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Music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air

Unless the Ron Paul supporters build coalitions with Republicans of a more traditional sort, they will find that they clutch an empty vessel when they take over the party.

There’s always been a reason for having the term “dilettante” be part of this blog.

I participate in the Republican Party, but I have always made a conscious decision to maintain a mostly arms-length stance with regard to party politics. I participate in caucuses at the BPOU level, but I’ve never pursued going any further than that. There are reasons for this, especially since I’d rather not feel like I have to mince words if I feel the need to criticize someone in the party when I write on this blog. And given the current state of the Republican Party in Minnesota, there’s plenty to criticize.

Two things are happening right now that aren’t especially helpful. First, the state Party has been dealing with a fair amount of negative publicity concerning its finances, including the embarrassing revelation that it is behind on rent for the party headquarters, to the point where the party has received an eviction notice from its landlord. Much of the problem stems from the practices of the previous leadership team of the party, which made some financial decisions that didn’t turn out well. The current head of the party is Pat Shortridge, who is a very savvy guy and who will, if given sufficient time and resources, turn things around.

The question is this — will he have the time? It’s been fairly quiet until now, but there has been a bit of a hostile takeover going on within the party. Ron Paul supporters have done a tremendous job of organizing and getting their delegates through the BPOU process and to the Congressional District conventions. Depending on whose numbers you believe, Paul’s supporters may end up controlling the vast majority of the Minnesota delegation at the national GOP convention, as well as the leadership in the CD organizations. Mitch Berg has written an excellent synopsis of what went down in the 4th CD, where most of incumbent leadership team was summarily dumped and the Paul supporters have now taken over. Similar things have happened elsewhere in the state as well.

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This needs to be said at the outset — it’s not a bad thing per se that the Paulites are taking over. I personally agree with about 80% of what the Paul supporters believe, especially regarding the disastrous financial path the country finds itself on. I’m also quite concerned about the size and scope of government at every level. And I can even be convinced that many of the foreign adventures that our government undertakes are ill-advised. We’ve been maintaining a diffident empire for the better part of a century now and it’s not sustainable. The Paulites are correct about most of these issues.

Having said that, there’s more than a whiff of revolution in the air right now, especially within the party. And that’s not a good thing. Mitch does a very good job of explaining the issue (emphasis in original):

Now, I know that there are a lot of good, committed people among the Paul crowd who are committed to using their positions in the GOP to work for the party, not just a candidate or two.

But I get a different impression from some of their leadership.  Ronald Reagan once said that if someone agrees with you 70% of the time, it doesn’t make them 30% your enemy.

And from some of the Paul crowd’s leadership, I do get the impression that, whether motivated by single-candidate zeal or roiling anger over 2008 or one of the mind-boggling number of byzantine interpersonal pissing matches that seems to motivate so much of CD4 GOP politics no matter who the nominee or the cause celebre or what the defining issue is, the Paul crowd’s leadership, in the district and beyond, sees “70% friends” as “30% enemies”.

I see that, too, especially in other social media. In one case a week or so back, one triumphal Paul supporter was bragging on Facebook about how the Paul forces had defeated the leadership of the 6th CD, using a term I would prefer not to share here, but that suggested a particularly odious form of criminal sexual conduct. I suspect that, in the moment of triumph, this individual was overstating the case a bit.

But let’s set the locker room smack talk aside for the moment. The larger issue is this — a revolution within a voluntary organization is not the same thing as a revolution in a government. People can, and do, walk away from political parties all the time. And unless the Paulites build coalitions with Republicans of a more, ahem, traditional sort, they will find that they clutch an empty vessel.

I understand the disgust that many people have with establishment Republicans in Minnesota, who have too often been the tax collectors for the DFL. The list of odious establishment GOPers in this state is long. There are individuals I deeply respect who have no use for the GOP as it has operated for the past 20 years or so and are not shy about saying so.

It’s also worth mentioning that some of the Paul supporters who came into the party in ’08 were responsible for some of the triumphs of ’10. Plenty of conservative voices now at the Capitol owe the Paul supporters a debt.

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Still. . . still. . . . Perhaps it’s just me, but my sense is that while the takeover now underway may be a tactical triumph, it holds the seeds of an epic failure. The GOP of the recent past was not the province of Arne Carlson or David Durenberger; those gentlemen of a different era have long been free to be the operational Democrats they always were. For all the problems of the party organization, it’s worth remembering that the GOP of the recent past is as much John Kline and Michele Bachmann as it is Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman and Ron Carey. It will be very important that the Paul supporters understand that it will take everyone, even those they might ordinarily disdain, for there to be electoral success in the fall. Right now, there’s a lot of anger out there. That needs to change. Leadership of a political party means more than taking control and dictating terms. Leadership means building. And the first step will be to make sure those who were defeated are not disdained.

This post was written by Mark Heuring and originally published on Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood.

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