Saturday, December 17, 2011

RPM: Crawling Out Of The Wreckage

Yesterday, December 16, 2011, was unlike any other day in recent Minnesota political history. One bombshell story after another fell upon the Republican Party of Minnesota in a manner that left everyone--left, right, center, media, bloggers, the Twitterverse--stunned and reeling. One could hardly keep up with the serial catastrophes that befell the party. Things got so bad that even avowed enemies of conservatism sent MC DM's of condolence. Even boxers stop punching after the other guy is down for the count.

The day before, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch abruptly resigned her leadership post and said she would not run for reelection to her seat. The insultingly usual bromides were given as the reason. She said she wanted to spend more time with her family. Eyes were promptly gouged out. But what could one do? The $64,000 question was why and no one had the answer. Or, at least at that point, was willing to say.

Welcome to yesterday. It started with a shock by news that the hapless Brandon Sawalich was preposterously arrested on charges of his vehicle's license tabs being expired at the Mpls/St. Paul Airport. The campaigner in chief did not yet have time to wade in with his usual intellectual shallowness and declare: "The police acted stupidly." There was no need: even Minnesotans could figure this one out on their own.

Eventually the charges against Sawalich were reduced, appropriately, from a gross misdemeanor to a petty one. Having announced con brio on the preceding Monday that he was the leader ready to take the Republican Party of Minnesota out of it financial doldrums, he folded under very weak adversity which he could not apparently outsource. The lack of any discernible leadership skills was disturbing. Not everything in life is handed to one, a lesson Sawalich seemed incapable of grasping. The real reason for weakness came soon enough.

The AP reported that he settled a sexual harassment claim brought by a subordinate in 2003. It further reported that Sawalich had not replied to its inquiries before he withdrew from the race for Chair of the RPM. MC is a friend and ally of Sawalich; twice it supported him for Chair of the RPM before, twice, he withdrew before truly beginning. It would seem that his heart is just not in it sufficient to the fight in which republicans find themselves. Political observers seem unanimous that his political career in Minnesota is now conclusively over. This does not mean, however, that he cannot bring high donors back to the party and MC urges him to do so. There are many ways to serve and the stakes are high. Elected leadership may now be beyond his grasp but Brandon Sawalich has no shortage of other avenues in which to lead. Here's hoping he does for his party needs him.

The Lynchian tale of being arrested for stale car tabs was quickly surpassed by news that Senate Majority leader Amy Koch had been confronted by her ersatz peers with allegations of indiscretions with an immediate subordinate on staff. She neither admitted nor denied the allegations and her resignation from leadership came shortly thereafter.

Later in the day it was announced that Michael Brodkorb (former deputy-chair of the RPM) was no longer employed by the Senate Caucus. By this time the party establishment, elected or otherwise, was reeling. Twitter burst into flames; text messaging reached overload proportions and people went from one urgent phone call to another. Scraps of information were passed around like cheap wine.

Then, as if to mock sanity, four lumbering senators, full to overflowing with themselves, held the Hindenburg of press conferences. Sens. David Hann, Geoff Michel, David Senjem and Chris Gerlach decided that a press conference of apparently endless proportions would be the best response to the unfolding calamities. Michel spoke and far too much. All the men sounded like Rush Limbaugh's new castrati and the local premiere female conservative radio talk show host Sue Jeffers acidly noted today the lack of inspiration, push-back or general strength. Instead it was all hang dog and maybe the press will not flay us overly much. Please like us!

In real time, however, activists on Twitter were losing their minds. The press conference was being tweeted by press and their tweets fell like lashes as inane and tone deaf comments were made by the eunuchs. Readers were treated to tweets like: "Michel confirms the staffer with whom Koch had improper relations was male." Well thank God for that, no need to fear a lesbian fling or beastiality. Small victories while the RPM was being bulldozed by these idiotic senators.

Before the Hindenburg presser was finished, however, word came that Sen. Parry, for whom Brodkorb worked as a volunteer, was going to have his own press conference shortly after the conclusion of the ongoing one. By now normally rational republicans found themselves barking mad. Commitment proceedings were avoided only because Sen. Parry himself canceled the unwise press conference.

Thus the day ended, leaving observers of all stripes on stun and exhausted. The press itself was exhausted simply from attempting to competently cover the amazing stories that broke in eight hours or so. GOP activists spoke of taking cabs and hoisting multiple glasses to the late Christopher Hitchens or having their own private melt downs at home.

Today has been quiet although MC was reduced to tears when receiving a phone call in the middle of Costco detailing the human cost of these events. There's nothing quite like crying in public, is there?

The way forward is straight forward. The wounded must be tended to, with simple basic human decency. The selection of the RPM Chair takes on even more importance although everyone seems to be looking for a magic bullet of a candidate. That candidate doesn't exist. Senate leadership has much to account for; misdirection won't work this time. Expect more on this in the near future.

Once the upcoming State Central Committee meeting on December 31st is behind it, the Party must focus on money, messaging, recruiting quality candidates and retaining the majorities it now has in both the House and the Senate. As everybody knows, however, the future is unwritten.

UPDATE: This post has been changed since first published to reflect the fact that Senator Robling was never present at the Hindenburg press conference but rather Senator David Senjem. So, uh, no women were present other than Koch when the men went to speak to her. Got it. Kind thanks to Paul Demko of Politics in Minnesota for pointing out the error.


Tommy Johnson said...

Somehow, once the December 31st State Central Committee is over, it'll hardly be behind it. The financial mismanagement of the State GOP has been growing ever since The Tostenson Memo first surfaced years ago. While the FEC has rendered judgement with a near-record $170,000 fine, the other allegations raised haven't been looked at - yet.

In the years since The Tostenson Memo came to light, talk is that Party Officials hardly had an epiphany. If only half of what is being talked about is true, it makes pre-Tostenson activities look like Choir Boy antics.

Smart money should bet that the current crew "investigating" internally does what internal investigations usually do: sweep it under the rug, where it will only continue to fester. Does Michael Toner ring a bell? Anyone? Anyone?

Oh - and the ol' "move along, move along; nothing to see here!" charade will provide plenty of fodder for 2012's electoral season!

Personally, I hope that's exactly what happens. It will be fun to have a DFL Governor with DFL majorities in the House and Senate. What Republicans loved in Wisconsin in 2011, they'll loath in Minnesota in 2013.

So go ahead and cover it up, guys - it's the GOP's SOP.

Anonymous said...


You usually are the Strib's reliable source when it looks for quote from a GOP activist who wants to slam the GOP. You were, however, missing as a source in today's (Sunday) Strib article about the GOP turmoil. Was your cell phone turned off at Costco when the Strib called?