Tone Deaf

The divisive nature of today’s politics is on full display in Minnesota’s gubernatorial race, with the fracturing of the Right front and center:

A day after Vice President Joe Biden rallied DFLers for Mark Dayton in St. Paul, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich threw his support behind Republican Tom Emmer at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, across town, 13 former Republican state legislators said they were supporting Independence Party candidate Tom Horner — a calculated move to siphon off Emmer’s base.

Some important background information:

Gingrich, whose star has risen along with the anti-incumbent wave across the country, spent much of his time at events raising money for Emmer and the Minnesota Republican Party. Emmer’s running mate, Annette Meeks, was a longtime Gingrich aide — a salient point at an afternoon news conference.

“When Tom Emmer picked her, I immediately felt this was a team that I wanted to come out and say something for,” Gingrich said, adding that he believed their ticket is “dedicated to lower taxes and more jobs and more take-home pay.”

More take home pay? Like including tips in the minimum wage? Emmer lost my vote with this gaffe. Meanwhile:

The tone was decidedly different at the Horner event at the State Capitol — though Horner himself was nowhere to be found.

“I can’t support Tom Emmer,” said former Republican state Rep. Dave Bishop of Rochester, noting that he has backed GOP candidates for decades. “He’s too far to the right for me.”

Former Sen. George Pillsbury of Wayzata, who had come out earlier for Horner, said of Emmer: “We don’t think he has the capability or the experience.”

Former Rep. Peggy Leppik, once chair of the House Higher Education Finance Committee, said she was “in full alignment with Horner’s vision for Minnesota’s education system.”

Horner also has former Governor Arne Carlson supporting him, as well as others. Instead of concern over voter drain, however, the MN GOP’s response is wide of the mark and tone deaf:

Despite some defections in St. Paul, Emmer told reporters the “Republican base has probably never been more unified.” He said many of the legislators supporting Horner had “disavowed” the party.

“They’re the people that have gotten us in this bigger government, higher taxes problem, which is probably why they’re supporting the Independent candidate,” Emmer said.

“Probably?” I can only assume this means the MN GOP hasn’t done much polling to determine why they’re losing conservatives to the IP. As a disaffected Minnesota conservative supporting Horner, I see Emmer’s analysis as flawed from the beginning because it’s based on an uninformed and distorted premise.

First, there is indeed a problem with big government republicans in Minnesota, but they aren’t who Emmer thinks. These big government republicans support infringing on property rights, increasing taxes, and inserting religion into public schools, but they’re hardly supporting Horner.  There is, after all, a difference between a conservative and a republican.

Minnesota conservatives tired of the duplicity between rhetoric and reality fortunately have options, like the Independence Party of Minnesota.  With anti-incumbent sentiment running high nationwide, Horner and the IP present an opportunity for Minnesota voters to express their disinterest in the usual partisan politics.

Tone deaf to the underlying problem however, the MN GOP swaggers on:

Republican Party chairman Tony Sutton took it a step further, dismissing defectors as “a generation of Republicans that were not successful, the permanent minority. There’s a special place in hell for these quislings.”

What a fantastic way to bring disaffected conservatives back to the MN GOP, Mr. Sutton! Good luck with that.

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