Emmer Guarantees More of What Made the GOP What It Is

NEW SLAUGHTERIt was a tough enough week for our fringy conservative friends even before Tom Emmer decided to leave talk radio and make a run for Congress.

I saw Emmer up close only once during his dare I say “clumsy”, (but nearly successful), run for Governor. It was at a Sixth District rabble-rouser at some sports bar up in Big Lake in late 2009. The assembled faithful had mainly come to see Michele Bachmann, so Emmer and fellow candidate Marty Seifert (and ex-House Speaker Kurt Zellers) were merely the warm-up acts.

This was the event where Zellers warned the choir that if Obama had his Kenyan/muslim/European/Socialist way with high-speed trains they (the audience of farmers, small town businessmen and spooky apocalyptics mumbling about “righteous reckonings”) would be “astonished” by the flood of welfare cases pouring into Minnesota from Chicago. To diagram the inference (which was lost on no one): Spendthrift black guy in White House provides express train service for a lot of high-crime, low-cash types who don’t look much like anyone in the Sixth District to ride up and squat in Minnesota.

And that was one of the classier moments of the evening. (I was eventually kicked out by the sports bar owner, despite having paid the $10 to get in.)

What Emmer guarantees is another competition to see who can out-crazy the other for the hearts and alleged minds of the Sixth District’s rabid, caucus-going base. To be sure, if you’re him, it’s worth saying whatever it takes. Because the winner, almost certainly a Republican, unless Bud Grant or Ron Schara (or Raven the dog) decides to play Democrat and run for office, is guaranteed a sweet and easy ten-year run, at minimum. Do the math: $140, 000 a year plus federal pension. For Emmer it sure beats a Clear Channel talk radio contract. (Believe me, I know).

So … prepare yourself for a fresh outbreak of grim, hellfire warnings of “socialist havoc”, “government controlled health care”, “godless liberalism” and “reckless government spending”.

That last one is always fraught with irony, since Emmer is another one of these local Republicans who seems to have a very hard time conserving their own money. (How do you borrow $1.6 million against a house you bought for $425,000? Only a fiscally responsible quasi-Libertarian knows for sure. )

But as I say, Emmer’s return comes at the end of a tough news week for the Grand Old Party, which I would have thought would be all about cleaning up its act from the mess it made last fall.

In order of embarrassments we had:  The Lou Dobbs/FoxNews sausage fest conversation about that study showing 40% of women are the breadwinner in American households with children. Lou and the boys couldn’t paint a darker picture of cultural collapse. Clearly, gals out there picking up a bigger paycheck than their boy toy (if they have one) is a descending peril along the lines of a sun-blotting swarm of pecker-picking turkey vultures. The classic among them was blogger Erick Erickson — a bona fide voice of influence to the literate among the Sixth District base.

Said Erickson, who is also a talk radio host:  “I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology, when you look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complimentary role.”

This set off an internal kerfuffle lead by FoxNews’ main female personalities Megyn Kelly and Greta van Susteren, both of whom were, like Captain Renault, “shocked, shocked” that 1950s-style troglodyte sexism was alive and walking the corridors of Roger Ailes’ and Rupert Murdoch’s FoxNews. (All you could do was roll your eyes at their “indignation”, which really was poorly disguised embarrassment at “the boys” being so crass and obvious about their innate sexism, thereby forcing the women to say something.)

Finally, (and by that I mean before Emmer), we had the really kind of astonishing report from … the frickin’ … College Republican National Committee … describing the party as it is today — led by talk radio jocks, FoxNews pundits, self-aggrandizing mega-church pastors and palpably sociopathic bloggers — as, “closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.” (At least that’s how young “winnable” voters described the party.)

Rolling Stone summarized nine other points in the report. Including these tough-to-dispute gems:

3. “For the GOP, being thought of as closed-minded is hardly a good thing. But if the GOP is thought of as the ‘stupid party,’ it may as well be the kiss of death.”

5. “An outright majority of young people still think those Republican policies are to blame [for the Great Recession] – hardly an encouraging finding.”

8. “Perhaps most troubling for Republicans is the finding from the March 2013 CRNC survey that showed 54% of young voters saying ‘taxes should go up on the wealthy.'”
The point to all this is entirely obvious, I guess.
Namely, if someone beats Tom Emmer to the bile-marinated heart of the Sixth District it will be by confirming every appalling, out-of-touch, discredited thing young people (by and large), immigrants, minorities and the mooching 47% find reprehensible about the Republican party … today.
Worse, the party’s economic message, supposedly its intellectual anchor amid storms over “legitimate rape”, working mothers and blocking gun and immigration reform, is clearly a non-starter among a majority of younger voters. And I’m guessing most of them aren’t even aware of the collapse of the vaunted Reinhart-Rogoff theory, the “intellectual foundation” for the Darwinian economic ideas of Paul Ryan, the party’s designated “brain guy”.
In other words, to beat every other Republican for the Sixth District nomination, the winner is going to have to say and be everything that has the party on the brink of collapse … outside the Sixth.

Michele, My Belle …

NEW SLAUGHTERMichele Bachmann announcing she’s bailing on her beloved Sixth District completes a neat triptych of synchronicity. First there was old Bob Dole saying the current Republican party is such a godawfiul mess Ronald Reagan couldn’t make it out of a primary and that they ought to hang a “Closed for Repairs” on the party’s office door until they get an act together. Next came the study of the Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact archives that conservatives have a rate of flagrant lying three times higher than your average prevaricating liberal. Then … came Michele, my belle, a woman who like Richard Nixon, I’ll miss more (as a piece of street theater) than I dare say outside a confessional.

The connection is fairly obvious, especially when you consider how heavily Bachmann’s routine abuse of fact and logic skewed the PolitiFact numbers and that what Bob Dole was alluding to was the contempt for legislation and government that is the primary feature of the Congressional Bachmanns’ of the world.

Continue reading “Michele, My Belle …”

Representative Franson’s “Animals”

Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) recently shared a funny with her constituents:

“Last week, we worked on some welfare reform bills. And here, you know, it’s kind of ironic I’ll review this little funny clip that we got from a friend. And it says ‘Isn’t it ironic that the Food Stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of Food Stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, (smirk) because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.‘”

My goodness, but that IS a “funny little clip,” isn’t it?!

Just as it has ignored outrageous Bachmannisms over the years, Minnesota’s mainstream newspapers ignored this gem. That’s too bad. It could have been a teachable moment. Because when you strip away the breathtakingly dehumanizing language, you learn who these “animals” are:

▪ 47% are children under age 18.
▪ 8% are age 60 or older.
▪ 94% are U.S. born citizens.
▪ 41% live in a household with earnings from a job, which is not to diminish the plight of those in an even more difficult position, because they can’t find a job.

In other words, these “animals” are the kids at your neighborhood school, the disabled senior down the street, and the women making the minimum wage to clean your public restrooms.

And they are receiving an average food stamp benefit of $1.05 per person per meal, hardly a level that would tempt anyone to intentionally linger living in poverty.

Sometimes the only upside of preposterous poitical polemics is that they serve to raise awareness about reality in America. But first, the media has to be paying attention.

– Loveland

Post Publication Note: I see that the Star Tribune DID post a story on their Hotdish Politics blog. Pretty thin coverage, but coverage. I’m not sure if it ran in the newspaper. My mistake. I didn’t see it in my initial Google.

Local Journalism’s Bachmann Failure

If you have any interest in things like gay bullying and the seamless interlocking of modern conservative politics and homosexual fear-mongering, you owe it to yourself to read the Rolling Stone piece, “One Town’s War on Gay Teens”.  It’s the, well, embarrassing tale of how conservative religious zealots up in the Anoka-Hennepin school district created and inflamed a climate that may — may —  have contributed to bullying that resulted in the suicides of nine teenagers, a rate far, far beyond the national norm.

Now, I realize that judging by traffic flow, deep-inside media stories hold very little interest to the public, and even less if the story means having read a daily paper opinion page piece. But bear with me, or move on. Your choice.

The 7000-word Rolling Stone story is both vivid, detailed and unsparing in making the connection between the likes of Michele Bachmann and the atmosphere of intense intolerance in the north metro area. It is also wholly unlike anything written, or produced, by any major media outlet in the Twin Cities — Star Tribune, Pioneer Press or Minnesota Public Radio — all of whom are fully aware of both the appalling suicide rate and the fervor of anti-gay rhetoric stoked by religious conservatives.

My MinnPost colleague, David Brauer, appears to be aware of this curious under-reporting of so highly provocative a case of cause-and-effect. A couple of days ago, he took Star Tribune opinion page writer Lori Sturdevant to task for a column she wrote tut-tutting Rolling Stone for what she regarded as a hyperbolic presentation of the story of Anoke-Hennepin’s problem, specifically the way it connected Bachmann’s political strategy with the anti-gay fervor … and tragic consequences.

I encourage you to read David’s piece, “Rolling Stone didn’t slime Michele Bachmann.” He treads into a pet/obsessive fascination of mine, namely the clear editorial choice made by standard-bearers of journalistic truth-telling and context-providing in this major media market. To be more specific: The very curious way the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press and MPR have restrained their coverage of Bachmann, in particular, and the volatile, potent and routinely factually inaccurate movement inspired by her kind.

My duties at MinnPost involve aggregating stories from near and far with an impact on Minnesota. When Bachmann was in the GOP presidential hunt there was a regular torrent of reporting and commentary on her daily/hourly accusations, misstatements, flagrant falsehoods and, what else can you call them but outright lies.

The striking thing to me, as I surfed hither and yon, was how little of Bachmann’s manifest recklessness with the truth made its way in to the print (or on-air) version of any of our three primary serious news entities. To its (modest) credit the Strib did run more of Bachmann’s absurdities in its “Hot Dish Politics” blog than the other two did anywhere. But, if I had to apply a percentage, our three local journalism mainstays reported no more than 30%-40% of what Bachmann — a presidential candidate and easily the highest profile politician in the state — was saying in a given news cycle.

More to the point in the context of the Rolling Stone piece, the influence of Bachmann, and other hyper-conservative political characters on events in Anoka-Hennepin, was reported only flatly. There was no drawing of any overt lines of causation, and no story approached the depth of reporting Rolling Stone put into the piece. Put another way, our local journalistic icons, treated the over-heated Anoka-Hennepin culture war milieu with studied dispassion and no evident desire to lay out a full and complete context for their readers/listeners.

My suspicion/accusation has long been that the local news media have each separately made an economic calculation that regular and full reporting Bachmann’s misrepresentations, activities, alliances and influences becomes counter-productive after the point of perfunctory diligence. Translation: To have aggressively covered her — did I mention, a presidential candidate and the state politician with the highest profile on the national stage? — would be to risk blowback from her intensely contentious supporters, open themselves to invigorated charges of “liberal bias” and possibly/likely suffer advertising/underwriting blowback.

My attitude has always been that Bachmann was/is a disgrace to the concept of public service; that her’s is a stunningly self-serving act fired by her willingness to recklessly disregard even a minimal respect for truth, accuracy and fairness … three qualities on which serious news organizations pride and market themselves. By her contempt for those qualities and her surge into the national limelight it seemed to me she merited/required both 24/7 attention from her hometown media AND regular reminders that she was practicing a form of reckless rabble-rousing that didn’t entitle her to serious coverage.

That last part is me, largely as blogger. But all three of the news organizations I mentioned have “silos” for analysis and commentary where they could have laid out in far greater depth than they didthe roots of Bachmann’s candidacy and her influence with so potent a sub-set of today’s electorate. But, largely, they passed on that opportunity.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker wrote the definitive Bachmann profile, Karl Bremer at “Ripple in Stillwater”, Bill Prendergast and the rest at The Minnesota Progressive Project delivered the best day-to-day coverage and Rolling Stone laid out the most complete portrait of the pernicious effects of her rhetoric and influence.

Put bluntly, there’s no excuse for that kind of coverage not appearing in journalism entities truly committed to reporting without fear or favor.

Minnesotans Shouldering Hidden Anti-Obamacare Tax

This week the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) announced that its member hospitals paid $226 million in “charity care” last year. The MHA is referring to instances when uninsured and underinsured patients are unable to pay their hospital bills, and the hospitals get stuck with the expenses.

While the term “charity care” is used by hospitals, hospitals don’t end up bearing the whole burden. They make up for the bills substantially by charging more to their insured patients, and insurance companies subsequently shift these higher costs to insurance premium payers.

This post isn’t meant to be a criticism of either the hospitals or the insurers. They would go out of business if they couldn’t shift costs.

Supporters of preserving the Anti-Obamacare Tax.
But it is meant to be a criticism of Obamacare obstructionists. The MHA numbers are a reminder that those who have been aggressively blocking efforts to reduce the number of uninsured and underinsured through Obamacare are responsible for maintaining what is akin to an enormous annual tax on premium payers. An Anti-Obamacare Tax.

Given that a fully implemented Obamacare is predicted to reduce the uninsured rate from today’s 50.7 million people to about 18.7 million, and the number of underinsured people by about 70%, leaders opposing Obamacare in Congress, state legislatures and federal courts are effectively blocking the elimination of a huge annual burden on American households. If the anti-Obamacare obstructionists win, we all keep paying this Anti-Obamacare Tax.

And it’s not a small tax. In Ramsey County, taxpayers are up in arms over a proposed $10 million per year tax for the Vikings stadium. This hidden Anti-Obamacare Tax is much more painful. The Center for American Progress finds “on average, 8 percent of families’ 2009 health care premiums—approximately $1,100 a year—is due to our broken system that fails to cover the uninsured.”

– Loveland

Bad Neighbor

First, it was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s smack down in the Iowa Straw Poll, which prompted his premature evacuation.

Then it was Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann going from first to worst in the blink of an Iowa eye, followed by her Iowegian Chairman stabbing her in the back yesterday.

We Minnesotans have met our Waterloo, Iowa.

Iowa, oh Iowa. We’ve given you Minnesota’s very finest, and you’ve rejected them, for what? A farm subsidy hating Texan? A Bay Stater? Really?

We’ll grant you, our Governor is deadly boring, even to a citizenry that regards boring as a high virtue. And Bachmann’s act — Palin but dumber and meaner — is wearing thin on us too.

But still, we’re freaking neighbors. Does a 275-mile shared border mean nothing to you people?

Maybe it’s Floyd of Rosedale envy. Maybe it’s because we didn’t send enough buses of Minnesotans down to pay your Straw Poll ransom. Or maybe it’s because you’re tired of driving all the way up here only to see our Vikings, Twins, Wild and Timberwolves stink up the joint like an overflowing hog confinement in July.

But come on now, you still have the Food Court at the Mall of America, right?

Whatever it is, we just have to say, it hurts.

– Loveland

When In Doubt, Cry “Liberal Bias!”

In today’s news, Michelle Bachmann is protesting that she is not getting equal limelight in the GOP Presidential nomination debates, and that this injustice is driven by liberal reporters. Her campaign manager:

“We need to show the liberal media elite that we won’t stand for this outrageous manipulation.”

We have to remember where Representative Bachmann is coming from. For the last few years, this junior member of the House has owned the news airwaves. She may have enjoyed more blanket news coverage than any other member of Congress, with the possible exception of congressional leadership. Bachmann has become accustomed to saying outrageous things and becoming the center of attention for days on end. Heady stuff. But now after she says outrageous things at debates, indifferent reporters quickly move to “what say you, Mitt, Rick and Herman?” Getting blown off by fickle reporters is a new sensation for her.

Happier times.
Bachmann’s claim is partially correct. She is not getting equal debate billing with the frontrunners. We didn’t need an email from CBS News to tell us that. As always, candidates showing stronger support in polls are getting the most attention from reporters. Continue reading “When In Doubt, Cry “Liberal Bias!””