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Welcome to the world of Minnesota’s diverse conservative movement

Is there a conservative in the house?

There is now.

I’m delighted you stopped by, and I hope what you’ll find here is informative, stimulating and, ultimately, representative of views too often undercovered and, sometimes, not covered at all in the general media. Most of all, I hope you’ll enjoy your forays here.

Conservatism is a big-tent philosophy, and in our sometimes fractious, remarkably diverse family you’ll find people with an astonishing variety of views. I hope to introduce you to many of them, particularly those active on the Minnesota scene, and the issues they believe matter in public discussions today.

I’ll be offering reporting — with a point of view — on the diverse conservative movement. There are neocons and paleocons, traditionalists and social conservatives, crunchy cons and the religious right. Here also are libertarians in all their variations, admirers of Ayn Rand (who prefer the moniker “objectivists”), and fusionists — devotees of the late Frank S. Meyer who emphasize the common ground among all conservatives.

You’ll find me among the traditionalists, whose paladins include Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, William F. Buckley Jr., Richard M. Weaver, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Suzanne Massie, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Southern Agrarians, to cite but a few of the thinkers whose work I find especially appealing.

The only things you will need here are an open mind, inquisitiveness and a sense of humor. “There isn’t a smile in a boxcar full of Marxism,” the legendary journalist James Jackson Kilpatrick once remarked, and our friends on the left side of the aisle are forever proving the point. Dour, excruciatingly self-righteous and seemingly in thrall to the totalitarian impulse, they are a target-rich bunch. We’ll be dealing with them in detail.

We conservatives also have our share of kookiness and loose cannons, and they’ll feel the flat of my blade as well whenever their shenanigans get in the way of serious discourse. That means you, Rush and Ann.

I pitch my tent in the Republican Party, which for the most part has been reflective of my values. You’re going to meet here Minnesota GOP leaders who are well known and many rising stars whose names you will be hearing for the first time. Conservatism is at heart a grass-roots phenomenon, and Minnesota is home to the most eclectic array of conservative thinkers and activists you never heard about. Not all of them are Republicans, mind you, and that makes for a really interesting discussion.

We won’t be concerned exclusively with politics, either. We’ll also be looking at the culture, education and the arts, all of which have suffered grievously at the hands of vulgarians and boors. Nowhere has the profoundly anti-intellectual doctrine of political correctness been more corrosive than on college and university campuses, where droves of shockingly ill-educated automatons are churned out annually.

Young conservatives on campus have sometimes paid a terrible price for bucking the mandarins of political correctness, and you will also meet them here.
On the national political level, conservatives are in serious disarray following the election of a unique president whose coattails proved exceptionally long. Barack Obama did not receive my vote, but I like what I’ve seen so far of the man. He is articulate, intelligent and, importantly, has a good sense of humor. His policies are a different matter, however. Obama is exhibiting an alarming propensity to cater to the most irresponsible elements of party in which extremism seems to be a growth industry.

Beyond that, I think David Brooks got to the heart of the matter following the election when he wrote in the New York Times that there are racists in America, but Obama’s election proves that America is not a racist country. Hear, hear!

Ready to have some fun? I am, too. See you in a few days — after the bon voyage party for Arlen Specter.

Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by Keith Pickering on 04/30/2009 - 09:42 am.

    Edmund Burke a conservative? Perish the thought. It’s a mystery to me why modern American conservatives claim him as one of their own. Burke spent his entire long career in Parliament as a Whig, the party diametrically opposed to the Conservative Party. As just one example, Burke had considerable sympathy to the American Revolution.

    Meanwhile, in America, those opposed to independence were called — quite rightly — “Tories”, i.e., conservatives. Yes, that’s right: the American Revolution was a revolution of liberals and by liberals, opposed by conservatives.

    What’s happened in the meantime, of course, is that “conservative” principles have changed, as they always do. Every modern conservative supports the liberal ideas of 1776. Every modern conservative supports the liberal ideas of 1865 (like the abolition of slavery). Nearly every modern conservative supports the liberal ideas of 1936 (like Social Security). The time will come when every conservative will support gay marriage too. (See Steve Schmidt.)

    The biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that you guys are always behind the times, and we’re always ahead of them.

  2. Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/30/2009 - 09:56 am.

    “See you in a few days — after the bon voyage party for Arlen Specter.”

    First & foremost, it is good to see a dedicated conservative voice at MN Post. Diversity is good, after all.

    Perhaps an interesting beginning would be a discussion of Sen Specter, possibly including an analysis of whether the apparent purge of GOP Moderates is consistent with recent claims of being a big tent party. I can’t help but notice that the Republican’s recent presidential nominee now faces a primary challenge in his bid to retain his Senate seat.

  3. Submitted by Aaron Landry on 04/30/2009 - 09:59 am.

    This is going to be fun.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 04/30/2009 - 09:59 am.

    You talk about coming to your column with an open mind, but it appears like your idea of “open mind” is the same as Pawlenty’s idea of compromise. “Keep an open mind as long as you agree with me.” It is not a god start when you begin your very first column throwing around invectives like Marxism and totalitarianism. It looks like you are helping your small tent become even smaller, where only the completely ideologically pure are welcome. Good luck with that.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 04/30/2009 - 10:04 am.

    I agree with everything you say, but I would add that the biggest difference between modern conservatives and liberals is the faith-based (non-scientific) worship at the alter of the free market. We all love capitalism, but liberals(our founders) now it is a beast best tamed by reasonable regulation. Our founders did not want a return to economic royalists. Thomas Jefferson, the great liberal thinker, said it best when he said we have more to fear from bankers than we do from any armed country against us. Conservatives would let the markets take over our lives because of their free market ideology.

  6. Submitted by Ed Stych on 04/30/2009 - 10:30 am.

    Finally! Finally MinnPost has added a right-leaning voice to its long list of left-leaners. Let’s hope Michael doesn’t become the token conservative and that MinnPost adds a couple of more to bring some true diversity of opinion to its webpages.

    Great to see some of the liberal readers huffing and puffing already!

  7. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 04/30/2009 - 11:05 am.

    “I’ll be offering reporting — with a point of view — on the diverse conservative movement.”

    Ya, as my Uncle Sven always said about the conservative movement, “Da more you know about deese guys, diverse it gets!”


    Welcome to MinnPost, Mr. Bonafield. Let ‘r rip.

  8. Submitted by Tim Walker on 04/30/2009 - 11:09 am.

    It may be a big tent, but it seems only to be covering a small group huddled in the center. Or, maybe it’s just that this core is the most vocal, and that there are moderate Republicans out there who are just inexplicably shy.

    Anyway, I welcome the new guy on the block, and wish to tell him that this non-dour liberal longs for the GOP of old. You know, the sane, fiscally conservative ones to act as a balance to the Dems. I’ve always identified with Democratic party ideals, but was never happy with having just two choices, and usually voted third party anyway.

    If the GOP shrinks even more into its radical, hateful base, then the U.S. becomes a one-party system, and that’s bad even if you tend to like the remaining party. And I think “hateful” is the right word to use, and it especially applies to Rush and Ann — who I’m glad to see are in your sights. (Can you add Glenn Beck, please?)

    Ultimately, I’d like to see the GOP become a sane, balancing influence to the Dems, a true Loyal Opposition that we have been lacking for about a decade.

    However, I’ve not seen any leadership in the GOP emerging that might take the party down that road. And really, all it would take is just one sharp, personable, and reasonable person to step up to the plate. And if such a person exists, the pendulum could swing back his/her way very quickly, given the state of the U.S. right now.

    But somebody needs to do that fast, because Obama just killed McCain on the youth vote … and it’s going to be very hard to change the voting habits of these youngsters. Clearly, to their ultimate credit, today’s youth are not falling for the GOP’s race-bating tactics. Although when we experience another 9/11 type attack (when, not if), then all bets are off because people, young and old, tend to fall for the type of fear-mongering that the GOP has used so effectively in the past.

  9. Submitted by John Roach on 04/30/2009 - 11:09 am.

    “…excruciatingly self-righteous and seemingly in thrall to the totalitarian impulse…”


    “…an alarming propensity to cater to the most irresponsible elements of party in which extremism seems to be a growth industry.”

    I have always found a mirror to be a useful thing. You might take another look at these descriptions and see what you find looking back at you.

  10. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 04/30/2009 - 11:34 am.

    A good definition of a Conservative is what we call a “Classical Liberal” in PoliSci classes. The advocating of free markets, free thought, free speech, free religion and free peoples. Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan were perhaps the most articulate and fervent “Classical Liberals” of our lifetime.

    The biggest difference between Liberals and Conservatives is that Conservatives, being “Classical Liberals” want to quarentee equal opportunity for all. Modern Liberals on the other hand, with their love of government intervention, want to quarantee not equal opportunity, but equal outcomes.

    As for Specter everyone should read David Broder’s column in the Washington Post today. It says it all.

  11. Submitted by Lisa Clark on 04/30/2009 - 12:46 pm.

    I was really happy to see a conservative voice included on the site…for about 3 paragraphs. You had right up to the name calling. I want to see points of view, and critiques of opposing points of view. What I hate is the ongoing rasberries and insults thrown from one side of the aisle to the other. I get enough of that being around my kids at home. There’s nothing that kills credibility for me faster than when someone arguing a point soes it by “framing” the other side’s point of view in negative terms. (I very much doubt that liberals would think of themselves as humourless, or totalitarian wannabes.) If I wanted to hear more partisan rhetoric and name calling, there are any number of radio, TV and print options out there.

    Please do what you said you are going to do. Talk about conservatism in MN — the variety, the breadth, the philosophies and the movements. Include the strengths and the weaknesses, and provide the arguments and how they stack up against a different position.

    Tell me why you are right, not why the other guy should get a wedgie on the playground.

  12. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 04/30/2009 - 12:57 pm.

    There’s more than one kind of Libertarian?

    Please God just kill me now.

  13. Submitted by Keith Pickering on 04/30/2009 - 01:00 pm.

    Huh. And I thought it was Norm Coleman who wanted to guarantee an equal outcome.

  14. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/30/2009 - 01:32 pm.

    Tom Knisely beat me to it.

    It is not a case of conservatives chasing liberal ideas, it is leftists justifying the good time bus ride they propose to stick taxpayers with (to say nothing of the tap dance they are having on traditional American values) by pointing to a historical record owned by classic liberals, ie: conservatives.

    It will be interesting to see how flexible MinnPost’s comment moderators might suddenly become with your arrival, Michael!

  15. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/30/2009 - 01:59 pm.

    “Nowhere has the profoundly anti-intellectual doctrine of political correctness been more corrosive than on college and university campuses, where droves of shockingly ill-educated automatons are churned out annually.”

    Yeah, thank god Minnpost added an old conservative white guy to dredge up complaints about political correctness. Michael, 1985 called and wants its (non-)issue back.


  16. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/30/2009 - 02:14 pm.

    Tom Knisely, are you the same Tom Knisely I worked with at Historic Ft. Snelling in the late 1980’s?

  17. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 04/30/2009 - 02:53 pm.


  18. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 04/30/2009 - 03:13 pm.

    The problem with “conservatives” is that they do not know the history of the United States, so they make it up.

    Let’s say that Hamilton and Jefferson had a debate. What side are you on?

    Oh, you support Jefferson because he was an agrarian (southern, with slaves, that he did not free) and opposed to big government. Then again we have Jefferson/Jackson Day dinners by the Democratic Party.

    Who supported Hamilton, and Big Federalism (The Federal Papers) ? George Washington and Justice Marshall. Hamilton’s program was protective tariffs against free trade, government internal improvements, and subsidies for manufacturing, and a US owned bank (not the Federal Reserve). Hamilton’s biggest enemies: Adam Smith, and British classical economists.

    Four Score and Seven years later, who supported the same program? Abraham Lincoln. Plus he supported paper money! Greenbacks!

    Who saved private capitalism from total self destruction in 1933, when Winston Churchill supported Mussolini? Patrician Franklin Roosevelt. The TVA became the ultimate Hamilton/Lincoln program, and the model for post war development. Also it furnished all the power for the Manhattan project.

    There was a popular sign in bars during the Great Depression:

    Hoover Blew the Whistle.
    Mellon Rang the Bell.
    Wall Street Gave the signal,
    and the country went to hell.

    So, therefore, please do not tell us what you are against. Tell us, what positive role our Constitutional Federal Government can play in restoring the American Dream.

    President Eisenhower supported Atoms for Peace, and Interstate Highways. He also said this on January 6, 1954:

    “Maintenance of prosperity is one field of governmental concern that interests me mightily and one on which I have talked incessantly to associates, advisers, and assistants ever since last January. The first task, of course, is the determination of the scope of Federal responsibility and authority. This varies with the times. In these days I am sure that government has to be the principal coordinator and, in many cases, the actual operator for the many things that the approach of depression would demand.”

  19. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/30/2009 - 04:43 pm.

    Eisenhower also said that every dollar spent on ever-more-military-armaments was a dollar that could be better spent feeding a hungry child.

  20. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/30/2009 - 07:32 pm.

    Tom, we’ll spare everyone else reading our reunion. I’m at eric at

  21. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 04/30/2009 - 08:12 pm.

    In 1953, Eisenhower faced his first foreign policy crisis: the East Germans revolted against Soviet Rule, before the Berlin Wall went up (1961). Soon, the East Berliners (Soviet Zone) were starving for food.

    Eisenhower convened his cabinet. What to do? Feed the East Berliners? Dulles and the Neo Cons said “No! that supports communism”.

    Eisenhower said, “we will feed the East Berliners”. Henceforth, any starving East Berliners who crossed the border could get food packets. Shortly thereafter, the Embarrassed Soviets eased up on their crackdown.

  22. Submitted by Henry Wolff on 05/01/2009 - 08:26 am.


    You are a brave and good man, sir. From the comments here, I hope you have a thick skin. I look forward to reading your work.

  23. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/01/2009 - 08:43 am.

    I see the name calling began without me. Oh, well.

    I appreciate Mr. Knisely’s description of the conservative as classical liberal: “The advocating of free markets, free thought, free speech, free religion and free peoples.” With some reservations about the extent of freedom that’s appropriate in a free market, that’s me.

    And, from that perspective, I find that the major political parties differ only slightly in their approach to freedom. As often as not, it’s not much more than freedom for me, constraints for you.

    A few examples come to mind, one from each side of the political aisle:

    “Hate crimes”: From my perspective, an assault is an assault. I don’t care why it was committed; I care who did it, to whom and with what effect. It makes no difference whether I committed it because my victim was green, trisexual or a fundamentalist fire worshipper. When we enhance sentencing based on thoughts and prejudices, we run the terrible risk that our own will someday be on the other side of that arbitrary line. Yet, the number and types of such “crimes” continue to rise.

    “Gay marriage”: What business is it of mine whether two people of the same sex want to enter into a legally sanctioned relationship which affords them the same protections I and my spouse (and children) have? None, from my perspective. Yet, “conservatives” of many stripes oppose the idea as fiercely as any over the past 100 years. How does that square with the fundamental concept of free people?

    No party and few people, in my experience, actually adhere to the ideals of real freedom and its exercise. Sadly, we all still insist on calling the shots for others, albeit in different areas of our lives.

  24. Submitted by D.J. Dickinson on 05/01/2009 - 01:11 pm.

    Why weren’t my comments posted from yesterday? I edited my profile to fit your protocol (per email you sent me) but I don’t see my comments posted; even though within the last hour others were indeed posted to this story?

    Please post my comments.


    Derek J. Dickinson

  25. Submitted by Richard Parker on 05/01/2009 - 11:24 pm.

    Mike, I’m so glad to see you here. We differ in philosophy, but I know from years of working with you at the Strib that you express your views in a thoughtful, well-informed, respectful way, not as snide put-downs or rants from a right-wing ideologue. I’m looking forward to reading you here. A lot of folks may not realize how much Minnpost has gained, but they’ll find out.

  26. Submitted by jim hughes on 05/02/2009 - 01:58 pm.

    I might have been saying “welcome” here, but when you start out by describing me as “Dour, excruciatingly self-righteous and seemingly in thrall to the totalitarian impulse”… I guess you already have your target audience nailed down and aren’t really hoping for wider readership.

  27. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/02/2009 - 08:56 pm.

    As a former academic, I am puzzled by your assertion that “liberal professors” are “churning out shockingly ill-educated automotons.”

    That has not been my experience. It is precisely the (mostly) liberal professors in the humanities who bemoan their students’ lack of interest in literature, history, the arts, or foreign languages. The (mostly) conservative professors in the business, economics, and engineering departments are the ones who think that those subjects are useless frills.

    From my observations, the greatest hindrances to producing well-rounded college graduates are not liberal professors but the single-minded careerism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that the students bring to campus with them.

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