Friday, September 26, 2014

MN Republicans' Simulacrum of Competitiveness

I last blogged more than three months ago. I had nothing since then to say, so I said nothing. Why waste both of our time?

This doesn't mean I wasn't watching; to the contrary. And, to the contrary, I said nothing. But here we are, less than forty days out from the election, and while it's been obvious to me for some time, it's just now that some are able, barely and pretending they're brave, to admit that the major races are over and republicans the losers. Well great; how about some more throat clearing?

Mike McFadden's US Senate campaign has, I'm afraid, turned out as I called it very early this year. Remember early this year? It seems like, well, years.

I called it "Kurt Bills With Money." I'm trying to see where I went wrong in that and can't find it.

It's difficult to justify much time spent analyzing how poor a campaign McFadden waged. That's an undertaking worth the effort but for now it all adds up to losing to a terrible candidate, Al Franken. For god's sake, Al Franken himself knows he's a lousy candidate but he has already pulled off the disappearing act McFadden complains about in his ads. How is it that it is the campaign itself which realizes these things last?

Three pathetic television ads aired, one lousy one after the other. Had no one told Mike he had a 30 plus gender gap among women with Franken? Might, you know, that somehow be addressed? Is anyone ever awake at McFadden headquarters since Brad Herold sensibly left and returned to Florida to work for Marco Rubio? It seems not. The McFadden campaign is filled, of course, with Coleman & Emmer people; not a strong pool of talent but everyone knows each other so that's what counts.

No part of this campaign excelled in anything but redistributing republican money amongst favorite groups and people. That distribution was largely controlled by Norm Coleman. If this is news to you then you really haven't been paying attention. Surreally, we learned several days ago that Coleman is a registered lobbyist for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. What was that song John Lennon wrote about Paul McCartney? Oh yes, "how do you sleep?"

The McFadden campaign has never seemed authentic because at its center it is not. Maybe we should just fund raise by issuing "vanity senate race" permits; why not massage a wealthy ego who pays us a small fortune for the privilege of running while having no realistic expectation of actually winning? This could be the ultimate in monetizing the loss.

If debates matter, and I tend to believe they really don't, then they will favor Franken who knows television intimately. This is what allows this fraudulent, essentially unserious and nasty man to become and stay Senator. Better than a horse, one supposes, but at times the choice is tempting.

* * * * 

Jeff Johnson's campaign for governor should be euthanized to be put out of its misery. And ours. It's wrong to want to sometimes strangle a smaller man like Jeff but I'm not the only one who's had that impulse. The key, people, is not acting on your feelings, a concept foreign to liberals.

Uninspired, tired and bereft of true vision or principles, Johnson offers voters no compelling reason to vote for him instead of "that guy" Dayton. Johnson's chronically lagging fund raising is frequently noted but never really adequately explained. It's not hard.

Once Charlie Weaver, of the Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, got behind former state representative and former Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, no one else had a chance at their financial support. It was their guy or nothing and their ads almost got them there as Zellers finished second in the primary. His race was the proposition that money can buy primaries but neither his nor Scott Honour's campaign managed to do it. That proposition has now arrived despite this outcome; look for the Zellers model to be replicated in the future.

All this, of course, because, as Speaker, Zellers did these supporters' bidding by bringing the Vikings stadium bill to the floor. Mission accomplished. Business isn't beyond keeping its word.

That business community, however, is neither conservative nor republican; it's the business community, first, last and always. Why this isn't more widely understood somewhat baffles me. Republicans are as easily bought and sold as democrats, they're just more cheerful about it, waving around their 100% voting record with the Chamber as though we are as stupid as they apparently believe. I can't be the only one who has taken the red pill; others must surely see this as well.

Johnson seemed never to know what to do next, once he won the primary with a mere 30% of the vote, except strike a tiresome deer in the headlight pose in various parts of the state, inevitably speaking to the already convinced. He'd be a shoo in if he was running for governor of Tapioca.

Johnson is running while practically apologizing for doing so at the same time. He never caught on with the base apart from a resigned, dutifully loyal segment. Let's be candid, though: even with lots of money Johnson's campaign likely wouldn't have improved.

Johnson released his first television ad this week. Apart from pre-disposed activists who mechanistically praised it, the ad reinforced the notion that this is a campaign that has no idea what it is about. How is that possible? Even the grossly overexposed and shallow Larry Jacobs opined that there were an endless array of issues with which to go after Dayton.

Flat, lifeless, using his family as a prop, Johnson promises to audit all state agencies in the ad. That's it? No undecided voter will be convinced by it and the ad's half-hearted attempt to tie Dayton to the new senate office building and MNsure failings seem completely after the fact. "Dayton doesn't get us, Johnson does." I hope no consultant got paid for such poor quality work but doubtless they did. Maybe Johnson should audit his campaign first but it's too late to make changes, the new campaign manager notwithstanding.

It's almost as though the quality of candidates matters first and the mechanics of campaigning second. This thought always escapes republicans; we simply don't want to learn the lesson, even when we lose to it year in and year out in Minnesota.

* * * * 

Whether republicans retake the Minnesota House or not is a question no one knows the answer to. Consequently, this affords me my only ray of optimism, as well as a ring side seat, as attention shifts from the doomed senate and governor's races to the House. It resembles something like political Twister. 

House Caucus members have been concerned for months about the campaign efforts led by leadership and their appointed people; they have little confidence in Kurt Daudt and Jenifer Loon. Lately, democrats have expressed increased optimism about keeping the House, while republicans say they'll get the handful of seats they need.

But retaking the House is only worthwhile to the degree to which republicans in the that future majority hold to consistent and reasonable conservative positions. That actually isn't that hard to do so it's depressing to worry that this group won't pull that off.

Although, speaking of bought and paid for republicans, they're almost full up with them in the House caucus. As Sheila Kihne and her supporters came to learn, it's hard to win a primary against those types. 

* * * * 

The Republican Party of Minnesota has become the wholly owned fiefdom of its Chair, Keith Downey, with occasional appearances by an Executive Committee which most resembles a basket of not terribly poisonous snakes but snakes nonetheless.

Under Downey, we will have all the latest analytics to tell us why we lost. Isn't that an advance? He has made headway on reducing party debt and deserves credit for doing so, although it would be foolish to minimize the amount of debt remaining. And yet it must be said that some of his harshest critics make you want to support him just because of who they are.

I worry, though, that the party is basically Downey's echo chamber, his private comfort zone. There are limits to which even the RPM can be run like a closely held business. 

Downey isn't particularly popular but, as the astute reader has by now deduced, Minnesota republicans are suffering from a talent famine. We have no one willing to run who would be better; plenty willing to run who'd be worse. This is the depressing truth and we mostly know it. 

* * * * 

Media have been consistently relaxed in their political coverage the more likely it appeared we'd keep one party rule in Minnesota, an environment with which they seem completely at home. Does it never occur to them that the comfort and ease in their jobs might signal an essential hollowing out of what used to be one of journalism's core functions? Apparently not. It takes a strong stomach to follow their self-congratulatory smugness on Twitter.

* * * * 

In some sense, properly understood, it can be said that there isn't a republican party in Minnesota. Instead, what exists are disparate and unconnected efforts to advance a potpourri of ideas and goals, often at odds with other ideas and goals. Little unifies them except the fleeting, quasi-identification of "republican" coupled with an appalling willfulness to be coopted by the highest bidder.

Indeed, so perverse is this situation that when you call out bought off officials, the problem becomes you pointing this out. Remarkable. These are republicans, mind you.

There are similar situations in and around other republican political offices and bodies. The problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult to tell these kinds of republicans apart from democrats. The recent debate in Edina between Dario Anselmo and Ron Erhardt consisted of them essentially agreeing with each other and for most of the time.

The problem which that encapsulates is not limited to that particular race. This attitude is now endemic among the operative pulleys and levers of the elected republican apparatus at all levels. Precisely how do currently organized republicans offer Minnesotans a clear voice and a refreshing alternative to the relentlessly incompetent, amazingly infantilized democrats who run this absurd state and their slavish local media who apparently don't have enough collective self-esteem to notice what they have become? You start to see why I haven't written for three months.

Norm Coleman lobbies for Saudi Arabia. Vin Weber lobbied for the old Ukraine government. These are the kinds of men who run republican federal races in Minnesota and we are vastly the poorer for it, in every debilitating way. Everyone knows this but essentially see no other way around it and so buy into the pre-existing relationships through which this power, influence and money is exercised.

These men gave us a Senate candidate who supports amnesty. It's not possible to be further out of touch with the base that they pretend to respect. Locusts make a sound and you'd think republicans in the upper midwest would recognize it anywhere.

At the state level we are forced to endure chuckle heads who don't know how to govern well nor how to exploit an opponent's weakness. If you can't do one, try at least the other. If you can't do either, leave. They don't, of course. They just keep hiring each other. A boatload will go to DC when one fraud follows another in CD 6. Idiocy in the republican party is fungible; more will just replace those located East.

I don't have the strength to point out the obvious vis-a-vis 501(c)(3)'s and (c)(4)'s, through which astonishing amounts of progressive money floods into the state.

Minnesota republicans seem paralyzed about figuring out who they are and what they stand for after two years of one party DFL rule and six years of the catastrophic Obama regime. This is because what would otherwise be the constituent elements of a cohesive party have been severed and sold individually. The same people keep making money in this way and you're not among them. The desire of too many to want to become one of them keeps substantive change at bay, seemingly forever so. We've become masters at explaining electoral failure to ourselves while a certain segment of us makes real money.

This isn't a political party, it's the Stockholm Syndrome.

Above: René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, (Ceci n'est pas une pipe), 1929

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anne Frank, Political Correctness & Time

Twenty one years ago this Friday my article on Anne Frank was published by the Star Tribune. I doubt whether the newspaper would publish it now, given the stale liberalism of its editorial board.

At any rate I thought readers might like to see that some of my concerns and themes expressed in this blog have a long provenance.

Click on the image above to read or click here to view it at Scribd where you can save it or download it to your dartboard.

Several days after the article's publication I received hate mail calling me a Jew lover. I could never foresee, of course, today's world in which global anti-semitism is exclusively a feature of the left, routinely ignored by media.

You don't have to be Catholic to laugh at the notion of progress (outside of the hard sciences).

This idea is exquisitely demolished by philosopher John Gray in his best selling book "The Silence of Animals: On Progress And Other Modern Myths" which can and should be purchased here.