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.

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