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GOP leader Dave Thompson breaks on Republican strategies, but keeps the faith

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Dave Thompson speaking to members of the Republican Seniors of Minnesota in Bloomington on Tuesday.

On the eve of a state budget forecast that could provide the platform for major DFL changes on spending and social issues, new Assistant Senate Minority Leader Dave Thompson rejected two key pieces of the Republican’s re-election strategy.

In comments after a meeting Tuesday of the Republican Seniors of Minnesota, Thompson said that GOP candidates’ insistence that there was a budget surplus and the push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage had, in effect, backfired.

“When people wake up and read the paper and they see deficit, deficit, deficit, deficit, and then the one person comes out of the woodwork to say there’s a surplus, it looks like you’re being disingenuous, especially when it’s self-serving,” he said.

As for the wisdom of the marriage amendment, Thompson, who voted in favor of it, now says: “With the benefit of hindsight, politicians, policy makers need to respond to some perceived problem and I don’t think your average voter perceived that marriage in Minnesota has a problem.”

Thompson’s criticism may seem surprising from the man celebrated and reviled during the last legislative session for his passionate support of conservative principles and his efforts to undermine the influence of government employee unions. But the Lakeville Republican is a blunt political instrument and offered no words of comfort at the Republican seniors’ meeting.

“I’ve been looking hard for four weeks for a silver lining, but I’m not seeing one,” he told the group of about 50 gathered at Poor Richard’s Commonhouse in Bloomington.

He painted what he considers a dismal and unacceptable post-election future for the state under the DFL Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.  “I think you are going to see a broadening of unionization. You are going to see an incredible shift against building roads and toward transit,” he said. “I think you are going to see an incredible level of increased spending.” 

But as he rued the state and national shift to the left – “I think it’s possible that 30 years from now we see that 2012 was the year America decided to be a western European social democracy” – he did not let Republicans off the hook. “I’m not here to defend Republicans,” he told his solidly GOP audience, who responded to his remarks with applause. Republicans were weak, he said, in their choice of Mitt Romney for president, their poor get-out-the vote effort, and their message.

“I take some responsibility,” he said. “I’m too willing to say no. The electorate has not responded well to ‘no.’”

After his speech, Thompson elaborated:  “I think what we have to focus on is not only the damage that I believe is done by a larger government, but the benefit that comes from less government.  The benefits of making your own life decisions.”

Pressed by the Republican seniors for some practical recommendations, Thompson offered an approach that hewed to conservative beliefs but incorporated the new voter reality.

“We have to find a way to legitimately criticize the policies the Democrats put in place,” he told them. “And you need to help nominate the most conservative candidate that can be elected.  We can’t do it without the votes.”

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 12/04/2012 - 08:47 pm.

    The “surplus” claim advertised by my Republican House Representative made me laugh out loud every time I saw it on glossy postcards, newspaper ads, and pop ups on my computer. Unless you are a far-right conservative who reads exclusively the GOP schmooze mail and updates from the local and state Republican party without thinking, it is the only rational response to the surplus claim. My representative has an accounting background so it was beyond disingenuous.

  2. Submitted by Stu von Wald on 12/04/2012 - 09:41 pm.

    More union bashing

    Thompson: ” I think you are going to see a broadening of unionization”. Thank God. It’s a FACT that union jobs pay better than non-union jobs. More money earned is more money spent, which in our current economy is a good thing. Demonizing unions serves no useful purpose, other than to divert attention from the fact that we live in a plutocracy rather than a democracy. The wealthy are better off, the middle class erodes, and stupid Republicans continue to support their wealthy cronies. Republicans (and the wealthy) would be wise to heed the populace’s warning from this last election: arrogance and greed only serves to alienate the majority of the population. Not all of us have been born with a silver spoon, and those that have earned their wealth forgot to be grateful and to remember they got part of it, at least, from the hard work of others. Until we get back to Capitalism with a balance between labor, investment, AND resulting PROFIT, Thompson will continue to see “a broadening of unionization”. People are smarter than Thompson thinks.

  3. Submitted by Aaron Tinklenberg on 12/05/2012 - 05:59 am.

    Bad understanding of election results

    Thinking that these elections results may be “the year America decided to be a western European social democracy” is not an accurate interpretation in any sense. It would be foolish for the DFL to think so, certainly, and backlash from voters would be just as swift as it was against Republicans who thought 2010 was the year Minnesota decided to become a red state. I don’t know if Thompson really believes that or if he’s just saying it as a fear tactic to rile up his base.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/05/2012 - 07:59 am.

    ….I think it’s possible that 30 years from now we see that 2012 was the year America decided to be a western European social democracy….

    Nothing more delusional than a man drinking his own Kool-Ade.

    It’s too grand a reading on the election. It was a voter rejection of a party that has become characterized with a contempt for the 47%, a slavish adherence to the goals of the 1%, billionaires lining up behind a billionaire to buy an election, the manipulation of social issues to drive voters, “small government” people who want government deeply involve in the most private decisions. And so on.

    The majority of voters wins the election. And the majority rejected Thompson’s vision of Minnesota and the US.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/05/2012 - 08:15 am.


    It’s called a “lie” Mr. Thompson. In this case a self-serving lie. Furthermore, it’s not about “perceived” problems, it’s about actual problems vs. imaginary problem and fear mongering. Republicans thought they had the perceptions right because they based their strategy on public polling. Judging from Mr. Thompson’s remarks they’ll keep doing that.

  6. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 12/05/2012 - 09:02 am.

    It’s such a myth

    that Republicans only cater to the 1%. Of the ten wealthiest counties in the U.S., eight of them voted Obama in the last election. There’s a lot of 1%’ers voting Democrat, obviously. I am very much in the 99% and I vote Republican because mainly, they are pro-business – and a business is where I go for a job.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/05/2012 - 10:47 am.

    Funny anyways…

    “….I think it’s possible that 30 years from now we see that 2012 was the year America decided to be a western European social democracy….”

    European Social Democracy. Two months ago they were calling it Communism or Socialism.

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