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.

No comments: