Monday, April 28, 2014

The Triumph of Representative Mary Franson

"Go fuck yourself."

I still have that charming Twitter direct message to me from the then Minnesota Republican House Director of Media Services sent that Friday night years ago when freshman Representative Mary Franson (HD 8B) released a poorly scripted video to her constituents. I saw the Left immediately swing into action online, vicious as always, claiming Franson actually believed poor people were animals. The point of departure for such a preposterous claim was her video in which she analogized from national park warnings not to feed the animals because it creates dependency in them. The rest of the faux outrage was as we have come to expect.

Only our side wasn't coming to Mary Franson's defense. I'd never heard of, let alone met, the woman. But it was clear this was the first time at this particular rodeo for her and I wondered why republicans wouldn't push back against such a preposterous narrative. No, the initial response was panic and spinelessness, something of a norm for Minnesota republican staffer types and their equally gutless bosses. When I argued privately on Twitter that removing Franson's video would only make matters worse, implicitly agreeing with far left wackos that she called poor people animals, I received the direct message which leads off this post.


Not only did we not have the instincts to fight for one of our own, we were ready to throw her overboard in the hopes that other members of the House republican caucus would not be damaged by this one silly video. This response only leads to the other side continuing with outrageous and silly claims, claims we legitimate by our cowardly reactions. Enough.

In the days that followed I learned the details of Franson's life and career: here was a single mother of three who overcame repeated adversity to advance in life and now was a member of the Minnesota legislature. As I've said before, if this were the story of a DFL woman, Minnesota media would have made her a household name, showering her with praise.

During the week that followed the rent a mob from the unionized Left demonstrated at committee hearings that Franson needed to resign. She endured this thuggery--shall we call it bullying?--with quiet grace. By the end of the week she agreed to go on Sue Jeffer's widely listened to Saturday radio show.

The day before that, however, the head of a so called "women's group" contacted Jeffers and demanded that she not have Franson on her show. Republican women, ladies and gentlemen, and this example from four years ago. It's only gotten worse since.

Jeffers was having none of it and Franson had already rebuffed pressure not to appear from this same woman and the show duly aired. I was appalled that any such thing had been contemplated or attempted, especially by a woman's group doing the bidding of male party leadership. "Kapos in the republican sexism camps" as I called them earlier this year.

Franson's first term was rocky by her own admission, not that the party came to her aid in helping her navigate the pitfalls of being a public official. In fact, House leadership pressured her not to run again, push-polling in her district and her district only, pointedly suggesting that if she didn't run again a full time job could be found for her. Somehow I think the replacement for her wasn't going to be another woman, though I have no proof of that.

Franson won reelection by one vote; then by 12 after a recount. Lesson learned.

Franson's second term was demonstrably improved. She rose to the challenge of being a strong advocate on those issues of importance to her but without the missteps that could give her enemies, inside and outside the party, ammunition. She dressed, spoke and acted the part of a state legislator.

Yet this year she was challenged by a disgruntled far right activist in her own district for the endorsement. Saturday, after many ballots and a disturbing smear campaign (by Christians, naturally!), Mary Franson won the endorsement. Virtually everything that's wrong with the republican party of Minnesota can be found in that endorsement battle. For a change, the good guy won and the relief on Twitter was palpable. Franson's challenger hasn't said whether she'd abide by the endorsement. What schizophrenia?

Mary Franson embodies everything that the rest of us merely talk about: a citizen legislator. Before holding office, Mary was a daycare provider. Does it get any more authentic than that? Can we check our impulse to knife her in the back long enough to appreciate the personal virtues and integrity she demonstrates by overcoming adversity in life and succeeding? If she doesn't embody what we think we are all about, I submit no one does.

But she does. I'm proud to call Mary Franson my friend but even prouder to call her a republican member of the Minnesota legislature. Whether her horrid opponent challenges her in a primary or not, Mary could use every single dollar you can send her way. Please click here to do so.

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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mike McFadden Embarrasses His Supporters

Remember: you're something of an idiot, or a political Neanderthal, if you're a republican in Minnesota and you haven't lined up behind, or been bought off by, Mike McFadden, the establishment candidate currently being forced upon us by Norm Coleman, his retread underlings, disgraced former Congressman turned lobbyist for the old Ukrainian government Vin Weber and the usual parasitical class which controls republican federal races in Minnesota.

Yesterday McFadden gave the second news conference of his ill-fated campaign, which resembled the famous train wreck at Montparnasse in Paris, above. I don't know how many fatalities were caused by that accident but any more performances like yesterday's and McFadden's campaign will flat line, to the extent it already hasn't. Listen to the audio for the first 5.30 minutes here and then switch to the YouTube video which captures the balance of the event here.

If his question and answer period could have gone worse, it's beyond my Irish powers of imagination. His prepared remarks focused on the shopworn trope of wasteful government spending. One should have expected such banality from the team that came up with his campaign tagline, a rip-off from A Better Minnesota of all groups, "Believe in Minnesota." Still, the essential nothingness of the topic is dismaying, displaying a poverty of political acumen and the campaign's essential directionless nature at the same time.

Al Franken is against government waste, for God's sake. Not even Phyllis Kahn would come out in support of it. How that issue is played makes all the difference. "Are food stamps government waste? Why does Mike McFadden want to starve people?" You can see the DFL jujitsu now. Apparently no one on Team McFadden does.

Wasteful government spending. Really? McFadden paid tribute to retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, whom he called a "servant leader." Servant leader is evangelical gobbledygook meaning he's one of them, the true believers. Non-fundamentalist Christians need not apply. Why is he using that code? Worse, is he even aware he is?

At any rate, McFadden thought it keen to pick up the "Wastebook" that Coburn was known for publishing. It worked for Coburn because he'd actually vote against republican leadership from time to time, something no one could ever see McFadden doing should he luck into the Senate. At this point, only Al Franken dying seems likely to accomplish that trick. Then, of course, the Coleman-lite candidate could eek out his win just like the original artifact: by beating a dead man. Once.

After talking for less than six minutes, in a vocal style that most resembled speaking while sleepwalking, the hapless McFadden opened up the press conference for questions. His public speaking style got worse but his substantive response should embarrass his supporters, who tend to be rather full of themselves while oblivious to that fact. Evasive, rote, repetitive and canned, the man behind the podium wasn't simply not ready for the Senate, he wasn't ready for his own press conference. He has only so many tapes to play before they start to loop.

Am I the only one who cares for the actual person of Mike McFadden? What I saw and heard was simply cruel to inflict on another human being. I hope Vin Weber's K Street connections pay off in spades for McFadden if he's our nominee, because he'll lose decisively but not before more, and even greater, humiliating performances.

McFadden failed to answer almost all questions put to him by local media. Surely one of his five figure staffers told him that there was an outside chance of questions being asked by media at a press conference? You know, the kind you call yourself, signaling to the world you're ready to answer them?

When asked about the alleged gender based wage gap (which even Slate has called "a lie") he somehow meandered into talking about the XL Keystone pipeline. This was a dissociative moment worthy of Mark Dayton. When asked if he'd have voted for or against the wage bill the Senate took up just the day before, he declined to answer, claiming it was the "wrong question." That bodes well for the general election, the debates especially. Readers owe it to themselves to see the video, linked to above, in order to appreciate just how disadvantaged McFadden will be face to face with Al Franken, an unfunny and not particularly likeable guy but who will win over viewers by sheer dint of a pulse.

Remember: this is your guy, Minnesota republicans. Even though there's still room on the lifeboats, the ship's crew is keeping you in your cabins at gunpoint. Or worse, you're happy to stay there of your own accord, years of training having done their trick. McFadden's performance should have embarrassed if not outright shamed you. No amount of money can make up for what was, and wasn't, on public display yesterday.

McFadden also whiffed on questions concerning, beside the minimum wage, the personhood amendment (why is that even being discussed?) and Minnesota's disastrous Obamacare implementing exchange MnSure (how hard is that?). A neutral observer was left mystified as to why the campaign would call such a press conference in the first place. A republican hoping to defeat Al Franken was left knowing this guy could never do it. Republicans will continue to fool themselves for a bit longer, though, with the pixy dust of money. It won't work but the parasitical ones will have made their money regardless and will be off to other races, descending like hungry political locusts. Or staying right here, where they always feast regardless of our election night famines.

McFadden's supporters should be most offended by what he offered in lieu of substance: the ridiculous idea that voters will know his "philosophy" and that that will be good enough. What is this campaign? An Andy Kaufman-like exercise to test the political audience's toleration of being profoundly insulted before throwing chairs at the stage? Do my fellow republicans think so little of themselves that they think this is acceptable and hence say nothing? It would appear so.

MPR's Mark Zdechlik quotes the cipher candidate as saying:

"What I think is really important with politicians and leaders [is] you understand their overriding philosophies--how do they make decisions?" said McFadden. "And so I've been very specific in this campaign as to how I make decisions."

No, no you haven't, sir, and I've been paying attention, forcing myself at times. Unless taking a call from Norm or Vin constitutes making a decision and then you might be onto something. But that's not what republicans--or voters in general--in Minnesota are looking for, nor is it a plausible way to win; insulting the intelligence of the voters usually isn't.

What we saw yesterday was a man with no presence, no convictions, no style, no sense of purpose.

Nowhere man. But I repeat myself.