Sunday, August 7, 2016

Masterful: Tom Emmer's Embrace Of Trump

One of the most interesting developments in Minnesota republican politics in the Age of Trump has been Congressman Tom Emmer's shrewd, deft embrace of him. Surprisingly, this has received very little analysis, especially in republican circles.

To be sure, his comments are reported on in the Twin Cities and other media. He's not making them to obscure or limited market news outlets. All the more reason to praise him.

Yes, praise Rep. Emmer for getting it at a time when most Minnesota republicans simply do not. I don't want to take away from that praise when I say that it isn't difficult to do what he has done, but at the same time his very doing of it constitutes an essential difference between him and virtually every other elected Minnesota republican.

The word leadership comes to mind.

For those outside the bubble of Minnesota republicans, which apparently are the majority of Minnesota voters, Emmer in his first term as a member of Congress has played against the type that he ran on as a candidate. Seeking to succeed Michele Bachmann, he positioned himself just slightly to the left of her. Once in office, he has resembled a traditionally conservative Minnesota republican not at all.

Some have found fault with that development and they're entitled to their opinion. To take just one issue, it's extremely unreasonable to have expected the freshman Congressman to have voted against John Boehner as Speaker. This isn't the place for an extended discussion of those issues. I simply note that Tom Emmer has surprised many since becoming a member of Congress.

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Trump came in third in the Minnesota republican caucuses, behind Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Minnesota republicans have yet to get behind Trump in the way one would normally expect.

Sen. Rubio, to his credit, has become full throated in his support of Trump for President but this appears to move his Minnesota supporters very little. They're a tiresome, dense lot. And Ted Cruz is so politically inept I've made him an honorary member of MNGOPe.

Here, then, comes Rep. Emmer not only falling into line but making an excellent, affirmative case for Trump, sharply contrasting him to the most corrupt person ever to run for the presidency of the republic. The sheer mechanics of how he does this is quite impressive.

On August 1st he gave an interview to MPR's Tom Weber in which he skillfully avoided the landmines of the media trap known as Khizr Khan. Trump's reaction to Khan's political attack on him at the DNC, using the death of  his heroic son as a shield to any criticism, was overplayed by the media as the literal end of the election: President Hillary, please clap.

That week's polling showed very bad numbers for Trump although the quality of polling outfits varied. No one is sure how to project turnout this fall given the large numbers of first time or fallen away voters Trump may generate. Interestingly, just yesterday we learned that the Trump campaign has hired the political consulting firm widely credited with the Brexit win: it specializes in identifying and turning out first time voters.

A Reuters/IPSOS poll released two days ago has the race a dead heat: Hillary ahead by less than three. This put a damper on the celebrations of the media and some Never Trump republicans. Suddenly the Khan flap seems a very long time ago.

Emmer's MPR interview is a bit less than fifteen minutes. I encourage readers to listen to it; no recapitulation by me can do it justice. Note especially the stale, tired questions formulated by Weber (men may find a drop in their testosterone levels given the sound of his voice), including bringing up Mexican rapists, something from June of last year.

But then pay special attention to how Emmer responds: astutely, concisely and with measured, projected confidence. When I heard him respond to a question previously asked "Listen, I've given you that already Tom," I knew Emmer was operating on a more sophisticated, accomplished level than any other republican in the state. He's mastered the art of a Minnesota republican unapologetically defending and prosecuting the case for Trump and made it look easy. Those skills will serve Emmer well in the future, whether Trump wins or loses.

You can hear his interview by clicking here.  

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Congressman Emmer's support for Trump is all the more remarkable given the skittish nature of other elected republican officials, both federal and state. In some ways, given the unconventional nature of Trump's candidacy, one could have expected Emmer to elide the subject as much as possible. 

Only he hasn't done so, in fact he's done the opposite. By so doing he shows by example how to advance the political argument for republicans in an increasingly one party state. Those elected officials, candidates, party officials, and activists who feign political agnosticism when it comes to Trump are made to look shallow and venal. Emmer makes a persuasive case for Never Hillary and does so without rancor or sharp edges. 

Congressman Emmer's interview with MPR is political brilliance. His pitch perfect support of Donald Trump makes him the state's leading republican and offers much needed hope that the party will not go the way of California republicans. He should be widely imitated.