Friday, June 28, 2013

MN Republican Party As The Bourbon Restoration

Tallyrand famously said of the Bourbon restoration that they learned nothing and forgot nothing. This classic description of fatal failure put me in mind of the Republican Party of Minnesota. After the roughly 18 month interim term as Chair by Pat Shortridge, we now have a full complement of party officers elected in the normal course of state central committee meetings. The early assessment of their performance is distressing.

Let's stipulate, first, that the bar is low for this evaluation. Everyone knows the trouble the party qua party has been in for some time. Yet the concerns I have don't focus on the usual problems: party debt and how to retire it, an actual function for the party given its abysmal record in statewide races and a last gasp attempt at making the endorsement worth the effort.

No, the trouble is that new leadership is off to a wrong start. Chair Keith Downey had an impressive dog & pony powerpoint presentation in the run up to his election. It can be reduced to the cold fact that republicans were out manned, out gunned and out financed at every turn last cycle, which came after a rather crushing defeat for the DFL in the 2010 election. I saw an impressive amount of data and nomenclature but no real understanding as to why republicans lost house and senate majorities in the shortest time possible. Except for that old, you know, didn't get the most votes thing. Isn't that why we're still in business? To win?

Downey rightly focuses on identifying republican voters, something as embarrassingly basic politically as indoor plumbing. But indoor plumb we must so I was encouraged by his unvarnished, unsentimental focus on that need.

Regrettably, he is directing approximately $100,000 of party money (no one I know seems to know the source for it) to the Civis Group, run by Mike Scholl, who is best known as Bob Cummins' gatekeeper and all around lackey. Cummins founded the Freedom Club and was instrumental in destroying the republican brand last fall through his pet project the marriage amendment ballot initiative. Cummins also started Civis Group so all current party roads lead to Bob. Right.

The Freedom Club wasted an enormous amount of money on Keith Downey's race for Minnesota state senate. Downey ran a poor campaign. Downey lost. The Freedom Club is dangerous precisely because it doesn't realize it is.

Is directing one hundred thousand dollars to Civis a manner of paying back the favor? Could well be and could be no big deal because things like this happen in party politics.

I understand, though, that Civis Group will keep all of the data for which the party is paying it to collect. Why should that happen? Such a condition should never have been agreed to and the contract should be modified at once.

Worse, the Civis Group is advising both the Emmer for Congress campaign as well as the Thompson for Governor campaign. How can a conflict of interest this obvious not be apparent to Downey? If Civis wants to corner the market on angry, white, male, out of touch republican has beens, fine. It should not be given party business as a simple matter of fairness & integrity for those other republicans running in those races. One wonders, in passing, who has provided what fake jobs to Emmer & Thompson with which to support themselves while they run for office.

Beyond sucking up to his benefactors, Downey has hired Bill Walsh as communications director. Walsh's record is one of abject failure in that very position but he's Keith's friend and so he got the job. Is my Bourbon restoration analogy making more sense now? After his shilling for Kurt Bills, I didn't think Downey's judgment could get worse.

On Tuesday of this week DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was an Uncle Thomas. Calamity ensued and Winkler became a national story.

Where were Keith & Bill? Nowhere, apparently, as they couldn't even generate a press release on the matter, let alone pull together a press conference. This is simply unforgivable. The next day Downey sent out a badly written email rightly bemoaning the loss of 150 jobs in Minnesota. The idea, however, that both that email and something on the day of an exploding national story involving a rising DFL star couldn't both happen is ludicrous and pathetic. There was no excuse for missing such a rare opportunity.

Yesterday Downey published a quintessential Pollyanna op-ed in the Pioneer Press. You can read it by clicking here. Stamping his feet he decried name calling, and, tightly pursing his lips, demanded the DFL and affiliated groups cease their extremely well oiled, effective messaging machine. Because that's all it takes, you know: some half baked whining about a superior message machine and clucking about the by-now-embedded-in-our-political-culture Alinsky principles of political warfare.

As if this wasn't enough, MN GOP Secretary Chris Fields weighed in on Twitter that Tuesday of Winkler's self-immolation but only to squander the opportunity and make a hash of things. Fields tweeted that if Justice Thomas is seen as Uncle Thomas by Winkler then that must make Winkler poor white trash. I'm starting to think MN GOP personnel may be DFL plants.

Deputy Chair Kelly Fenton continued to demonstrate her lack of leadership with which she is synonymous by doing or saying nothing about the national Winkler story. No, tweeting doesn't count because, remember?, it started there? Yep! Then, you know, scooted out the door into national media pronto, 'member? That's where you and the rest of the party didn't chase the story. That's right: a national story you guys let go. Is anyone awake at headquarters?

Local media were more shameless than normal in their grotesquely sympathetic coverage of Winkler, the DFL's Eddie Haskell. They essentially took his dictation and left it at that. No questions from these poodles. The mind runs riot when thinking of their "coverage" had the political shoe been on the right foot. Everyone reading this knows I'm correct in that regard.

And yet--that damn yet!--who was going to call out media coverage when the Republican Party of Minnesota itself was dead to that story, itself failed to capitalize on it and, instead of doing anything effective, itself wrote juvenile & useless op-eds, wanting to be rewarded for it?

All anyone has to do to know what's wrong with the Republican Party of Minnesota is to simply look at it.

Image: Coat of Arms of the Bourbon Restoration


Steve said...

This is a better than average rant, John. I agree especially with the remarks about Keith Downey. The RPM should have picked somebody dynamic, like Matt Dean.

Anonymous said...

@Steve. Matt Dean dynamic? Surely you jest? As for the gist of this "rant", this should have been expected by all when the bobbleheads who have sat on the Executive Committee of the State Party have steadfastly refused to examine, truly examine as in a forensic audit, the behaviors of the past and expose those practices to the donors. Thus "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Jason Kocina said...

My experiences as of yet have been fine with the state party leadership. It would be a mistake to put all your faith in the state party or its chair. It is not supposed to be that strong. Strong local parties are much more important not just for local races but also for state wide races. Local parties can lead by example and successes can be duplicated. We need to come to an understanding that righting this ship is not going to happen top down.

Anonymous said...

I would worry too much about the data collected and retained by the Civis Group. Most consultants will keep it anyways. Not to mention the fact that voter data is perishable. It deteriorates in with every passing day. It might be useful for one election cycle.. two tops.

What people should be focused on is the quality of work. And the data should audited constantly to make sure that it's accurate and useful.

MikeWBL said...

Thanks John for informing us that Kurt Zellers and Matt Dean destroyed the RPM by selling out to Bob Cummins. I wondered who was the idiot behind the idiotic & self destructing Marriage Amendment.

BTW, Matt Dean is only dynamic if his wife tells him to be...