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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jason Lewis: The Establishment Strikes Back

Jason Lewis is a former long time radio talk show host in the Twin Cities currently running in Minnesota's Second Congressional District to replace the retiring Rep. John Kline (R). Lewis comes from the libertarian wing of the republican party although his ideas are broader than that or any other single political label. He knows his own mind & is good on his feet. He speaks easily and knowledgeably on politics, economics, culture, law and history. This both sets him apart from most republican candidates as well as makes him the frontrunner by any measure.

He has three other competitors in the race for the endorsement but the main one, business woman Darlene Miller, has said she will not abide by it but will compete in the primary. This is what a candidate manufactured by a desperate establishment does.

Miller's campaign is staffed largely with Kline people and her first forays into the public arena have been painful and clumsy. She had to be dragged into the race by the establishment and it shows at every turn.

Clearly she's a candidate of necessity for the donor class. She has money but zero political ability. Think Chamber of Commerce. Think Jeb Bush. Please clap.

Miller will easily lose in the general election to far left DFL candidate Angie Craig but the right people will make money as she does so. This explains most of Minnesota republican politics.

A week out from the March 1st republican caucus, the Star Tribune hilariously ran several hit pieces that it thought would damage Lewis by taking comments made on air and in his 2011 book, which is a sustained argument about how the federal government must enforce civil rights, grossly out of context.

The hit mob seriously expects voters in CD 2 to believe that Lewis countenances slavery or that twenty something women shouldn't vote. These sorts of hyper-manufactured attacks simply don't work anymore. A rump Twitter group echoes them, claiming that "one word destroys campaigns." They don't possess the self-awareness to be embarrassed for themselves.

Several serious issues, however, have been generated by this bought and paid for establishment hit.

The Star Tribune Investigates

The Star Tribune has a mixed reputation at best in Minnesota. I know most of its political reporters in some way, often being sought out for background. Most reporters are decent people trying to do their job although the more honest ones freely admit the demonstrable leftwing-bias that infuses the newspaper at every level. 

Still, the paper tries to adhere to the minimum of so called journalistic ethics and standards, if for no other reason than marginal self-respect. Consequently, the breathless hit piece that said Lewis replied "it's kinda of hard to say" when asked whether the civil war was worth fighting for, is shown to be rank dishonesty. 

Here's the full exchange:

"TheDC: Well so do you think that the Civil War was a war worth fighting?

JL: Well there are those who advocated, at the time, for emancipated compensation. And that was the idea — and this had happened in other countries across that globe — where, “alright, we want to eradicate slavery, it’s a horrific institution, nobody disputes that, but, do we really wanna shed six hundred thousand lives in America?” So the idea was, let’s pay the Southern slave owners money to give up the slaves, and they would end the institution, and that would be it. Now, people say, “that’s a little bit odious, you’re paying people to do the right thing.” Well is it really more odious than six hundred thousand lives? Lincoln actually presented it to his cabinet late in the war, but they rejected it, and Lincoln had the opportunity to go, move forward on it earlier in the war, but he never did, so it’s kinda hard to say. As I said, it was a bit of a Hobson’s choice for Lincoln, he didn’t want to be the president to preside over the breaking up of the union."

To the question above, the Star Tribune only quoted as Lewis' answer: "so it's kind of hard to say."

If you argue this wasn't intentionally malicious, you have a heavy burden of proof.

This deliberate misrepresentation by the Star Tribune was brought to its attention by John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D., President, Crime Prevention Research Center who wrote the introduction to Lewis' book.

No less than Dennis J. McGrath, Star Tribune Deputy Digital Editor, thanked Mr. Lott for pointing this out on February 22nd, saying "Thanks, John.  This is helpful.  I’ll look into it and get back to you."

As Special Correspondent to Minnesota Conservatives, I will keep readers posted as to the course of the investigation into this disturbing unethical matter. We can only hope the Star Tribune issues a correction and an apology so that it salvages what's left of its journalistic integrity.

MNGOP Deputy Chair Chris Fields & NRCC Collusion

Rank and file republicans were shocked when they read comments by Chris Fields that gratuitously piled on the false and sleazy Jason Lewis hit job currently under investigation by Star Tribune management. His comments violated clear rules and bylaws that forbid state officers from speaking for or against any candidate pre-endorsement. 

What I have learned, however, is that Fields has been attempting to coordinate with the National Republican Congressional Campaign, the entity that attempts to increase republican membership in the U.S. House of Representatives. The NRCC is a tool of the establishment which advances the interests of its donors while steadfastly ignoring concerns of its citizen base. It supports Kline's handpicked candidate Darlene Miller while strongly opposing the change agent Jason Lewis.

My understanding is that the NRCC would support Chris Fields in his hopeless attempt to become the next Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, going so far as to arranging funds that would eliminate most or all of the party's debt. Fields would be a wholly owned tool of the NRCC in exchange. His comments to the invented Star Tribune story was part of this arrangement. 

The backlash to his comments has been swift and severe. Fields would likely never have succeeded to Chair given how poorly he's viewed by the base, from what I'm told. Now, however, that path seems likely foreclosed for good. 

Darlene Miller's Crony Capitalism

Miller is "CEO and president of Permac Industries, a Burnsville precision parts manufacturing company that received federal stimulus funds under President Obama and took advantage of tax incentives under President George W. Bush," reports Maya Rao of the Star Tribune. 

Establishment candidates are precisely like this: sucking on the government teet while telling their want to be base that they are on their side. Miller isn't just inauthentic, she's a certifiable fraud. 

There's no evidence that Miller was interested in politics before being recruited by GOPe. In Rao's story, she hid from the reporter's questions, sending out her campaign manager instead (full disclosure: a friend of mine, a good guy). 

A strong, confident candidate would be at ease with questions, not hiding from them. Now, eat the dog food. 


The establishment has done its best to try to damage Lewis but, like all things inauthentic in this age of Trump, it has failed miserably. CD 2 voters, like all voters, simply are not stupid no matter how much Lewis' opponents and detractors might want them to be. The idea that he is retrograde, bigoted, or backward is simply, to use an expression from my friends in the South, a dog that won't hunt.

He responded forcefully in a piece published yesterday and pretty much put an end to this silliness. His response can be read by clicking here. This story is over but surely, look for more. Dog, hunt.

The world is on fire, America is in decline as a matter of choice, the middle class is being decimated, wars abroad have been proven demonstrable follies and Minnesota CD2 establishment republicans and their dishonest media allies continue to care only about feathering their own nests.

No wonder Lewis threatens them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Rubio Campaign Comes To Minnesota

Marco Rubio is now the Republican establishment candidate this cycle now that Jeb Bush had dropped out. As befits a political season in which no one knows anything, polling taken after Jeb's exit showed Donald Trump gaining strength as some of the former's supporters went to the latter, against all intuition.

Rubio was permanently damaged in the New Hampshire primary debate when he was shown by Gov. Chris Christie to be a shallow, brittle, robotic candidate who is highly scripted and trotted out only in carefully controlled environments. He has one stale stump speech which he delivers as his handlers and bundlers move him about the country like a Stepford candidate before Stepford audiences.

It was to see firsthand this unimpressive performance that brought more than a thousand people to downtown Minneapolis late yesterday afternoon. Crowd estimates were as high as 1600 though there was some dispute as to the real numbers. By any estimation, however, it was a very good sized crowd for a candidate who came in third in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and barely second in South Carolina. He was in Minnesota the day of the Nevada caucus and moved on from here to Michigan, actually saying "Goodbye Michigan" at the end of his performance instead of Minnesota.

I followed along on Twitter which increasingly is better than real life, except for the penchant of its owners and management to persecute conservatives and conservative ideas on that troubled platform.

The entire event seemed like some sort of elaborate ritual which no longer had any power or meaning but which went on regardless because the production company no longer had any idea what to put on stage and the audience had an inability to desire anything different from that which had come before.

In short, more cowbell in an election cycle in which cowbells were thrown out the window, beginning June 16, 2015.

No matter, this is Minnesota republicans, who haven't managed to win a statewide race in more than decade. Like the incompetence of the consultant class nationally, state republicans, activists and vendors care demonstrably more for making money than for any given candidate to actually win.

To get a sense of just how marooned the Minnesota republican establishment has become, look at this interview between Neil Cavuto and Saudi Arabian lobbyist and former Senator Norm Coleman. The reason proffered to vote for Rubio is that he isn't Trump. Neither is Ted Cruz so what's the case for Marco? Coleman trots out the usual reasons but none are persuasive, either individually or cumulatively. You can watch that video by clicking here.

* * * *

I saw some tweets during the Rubio rally with the hashtag "grow the party." Well one candidate is doing this in ways unimaginable until just recently and that candidate isn't the donors' choice Rubio. When I saw pictures of the event there didn't seem to be many minorities so what exactly was being grown remained unknown to me. One progressive asked on Twitter if Rubio made any mention of the Iron Range to which I replied that those uploads hadn't been installed yet.

The Rubio campaign is a last ditch effort to return things to the status quo before Trump announced and changed the political landscape of America forever. It's not possible to do that, of course, but those who made good livings off of not being very good, but instead connected, aren't willing to see the corrupt system that supported them die off without a fight. 

One of the animating issues in this presidential race is illegal immigration and its disastrous effects on our nation. Without Trump in the race the subject would never have gotten the attention and traction that it has. Republican donors want cheap labor at any cost and democrats want uneducated, unskilled voters dependent on government largesse. It's an unholy alliance that's ruining our country without the consent of the governed, the chief republican proponent of which was Marco Rubio. 

Because I was not following his speech in real time online, I asked a reporter from the Star Tribune if Rubio had addressed immigration whatsoever in his remarks. The reply I received: no. There you have it. Or rather, don't.

It's emblematic of Minnesota republicans to crowd behind a candidate who has no clear path to the nomination, who cannot name a single state he will win in next Tuesday's Super Tuesday primary and where he leads the polling in exactly none of the states that will vote. This, this is the political acumen of Minnesota republicans who in the last presidential caucus went with that winner Rick Santorum. 

The Minnesota Marco rally was surreal because it took place as though the old order wasn't under assault and failing badly, as though Trump hadn't thoroughly upended politics in ways never seen before and as though the Rubio campaign didn't need to adjust in any meaningful way. Another word for this is denial. The dog food is served. Eat the damn dog food. 

The scene was so out of touch with reality that at one point I tweeted it reminded me of the Russian Provisional Government following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, only not when it first was formed but instead in September, 1917.