“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
–Leonard Cohen 1934-2016
Requiescat In Pace
The day Donald Trump’s rally in the Twin Cities was announced, to be held the Sunday before the election, a variety of people were skeptical and said so. One well known political observer, who knows a fair amount about the Minnesota political process, tweeted that he thought Trump was making a huge mistake, suggesting that the event would take away needed volunteers from other critical republican races in the state. Many others joined in that assessment. I don’t think I’m being unfair to characterize them as not Trump supporters. Still, what would make sense in any other political cycle didn’t end up making sense in this instance, as has been the case for so much of the presidential race of 2016. Then again, I’ve been a much mocked and derided outlier this entire season, until I wasn’t.
I also knew at the time of the announcement that Trump’s internals had him behind by a polling error of 3%. If you never swing, you can’t even miss. Lonny Leitner and Andy Post understood this and made the glorious Trump rally happen. As Coleridge would say, it was one of those “spots of time.”
Approximately 25,000 people turned out for Trump on 24 hours notice. Only 5,000 could fit in the airport hanger with me. Even Trump, when he took the podium, mocked our crowd, saying the rally should have been held outside to accommodate the far greater numbers. “What genius was in charge of this?” he asked. We all laughed, knowing that we were going to win.
The Trump rally was like no political event this state had seen before. Even local media were forced to report it honestly, something of a rarity for them. The crowd was exuberant and legitimately diverse. Race baiting Minnesota democrats would have had a field day checking their identity politics boxes, only, paradoxically, this group had moved far past that failed, poisonous mindset.
Two days later America had to wait until the day after the election to find out how Minnesota voted for president. Kindly name me the last time that happened. Trump lost this bluest of states by a mere 40,000 votes or approximately 1.5%.
Astonishingly Trump won the iconic, Iron Range located, DFL stronghold city of Hibbing, the first time a republican has done so since Herbert Hoover. Yes, it was only by seven votes but ask Rep. Mary Franson the value of a vote. Don’t look for the Minnesota republican establishment to appreciate what that means. I call them the dumbest republicans in the nation for a reason.
* * * *
Trump won the presidency in the greatest electoral upset in American history. My own low point last Tuesday night came outside “Golden Chow Mein”on West Seventh Street in Saint Paul, idling in my car waiting for vegetable fried rice. Florida looked sketchy, even bad. I was fed poisonous information from the RNC that it was lost. Then again, Jeff Larson, (there’s a local angle here to be explored further, lazy media) was hardly supportive of Trump. Like Pat Shortridge, former Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, he and his cohorts have been entirely displaced by the Trump phenomenon. Don’t get me started on the odious Rick Wilson, eagerly willing to lose the Supreme Court, and indeed the nation, to line his own pockets. All republican consultants are the same and all deserve to end up on Fifth Avenue, shot. We could retire the national debt by raffling off the pleasure.
* * * *
I went to bed early Wednesday morning at a time I usually awake, which is early. When I awoke to an appalling amount of emails, texts, voice mail messages and DM’s on Twitter, I learned I was some sort of political genius. Please. I’m Irish and we’re congenitally allergic to complements. Here I’d arrived and I was irritated because arriving has never interested me. Especially in Minnesota, the bar is low for discerning the obvious and I was having none of it. I didn’t respond to any of the communications save for one text from a PR professional who asked if I was still alive, to which I responded “silence, cunning and exile.” I stayed off Twitter the entire day, a record for me and a wise move.
* * * *
When I forced myself to pay attention to the high school level of Minnesota politics, I learned republicans expanded their majority in the house, which was expected, and regained the senate by one seat, which most had not expected, much like Trump becoming President elect. Conventional wisdom has a certain symmetry, one supposes.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, and his consigliere, Ben Golnik, apparently moved up the food chain to be defeated by either Elena Ceaușescu, as I call Lt. Gov. Tina Flint Smith, or DFL Sen. Tom Bakk, for governor in 2018. For Minnesota republicans, it’s never about winning a statewide race so much as who makes money while losing. If you’re looking for a succinct definition of Minnesota republican Never Trump, I’ve just given it to you.
Republicans regaining the state senate was the real story in Minnesota politics. What wasn’t reported were the efforts by Speaker Daudt and Golnik to actively work against Sen. David Hann, the minority leader. Numerous sources regaled me with time and place instances of them lobbying personally against Hann, flatly declaring his race lost weeks before the election and encouraging lobbyists not to donate. Minnesota republicans are so obtuse they are forced to win despite themselves, not because of them.
The senate caucus was encouraged, so to speak, to find a more moderate leader than Hann whether he survived or not. To its credit the caucus responded to this unseemly, gubernatorial race driven pressure, by electing Sen. Paul Gazelka as majority leader. When that news broke I thought “both hands have a middle finger; if you don’t like one, have the other.”
Patrick Cooligan wrote a somewhat perfunctory story (understandable, his party lost) about the senate win. Credit to Hann was given but more of the story was given over to process, because that’s all media, state or national, care about most. It spares them thinking or having to deliver substance.
David Hann alone identified the senate seats that could be flipped and personally recruited high quality candidates who could work hard, who did work hard and who won. No Hann, no senate republican majority. His reward was to be actively done in by his so called colleagues in the other chamber.
Norm Coleman’s group “Minnesota Action Network,” let by a talented woman, was cited by Cooligan as being outsourced by the senate to message in the race and you’d be forgiven for thinking the senate wouldn’t have flipped without it. You’d be wrong, of course.
When Cooligan’s story broke on Twitter the usual suck ups sucked up to her. They’re all variations on Tracy Flick from “Election.” None of them congratulated Hann, the man who made this actually possible, of course. To a person these people are Never Trump, politically clueless but sucking on the right political or lobbyist teet, the one that generates a paycheck.
* * * *
Trump won every county in Minnesota save eight. Because the political machinery in this state on the republican side is in the mediocre hands of the Never Trump people, the significance of this achievement will be downplayed at best and ignored altogether as a matter of habit. Trump scrambled Minnesota politics but we don’t possess a republican party capable or willing to capitalize on it. Believe me.
MinnPost reporters Greta Kaul and Tom Nehil have a fascinating story of how Trump did and where in Minnesota. Iron Range DFL activist Aaron Browne, to my mind the most thoughtful and insightful observer of that part of the state, was quoted as saying “Really as far as the future goes, we need ideas to solve the problem, whether they come from Trump or someone else, or Democrats or Republicans, people want solutions.”
This is true but a clear understanding of what the problems are is essential to fashioning effective solutions. The problems are the result of Democrat policies but I’m uncertain timid Minnesota republicans will act on that fact. It doesn’t have to be this way, that entrenched mindset of weakness should be capable of being changed. As a friend of mine said “you can only eat so much oatmeal.”Kaul & Nehil’s excellent story can be read by clicking here.
* * * *
Jason Lewis won election to Congress in his first attempt from Minnesota’s CD 2. Stewart Mills lost his second attempt to go to Congress from Minnesota’s CD 8. The expectation from MNGOPe was precisely the opposite.
After the Trump landslide, no other win gave me as much pleasure as did Jason’s. His republican detractors were embarrassingly small minded, thinking themselves politically sophisticated by bleating “one word destroys a campaign,” alluding to Lewis’ previous career as a radio talk host. Lewis ran an underfunded but message strong campaign in the age of Trump and won. It’s a lesson his critics aren’t bright enough to learn from.
By contrast, the race was Stewart Mills’ to lose and he alone lost it. There was no excuse for such a narrow loss given Trump’s historically strong showing in his district. He can now grow his hair long again and go back to playing bong cribbage.
* * * *
I watched online the republican panel from last Friday’s TPT’s Almanac. Is there a dumber Minnesota republican than Andy Brehm? The competition is stiff but still. He makes Jeb! look like Trump. His father is wealthy but he’s no Trump offspring: competent, capable, hard working and smart. This man has no idea what just happened in a transformed America.
I positively wanted to lick my computer monitor when Sheri Auclair spoke. With grace but a deadly acidity, she put Brehm in his place. It’s a new day and he has no place in it. Former state senator Julianne Ortman ran a close second to Auclair, emphasizing the permanent damage electing the corrupt Hillary would have inflicted on this great nation. Slow off the mark but coming rapidly up to speed was Marty Seifert. Kudos to the three of them. Andy is a relic of the status quo decisively rejected by the voters.
Unfortunately the MNGOPe is Andy.
* * * *
Kingdom of Saud lobbyist Norm Coleman, and Putin lobbyist (Gazprom) Vin Weber, essentially control and shape Minnesota republican politics. Trump destroyed their types this cycle, delivering a comprehensive rebuke the likes of which they not only didn’t see coming but never thought possible. Both Coleman & Weber were mindlessly Never Trump and their fetid world of influence and immorality is threatened to the point of extinction by a Trump presidency. They’d have made out like the bandits they are had Lady Macbeth become president. When Trump says he wants to drain the swamp, these are precisely the people he has in mind.
The problem with the MNGOPe is that the loathsome Coleman & Weber lobbyist types, and their state analogs, are the role models for the younger set.
Can we recruit actual talent or are we stuck with the self-selected? Because that’s not working out too well and holds no promise of seizing upon the new, transformed, realigned political realities of a Trump America. Most of the good republican talent under 40 have fled the state to be quickly hired elsewhere where their skills are recognized and rewarded, leaving us with simpletons who obsess on craft beer, burgers and inconsequential issues like Sunday sales or to run for no account city councils.
There’s never been a wave election Minnesota republicans have failed to ride completely. Trump’s election offers a never-to-come again chance of reversing our slide into a cry bully Democrat one party state.
That chance will have to be seized upon by the Trump voters of Minnesota–democrat, republican, independent–who didn’t want our country turned into the Third World or our state to become a cold California.
Like Trump before them, they’ll have to fight both parties in order to succeed.
Photo credit: President elect Donald J. Trump, Facebook