Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tom Emmer And The Politics of Betrayal

Like Norm Coleman, Tom Emmer has long been a politician whose position on any given issue of the day was available for purchase. Oddly, this is at bottom a neutral observation and is certainly applicable to any number of Minnesota democrat politicians. I'm not a democrat, however.

Since becoming a member of Congress--just this year but why does it seem longer?--Emmer has moved to ingratiate himself to the Republican House Congressional establishment with a speed that would impress Cardinal Richelieu. This caused some initial consternation amongst his supporters who, mystifyingly, thought him to be a man of principle despite ample evidence to the contrary. As a friend of mine remarked to me, look at what he said, and then at how he voted, when he was in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The past really is prologue.

Recently, however, Emmer has come under more sustained criticism for his cavalier and arrogant approach toward his constituents, whom, it must be said, he appears to hold in contempt. Why this is, frankly, is anyone's guess. My guess, my Occam's razor, is a guilty conscience. Feel free to hazard your own.

What has recently brought all of the discontent to something of a boil, however, is an unsigned editorial, for lack of a better word, from Alpha News, a recently launched conservative news outlet. Some have said that they don't like it because it might be a creation of Bob Cummins and lacks transparency. I don't know, nor particularly care, about either point. A new communications outlet on behalf of the right in Minnesota should be generally welcome. Of course, many of these same complainers will insist that ours needs to be a big tent party; the contradiction never occurs to them. This isn't to say, naturally, that Alpha News should be beyond criticism.

Its recent, attention-getting editorial constitutes a decent litany of the complaints and dissatisfactions of much of the activist base in Emmer's Sixth Congressional District. It can be, and should be, read by clicking here. Another friend pointed out to me the less than persuasive use of turnout numbers employed in the piece, and shared his opinion that Alpha News itself appears to be closely aligned with the Tea Party, which term has no meaning to me in Minnesota. On that point, however, I realize I'm in a minority.

Emmer stands accused of abandoning most of his conservative principles and rapidly. This can hardly be denied though others deflect to trivial issues in order to avoid that discussion. I've already expressed my thoughts in "Tom Emmer Goes To Washington" which can be read here. The Alpha News editorial is not substantially different although it contains more examples of Emmer's political betrayals. I'm struck by how many activists somehow don't think that his voters are entitled to feel resentment at this obvious bait and switch. Why on earth not?

On Twitter last night there was a fair amount of pearl clutching that Alpha News mentioned Emmer's chief of staff and his tiresomely liberal girlfriend. Seriously, we now have republican snowflakes? I thought we got those only amongst the repulsive social justice warriors on the left. I previously referred to this couple as Emmer's Chiefs of Staff and functionally they are. Additionally, the relationship is flaunted and traded on, so this is hardly some sort of invasion of privacy. There's absolutely nothing wrong in remarking on it, given that none of the comments I've made, or seen made by others, are ad hominem. People are looking to see who is influencing Emmer. This is called normal.

Last year I helped my friend Sheila Kihne run for the republican endorsement against Jenifer Loon, an out of touch liberal republican in the Minnesota House. Kihne and her supporters were roundly castigated for having the nerve to challenge an incumbent. I called this brain dead group think "Loonism," standing for the proposition that once a republican is elected, peon voters and pain in the ass activists had better just shut up and eat the dog food, no matter how objectionable the voting record of that incumbent. Staffers think this way because they're paid not to think but the rest of us rightly reject the premise of Loonism.

So too here with Tom Emmer the objection is made to the very act of criticism, the substance of the criticism being ignored, deflected or explained away mendaciously. No thanks, this isn't what republicans in Minnesota or anywhere in the country should countenance. Emmer was said to have lost his temper several times in his last constituent meeting, a sure sign he no longer views voters in his district as entitled to question or judge him. So much for his bullshit, well worn phrase "servant leadership."

This is all of a piece with Emmer. Remember the sanctimonious "First Principles" speech he gave in 2010 while running for the gubernatorial endorsement? The gullible and easily impressed ate it up while I could barely avoid throwing up on myself. Remember how he never congratulated Jeff Johnson after he was beaten by him for Republican National Committeeman in 2011? I do, I was there: he stormed out of the State Central Committee meeting thoroughly enraged.

Republicans in the Sixth will have to sort out amongst themselves how great their dissatisfaction with Tom Emmer truly is--what's passing and what's more permanent--and then decide what, if anything, to do about it. My own sense is that a Tea Party challenge would be a certain failure. But for others to complain that this discussion is taking place, which embodies the very nature of representative government, of the grass roots level of politics, is to mark themselves as sycophants.

Until  yesterday I had no idea how great their number.

Photo credit: Amy Koch via Minn Post (clockwise from lower left to center: Amy Koch, Tom Emmer, Paul Thissen, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Franni Franken, Lt. Gov. Tina Flint Smith)

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