Whatever Happened to the GOP Extremists in Legislature?

carnival_sideshow_vingate_signThe antics of Republican members of the Minnesota State Legislature used to be a reliable source of gasps and guffaws. Over recent years, Republican legislators have been obsessed with regulating gay couple’s love lives and straight citizen’s sexual health. They continually attempted to have their narrow religious views dictate the governance of a pluralistic society. They compared poverty stricken families to wild animals who shouldn’t be fed, and backed up that ugly rhetoric with deep cuts in human services for those families.  They shut down of state government in an attempt to make services in Minnesota more Mississippi-ish

These were not Republicans in the mold of Elmer Anderson, Al Quie, Arne Carlson, Duane Benson or David Jennings. These were Republicans in the mold of Bradlee Dean, Michael Brodkorb, Wayne LaPierre, Cliven Bundy, Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh.

But in the 2015 legislative session, Republican legislators were an unusually controlled bunch. They did boring and constructive things, such as changing how nursing homes were reimbursed. They even proposed modest k-12 education funding increases, and ultimately accepted the much larger funding formula increases promoted by DFLers.

Yes, Republican legislators still did some things that don’t make any sense. For instance, they ran for election in 2014 on the need to fix a long list of deteriorating roads and bridges, then inexplicably opposed the revenue increases necessary to get the work done. They still want to weaken minimum wages, despite the most pronounced income disparity since the 1920s and the lack of any evidence that last year’s minimum wage hike is damaging the economy.

Michele_Bachmann_hiding_at_gay_rights_rallyBut to my knowledge, there were no legislators hiding in the shrubbery at gay rights rallies this year. There was no legislator-fueled politicizing of the morning prayer with hateful castigations of the President and gay people. There were no throwback campaigns to enact a state currency or Confederacy-style nullification laws.

At a time when Republicans at the national level could scarcely be more absurd, Minnesota’s Republican leaders seem to have at least temporarily kept the most extreme elements of their fragile coalition – religious fundamentalists, fiscal libertarians, paranoid gun enthusiasts, bedroom cops, and hyper-partisan jihadists – quietly mumbling to themselves instead of in the headlines.

For the sake of Minnesota’s collective future, let’s hope that’s a trend that continues. With a dangerous achievement gap,deteriorating infrastructure, and a lot of families finding upward mobility out of reach, we have a lot of work to do.   But for the sake of humor-dependent bloggers, hear’s hoping the silence of the extremists is short-lived.

True Confession: I Miss The GOP-Controlled Legislature

When it comes to the 2014 legislative elections, I have divided loyalties.

One the one hand, the current DFL-controlled Legislature has delivered a lot of very good things for ordinary Minnesotans.  Compared to the previous GOP-controlled Legislature, the DFL-controlled Legislature has delivered a healthier economy, budget surpluses, more tax fairness, marriage equality, job-creating infrastructure improvement projects, paid back schools, all-day kindergarten, early education scholarships and a long overdue increase in the minimum wage, among other things.

In the most recently concluded session, they even had the earliest adjournment in thirty years, a mark of impressive democratic efficiency. I look at that record and conclude that the DFL Legislature and Governor deserve to be rehired in the upcoming elections.

clown_carOn the other hand, as a blogger interested in the absurd side of politics, I’m pulled mightily in the opposite direction.  Because when it comes to generating a steady stream of blog-worthy absurdity, nothing beats the modern Tea Party-backed Republican Party.  After all, the last time the Republicans controlled the Minnesota Legislature they:

  • No Separation Between Church and Hate.  Found a way to make even the daily ecumenical prayer controversial and divisive;
  • Dehumanizing KidsWarned that supplying food stamps to Minnesota’s most vulnerable children is just as inadvisable as feeding wild animals; and

I get tears of joy just thinking about it. I was never in need of blog topics in those days.  Minnesota’s last GOP-controlled Legislature gave us the golden age of political comedy, and I will forever be grateful to them for that.   Memories, misty water-colored memories.

While a historically low 17% of Minnesotans approved of the GOP-controlled Legislature that was drummed out of office in 2012, Wry Wing Politics has sorely missed having the likes Mary Fransen, Steve Drazkowski,  Mark Buesgens, Tom Emmer, Curt Bills, Kurt Zellers, Dave Thompson, Amy Koch and others in positions of authority, where they had more opportunities to say and do ridiculous things.

The topic-hungry blogger in me pines for the hot mess of a Legislature that Teapublicans  built.  But deep down the responsible citizen in me knows that I need to vote to bring back the DFL’s brand of colorless competence.  Sigh.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was featured as a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

5 Reasons the DFL Will Hold Their Ground in 2014

Yesterday, I made the case for why the DFL may lose ground in 2014.   For my DFL friends who are now out on the ledge staring into the inky abyss, here are five reasons to not jump.  Yet.

DFL Has A Broader Base.  Minnesota is a fairly solid blue state these days.  According a recent Public Policy Polling survey, there are significantly more Minnesotans who say they are Democrats (38%) than Republicans (27%).  That’s a big reason why the polls show that DFL state legislators have a significantly better, though not good, approval rating (36% approve) than Republican state legislators (23% approve).  It also probably explains why the DFL starts the campaign season ahead in generic head-to-head races, with a generic DFL candidate preferred by a six point margin (47% for the generic DFLer and 41% for the generic Republican).   Again,  the DFL’s seasonal voters have to be energized get off the proverbial couch to vote in a non-presidential year, but an average DFL legislative candidates does start the race with a significantly broader base than their Republican opponents.  That’s a big deal. Continue reading

Will There Be Payback for the Bakk Brodkorb Broadside?

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler tweets that Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Virginia) wants to reduce Republican payrolls because of the over $200,000 in legal expenses associated with the contested firing of  Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb after Brodkorb had an affair with Bakk’s predecessor, then Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

 This raises Golden Ruley questions, such as: Continue reading

A Thank You Note for Minnesota Republicans

Dear Minnesota Republicans:

We just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for the gift of your marriage ban amendment.  Such a thoughtful idea!

We must admit, we didn’t appreciate your gift to its fullest when we first unwrapped it last spring.  To be candid, we thought it was kinda ugly.  We wanted to throw it away.  But we couldn’t.

As it turns out, though, it was one of the most beautiful gifts we’ve ever received. Continue reading

How In the World Did Minnesota GOPers Screw Up Their Golden Opportunity?

I have a prediction, though not a particularly prescient one.  Minnesota Republicans will say they lost the election because of bad candidates.  Mitt Romney, Kurt Bills, and the Tea Party-supported freshmen legislators were all just bad candidates, they will say.

“Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan,” as John F. Kennedy observed, and in the coming days a lot of Republican candidates will be orphaned.

But for their own good, Republican leaders need to objectively ponder this question:  Bad candidates, or bad policies? Continue reading

Brodkorb Says Gay Marriage Opponents Are Being Used As Political Pawns. Photo ID Supporters Too?

Michael Brodkorb, former top political strategist for Minnesota Republicans, recently made it perfectly clear that the Republican-proposed gay marriage ban amendment was motivated by politics, not principles.

As WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reported:

 In an interview with WCCO, Mr. Brodkorb Continue reading

Was The Brodkorb Firing Just A “Palace Coup?”

Michael Brodkorb, the Republican Minnesota Senate Communications Director who was fired for having an extramarital affair with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), is in the midst of a media blitz to frame his firing as being nothing more than collateral damage from a “palace coup” on behalf of Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie).

Those darn Republican l’élite politique francophiles, always showing off their French.   To translate for the commoners:  The bard Brodkorb claims Prince David used the royal tryst as a political weapon to clear the way for him to take possession of Queen Amy’s throne.

Brodkorb’s palace coup d’état allegation is not implausible.  But beyond Brodkorb’s assertion, my guess is that there were multiple motives behind Brodkorb’s firing:

  • HR Propriety.  In the face of this news, there may have been legitimate workplace management reasons to remove Brodkorb.  For instance, corporate Human Relations (HR) Departments sometimes worry that such affairs can cloud the ability of the lovebirds to be objective in their decision making, and can create the reality or perception of favoritism that can harm operations and/or make the organization legally liable in the future.
  • Brodkorb Coup.  Brodkorb is a bare knuckle political brawler.  Because of that, many Republicans Senators that were bruised and bloodied by Mr. Brodkorb over the years may have resented his style enough to want HIM gone.  In other words, the coup may have been aimed at the Queen’s staff more than the Queen.
  • Political Damage Control.  Mr. Brodkorb is not just any staffer.  For years he has been in the center of high profile political battles, practicing his scorched Earth approach to both politics and governance.  He is Minnesota’s version of Karl Rove, except more bombastic and more fond of the limelight.  Because of Brodkorb’s fame or infamy, depending on your point of view, his involvement in the romantic rendezvous made the whole matter infinitely more newsworthy than your more run-of-the-mill staff-politician affair.  Because it was more newsworthy, it was more political damaging for Republicans.  Because it was more political damaging, it needed to be nipped in the bud.

The current Republican Senate leadership wants Minnesotans to think this was ALL about them being proper business managers doing what any by-the-book corporate HR Director would do.  But it is difficult to believe that there wasn’t also an element of Koch coup, Brodkorb coup, and political damage control involved in their decision to fire Brodkorb.

My speculation is that political damage control was the top motivation for the firing, not a burning desire to oust Senator Koch, and not workplace law propriety.  But no one can know for sure.

The other interesting thing about Brodkorb’s media tour is the timing of it.  The timing was driven by the judge in Brodkorb’s lawsuit lifting a gag order on Friday.  But a guy like  Brodkorb, who lives and breathes electoral politics, also is fully aware that he is bringing the Repubilican’s most humiliating story back to the front pages just three weeks before the Republicans have to face surly voters, who already give the GOP-controlled Legislature the lowest approval rating on record.

It may or may not be true that Hann was using the Brodkorb-Koch affair as a political weapon in a palace coup.  But it certainly is true that Mr. Brodkorb is using a potent political weapon in his current media tour.

– Loveland

Photo by Talking Points Memo (TPM)

Note:  This post was also featured as a “Best of the Blogs” in the Politics in Minnesota Morning Report, and a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin feature.

Brodkorb Alleges Steamy Sexcapades, But Can He Prove It In Court?

Throughout the Senate Sexgate scandal, GOP former Minnesota Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb has been threatening to disclose the names of Senators and staffers who have had sexual relations with each other but were not fired for their behavior, as Brodkorb alleges he was.  The former author of “Minnesota Democrats Exposed” now is preparing to effectively author what could be called “Minnesota Fornicators Exposed.”

As a non-lawyer, my legal opinion is worth roughly as much as readers are paying for access to this blog.   But it would seem Brodkorb’s tell-all threat is a stronger negotiating weapon than  courtroom weapon.

As a negotiating tactic, Brodkorb’s disclosure threat probably caused many with lipstick on their collars to favor a prompt and generous settlement for Mr. Brodkorb.  Because in the court of public opinion, and the court of spousal opinion, such disclosures certainly would pack a punch.

But in the court of law, Brodkorb now has to PROVE the affairs actually happened, long after-the-fact.  Proving them could be difficult.  The DNA evidence is long gone, the parties to the porking may not be truthful, and the odds of there being eyewitnesses to any of the lustful legislative liaisons would seem slim.

Again, I don’t deny that threats about rumors were powerful motivators in settlement negotiations.  But in the court of law, Mr. Brodkorb now faces a burden of proof more rigorous than what is used in the blogosphere and Capitol hallway gossip sessions.

Anyway, if it looks like the Capitol Building’s Rotunda walls are a bit concave these days, it may be because so many the building’s inhabitants are collectively sucking in their breath.