Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anne Frank, Political Correctness & Time

Twenty one years ago this Friday my article on Anne Frank was published by the Star Tribune. I doubt whether the newspaper would publish it now, given the stale liberalism of its editorial board.

At any rate I thought readers might like to see that some of my concerns and themes expressed in this blog have a long provenance.

Click on the image above to read or click here to view it at Scribd where you can save it or download it to your dartboard.

Several days after the article's publication I received hate mail calling me a Jew lover. I could never foresee, of course, today's world in which global anti-semitism is exclusively a feature of the left, routinely ignored by media.

You don't have to be Catholic to laugh at the notion of progress (outside of the hard sciences).

This idea is exquisitely demolished by philosopher John Gray in his best selling book "The Silence of Animals: On Progress And Other Modern Myths" which can and should be purchased here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sheila Kihne & Republican Incumbent Entitlement

One of the most interesting political developments this election cycle involves Sheila Kihne, a well known conservative activist in House District 48B, and friend, who single-handedly denied the republican endorsement to incumbent Jenifer Loon, Republican Deputy House Minority Leader. Kihne's challenge came late and without much warning. Loon apparently expected an easy time of it but at the end of the day was left with a divided convention voting no endorsement. So much for grass roots support.

To the dismay of entitled Minnesota republican incumbents everywhere, Kihne followed through with her effort by registering to run in the primary (photo above). This was thought of by many as very bad form indeed. People are entitled to their views but I see it as rather the opposite: keeping us true to ourselves by reminding us, unpleasantly, of how easy it is become DFL-lite in this state. If you like Arne Carlson, you'll love Jenifer Loon.

The conventional take on this race, and Kihne's candidacy, is that it all comes down to her disagreement on Loon's vote for same sex marriage. Spare me the martyrology of politicians who preen that they must vote their conscience because they're brave things and then whine like spoiled children when they suffer adverse consequences. The brave don't whine and if you do, we're entitled to conclude you were never brave to begin with. What do the phony do for an encore?

I've written about this at length concerning former Rep. David FitzSimmons and that piece can be read by clicking here. Eric Lucero won the endorsement over FitzSimmons and a great hue and cry was heard about the land. In fact, the hash tag #IStandWithFitz was popular for a time among the, how to say it?, Twitter tough guys.  ™Andy Parrish.

By the way, has endorsed 6th Congressional District republican Tom Emmer endorsed Lucero? Lucero has a primary challenger; a weak version of the empire strikes back.

Or will Emmer pull a Bachmann and encourage a vote for the person who is bucking the endorsement process? Bachmann endorsed McFadden for US Senate at Rochester's endorsing convention at the end of May. The DFL has already run ads denoting him as her favorite republican. That's rich, given how much Norm Coleman can't stand her. "Bachmannistan," anyone?

Remember, we're a high minded and principled party. Until we aren't.

The gloss that this race is same sex marriage redux is understandable but ultimately false. Even Sally Jo Sorensen, who blogs at Bluestem Prairie (Minnesota's best blog in my envious opinion) pretty much treated it as such when she wrote about Lucero encouraging his supporters to donate to Kihne. The idea, however, that this has very much to do with a women's front group funded by Bob Cummins "scorning" Kihne is simply wide of the mark. (When the group's leader doesn't know to from too, scorn runs in the opposite direction). Given that Bluestem is on the outside looking in, I understand the analysis. Sorensen's post can be read by clicking here.

There's much more involved here, however, and that more consists of the voting record of Rep. Loon. If a politician's voting record is not something from which we may object once they are in office, then republicans in Minnesota may as well join the Phyllis Kahn Legislator For Life Caucus. And this is what has bothered me about republicans in the House and Senate: they believe people like Sheila Kihne shouldn't do what she is doing. They won, once, and should be reelected again and again by the same voters, only to be taken out by a democrat should the tide change. Breathtakingly, they act as if how they vote is really no concern of republicans.

No thank you. Winning once doesn't give you carte blanche to stray so far (and I'm giving wide berth here, as anyone who knows me would agree) from conservative, republican principles. And yes, we are north of the Mason-Dixon line so a lot of far right agendas won't and shouldn't play here. But that isn't what Sheila Kihne is about in this race, despite what her detractors say. She's running against a specific candidate with a specific record.

Loon's record is not that widely known: it's appalling.

Loon introduced legislation that would reduce property taxes for businesses owned by women. At a time when we, as republicans and a nation, are trying to move further and further away from identity politics, here comes a left-wing democrat idea. Who was it that said to me on Twitter last week we don't promote women simply because they are women? Perhaps that woman can talk to Jenifer and set her straight (or is that word hetero-normative?) about republicans not being a party that gives financial breaks for some taxpayers simply because of their gender.

She voted against legalizing Wisconsin-type fireworks, which legislation eventually passed but was vetoed by Governor Dayton. She knows better, you see. This is how a liberal democrat thinks, acts and votes. She appears comfortable with her arrogance; at once of a piece with her membership in the deeply mediocre House leadership. They keep hiring their friends instead of real talent; that's worked out so well recently why change?

Loon voted for making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, meaning police could pull you over for such a failure alone, including the failure of your backseat passengers to use them. She's from the government and she's here to help.

She was an author of two separate bills to grant HOV lane privileges to hybrid or electric cars. Loon should move to California, where she'd fit in with the brain dead liberals who run that state.

She co-authored, with uber liberal Rep. Ryan Winkler, a HEAD Start bill that would have allocated $150 million to low-income pre-schoolers despite abundant evidence such programs do no good. As John Derbyshire recently noted, its "been failing for 50 years but the elites still believe in it."

Spare me "feel good republicans." They are worse than democrats, who at least believe their tripe. Loon thinks women in her district are stupid and will buy such nonsense. They aren't and they don't.

She voted for the misnomer anti-bullying bill, in a previous incarnation, not the one signed into law, which does nothing but create legal and bureaucratic nightmares for our school districts. Of course, it makes people who vote for it feel good about themselves and doubtless Jenifer invites you to feel good about her.

There are a multitude of other issues and votes with which any sane conservative in HD 48B could take issue in Rep. Loon's career. The high school sensibility (and concomitant sophistication) of both senate and house caucuses regarding Loon being challenged tells any reasonable observer what dire circumstances the Minnesota republican party is in.

Here's the question then: why should republicans continue to vote for state officials despite--instead of because of--their record? Why should a challenge to an incumbent, who may technically be a republican but surely no conservative, get the backing, reflexively, of the entire party apparatus? And if you don't think the stale establishment was behind Loon (for fear they were next, mostly,) then you should click here to see their fund raiser invitation for her. The invite claims she's a champion of "less intrusive government" and has many legislative accomplishments. I'm not sure it's possible to articulate how dumb they think you are.

Minnesota republican incumbents would do well to remind themselves that they serve at the pleasure of their base, initially, and then the general electorate. No, not every challenge to an incumbent will be sound or warranted so I decline to fight that straw man.

But some are and Sheila Kihne's race against Jenifer Loon is one of them. Loon is accountable but resents it. In this she mirrors her peers. But to say such is only to mark how far afield those in office have come from those they pretend to represent.

Please make a donation of whatever amount you can to Sheila Kihne by clicking here. 

Correction: The original post has been changed to make clear that Loon voted for a previous version, not the enacted version, of what would ultimately become law and known as the anti-bullying bill.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Minnesota Republicans Lose Their Minds

Last weekend's Minnesota Republican state endorsing convention was a debacle by any measure of the word, and not simply because my preferred U.S. Senate candidate, Julianne Ortman, failed even to make it to the fifth ballot. She missed the cutoff for that vote by .03%. I was a paid consultant for her campaign for April and May, with research and writing my main tasks.

I met many fine people on that campaign. Rob Doar, the deputy campaign manager, has a deservedly bright future. Keep an eye on him. Better yet, hire him, Brad.

I should have known that any Minnesota republican candidate having a Somali woman on the dais speaking Somali in front of the delegates would be doomed to failure. Plus the candidate being a woman is a disadvantage in our party. The idea that we need to reach out to others besides the blindingly white audience seems to be taken as a personal affront. The convention eventually went on to endorse six white males for the six statewide constitutional offices on the ballot this fall.

If you're fine with this, you're part of the problem.

I waited until today to post. I trusted my instincts and I'm glad I did. Yesterday morning on Twitter I was accused of promoting women simply because they were women. No one who reads this blog, or who knows me, would fairly say that of me. I'm the last to endorse identity politics.

That said, do we really have no women or minority republicans worthy of advancement? If that's your argument, you have a heavy burden of proof.

I know we kill the messengers in this party but by now Rasputin has nothing on me.

What's really remarkable about the convention is how confused and divided in their own minds the delegates were: no guiding principles, no consistent code of conduct for behavior nor any sense of what it takes by way of fielding candidates in order to defeat the democrats this fall.

On the first ballot for Senate, it was a three way tie between Chris Dahlberg, Mike McFadden and Julianne Ortman. The latter lost votes in each subsequent ballot. Ortman gave, by what even her opponents said, was a gracious and sincere exit speech. Pointedly, she refrained from withdrawing. Yesterday she reached out to McFadden to congratulate him and urge unity. If an accomplished, gracious and conservative woman like Ortman doesn't have what it takes for higher office in the Minnesota Republican Party, then I'd suggest no woman, or minority, does.

This is a recipe for political extinction.

Once Ortman was no longer on the ballot, it was a race to bludgeon Dahlberg supporters into submission. Mike has money, Chris doesn't. Once Julianne was out of the way, the conventional, consultant driven wisdom kicked in. Besides, neither campaign had people who didn't look like us on the dais. Alas, that's still not nothing in Minnesota republican politics, despite the pretense of minority outreach.

Ortman tried to show what an inclusive future looked like, both by her own candidacy and by those whose supported it.

No sale.

The balloting went late into that Friday night and when Dahlberg agreed to resume the fight the next morning he gave up all momentum and lost, on the tenth ballot, to Mike McFadden, who had vowed not to respect the endorsement if he didn't get it. Keith Downey, chair of the MNGOP, was a strong supporter of the effort to suspend Friday night's voting. It hurt Marty Seifert and that was fine with him. Downey claimed the delegates had to be out of the building by two in the morning but in fact the party had the hall for the entire night. This is called lying.

But here is what's important: an endorsing convention's delegates gave their support to the guy who said he wouldn't respect them in the morning. Fuck us anyway, they said.


Make of it what you will, my only point is that the clearly declared intent of one candidate to go to a primary was not a bar for the delegates to ultimately endorse him. And to feel creepily good about themselves in the process. If this doesn't constitute losing your mind, nothing does.

The smug factor in Rochester was positively liberal. This is important in understanding, or not, what happened later in the gubernatorial race.

I tweeted my congratulations to Mike, Brad Herold, Kevin Poindexter and Tom Erickson the day of their victory. I'll work to help Mike win but in the process make sure he's something other than Norm Coleman-lite. I have my doubts but going forward Mike has the benefit of them, for now. Here's to his beating Al Franken this fall.

In between Senate votes (I was working the convention, only returning to my seat when I needed to vote) I had the opportunity to hear, partially, some delegate complain about vaccinations and how "no government" is going to tell her what to put in her child's body. These aren't republicans, they're kooks. Why are we indulging them? Not vaccinating your children puts the rest of ours at risk. Welcome to modernity. Besides, just let that mother try not letting her child have a life saving blood transfusion. What have republicans become?

After Ortman departed the race and the convention, I was resident in her hospitality suite along with the other members of her faded effort. I confess to laughing heartily when the doors suddenly swung open only to see Rob Doar hauling in Andy Parrish, campaign manager. Andy had been expelled by the Sergeant At Arms from the convention floor.

He slapped an activist, calling him a cream puff.

Somethings are self-evident and I put this in that category. Parrish, appropriately, apologized the next day. The hilarity was undeniable, however, and  I'll be forever grateful to him for it.

Like a bad dream, I woke up Saturday in Rochester still in Rochester. Inception-like, I thought: "when's the kick coming?" Like so much in life, it never did. Bad coffee in the room followed. I left at noon.

By the time I reached St. Paul, McFadden had won, to the surprise of just about everyone. Brad Herold, campaign manager, and his team brought their A-game and it showed. Forget the cheesy indoor fireworks and the geriatric balloon drop. They got the delegates to eat the dog food and like it. You have to respect that.

The repulsive Michele Bachmann played a part by endorsing McFadden, thereby proving again her lack of principles and integrity. Heretofore she had insisted on the importance of supporting only candidates who agreed to abide by the endorsement.

The vote for governor was grossly delayed, however, and that delay must be figured in to what happened subsequently.

Dave Thompson withdrew after the third ballot and addressed the convention. Marty Seifert addressed the convention immediately after and released his delegates, many of which were from CD 7 and 8 and who had to get back home. In a greatly diminished convention, Jeff Johnson won the endorsement. Republicans have a four way primary for governor this August.

The reaction to Seifert releasing his delegates was as embarrassing as it was deeply ignorant. Not very bright people outdid themselves in an effort to act stupid. They succeeded. One buffoon declared it his intent to "end" Seifert's career. Please. Another called on his running mate, Pam Myhra, to withdraw from the ticket. Welcome to high school.

Yesterday we were treated to six white guys flying around the state in a small plane. The DFL and its allied groups immediately emphasized that fact. You don't have to like it but the reality is that the resistance of Minnesota republicans to opening up their party meaningfully to women and minorities will continue to be exploited and to their detriment.

How could it be otherwise?

The common reaction, in my experience, to pointing this out is irritation and resentment. But at some level everyone knows its true. The longer passive aggressive Minnesota republicans pretend everything is fine the longer we'll be in the political wilderness.

Yesterday Keith Downey said that the contested gubernatorial primary will be a good thing because it will increase voter participation. He's not bright enough, really, to understand that this is a fundamental argument by those of us who support a primary system over the archaic and dysfunctional endorsing process. But there it was, said as if there was no contradiction. When republicans at this level have a hard time processing reality, it's an open question whether there's any realistic chance of improving the party.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Marty Seifert For Governor

I believe only Marty Seifert can defeat Mark Dayton. Because of that belief, I'm announcing my support for him to be our republican endorsed candidate.

I previously, and very early, supported Scott Honour. I did so because at the time I thought a competent businessman with real ties to Minnesota, one who, for G-d's sake, was raised in a trailer, could have a real shot against the perpetually damaged Mark Dayton. Unfortunately, there was no growth in either the candidate or his campaign. I hope Scott, an honorable man, continues to be active in politics as I think he can make an important contribution to Minnesota. At the end of the day, however, his campaign wasn't enough in this cycle and we can't beat something with nothing.

Seifert has undeniable appeal to Greater Minnesota and rightly so. This kind of candidate is the only way we republicans can take back the governorship. Seifert has been calm and cool in this regard. Remember: he got into this race relatively late. All the better for his cool head. That bespeaks a confidence not found in other candidates.

Seifert has the only balanced ticket. Geography and gender matter, no matter how much that makes me roll my eyes: it remains true and these things count. They count if you want to win.

The issues also favor a Seifert/Myhra ticket: mining in the northeast of the state, the ridiculous light rail projects that are disfiguring our two major cities and environs, and the malignant Met Council. This is a ticket that can reach out and get independent and moderate democrat voters. Any republican who wants to win must be able to do so.

Marty Seifert can bring the fight to Mark Dayton. Money alone can't win races although this is heresy in some republican circles this cycle. But it's true. A good candidate is fundamental. The old rules still apply. Seifert knows this. Seifert can win.

This weekend in Rochester, I encourage fellow delegates to endorse him.

Friday, May 16, 2014

India's Cataclysmic Election & Narendra Modi

India's poor voted to no longer be poor.

That's the level best I can do in trying to get across to Americans the scope and significance of India's election returns, which started coming in to us last night and continued throughout the day. The scope of Narendra Modi's victory can hardly be overstated. In fact, it left virtually all political observers in and out of India grasping for words, for metaphors, for some image that can adequately convey what is clearly a historical turning point for the world's largest democracy and, consequently, the world itself.

Modi's political party, the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, won in almost every state, in every direction throughout India, in areas where it hadn't won for a long time and in many cases where it never had before. In India's parliamentary system, a total of 272 seats are needed to form a government and for the last several decades they have been coalitions of various parties, with the Congress Party ruling for the most part. Congress is the party of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and most recently Sonia Gandhi, who took over after the assassination of Rajiv, her husband. These Gandhis have no relation to India's most famous one, Mahatma Gandhi.

Modi was the former Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, population 50 million. His achievements there were nothing less than spectacular, ensuring steady power to homes and businesses, clean water, sound education to every level of society and more. In short, Gujarat worked because Modi worked. He took his tested accomplishments to the nation and, fundamentally, asked it if it wanted to stay poor under Congress and its allies or if it was ready for the future, for India's destiny. The answer astonished even the most jaded.

The BJP won a governing majority outright, with 285 seats. Together with parties aligned with it, the number reaches 340 out of a total of 543 seats. India has never seen election results like this. I won't belabor the details here because I wanted to give Americans a quick understanding of this election, the consequences which will play out dramatically in the next five years.

However, readers should know that in the West the backlash against Modi has already begun. Why might this be? Because India has slaughtered liberalism on a scale unprecedented in the modern age. Everything generally liberal or progressive in the West was embodied in the Congress Party. A nation of more than one billion has turned its back on it; from this there is no return.

Consequently liberals in the West, in the media and academe, will say the usual tired things about Modi they said about Reagan, or Thatcher, or to a lesser extent Deng Xiaoping, each a leader who transformed their country.

Don't buy the criticism, especially that Modi ignored communal rioting in 2002 that left many dead, mostly Muslims. That charge has been thoroughly vetted in India and was found to be without merit. This doesn't stop Westernized Indian liberals like the ridiculous Pankaj Mishra from claiming the world's largest democracy just elected a mass murderer. Right. Couldn't he at least have worked in climate change to the mix? In America, the once respected magazine The New Republic was hot off the blocks in making a similar but less pointed case against Modi. Yes, that's all they've got but a wholesale rejection of liberalism in India puts the entire world's liberal agenda in peril. Good.

While I said at the start that India's poor no longer wished to remain so, clearly most other segments of society in the world's most diverse country also saw something in voting for Modi. There is no other way to explain 340 seats in parliament. Remember this when the intellectual thugs and despots of the Left come calling to trash this election and results.

Yet, if you're for the advancement of the human condition, if you're for the dignity of the human person, if you're for compassion instead of suffering, if you're for the equality of women, if you're for the advancement of culture, technology and knowledge, you'll welcome the advent of Prime Minister Modi.

But mostly, here's to the average Indian voter, literate or illiterate, who had the courage and genius to realize that the future does not come often in elections and as a nation seized it with both hands.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mike McFadden For Senate & Republican Denial

The political mise-en-scène was to have an accomplished private sector man with no record, capable of being programmed by Norm Coleman and Vin Weber to be a plausible alternative to Al Franken, thereby clearing the field of competitors and uniting the Minnesota republican party after a cycle controlled by Ron Paul zealots now returned to party regulars. The Cipher Candidate™ would mouth enough generic platitudes to convince the activist base to fall in behind him and the large money needed in order to take out Franken would flow, the implicit representation being that here was a guy who could self-fund if needed (never true).

Before that scene could be shot, however, reality intervened, leaving the script in tatters.

The first thing anyone learned about the previously unheard of McFadden was that he was wealthy (he's more like Euro trash wealthy; he's not, for example, Alida Rockefeller "we don't smile we're so wealthy"). The second thing you learned about him was that he was going to a primary, period. Curiously little attention or thought was given by the base and activists to this arrogant pronunciamento. If he's so great, wouldn't he win the endorsement by acclamation?

To be fair, the last time a republican endorsing convention offered up a senate candidate they gave Minnesota Kurt Bills, so one can't fault the men behind the curtain from being leery. But two years is a long time in politics and if either of these influence peddlers without scruples had been paying attention, they'd have realized May 2012 in St. Cloud was the Paulers' high water mark. For a trip down memory lane, you can read what I wrote about it at the time, "What I Saw At The Hemp & Raw Milk Revolution," by clicking here.

The McFadden campaign, however, has turned out to be a case study in tone deaf kingmakers, money men, consultants and staff. I realize Mike's the actual candidate but I put him last in assigning blame for the ridiculous show to which Minnesota republicans have thus far been treated. Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I just know he was told it would be very different.

The decision was made to keep McFadden from much exposure to the base. This was very stupid, but Vin Weber crowed to MinnPost that it was exactly the right move, keeping him on the phone dialing for dollars. The reporter never thought to ask Weber why the candidate couldn't have done both; most do. As a result, the ones McFadden most needed to get to know never got a chance to meet him. As time wore on, it became clear that it was actually McFadden who desperately needed the exposure to the base, not the other way around. Having squandered virtually all of 2013 by keeping him under wraps, his consultant driven handlers tried deploying him as a real person in 2014 with increasingly disastrous results.

The two most recent events should suffice as I've blogged about this campaign for some time and interested readers can click on the archives to the right should they wish to read that analysis.

The first involves McFadden campaign manager Brad Herold traveling to Washington, DC to hold a press availability about the career of Mike McFadden, without the career guy himself present. This was bizarre but in the cloistered world of consultants it somehow made sense. OK then.

The campaign tried to thread the needle between different types of equity: investment bankers (McFadden) as opposed to private equity (Mitt Romney). The point of the event was to make the useless, and graceless, point that McFadden isn't Romney. I look forward to another such event where they try to differentiate the unknown McFadden from, say, David Duke. Why not? You never know what that dastardly Al Franken may throw our hero's way!

And isn't always being on defense the best way to win an election? The Star Tribune's story can be read by clicking here. McFadden's Twitter supporters were left to critique the media, which is a topic I pretty much own in this town but anything to avoid blaming an awful campaign.

The second recent event involved Mike as Daniel: into the den of Tea Partiers went he.

I actually was fascinated by this decision when it was announced a week or ten days ago (who can keep track of time, especially when on Twitter a lot?). Jake Duesenberg & Jack Rogers have ginned up the Tea Party in Minnesota this cycle. While I'm not a per se Tea Party republican, I welcome everyone into the tent who wants to defeat democrats.  Jake & Jack had previously been rather harsh on Mike for avoiding the Tea Party and the conservative base. Hence the about face of the McFadden team to have Mike address the North Metro Tea Party last week made me wonder if they couldn't yet get it together.

Turns out they couldn't and then some. Disastrously so.

How could The Borg not prepare MM for what he would encounter there? How could he so obviously filibuster in order to avoid answering questions? How could he be so cringe-inducingly unprepared to answer just the basics? Why bother to attend when he said he needed to leave after a mere 40 minutes? Even then, after getting off the stage, he mixed with attendees as Duesenberg asked him from the stage if he hadn't said he needed to get going? This was after McFadden called for an end to the republican circular firing squad only to have a boisterous member of the audience point out that going to a primary constitutes holding the gun. Before the event staffers patrolled the premises attempting to keep people from recording him. Remember, it's the smart set running this campaign.

Worse, how could one of McFadden's high ranking aides appear to threaten Duesenberg? That, at least, is the allegation. From a public relations standpoint, this appearance could not have gone worse if Al Franken was in disguise advising.

The Star Tribune's Rachel Stassen-Berger wrote up the proceedings which can be read by clicking here. Jake Duesenberg put his own thoughts together on Facebook, which can be read by clicking here.

A depressingly large number of republicans have bought into this dog and pony show; their better judgment clearly eclipsed. Some of them are my friends; some of them used to be. Funny, that.

At the end of the day, however, almost all of them know, at some level or another, that the guy they saw stumble through his own press conference last month can't beat Al Franken. They've already signed onto the effort, however, and see no realistic (for them) reason to either abandon this sinking ship or switch outright to another candidate. So they bide their time, thinking the endorsement means nothing and that the primary will vindicate their readiness to be bought.

Except that McFadden winning the primary is another word for Franken winning the general. And for their dishonesty in refusing to admit that there is still time to select another, infinitely more qualified and viable candidate, I cannot forgive them.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Triumph of Representative Mary Franson

"Go fuck yourself."

I still have that charming Twitter direct message to me from the then Minnesota Republican House Director of Media Services sent that Friday night years ago when freshman Representative Mary Franson (HD 8B) released a poorly scripted video to her constituents. I saw the Left immediately swing into action online, vicious as always, claiming Franson actually believed poor people were animals. The point of departure for such a preposterous claim was her video in which she analogized from national park warnings not to feed the animals because it creates dependency in them. The rest of the faux outrage was as we have come to expect.

Only our side wasn't coming to Mary Franson's defense. I'd never heard of, let alone met, the woman. But it was clear this was the first time at this particular rodeo for her and I wondered why republicans wouldn't push back against such a preposterous narrative. No, the initial response was panic and spinelessness, something of a norm for Minnesota republican staffer types and their equally gutless bosses. When I argued privately on Twitter that removing Franson's video would only make matters worse, implicitly agreeing with far left wackos that she called poor people animals, I received the direct message which leads off this post.


Not only did we not have the instincts to fight for one of our own, we were ready to throw her overboard in the hopes that other members of the House republican caucus would not be damaged by this one silly video. This response only leads to the other side continuing with outrageous and silly claims, claims we legitimate by our cowardly reactions. Enough.

In the days that followed I learned the details of Franson's life and career: here was a single mother of three who overcame repeated adversity to advance in life and now was a member of the Minnesota legislature. As I've said before, if this were the story of a DFL woman, Minnesota media would have made her a household name, showering her with praise.

During the week that followed the rent a mob from the unionized Left demonstrated at committee hearings that Franson needed to resign. She endured this thuggery--shall we call it bullying?--with quiet grace. By the end of the week she agreed to go on Sue Jeffer's widely listened to Saturday radio show.

The day before that, however, the head of a so called "women's group" contacted Jeffers and demanded that she not have Franson on her show. Republican women, ladies and gentlemen, and this example from four years ago. It's only gotten worse since.

Jeffers was having none of it and Franson had already rebuffed pressure not to appear from this same woman and the show duly aired. I was appalled that any such thing had been contemplated or attempted, especially by a woman's group doing the bidding of male party leadership. "Kapos in the republican sexism camps" as I called them earlier this year.

Franson's first term was rocky by her own admission, not that the party came to her aid in helping her navigate the pitfalls of being a public official. In fact, House leadership pressured her not to run again, push-polling in her district and her district only, pointedly suggesting that if she didn't run again a full time job could be found for her. Somehow I think the replacement for her wasn't going to be another woman, though I have no proof of that.

Franson won reelection by one vote; then by 12 after a recount. Lesson learned.

Franson's second term was demonstrably improved. She rose to the challenge of being a strong advocate on those issues of importance to her but without the missteps that could give her enemies, inside and outside the party, ammunition. She dressed, spoke and acted the part of a state legislator.

Yet this year she was challenged by a disgruntled far right activist in her own district for the endorsement. Saturday, after many ballots and a disturbing smear campaign (by Christians, naturally!), Mary Franson won the endorsement. Virtually everything that's wrong with the republican party of Minnesota can be found in that endorsement battle. For a change, the good guy won and the relief on Twitter was palpable. Franson's challenger hasn't said whether she'd abide by the endorsement. What schizophrenia?

Mary Franson embodies everything that the rest of us merely talk about: a citizen legislator. Before holding office, Mary was a daycare provider. Does it get any more authentic than that? Can we check our impulse to knife her in the back long enough to appreciate the personal virtues and integrity she demonstrates by overcoming adversity in life and succeeding? If she doesn't embody what we think we are all about, I submit no one does.

But she does. I'm proud to call Mary Franson my friend but even prouder to call her a republican member of the Minnesota legislature. Whether her horrid opponent challenges her in a primary or not, Mary could use every single dollar you can send her way. Please click here to do so.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Republicans' Endorsement Schizophrenia

Last weekend three republican congressional districts held their endorsing conventions. In CD 8 Stewart Mills was endorsed to run against current DFL Congressman Rick Nolan. By any measure this race will be one to watch as Mills could well defeat Nolan. In CD 5, Doug Daggett won the right to be flattened by the repulsive, ignorant and divisive DFL Congressman Keith Ellison. In CD 6, the establishment muscled through Tom Emmer as its endorsed candidate to succeed retiring Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. There's a certain symmetry here: both are unaccomplished, bombastic and exist primarily to advance themselves. Naturally they each have lots of toady followers.

The 6th CD is an interesting case, probably the premier one, of what I term a certain republican schizophrenia about the endorsement process. We're told, on the one hand, that the endorsement is almost sacred and must be abided by if one is to be deemed a good republican.

On the other hand, Mike McFadden, running for the US Senate, has made plain since day one that he will go to a primary if he does not get the endorsement. In fact, he hasn't made a serious play for the endorsement and everyone--correctly in my view--assumes his strategy has been to win the primary. He and his supporters suffer no adverse consequence for this heresy. Indeed, not to support him for the nomination, as I do not, is to be seen as the odd man out, needlessly contrarian or just wrong. That's fine but it doesn't address the underlying schizophrenia.

Tom Emmer will face Anoka County Commission Chair Rhonda Sivarajah and Phil Krinkie, former legislator and past head of the Taxpayers League, in the August primary. Krinkie refused to attend the endorsing convention, while Sivarajah went to tell the delegates and alternates why she both sought their endorsement and would run in the primary. Her speech is worth reading and can be done so by clicking here. Full disclosure: I wrote it but the thoughts and ideas are Rhonda's, as was the courage it took to go and make it in person.

Republicans in Minnesota have a problem when it comes to the endorsement. The problem isn't mine because I favor the primary system and so do a good many others. My friend Jeff Kolb, for example, shares my view (especially about moving forward any primary date from August to June) even though he's a supporter of McFadden. Jeff is running for the city council of Crystal and deserves widespread support. Please go here to donate and go here to read his blog. I didn't find his post in support in support of McFadden particularly persuasive but read him and make up your own mind. To be fair, he posted before McFadden called a press conference last week and committed seppuku. Kolb is one republican who isn't schizophrenic, however, and that's a plus in my book. We need more of them.

The delegates in CD 6 who endorsed Emmer and who feel offended, if not outraged, that others would run in the primary will doubtless, almost to a person, support McFadden in his primary run. They insist they aren't inconsistent but that's objectively untrue.

What I think is going on is a reluctance on the part of many, if not most, of these kind of republicans to admit the truth. In America's most tiresomely passive-aggressive state, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

The truth, however, needs to be said: in each instance these republicans are falling behind the establishment candidate.

Some on Twitter are too clever by half by asking just who is the establishment? Worse, some of them are among those who pretend we don't have a sexism problem in the republican party. Come to think of it, both forms of denial go hand in hand. No wonder we find ourselves in our current fix. We mock what scares us, what keeps us from being fully competitive with the democrats. Fortunately the blanket is big enough to accommodate the many pulling it over their heads.

I prefer the naked confession of going with the establishment guy (the establishment is rarely gal) instead of feigning respect for an endorsement process that has long outlived its usefulness and then abandoning it when convenient or because party peer pressure is too great to resist.

Republicans' inability to be honest about their endorsement schizophrenia is a stand-in for a multitude of other things we decline to face directly. If a party can't face itself, it can't face the voters. Which is another way of saying it's a party that has accommodated itself to losing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mike McFadden Embarrasses His Supporters

Remember: you're something of an idiot, or a political Neanderthal, if you're a republican in Minnesota and you haven't lined up behind, or been bought off by, Mike McFadden, the establishment candidate currently being forced upon us by Norm Coleman, his retread underlings, disgraced former Congressman turned lobbyist for the old Ukrainian government Vin Weber and the usual parasitical class which controls republican federal races in Minnesota.

Yesterday McFadden gave the second news conference of his ill-fated campaign, which resembled the famous train wreck at Montparnasse in Paris, above. I don't know how many fatalities were caused by that accident but any more performances like yesterday's and McFadden's campaign will flat line, to the extent it already hasn't. Listen to the audio for the first 5.30 minutes here and then switch to the YouTube video which captures the balance of the event here.

If his question and answer period could have gone worse, it's beyond my Irish powers of imagination. His prepared remarks focused on the shopworn trope of wasteful government spending. One should have expected such banality from the team that came up with his campaign tagline, a rip-off from A Better Minnesota of all groups, "Believe in Minnesota." Still, the essential nothingness of the topic is dismaying, displaying a poverty of political acumen and the campaign's essential directionless nature at the same time.

Al Franken is against government waste, for God's sake. Not even Phyllis Kahn would come out in support of it. How that issue is played makes all the difference. "Are food stamps government waste? Why does Mike McFadden want to starve people?" You can see the DFL jujitsu now. Apparently no one on Team McFadden does.

Wasteful government spending. Really? McFadden paid tribute to retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, whom he called a "servant leader." Servant leader is evangelical gobbledygook meaning he's one of them, the true believers. Non-fundamentalist Christians need not apply. Why is he using that code? Worse, is he even aware he is?

At any rate, McFadden thought it keen to pick up the "Wastebook" that Coburn was known for publishing. It worked for Coburn because he'd actually vote against republican leadership from time to time, something no one could ever see McFadden doing should he luck into the Senate. At this point, only Al Franken dying seems likely to accomplish that trick. Then, of course, the Coleman-lite candidate could eek out his win just like the original artifact: by beating a dead man. Once.

After talking for less than six minutes, in a vocal style that most resembled speaking while sleepwalking, the hapless McFadden opened up the press conference for questions. His public speaking style got worse but his substantive response should embarrass his supporters, who tend to be rather full of themselves while oblivious to that fact. Evasive, rote, repetitive and canned, the man behind the podium wasn't simply not ready for the Senate, he wasn't ready for his own press conference. He has only so many tapes to play before they start to loop.

Am I the only one who cares for the actual person of Mike McFadden? What I saw and heard was simply cruel to inflict on another human being. I hope Vin Weber's K Street connections pay off in spades for McFadden if he's our nominee, because he'll lose decisively but not before more, and even greater, humiliating performances.

McFadden failed to answer almost all questions put to him by local media. Surely one of his five figure staffers told him that there was an outside chance of questions being asked by media at a press conference? You know, the kind you call yourself, signaling to the world you're ready to answer them?

When asked about the alleged gender based wage gap (which even Slate has called "a lie") he somehow meandered into talking about the XL Keystone pipeline. This was a dissociative moment worthy of Mark Dayton. When asked if he'd have voted for or against the wage bill the Senate took up just the day before, he declined to answer, claiming it was the "wrong question." That bodes well for the general election, the debates especially. Readers owe it to themselves to see the video, linked to above, in order to appreciate just how disadvantaged McFadden will be face to face with Al Franken, an unfunny and not particularly likeable guy but who will win over viewers by sheer dint of a pulse.

Remember: this is your guy, Minnesota republicans. Even though there's still room on the lifeboats, the ship's crew is keeping you in your cabins at gunpoint. Or worse, you're happy to stay there of your own accord, years of training having done their trick. McFadden's performance should have embarrassed if not outright shamed you. No amount of money can make up for what was, and wasn't, on public display yesterday.

McFadden also whiffed on questions concerning, beside the minimum wage, the personhood amendment (why is that even being discussed?) and Minnesota's disastrous Obamacare implementing exchange MnSure (how hard is that?). A neutral observer was left mystified as to why the campaign would call such a press conference in the first place. A republican hoping to defeat Al Franken was left knowing this guy could never do it. Republicans will continue to fool themselves for a bit longer, though, with the pixy dust of money. It won't work but the parasitical ones will have made their money regardless and will be off to other races, descending like hungry political locusts. Or staying right here, where they always feast regardless of our election night famines.

McFadden's supporters should be most offended by what he offered in lieu of substance: the ridiculous idea that voters will know his "philosophy" and that that will be good enough. What is this campaign? An Andy Kaufman-like exercise to test the political audience's toleration of being profoundly insulted before throwing chairs at the stage? Do my fellow republicans think so little of themselves that they think this is acceptable and hence say nothing? It would appear so.

MPR's Mark Zdechlik quotes the cipher candidate as saying:

"What I think is really important with politicians and leaders [is] you understand their overriding philosophies--how do they make decisions?" said McFadden. "And so I've been very specific in this campaign as to how I make decisions."

No, no you haven't, sir, and I've been paying attention, forcing myself at times. Unless taking a call from Norm or Vin constitutes making a decision and then you might be onto something. But that's not what republicans--or voters in general--in Minnesota are looking for, nor is it a plausible way to win; insulting the intelligence of the voters usually isn't.

What we saw yesterday was a man with no presence, no convictions, no style, no sense of purpose.

Nowhere man. But I repeat myself.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The McFadden Borg Becomes Self Aware

Last Friday Mike McFadden, the hand picked establishment candidate for the republican nomination to run against Al Franken this fall, surprised just about everyone by doing something he hadn't done often: showed up for a public republican senate forum.

I met McFadden for the first time at my senate district convention a week ago Saturday. I found him cordial, professional and personally self-possessed. There's not a lot of professionals left in any field but he's clearly one. I wanted to hire him immediately and I had no idea for what; just hire him. Preferably using someone else's money. This is his métier.

I called him a gentleman on Twitter and hoped that it wasn't so old school of me in using that term that people wouldn't get it. I meant it and my concerns have never been personal. He gave a fine speech before the delegates and then departed with his entourage, who went out of their way not to speak with me. Those types actually go far in Minnesota republican politics. Where do you think the current generation came from?

After Mike walked away, I thought: why have they been keeping this guy under wraps? He may not be a natural candidate but he struck me as eminently coachable and everyone running for office can benefit from proper coaching, especially one who has never run before. He could be good retail but that was never why he was picked in the first instance.

Elect the selected. ™ Jack and Annette need to deliver. No, you don't get a cut of the proceeds.

At any rate, McFadden showed for the republican CD 7 senatorial forum, held in Willmar on Friday evening, the night before its convention on Saturday. He had previously said he would not be attending, hence doing the right thing came as a surprise. You'd think this would be a natural inflection point for self reflection as to how his campaign had been programmed to date but you would be wrong.

The first question to the candidates was whether they would abide by the party endorsement. Apparently the buzz was literal in the room when McFadden said he would not. I'm not sure why this news is just reaching fellow republicans in CD 7 but there you have it; the assembled republicans were not amused. Twin Cities Metro Republicans™ twist themselves into incoherent knots attempting to make the case that the party establishment should wholly fall in behind the candidate who never once considered abiding by its imprimatur, while excoriating, for example, anyone who would do the same in the race to replace Michele Bachmann. None of them are looking particularly principled.

It must be said, though, they don't seem to mind!

CD 3 republicans also had their convention last Saturday and all the senate candidates showed up to appeal to them. State Sen. Julianne Ortman won the straw poll with over 40% of the vote. She's won every one of them to date. The anger this elicits from the old boys' network is barely concealed; at every turn they prove my case but without knowing it. Please, do continue.

I could be wrong but I think I understand the McFadden team's calculus: metrics such as straw polls are beside the point because winning a primary requires a different strategy altogether.

It can. It might. It doesn't have to.

I thought McFadden would have won that straw poll in a romp because CD 3 is filled with the types who enjoy not thinking for themselves as a sign of their political savvy. That he came in a distant second should sound warning bells to the newly self-aware borg but perhaps they haven't quite gotten the hang of things yet. It should pay attention because the results may foreshadow something ominous:

Is McFadden losing the primary by degrees even before the endorsing convention is a thing of the past?

Can carpet bombing hapless republican primary voters with direct mail pieces, likely to be as unsubstantial as the campaign run thus far, or pestering television viewers with ads cut from the same "green shirt" video, do the trick? Remember, that's the sophisticated thinking: money is pretty much everything in the race to compete against Franken.

To disagree with that premise isn't to say that money is unimportant, although that's frequently the response I get from "tell me what to do" republicans activists and pundits when the point is made.

Yet despite, not because of, all the money raised and spent to date, with promises of oceans more in the general election, the dogfood is not being eaten. If they don't eat it in the 3rd CD you might want to ask yourself if there's a larger problem with your overall strategy. The lazy assumption, widely shared I must disappointingly confess, is McFadden wins the primary easily over Dahlberg or Ortman because Minnesota republican primary voters are simply amoeba who respond predictably to changes in their petri dish.

Maybe he will but where's the evidence that remote forms of contact with voters will get them to support the guy whose team made it a point never to let them get to know in the first place? Who most of the time refused to let him show up and then crowed with self-congratulation when they did last weekend? Genius never looked so dense.

In my estimation, Minnesota republicans want an authentic fighter who will champion their values and policy positions but in a way that is inclusive and welcoming. None of them think it will be easy to defeat Franken but all of them think it's quite possible. I agree.

In order to do so, however, they have to have some connection with the candidate who is asking for their support. Tomorrow is the beginning of April, an awfully late date for those in charge of McFadden's campaign to realize the human element is always central in any race.

Team McFadden might be waking up just in time to catch the end of their own movie.