Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?
Slowing Down The Coronation Train
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
So I saw an article in the Detroit News last week that triggered some flashbacks from an August night a year ago. Coupling that with some conversations that I've had over the past 13 months with influential members of the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network has me scratching my head and wondering what the hell some of these people are thinking.
A December 20th article by Marisa Schultz goes into some detail about a new group in Michigan politics - Michigan 4 Conservative Senate - and an attempt to unify the several tea party organizations in Michigan behind a single Republican candidate. This, in theory, will provide the best possible shot at unseating the incumbent, Debbie Stabenow. The model for this effort is Hoosiers For Conservative Senate, a tea-party unification project in Indiana targeted at primarying center-left republican incumbent, Dick Lugar.
And the first problem that I have with this arrangement stems from the realization that there are some fundamental differences between the U. S. Senate election in Indiana and the U. S. Senate election in Michigan that I don't think have been taken into account:
But if the MI4CS stated objective is to stop Stabenow, then why hasn't someone recruited a suitable sacrificial lamb to enter the Democrat senate primary and force her to spend down that $6 million campaign war chest? (For what my opinion is worth, I'll happily recommend either Mike Sak or Virg Bernero.) Why is attempting to unite the tea party vote behind a Republican candidate 11 weeks in advance of the filing deadline considered a good idea? What am I missing here?
I'm asking because this segues to my second problem with this, which is: whose bright idea was it to schedule the straw poll conference smack dab in the middle of the GOTV weekend for the Michigan Republican Presidential Primary? I mean, seriously, did no one check the primary calendar when this decision was made? For a whole three weeks the national political media spotlight is going to be focused on Michigan. Do you think that the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network might have something better to do than waste time on a straw poll? (For example, going door-to-door for presidential candidates would be a good idea, which even the several senate hopefuls may find themselves engaged in.)
I have a suggestion for Ms. Cindy Gamrat and Mr. Randy Bishop, who seem to be the public faces of MI4CS: Reschedule the straw poll conference to any date that isn't February . . . and do it now (unless, of course, your intent is to make the MI-TPPN and MI4CS look completely stupid; in which case the current plan will work quite nicely).
I realize that the tea party network wants to coalesce as much and as early as possible behind a single principled candidate. But is there some reason that this conference can't wait until March? By all lawful means, tea party organizations and other grassroots activists should do everything within the limits of their abilities and influence to ensure that the candidate of their choice gathers enough support to successfully complete the primary campaign. But let's also have a realistic view of this, and keep in mind that we have better things to do in February 2012 than engage in a controversial straw poll that is somewhere between two weeks and two months premature.
The third problem I see with this relates to an attempt in August 2010 to use the tea parties as a voting bloc at the MIGOP state convention. (A little memory refresher, it didn't work well.) Herding cats is typically problematic, and as it occurred two summers ago, so now also there are some tea party leaders who are bucking what they view as an out-of-state attempt to co-opt the statewide tea party movement. I'm not the only one asking some questions about this.
According to my research, there are no fewer than 122 currently active tea party organizations in Michigan, yet only 55 of these groups are participating in the straw poll. Who decided how to narrow that list down, and through what "vetting" process? Why are only 110 people speaking for the entire tea party movement statewide? What will be the criteria that the MI4CS endorsement will be based on, and why isn't that already public knowledge? (And why are groups that are either PACs or affiliated with a nationwide organization being excluded, when MI4CS implies a connection with FreedomWorks right on the MI4CS home page?)
My concern here is echoed by Dan Wholihan over at Right Michigander (a Michigan-centric blog that IMO should be kept on the roll, Jason), who has, I think, an interesting take on this matter. In Dan's opinion, and I agree, this whole thing reeks of a power play; the only questions being as to who's engineering the power grab and for what purpose. And because Dan makes the point so clearly, I'm going to let him talk for a few paragraphs:
"Most tea party members I know aren't trying to be "big fish in a small pond." Almost all of them never start out that way. Eventually many leaders or "lieutenants" in these organizations gain a following, get told how great they are, and start to believe their own press clippings. Many, not all, not even most. The good ones stay grounded.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Gamrat in person (at the Richland candidate event a few weeks back), and she doesn't strike me as a person with other-than-champion intentions; ditto for Mr. Bishop, whom I know reasonably well. However, as I've learned in my half-dozen years of political involvement, it's very easy for personality to override principle when it comes to activism (especially when coupled with access). Dan offers a similar observation:
"That's a danger here I see with consolidation or quasi consolidation attempts. I understand the thought of trying to herd cats or tea party folks to supporting one candidate to stop a Snyder, but ... this is a dangerous game that can easily become more about personalities than about issues. Certain people like to see themselves as power brokers. ... That's what I refer to as big fish in little pond syndrome. ... Most of those who think they are big names, ... the ones who puff themselves up in the room, usually aren't important, and deep down, they know it."
Again, this should not be construed as to impugn the motivation of anyone in MI4CS. Rather, consider it as a sound warning. Many within this state's tea party network are accusing "the establishment" of co-opting the primary process and morphing it into a coronation campaign. However, as Dan points out elsewhere in his article, a process that seems so opaque that not even the mechanics of it are open to public scrutiny invites the question as to whether this is deliberately rigged to ensure a "not Hoekstra" endorsement. And thus his observation (and my concern) that the MI4CS is merely offering an alternative coronation campaign . . . neither better nor different than what they accuse the party establishment of doing.
"The good and bad with tea parties is that many of them are new to politics. The good about that is that the old boys and girls club gets shaken up. The GOP establishment is largely as disliked as the democrats. They want to get involved and make a difference.
The primary process is supposed to be about vigorous and honest debate. That means, if we're going to do this honestly, that we not only ask the tough questions of every candidate, but that we also fairly and critically listen to the answers offered. Yes, Pete Hoekstra has an 18-year, publicly reviewable, record in Congress; that's an advantage and a disadvantage. A disadvantage, because even Pete admits that he's cast some votes that fairly qualify as stinkers (and the question then becomes whether we're willing to accept an honestly offered apology and move forward). An advantage, because not all of those votes were bad, and in fact some of those votes that we flag as "questionable" are reasonably defensible . . . if we're willing to listen.
Here's where I insert a bit of interesting trivia. Back in late September, Pete participated in the senate candidate forum in DeWitt hosted by the Mid-Michigan Patriots. As with seemingly every other such event, an exit straw poll was conducted (for which MMP had gone to some length to ensure that no candidate's campaign could pre-stack the audience or vote-stuff the ballot box). Pete finished in second place, nine points behind Gary Glenn and five points ahead of Clark Durant. This tells me that, even in a crowd that is likely predisposed to be critical of his record, Hoekstra generally does well when given a fair chance.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: I don't have a pick in this race just yet (as I'm currently a tad more focused on the February presidential primary), and I probably won't develop one until after the Michigan presidential primary is over with. And to be honest with you, I don't much care who gets the MI4CS endorsement, as long as it isn't open to the reasonable accusation of merely being an alternative coronation campaign. The Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network has one shot at permanently entrenching its influence on the Michigan Republican Party, and it will all hinge on how the several organizations conduct themselves during the various 2012 campaigns.
I've spoken with several of the MIGOP vice-chairs over the course of the past year, and all of them agree that the tea party movement stays relevant so long as it stays credible. I agree with Mr. Wholihan's assessment that the tea parties (plural intentional) need to remain about principled ideology, because that is the core strength of the movement. But once the tea parties start to become about the consolidation of leveraged power (intentionally or otherwise), a very steep price will be paid in credibility and respect.
Slowing Down The Coronation Train | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)
Slowing Down The Coronation Train | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ December 20th article by Marisa Schultz
+ Michigan 4 Conservative Senate
+ Hoosiers For Conservative Senate
+ U. S. Senate election in Indiana
+ U. S. Senate election in Michigan
+ Richard Lugar
+ Debbie Stabenow
+ Richard Mourdock
+ considers Stabenow's seat to be a tossup
+ Joe Donnelly
+ House Blue Dog Coalition
+ Federal Election Commission
+ primary calendar
+ FreedomWor ks
+ an interesting take on this matter
+ Michigan presidential primary
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine