It’s possible that a few readers might have heard of Hannah Nicollet, who was running for governor, although one really can’t be sure because there wasn’t a lot of evidence of her campaign. She said something Wednesday that deserves amplification:
Nicollet said she’s disappointed in the Independence Party losing its major party status, but that it’s essentially a brand rather than a philosophy. “I think it’s a needed third option just for the people who resonate with those beliefs,” she said. “I just wish there was a better outlet for the people who are more socially left and fiscally right.”
A brand, rather than a philosophy. Let those words rattle around in your brain for a second. What does a brand mean? It’s a question that nearly every business faces. Businesses typically sell tangible goods or experiences, and their brands comes to connote the experiences your customers have when they purchase and use the product or service. Certain expectations come with the brand, especially a well-established one, and protecting the brand is crucial. And as long as the brand continues to meet expectations, success follows.
So when Nicollet says that the Independence Party is a brand without an underlying philosophy, she neatly encapsulates the reason why it’s always been silly to call the IP a “major” party. Political parties are based on philosophies, ways of seeing the world. A typical Republican is skeptical of the blandishments of government, while a typical Democrat believes that government blandishments are essential to the ordering of society. Voters usually understand these views and since voters are, whether they like it or not, consumers of the political process, they base their political choices on those underlying world views. The parties suffer when they do not meet those expectations, or when they botch the execution of programs designed to further their world view. With the notable exception of our fair state, the Democrats suffered on Tuesday.
Minnesota took a flyer on what is now the IP in 1998, mostly because the two primary parties had milquetoast candidates on offer. That experience was mostly forgettable; for all his bravado, Jesse Ventura never had enough power to effect any lasting changes, because he never had any institutional support. As a result, he had to make a choice on who he would work with, and generally that was the DFL. He didn’t like being Roger Moe in a do rag, but that’s what he was.
After Ventura left, about the only thing that remained in the IP was a conceit — we’re not really like those other people. The IP never really got around to telling people what it was, mostly because it couldn’t agree on even those first premises. In the end, that’s the IP brand — we’re an alternative, but we can’t define what that alternative means, although we’re not icky like those Neanderthal Republicans and those spendthrift DFLers. We’re not like them — just ask us! And that’s why the IP is no longer a major party in Minnesota.
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