of denying Trump the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination. All sorts of scenarios are spun out daily (the media hate interregnums and fill it with airy stories about what could or couldn't happen under any given set of circumstances) but these are exercises without much effect in the real world.

The Wisconsin primary promises to be a close fought race. I believe Cruz will win it. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as expected, endorsed him today although Walker's popularity in the state is exaggerated. Losing wouldn't be a death knell by any means to Trump. If he were to win it, however, it could be the end of any serious threat to deny him the nomination should he come within a dozen delegates or so.

The states upcoming next--Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland—which vote before the end of April, then in May, Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, and Washington State and finally on June 7 California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota, all greatly favor Trump. The question will be how large in each of these states will be his win? If sufficiently large he'll have the delegates necessary to put away the nomination.

Few, however, think that his wins in these states, though formidable, will be large enough to secure the requisite number of delegates. He will, however, mostly likely be very close. Mr. Manafort, consequently, will prove to be consequential. He's adept at rounding up and keeping delegates in his candidate's column. This is also a good time to remember that several hundred uncommitted delegates exist and it's assumed that Manafort is already working on bringing many of them onboard.

Trump will secure the republican nomination short of the GOP establishment detonating a suicide belt. This is not beyond the realm of the possible but unlikely overall: self-interest is a powerful motivator. No one has any idea who he would pick as his vice presidential running mate because we're all dancing as fast as we can currently. There is only so much that can be processed.

To be sure, many officials, pundits and hangers-on have self righteously proclaimed that they will not vote for Trump under any circumstances. The more special snowflakes have already declaimed they'll vote for Hillary Clinton. The base owes Trump an eternal debt of gratitude for revealing the corruption, self dealing and pandering to donors that has consumed the Republican Party.

Much is made on the right that Trump can't win, can't beat Hillary, that this or that demographic of the electorate hates him. If you only listened to establishment Cassandras, you might be deeply worried.

I, however, do not. At least not exclusively: I keep a keen eye on what the Left is saying. To its credit, they are not hiding their concern about Trump being a formidable candidate appealing to wide swaths of the electorate including very much parts of the traditional Democratic base. It's a telling indictment that the Republican establishment has more in common with the elites of the Democrats than with its own base. Once seen it cannot be forgotten.

Some on the Left can be very clear eyed as to what a profoundly weak and unappealing candidate Hillary Clinton is and will continue to be. This is something that's not much discussed by the anti-Trump faction on the Right but it remains true.

New York Magazine calls itself a publication "defining the news, culture, fashion, food and personalities that drive New York." Its articles are as pretentious as its self-description but there you have it. For what's of interest to the New York set, however, it's a very reliable bellwether. Yesterday the editor of one of its sections tweeted his alarm about the ability of Trump to win the general election. Said Jesse Singal:

"Jesus I just had my first he-could-win-the-whole thing moment."

Yes he could, hence the bi-partisan panic that will surely increase as November approaches.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Minnesota Republicans Kill A Coleman Dynasty

Saturday Minnesota republicans in Senate District 47 cooly destroyed any hopes of Norm Coleman creating a political dynasty in Minnesota when they summarily rejected his 29 year old son Jake as the endorsed candidate to succeed Julianne Ortman. Instead of eating the heir apparent dog food, republicans sensibly chose Dr. Scott Jensen. It wasn't close: Coleman conceded after the first ballot.

MNGOPe was hardest hit, of course, with boot lickers and hangers on more concerned about advancing their own small, untalented careers by falling in line behind a retired US senator's son than by thinking through who the actual residents of Carver County might want. They do what they must in order to be rewarded, not because it's the right thing to do or required by principles. It's all transactional for these types and it shows by their increasing isolation from those whose support they most need in order to succeed: real, actual voters. Despite their smug self-satisfaction, they actually aren't very good at politics and would otherwise be low level Target managers or lifers at MnDOT (taco Tuesday!).

When Ortman retired Coleman promptly moved into the district while initially denying any interest in running, thereby displaying all the subtlety for which his father is known. He raised over $50,000 in three months, an unheard of sum for someone both this young and a political neophyte. No one who was not the offspring of an accomplished lobbyist, former mayor and former senator could hope to raise as much. He had spent the previous four years on the staff of Rep. Erik Paulsen, biding his time. He thought this was it only to find out that it very much wasn't and likely will never be.

Dr. Jensen acidly noted "I didn't claim the values of this area, I've lived them." Coleman had clumsily and unpersuasively said he moved to Chanhassen because he was looking for a community with values that he shared. Only those types who think Marco Rubio authentic would buy such tripe.

Jensen is the odds on favorite to win the senate seat this fall given the makeup of the district. That's why the endorsing convention was so important: both candidates had agreed to abide by it and so a Coleman dynasty will not happen this cycle.

To be sure there may well be other attempts at office by Coleman fils. Still, he is badly damaged by this initial foray into politics and is seen as an interloper on several levels. When his fund raising totals were announced with some fanfare his campaign spokesman said they showed that Coleman "represents the future of conservative problem solvers."

Except he doesn't: he represents the old guard with their bought and paid for policy positions that do precious little to make the average republican voters' life better. They can't be expected to keep their promises because the ones to the donor class always and everywhere have priority. Here, the entitlement was that because Dad made a living sponging off the public sector that his son had every right to as well.

Only Minnesota republicans, for a change, did the right thing, illustrating once again that those in the establishment don't know what they're doing. There's much evidence of this on the national level but for a change it is satisfying to see it played out on the local.

Photo credit: Jake Coleman, Twitter.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Kurt Daudt, A Better Minnesota & Local Media

Early last Tuesday morning, the day the Minnesota legislature reconvened, MPR reporter Brian Baskt, formerly of the Associated Press (same wine, new skin), published a story concerning the personal finances of House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R). Baskt reported that Daudt had been sued by creditors for unpaid credit card debts. In addition, Daudt was late in paying property taxes on two parcels of land he owns. The coverage was unflattering both because of its subject nature and because it was juxtaposed with Daudt's more or less general message of fiscal responsibility. Bakst's story can be read by clicking here.

In an interview later that same day with Cathy Wurzer  of Almanac, Daudt suggested that the collection arm of the law firm, Messerli & Kramer, probably didn't know who he was. The problem with this thought balloon is that Messerli & Kramer is one of most prominent lobbyists in St. Paul and Daudt is the Speaker of the House.

Within minutes of that story hitting, the always organized Left on Twitter noted that Messerli & Kramer had hosted a birthday party for him the prior year. Team Daudt knew this story was coming and this was the best they could come up with? I'd ask for rewrite but I'm pretty certain that doesn't exist in Minnesota republican politics.

Both the Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune subsequently ran editorials calling on the Speaker for further disclosure as to how these matters were handled. You see how that works? You find opposition research on a figure you want to hit, feed it to the press so the illusion is maintained this was done by the news outlet itself and then the wider liberal media echo the narratives, usually under the rubric of "concern" for the public's right to know.

A Better Minnesota (ABM) is a far left or, if you prefer, progressive group financed by white supremacist Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife Alida Rockefeller and other wealthy fringe types. I don't care for their corrosive politics but I'm on record admiring their skill. It was ABM who found the story about Daudt and then fed it to local media. Twenty-four hours after the story broke they launched this site.

Nothing on my side compares to this.

J. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune was first offered the story, according to my sources. He passed on it, apparently satisfied with the explanation that the Speaker was taking care of matters and, consequently, there would be no real public record of the arrears.

Naturally, ABM hadn't signed up for any last minute journalistic integrity from a Star Tribune reporter (of all people) and so it was off to the next stop in shopping its story. MPR ran with it and here we are. Yes, this is a bit like sausage making.

I was amused to see on Twitter other local reporters call out to Bakst for his "scoop" and all that. It's all a little predictable and, well, yes, sad! Remember, these people still think Pulitzers have merit and gravitas. Who will tell them? And for god's sake, don't get me started on those preposterous "regional Emmys" that local television types think important.

Sometimes reporters work hard (not often) and sleuth something out without it being handed to them on a platter. You can tell when this happens because the self-congratulatory preening is more obnoxious than usual. This didn't happen here.

ABM learned about the arrears and other problems the Speaker was experiencing and simply fed it to local media. This is not only not new, it's de rigueur. Both sides do it but guess which one is more accomplished at the doing?

I reached out, to use that nauseating phrase, to Brian Bakst for comment. He responded "I can say unequivocally that this was 100 percent homegrown on my end. I have no knowledge of what other reporters were up to as I was working toward publication. Thanks for reaching out, John."

My question was whether ABM had given him a tip. Readers can decide what "homegrown" means or doesn't. Homegrown reminds me of homebrew which reminds me of illegal server. But that's just me.

Similarly, I "reached out" to Joe Davis, the Executive Director of ABM, who this weekend was fighting off some cold or sickness the same as I was but who was decent enough to respond: "Hey John, We have no comment, but the Bakst story is all him. Thanks"

Well yes, we can stipulate that any Baskt story is all him, n'est ce pas? Yet how would Davis know that, exactly?

Minnesota republicans do not have a local media which votes for them. Still, they are ready to run with any number of stories about the other side if the facts hold up. The problem is that Minnesota republicans have nothing comparable, on any level, to A Better Minnesota.

How stupid does the Stupid Party have to be not to see what to do?

I'm frequently criticized by my own (who are increasingly unrecognizable to me) that all I do is complain and criticize. What's the solution? ask those who would never write or verbalize what I do but who agree with it in private. Heroes, all.

I should like to think I do far more than complain but the question, as Lenin would put it, of "What Is To Be Done?" is easy.

Do what the other side is doing, only for our side. That assumes minimal political competence though, something in short supply in the Minnesota republican milieu.

* * * * 

On a final note concerning the shopping of the Daudt story, I attempted repeatedly to contact J. Patrick Coolican through emails, DM's and public Twitter.

No response. Readers may draw their own conclusions.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The End of the Republican Party As We Know It

There was a republican debate last night and there are four primaries this coming Saturday. While each will generate its own narrative and endless think pieces, what happened today was the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we have known it in my lifetime and in the modern age.

Failed 2012 presidential contender Mitt Romney was hauled out by a thoroughly panicked GOP establishment to launch a scathing, over the top attack on Donald Trump. He stopped just short of accusing him of child molestation and drowning kittens he had set on fire. It was a remarkable descent into sleaze and histrionics by a man most republicans continued to hold in some sort of esteem. Romney has forever ruined his reputation and it wasn't just among Trump supporters but a wide swath of the base.

The only news that was made in last night's terribly moderated debate came at the every end: each candidate agreed to support whoever is nominated. Consequently the previous two hours of calling Trump unfit and a disgrace to the office was immediately undone. It's difficult to describe this debate as anything but a useless embarrassment.

Sometimes lazy analysis is no less true for being lazy: Trump won because no one took him out. What would taking him out look like? No one knows because it hasn't happened, hasn't, indeed, even come close.

Marco Rubio had been programmed earlier last week to attack the size of Trump's hands. This meme was generated in the hothouse of Twitter (I watched it be born and grow). Rubio mocked Trump's hands at rallies and at one point said that small hands on a man connoted a small . . . well guess. At tonight's debate Trump responded to that line of attack by saying his hands were large, as was everything else.

Welcome to the American presidential race of 2016.

The size of the male reproductive organ to one side, the debate was a shout fest, poorly moderated and instantly forgettable. Political pundits look for inflection points but there were none to be had last night. Trump continues to dominate in the polls and the upcoming set of primaries favors Trump doing very well. Once March 15th hits, the states award their delegates in a winner take all fashion, as opposed to the complicated and sometimes pinched proportional manner as has been the case up to now. Once winner takes all comes into full force, the expectation is a cascade of delegates will accrue to Trump and he'll be unbeatable at the convention. The Romney attack was designed in large measure to encourage voters in the various states to vote for anyone but Trump and deny him the requisite number.

It won't work. Trump will be the republican nominee. Peggy Noonan fretted last night that the republican party is shattering but except for the grifter class, the donor class and their serfs in elected office, not many in the republican base much care. This is because the party has left them high and dry for decades now, insisting they'll defend their interests while selling them out at every possible turn imaginable. It's come as a tremendous shock to the bubbled class that they are being divorced, being left for someone who may be a bit louche or outre (what would we do without the French language for occasional use in English?).

Conventional analysis no longer applies. A huge, political realignment is taking place in America and nothing will ever be the same again. Only a fool, and apparently there are plenty, would deign to suggest the metes and bounds of this realignment. But make no mistake: it is taking place and it is irreversible. Democrat supporters of socialist Bernie Sanders openly speak of voting for Trump if Hillary Clinton is their nominee. The yelps and howls from the corrupt establishment to the base that Trump isn't a conservative is thrown back in their face with the retort "And since when have you been?"

The game is over, the spell broken. Trump has slain the media because it cannot stop him, cannot wound him, cannot kill him. Voters from all walks of life in America know this instinctively and they've waited a long time for a politician who isn't built up and then subsequently destroyed by the dishonest Fourth Estate.

It's possible but not probable that the bitter "Never Trump" movement can deny him the nomination but only through some means that destroys the party outright. Both in Minnesota and nationally, the party is full of mediocre people who do the bidding of the donors, thinking themselves accomplished politicos only to be outed by Trump as incompetents who don't know the very people they routinely fleece for money and votes. While the establishment is very angry, it is no match for the pent up rage of an electorate denied effective representation by a party that not only took them for granted, but this cycle treated them with utter contempt.

Because of Trump, and for the first time, they can return the favor.