Moments of truth are at hand. And while I don’t foresee the kind of “clarifying moments of truth” we need so badly, the sort of Hollywood-only moments where the unscrupulous villains are revealed for what they truly are, we are heading for some serious course corrections in modern American (and Minnesotan) political misguidance and psychosis.
First, here. The Minnesota legislature is supposed to conclude its business next Monday. But as you may have heard, the new GOP majority, all of whom are bound by interest group lobbyist Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge, steadfastly refuse to compromise … in any way … with Gov. Dayton on applying new revenue to that pesky $5.2 billion deficit. That would be the same GOP that made the unprecedented move of turning to an outside, pro-large business consulting firm for some customized budget formulas, is still noticeably light on specifics of who gets gored. Educators, social service directors and others have run the surreally fuzzy numbers they’ve seen and are shrieking, “Wolf!”. But the GOP leadership — best embodied by party chairman Tony Sutton, of the absurdist gambling conflicts of interest and comically mismanaged Baja Sol fast food chain, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a careerist walking talking point who I’ve never heard say anything more deeply informed or detailed than “Minnesotans have spoken” and small-town police chief Tony Cornish who sees a critical void in our rights to open fire on anyone — paperboy, neighbor’s dog or cop in pursuit who crosses our yard — sees only value and upside to our state’s “jobs providers”.
Then, in D.C. we have the long-anticipated and now very soon to erupt cataclysm between what’s left of the Republican old guard — in this case Speaker John Boehner — and the party’s new heart and soul, the Tea Party freshmen, over lifting the U.S. debt ceiling. Again, while Boehner is regarded as having “blundered” by telling an Ohio group in late April that “we” will have to increase the country’s debt limit, “and we’ll have to do it again”, the revolutionary masses the party eagerly welcomed to its bed are adamant no such thing will ever be allowed to happen. They are so completely committed to this view that talk of voting Boehner out of his Speakers job (and replacing him with Kurt Zellers-like robo-rhetorician Eric Cantor) is reaching a boiling point.
If you need further proof of the GOP’s soon-to-be-self-destructive, lockstep zealotry at work, consider Newt Gingrich. I’m no fan of Gingrich’s, other than to say one time out of twenty he has a good idea and makes sense. Like he did on “Meet the Press” last week when he said he’s not in favor of “radical change” from either the left or the right. Personally, I’m down with radical change on health insurance reform. But the point here is that Gingrich was at least arguing from some kind of coherent position. Too coherent for the modern GOP’s “group think or die” mentality. As a consequence his presidential ambitions are dead-in-an-instant and he is being forced to both apologize for saying something contrary to the party’s (sole) anointed “big thinker” guru, Paul Ryan, and ask/beg Democrats not to use his line about “social engineering from the right” in attack ads. The spectacle of so utterly rigid a party orthodoxy is so stark and absurd you know for certain that the S.S. GOP has struck a tri-corner shaped iceberg and is heading bow-first into the briny deep (or “shallows” if you prefer analogies to the quality of their economic thinking.)
I’ve had several recent conversations with people about Mark Dayton’s performance as Governor. Most professing surprise that a guy who was an utter failure as U. S. Senator seems to have found his place as a chief executive. While I couldn’t in good conscience vote for the guy, based on his appalling performances in previous elected offices (and because he achieved this latest high office largely through writing himself large checks only one other candidate was capable of writing), I have to agree that Dayton has conducted himself in an all but entirely reasonable way. (The exception being the lack of sharp screws to the Wilfs over who pays how much for a Vikings stadium).
My only equivocation on Dayton is that he has never demonstrated that tenacity, especially end game/crunch time tenacity is his strong suit, and we are only now arriving at that point. Now is when he has to deliver a “win”, and by definition that will require a serious increase in revenues. And by “serious” i mean no less than the 50/50 split he is offering now. He has public support for exactly that. Now he has to use it to force a victory.
Much of Dayton’s stature and standing in the polls can be credited to the contrast with the cartoonish buffoonery of the state’s GOP, which has doubled down on guns, gays, God and gambling, after allegedly being elected to office to create “jobs, jobs, jobs”. The local GOP brain trust — Sutton, Zellers, Cornish and the new uber-zealot Steve Drazkowski — are required to say (as though they believed it) that Minnesotans fully support them. To which I say, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, TCF bank’s Bill Cooper and The Taxpayer’s League, yes. Everyday citizens, not so much.
On MPR the other day, after offering up his 50/50 plan, which would still require $1.8 billion in new taxes from the state’s upper end/Chamber of Commerce, Bill Cooper/Taxpayer’s League crowd, Dayton sounded exasperated, referring to his GOP negotiating mates as “completely unreasonable”.
In normal times “completely unreasonable” would be garden variety political hyperbole. Today it is not. The modern GOP, after achieving off-year election victories on the vague, plan-free, detail-free cry to “stop the spending” has set a course for a national come to Jesus moment. They’ve presumed that moment will only see the U.S. debt ceiling locked down and the country slashing hundreds of billions in spending (with no realistic plan about God knows where). Likewise, here in Minnesota, with a minority DFL and a “weak”, easily-rolled Governor, they see the enemy fully … fully … capitulating to their demands.
Neither is going to happen. Because it isn’t we are then presented with the alternate scenario. The one all those who have taken the Norquist pledge and suckled at the teat of easy Tea Party votes haven’t fully considered. The one where public reaction — even among the only generally-informed public — to the popular image of the new GOP, a party lacking any semblance of seriousness and constantly self-lampooning itself with intellectual silliness whips back and slaps them to the ground.
The natural response to “completely unreasonable” is nigh, I say unto ye!