No sign of optimism, state GOP is full of outrage and anger

Modern campaigns have become finely tuned and carefully researched exercises in message development and branding. This year, Minnesota Republicans have a clear choice. Do they choose the anger and hate of the blossoming Tea Party movement, or do they try to stay calm, focused and disciplined on issues and optimism?

Rep. Tom Emmer
Rep. Tom Emmer

The Minnesota congressional delegation has representatives reflecting both camps: a calm and conservative Rep. John Kline and the headline-seeking national conservative poster girl Rep. Michele Bachmann. The problem is that when choosing their candidate for governor, Republicans aren’t sure which personality is best to win in November.

As minority leader since 2006, state Rep. Marty Seifert has been a quote-a-palooza, always coming up with zingers and cute one-liners that the media love. On the other hand, an equally compelling quote machine, state Rep. Tom Emmer, has been a little more like E.F. Hutton, talking less, but when he spoke he was heard and he was bombastic.

Now as these two take each other on, there seems to be a role reversal. Seifert, usually calm and diplomatic, has found himself in the middle of numerous dust ups from his campaign for underhanded innuendo about his opponents. First there were accusations that he aimed to torpedo the campaign of state Rep. Laura Brod, and now there have been suggestions that Emmer doesn’t have the temperament to be governor.

In the other camp, Emmer has done a classic flip from his role as aggressor to victim, launching a website to combat Seifert’s attacks or, as implied on the site, “lies.” He has also used his skills as an attorney to make his case in a more compelling and emotional way — think Perry Mason presenting to a jury.

Tea Party and Ron Paul
In most years, Seifert would be well ahead in the race, but 2010 isn’t most years. It is a year in which Republicans, with strong Tea Party and Ron Paul influences, aren’t sure what leader is best in November.

Rep. Marty Seifert
Rep. Marty Seifert

Last week, Seifert put forth a “Kerry-ism”: he introduced legislation to repeal Minnesota’s renewable energy standard, a law he previously voted for. The bill, which has support from Minnesota’s business community, may be one of those issues that could hurt Seifert in the general election more than it helps him in the GOP endorsement fight.

For Emmer, despite his appeal as the “I’d-like-to- have-a-beer-with-this-guy” vote getter, the state GOP may have on their hands a candidate like former Attorney General Mike Hatch in 2006, someone whose temperament is a walking tinderbox waiting to explode. This has delegates wondering if he’s a fad only viable in the age of outrage or a viable general election candidate.

GOPers have a tough choice. Will they choose the authentic anger of Emmer or the artificial outrage of Seifert?

Whomever they pick, their goal is clear: continue to play up the emotional explosions they have been manufacturing since President Obama was elected. And while that will motivate the extreme constituencies who lost heart during the Bush years, it could turn off a generally sensitive Minnesota electorate able to detect if the outrage is authentic or artificial.

One thing the GOP seems to be missing is optimism — something most Minnesotans seem to respond well to.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Dave Thul on 03/24/2010 - 08:16 am.

    “Do they choose the anger and hate of the blossoming Tea Party movement”

    It is hard to reconcile that statement with the author who calls himself a political ‘moderate’.

  2. Submitted by Carrie Coleman on 03/24/2010 - 09:23 am.

    “Do they choose the anger and hate of the blossoming Tea Party movement”

    It is hard to reconcile that statement with the author who calls himself a political ‘moderate’.

    I think once they’ve spit on people and called a legendary civil rights leader a foul racist name, it is safe to say that the Tea Party is a party of anger and hate. I would also suggest “unhinged” as an appropriate adjective.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/24/2010 - 09:53 am.

    “Do they choose the anger and hate of the blossoming Tea Party movement”

    It is hard to reconcile that statement with the author who surely cannot claim not to have read any of the leftist comments left here or anywhere else following anything related to Michele Bachmann.

    The left promises to do to the word “hate” what they have done to “diversity”, “reality”, “investment” and a host of other words.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/24/2010 - 10:22 am.

    Unlike the Republicans of a couple of decades back, who were genuinely interested in the well being of all the citizens of the state of Minnesota, but argued strongly with the Democrats over how to set policy in ways that would most efficiently and most effectively maintain and enhance that well being,..

    Today’s Republicans demonstrate an underlying conviction that only they, themselves, and those who are most like them deserve to do well. This is clearly demonstrated by both leading Republican candidates in this article which makes it obvious that the only differences between them involve their style of selling the Republican line to the general public.

    The policies which arise from that belief always work toward reshaping the entire state governmental enterprise in ways that further enrich the rich. They expect great sacrifice from the middle class (anyone making less than $1 million a year or so) and the poor but little or no sacrifice from the rich in terms of contributions to the common good such as taxes or regulations on their enterprises.

    They seek to push downward on the ladder of success all those who work reliably, day in and day out, to make a sufficient living to support themselves and their families. In their minds a “good business climate” includes plenty of laborers willing to work for slave wages, and the lack of any policies or regulations that would get in the way of business enterprises destroying the environment and the communities around them in the pursuit of maximum profit for their owners and maximum benefit packages for their executives.

    They are suspicious to the point of serious paranoia directed toward all educational enterprises.

    Their approach has massively enriched some of those pushing that approach while actually hurting most members of the general public, even those who did not buy into the flim-flam. It already has and will continue to make Minnesota a poorer, meaner state, but they don’t seem to be concerned about the effects of their actions.

    The policies they persist on pursuing are political suicide, for eventually enough people will suffer enough that those policies will be rejected by the general public. Still, the leaders of today’s Republican Party persist in pursuing them anyway because they are based on an ideology rather than on reality or evidence.

    This is completely illogical on their part, but the false promise that they can give us a wonderful state without any of us, especially the richest of the rich, paying our fair share of taxes is a very attractive variety of snake oil which they sell very well using the slickest, fast-talking sales approaches (These guys and gals would be great in a “boiler room”-type call center selling questionable, if not downright fraudulent goods and services to senior citizens).

    It may already be too late for either of these leading candidates to change course. The base of the party is as addicted as the average crackhead to that false and fraudulent promise of everything for nothing, and would shriek as if they were sorely in need of their next “hit” if that promise were withdrawn, but I suspect if they do not change course, neither has much chance of election.

    The people of Minnesota, as the last two state elections have shown, are waking up. Hopefully, it really is true that, “You can’t fool all of the people (of Minnesota), all of the time.” (But that won’t stop this crop of Republican leaders from continuing to try.)

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/24/2010 - 10:57 am.

    Gee, where would the Republican party be without leftists available to lay out our principals for us?

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/24/2010 - 11:02 am.

    And of course, our current crop of Republican leaders and those who follow them are loaded with an entire series of psychological issues.

    Perhaps some of them might want to look up the term “Projection” as found in most standard human psychology textbooks.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/24/2010 - 11:12 am.

    I notice that no one has disagreed with what I said.

  8. Submitted by John Olson on 03/24/2010 - 11:17 am.

    Thomas, I never laid out my Principal. I would probably still be in detention after all these years! 😉

    A whole bunch of Republicans also fall into “leftist” territory when Rep. Bachmann is used as the yardstick. I’m not sure there is a whole bunch of territory to the right of her either.

  9. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 03/24/2010 - 11:20 am.

    Greg, you are brilliant. You really nailed it.

  10. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 03/24/2010 - 11:28 am.

    Thomas Swift, I ask that you lay out the GOP principles. Then contrast those principles with the actions of the GOP from the year 2000-2006. As GW Bush is the only GOP leader gone from this period, I ask that you not simply blame it on him!

  11. Submitted by Ross Williams on 03/24/2010 - 11:41 am.

    It seems that the “Party of Lincoln” has become the “Party of Jefferson Davis”. On issues from race to states rights they are reenacting the debates that lead to the Civil War.

    The most fundamental challenge of the Confederacy was whether a government making decisions based on majority rule and “long survive”, as Lincoln put it. Much of the current Republican debate seems to question not only the wisdom of the decisions made by the majority, but their legitimacy.

    Whether its the Governor of Texas or the former Governor of Alaska, there are successful Republican leaders who have publicly defended the possibility of secession. This is similar to politicians in the south who began to talk about succession as they lost power and territory as the country expanded.

    That is what ultimately lead to the Civil War in response to the election of Lincoln by the country’s majority. Rather than accept majority rule, southern states went into rebellion.

    That act of treason was suppressed only through force of arms. We may be headed in that direction again, with the outcome far from certain. Once you declare democratic political decisions illegitimate, it is difficult to settle differences through a democratic political process.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/24/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    “I notice that no one has disagreed with what I said.”

    Went *right* over your head, again; didn’t it?

    “A whole bunch of Republicans also fall into “leftist” territory when Rep. Bachmann is used as the yardstick”

    I’m sorry to have to admit I haven’t seen that; anywhere. But it makes a great talking point at leftist conventions, I’m sure.

  13. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 03/24/2010 - 12:48 pm.

    Gregg, this is brilliant and persuasive although I did not need persuading. My hope is that the Republicans will continue to bend so far over backward they fall on their face. I think they are getting close to that now–and the populace is noticing.
    You can’t call a man like John Lewis a filthy word, spit on another black man, and reduce yourself to calling names of a gay man without anyone noticing. And I have not seen any Republican leader send out a clear and convincing call to their flock to not only apologize, but to suffer consequences, and to denounce such bigotry and pure sickness of the soul.

  14. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/24/2010 - 01:41 pm.

    “where would the Republican party be without leftists available to lay out our principals for us?”

    Above is the argument of a true believer.

    Noted & proud leftist EJ Dionne (of the Wash Post) wrote a column of lament yesterday for the conservatives who used to be the thought leaders of Republicans generally & conservatives specifically. He was talking of people like the late William F Buckley, and noting that there used to be a time when Republicans’ respect and reverance for tradition, and aversion to innovation, served a valuable role in counterbalancing the Liberals’ tendencies to, shall we say, go a little overboard with some of their proposals. He was talking about a time when the two sides could disagree, but find a way to reach agreement. A time when you could find fault with the other side’s ideas, without resorting to questioning the other side’s motives.

    I thought it was a good piece, and agree that we are generally best served by a divided government that can still figure out how to work together. Instead we now have the party in the minority insisting that it is the final arbiter of what the people really want, and anyone who questions that is a communist, socialist, fascist, terrorist – cognitivie dissonance notwithstanding.

    Mr Swift, of course, will find me a leftist, and presume to have me dragged before a firing squad at dawn for treason.

    So, again, where have all the rational republicans gone?

  15. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 03/24/2010 - 04:43 pm.

    There are still a few rational republicans but the rightwingers who hold the power have pretty much booted them out of office. Remember the six republicans who voted for an increase in the gas tax so Minnesota could build roads? They became pariahs, their committee assignments yanked, and they got no funding from the party. A couple quit.
    Dave Durenberger from MN is still around but not saying much. (He is an expert on health care.) Most of the rational republicans have been drummed out of the party. Can you imagine these guys endorsing Elmer Andersen now? Or some of the other revered republican leaders of the past?
    No wonder the republicans have no ideas beyond No. The rightwingers with power won’t let them talk.

  16. Submitted by Roy Everson on 03/29/2010 - 08:48 pm.

    RW talk show host Michael Reagan recently admitted that his father would have difficulty getting the GOP nomination today, running as a dealmaking, compromising ex-guv of California.

  17. Submitted by Roy Everson on 03/29/2010 - 08:51 pm.

    I heard that on the Hate-riot AM radio 1280, BTW (Hate-riot rhymes with patriot).

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