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Minnesota GOP insiders wonder where they go from here

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Andy Parrish, a former Michele Bachmann chief of staff (holding mic): "The Republican Party is an absolute disaster."

Ronald Reagan incarnate could not have united the 250 Republicans who gathered Wednesday night in Arden Hills to discuss the future of their party.

Billed as “Minnesota GOP: Where Do We Go From Here,” a panel of seven campaign professionals, bloggers, and consultants each offered a road map that would send the party in seven different directions.

The panel reflected the factions and frictions in the crowd at the Blue Fox Bar and Grill.  Ron Paulites, Tea Partiers, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and one tri-corn hat-wearer alternately cheered and booed as panel members commented on the state of the Minnesota GOP.

“The Republican Party is an absolute disaster,” said Andy Parrish, a former Michele Bachmann chief of staff who helped direct the unsuccessful campaign to pass the marriage amendment.  Parrish argued the party has abandoned its social conservative principles and suffered as a consequence.

Parrish’s position got a forceful pushback from writer Sarah Janecek.  “Let’s get the hell off the social issues and focus on the fiscal issues,” she said.

She delivered several versions of that line, always met by a round of applause from the libertarian Ron Paul supporters, who made up most of the attendees.

Reaching out to minorities, using social media, appealing to independent voters and improving basic campaign techniques were some of the tactical suggestions of the evening.

But, one question from an audience member reflected the overarching concern: “How do we get the factions to work together?”

Like his panel colleagues, Mark Westpfahl, Republican chair of the 2nd Congressional District, couldn’t give an answer but he did sound a philosophical note.

“Republicans have always been a faction party,” he said. “It’s nothing new, but we pick up on it when we have big losses.”

Parrish took the bleakest view of his party’s future, suggesting the Minnesota Republican Party should file for bankruptcy and start over, a comment that elicited some nods of agreement.

The two-hour discussion ended as it began — with no unity on content of message, tactics or strategy but plenty of evidence that Minnesota Republicans are scattered well beyond the boundaries of the big tent.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 01/31/2013 - 10:01 am.

    Was that fiscal, intellectual, or moral bankrupcy?

    Sorry I couldn’t resist.

    Why don’t they get back to what works? Which is try change in increments measure the results and keep what works?

    They are politicians their one job is passing budgets and writing statutes – something they have failed to do according to the last electorates decision. I personally would be happier with less chat more work.

    My representative has been more focused on representing issues for people that aren’t in his district than critical issues in his district. I don’t think he has weighted in on the falling White Bear Lake yet.

    The GOP leadership has already been more annoying than I thought possible. Right now as one of the Texas icons would say they look like “all hat not cattle.”

    Show me what you’ve got don’t tell me.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/31/2013 - 10:12 am.

    Do the math…

    A party entirely built to benefit 1% of the people need to get at least 51% of them to vote in their favor? Hmmmmm.

    • Submitted by Arito Moerair on 01/31/2013 - 12:37 pm.


      And if they “get off the social issues,” what do they have left? Let me guess: tax cuts!

      Furthermore, how do they get the much-needed bible and/or rube vote if they stop flogging anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-minority legislation?

      Republicans in Minnesota deservedly received possibly the most sound thumping of a political party ever seen. We would all benefit from their being stranded in the wilderness for a few decades.

  3. Submitted by John Edwards on 01/31/2013 - 12:01 pm.

    Remember 2010

    In 2010 the Minnesota Republicans won so many legislative seats they gained control of both houses. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer would have won easily if liberal Republican Tom Horner had not entered the race specifically to siphon votes from him. What Republicans are forgetting is the massive impact of President Obama’s campaign organization on the 2012 results. The huge turnout of low-income, low-information Obama voters generated by his staff of thousands of paid workers filtered down to all campaigns. If I were the Republicans, I would not make any changes until after the 2014 election. Who knows? They just might win all three levers of state government.

    • Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 01/31/2013 - 01:48 pm.

      We remember

      In 2010 the Minnesota Republicans won because they were going to focus like a laser on jobs, jobs, jobs. We all saw what they did with their power and that is why they lost in 2012.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/31/2013 - 01:56 pm.


      It doesn’t seem to occur to Republicans that the problem is not messaging, it’s the message. Social issues are not resonating with voters the way they have in the past, and trickle-down economics is not a model that many find compelling (probably because it has been tried in the past, and foud not to work).

      The message is only part of the problem. The 2012 election, and its aftermath, showed that there is a strong vein of contempt for Americans running through the Republican Party Whether it’s Mitt Romney dismissing the 47%, Paul Ryan’s “takers vs. makers,” or casual comments by rank-and-file folks sneering at Obama voters as “low-income, low-information,” Republicans show that they just aren’t that interested in the average American. Their concerns get some feeble lip service, but when push comes to shove, it’s corporate America that matters. To them, the nation is turning into a haven for dark-skinned moochers. Just shut them up, or co-opt them, if necessary, and the GOP can resume its rightful position as masters of the state.

    • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 01/31/2013 - 02:37 pm.

      I think it would be great if Republicans…

      follow your suggestions and make no changes to their party or platform until after the 2014 elections. The party of bankruptcy: fiscally, morally and socially – needs to reflect on how America is changing. By then, progressive, smart-thinking, innovative progressives will have left an indelible mark on our society making it almost impossible for repressive Republicans to take us backwards once again. People want a progressive, forward looking government, not one that wishes for Ozzie and Harriet re-runs.

  4. Submitted by Herbert Davis on 01/31/2013 - 01:49 pm.

    Solid Base

    With the solid support of the Catholic bishops,pedophiles and evangelicals they only need a few ignorant people and they can get to 51%. I wouldn’t count them out just because they have bankrupted their local party, there a plenty of very rich folks that love their no taxes “starve the beast” mentality.
    Imagine how well they have done with “Obama is coming to get your guns” and you have reason to be cautious in counting them out!

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/31/2013 - 02:22 pm.

    Casting aspersions

    I don’t claim any massive expertise in these matters, but it appears to me that a fair number of “low income, low-information” voters (What an interesting term… perhaps worthy of a follow-up article, Ms. Brucato?) are in the Republican camp, as well. Perhaps fewer of the former than on the Democratic side, but no fewer of the latter. I don’t see how anyone who voted for Mrs. Bachmann could truthfully say their vote was based on “information,” since there was precious little of that evident in her campaign.

    Where do Republicans go from here? To the “dustbin of history,” ‘twould appear. As long as they keep pounding on social issues that are admittedly dear to their hearts, I think they’re doomed. Not just in the next election, but for the foreseeable future. The GOP looks to me like a party yearning for the 18th century while the rest of the state (and nation) move into the 21st. That’s not a recipe for success.

    I’d be willing to listen to Republican who wanted, as Mr. Rooney above suggests, to try social and fiscal changes in increments, rather than all at once. That used to be the basic definition of a “conservative.” Now, to be a “conservative,” you have to renounce the 20th century. That vway lies madness and defeat – and continued frustration.

  6. Submitted by jody rooney on 01/31/2013 - 02:40 pm.

    Mr. Edwards you might want to look at the data on the SOS site

    It appears that some of the legislative districts with the highest turn out were republican districts.

    And I wouldn’t necessarily call the Obama voters low information voters. That would be as bad as calling the Romney voters the no information voters.

  7. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/31/2013 - 02:54 pm.

    You Are Losing!

    Granted the Republican’s have a messenger problem, but “They still insist that the problem is not what they believe, but how they express it. “We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives — our principles are timeless,” “But we do need to reorient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives — in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway, so says Bobby Jindal.” There is no place Republican conservatism is thriving. That is why they are losing elections. It is just like the football team that keeps losing but they keep saying we have a good team. No you don’t, YOU ARE LOSING!

    Republicans are also looking at some tactical adjustments that might help their nominee, [better nominees, and then the tactics would be a big improvement] including limiting the number of debates in which their primary candidates engage. Heck, don’t do that, the Democrats are loving it as you prove to the nation you don’t have any party direction or party leaders. Your last leader ran for president, lost, and then said he didn’t want it anyway. So why did he waste the electorates time if he didn’t want the office anyway. I guess the good news is it did fleece the big Republican donors of huge sums of money, proving tyhey can’t buy elections. Now they want to count votes differently. The republicans never admit their real problems are the message as well as the messenger. Keep thinking that way and you will keep losing. You have the analysis right, “Stop being the stupid party”, but you don’t have the right corrective actions. You don’t have the right Republican principles if all your priciples do is alienate over half of the country. You have Ryan, McConnell, Cantor, Boehner, Palin, Bachmann, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, etc., etc. in your corner but not a one of them is helping you because they are operating from the extreme fringe driven edge of your party. Find the moderates that still know how to spell and use the word compromise. Republicans, if you continue to think you are right then you are a long long way from exiting the political wilderness.

  8. Submitted by Richard Molby on 01/31/2013 - 03:17 pm.

    Good Grief

    Other than the fact they brought in bloggers to be on the panel (isn’t it the bloggers that helped turn MNGOP from a semi-reasonable party to one loaded with ideologues?), my favorite part of this Brucatoganda is from Mark Westpfahl; “Republicans have always been a faction party…”

    Um, what? MNGOP and its national umbrella have been anything but a “faction party.” Since the rise of GIngrich, nationally, and Pawlenty, locally, MNGOP has been lock-step in its approach to governing. It didn’t matter if you were against the marriage amendment, if you had an R behind your name, you voted for it. The same united approach is how they addressed taxes, environment, health care… Because, if they didn’t, those bloggers would give ’em hell.

    MNGOP needs to get past the delusion of it being “inclusive” (which it’s not) long before it can address “what next.”

  9. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 01/31/2013 - 10:01 pm.

    I know that I should want a strong opposition party with good ideas as a counter to the majority, but for now it’s very entertaining to watch the train wreck. Please, MN GOP, don’t change. You really are so close, this last election was all bad luck and a weak top of your ticket. More social issues! More reflexive disagreements with whatever any democrat says! Tax cuts forever! Freedom! Really, it will work this time…

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/01/2013 - 06:47 am.

      Yes !! Stay the course, GOP !! Your problems are purely PR…

      …so don’t listen to those whiners who say there is something fundamentally wrong with the party.

      If only you could find the right kind of commercials to air, the right kind of message to lull the voters back to sleep, as they are too awake right now. Now THAT is the way to imitate reform.

      And please, please bring back Tony Sutton

  10. Submitted by Mike Supina on 02/01/2013 - 08:59 am.

    Their problem is simple…

    …it is compassion vs. dollars. The Democratic platform largely favors compassion over dollars; the Republican platform largely favors dollars over compassion. The only plank in the Republican platform that attempts to address compassion is their opposition to abortion, and that is because it costs nothing (other than hardship for the women it persecutes). But once the compassion costs money, say, to assist the poor or disabled or elderly, it is marginalized in the Republican platform. That is a core principle that they will never change. So the success of either party in future elections will depend on the swing voters’ mood regarding assisting one another, and enthusiasm/turnout among each party’s base supporters.

  11. Submitted by Robert Helland on 02/02/2013 - 09:15 am.

    I invite MN lawmakers of both parties to contact me.

    Yes, Republicans lost and continue to lose on social issues. That is not my concern, I leave that to society to pick winners and losers. However, one person can have a lot of influence on the fiscal issues’ debate.

    I have a feeling there are not many Minnesotans under thirty flocking to the MN Republican party right now for, well, anything. Disclaimer: I am politically independent; an active, private citizen; and a dutiful public employee.

    I would like to make myself available to Republican lawmakers in Minnesota who want to hear honest perspectives on the Governor’s budget and tax reform plans from a person under thirty. Please feel free to contact me at the e-mail below. I have a unique background, insightful analysis and several ideas I haven’t heard anyone talk about yet.

    (Note: I will also be making this offer to the MN Democratic party lawmakers and the Office of the Governor of Minnesota.)

    Who will be the first to contact me?

    ~Bob Helland
    E-mail: onemantaxplan @

  12. Submitted by David LaPorte on 02/02/2013 - 10:17 am.

    GOP and the pup tent

    The GOP considers itself to be inclusive because it’s full of extremists who are fighting about which far right agenda is the most important. Is it banning abortion, suppression of immigration, opposing taxes on the wealthy, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (which is already illegal), expanding gun rights or any of a multitude of other issues? This is not inclusiveness. It’s factionalized extremism.

    The concept of Tom Horner as a liberal is laughable. If Horner was liberal, he’d have siphoned votes from Dayton, not Emmer. Horner was a moderate who couldn’t get GOP support because he wasn’t an extremist.

    If the GOP wants to become relevant again, they need to go back to the days of Barry Goldwater. Get rid of the tests of ideological purity. Welcome back Horner, Carlson and Durenberger. Take centrist positions that have wider appeal.

    The electorate wants common sense moderates. They don’t want extremists from either party. The DFL won because, although they’re left-leaning, they’re not nearly as extreme about it. If the GOP embraced true moderation, they’d return to power.

    Of course, if pigs could fly . . . .

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