Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tom Emmer Goes To Washington

Tom Emmer has long been a Rorschach test for Minnesota republicans: one saw in him what they wanted. Or, in my case, didn't. Now, however, his reach having certifiably exceeded his grasp, it is less easy to make of him what one wants, what one prefers, what one wishes. This is because Tom Emmer is now Congressman Emmer and even in that less than honorable chamber, one can't escape the consequences of one's behavior, here defined as voting.

I've watched with detached bemusement over the last several months the reaction in Minnesota to how Emmer has voted since becoming a freshman member of Congress in January of this year. Real time blogging interests me less and less in this age of Twitter & Periscope. Paradoxically, after a bit of time passes, blogging about something can have real value.

It takes a certain form of sophisticated naivete, together with a failure to have carefully observed his behavior before entering Congress, to think that Emmer would not vote for John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Yet many in Emmer's district, Minnesota's Sixth, famously--or infamously--represented previously by Michele Bachmann, were distraught that he did just that. To expect that a freshman member of Congress would, right out of the starting gate, castrate himself politically is absurd. Emmer cast the only vote that he could and one I fully understand. The critics of this vote want him to be both effective and a bomb thrower. The former is a matter of opinion while the latter role precludes any realized expression of it.

However, it is Emmer's subsequent vote, along with a distinct minority of fellow House republicans, to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security, and thereby not attempt to withhold funding of President Obama's illicit amnesty, that caused him real grief, both in and out of his district. Together with the Boehner vote this had made Emmer natives restless indeed.

Yet to focus on that angle is to miss the story, at least in my view. Naturally, local media focused on that angle.

It's true, of course, that this vote was highly unpopular with many in the Sixth. The Tea Party in Minnesota, which really doesn't exist truth be told, was in high dudgeon. Left or right, is there anything more tedious than people in high dudgeon? I confess to outrage fatigue.

Emmer's vote was amplified by his critics when he abandoned a previous commitment to appear at a local political convention, heavily attended by ersatz Tea Party members. Avoiding being held accountable by constituents was the tag assigned to the story and local media dutifully reported it as such, in keeping with their pledge not to tell you anything you either didn't already know or pretending it was the real story when it was anything but.

When a conservative white male, who heretofore has never talked about civil rights in his long public life, plays the Selma card, a certain admiration is due, despite simultaneous revulsion. And play the Selma card is precisely what Tom Emmer did in order to get out of the pre-existing commitment. Are you going to criticize his attendance at the Selma remembrance? No, bullet proof.

There is some dispute as to whether the local political convention was or was not on the Congressman's schedule. Again, this is beside the point.

Emmer, along with his chiefs of staff David Fitzsimmons & Sarah Walker, knows full well that he has to go back to his district and talk about his voting record, something which usually doesn't happen this early in a freshman's career. But there it is and activists in the Sixth had better get used to it.


Because Congressman Emmer was already predisposed to take the easy path, the one of least resistance and the one which can, and likely will, advance his interests on Capitol Hill.

David Strom has a reasoned piece about this at True North, where it originally appeared in Politics in Minnesota. It can be read by clicking here.

In it, Strom makes the case for Emmer no longer being an avatar of the activist base that got him into Congress but, instead, coming into his own as a legislator. It's a view worth considering. In a constitutional republic, the tension between representing and leading always exists.

Yet Emmer previously and eagerly took money to shill for the National Popular Vote initiative which would eviscerate the Electoral College. Pro-choice republicans have infinitely more credibility than these paid flacks. I'm one of the last to insist on litmus tests yet NPV surely must compel all decent republicans to repudiate those on our side who have taken cash to sell out our most essential principles. What else is left, if not this? "Oh, I don't know," I hear Jack & Annette Meeks say. Therein lies our problem.

In a similar vein, I took David Fitzsimmons to task some time ago when he ran as one thing and voted as another. He then blamed his constituents for not understanding whiplash when he lost the republican endorsement. Please. I admire Fitz, as people call him, because I admire successful people. Yet my sources tell me Emmer's DC office is run unprofessionally, causing him to be thought of less by other Members of Congress. This is something that should be corrected.

Despite the desperate veneer of culture, cool and camp that liberal elites insist exists in the Twin Cities, once outside of Minnesota the state is seen as a higher level of hicks but hicks nonetheless. No need for a sloppily run office to reinforce that notion in DC.

What won't be corrected is Tom Emmer becoming ever more a happy and willing participate in the DC republican establishment. I'm half surprised he hasn't already endorsed Jeb Bush. To be fair, Emmer joins the equally undistinguished John Kline and Eric Paulsen in thriving in that establishment.

Which brings us back to who really controls Minnesota republican politics: those moral cancers Vin Weber & Norm Coleman. The former is a lobbyist for Gazprom & the latter for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Whatever your definition of political whores is, they fit the bill.

Until the republican base understands those who really call the shots, with their enormous reservoirs of cash and influence, they will continue to be played by the likes of Tom Emmer. On a fundamental level, they deserve it.

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