For all the media buzz, this debate is nothing new. This is the same debate that Federalists and Republicans had after the formation of our country and of political parties, and the same debate that our grandkids will be having. Here in Steele County, where there is a strong libertarian streak in the local Republican party, this is a debate we have had dozens of times in the last two years.
President Reagan famously said that the person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20% traitor. Using that as the yard stick, Arne Carlson (most prominent of the 18 and therefore the most likely to be quoted by the media) is no longer a Republican, nor has he been for quite some time. No one who voted for President Obama two years ago and stands by their decision can seriously claim that they believe in Republican principles. Supporting Tom Horner may have been a trendy, feel good thing to do, but it ignores the basic truth that Tom Horner is not representative of today's GOP. Liberals and the media (pardon the redundancy, as Mitch Berg might say) will rant about today's GOP moving towards extremism. But as a newer member of the party, I see the party moving back to its fundamental conservative principles of limited government and fiscal sanity in the budget. And in the face of a looming financial catastrophe caused by runaway government spending and near criminal levels of debt, we can return to the conservative principles as a country, or we can whither and fade, following the long decline of the Roman Empire.
A commentary piece in today's StarTrib even goes so far as to claim that the vote was a violation of state law and violates the GOP constitution. It is a perfect illustration of the fact that the GOP does have a big tent in Minnesota. Bob Carney Jr calls himself a 'progressive Republican', despite the fact that those two words are ideologically opposite of each other. The law that Carney cites is in the area of party caucuses-
Minnesota law allows persons to vote at a political party's precinct caucuses if they are "in agreement with the principles of the party as stated in the party's constitution, and ... either voted or affiliated with the party at the last state general election or intend to vote or affiliate with the party at the next state general election." A person's eligibility can be challenged at the caucus and is then decided by majority vote.
Does anyone reasonably believe that former Governor Carlson is either A) in agreement with the principles of the party as stated in the party's constitution, or B)intends to vote or affiliate with the party in the next state general election? By his own admission, Carlson did not vote for the Republican at the top of the ticket in 2008 or 2010, so that choice can be clearly ruled out. Horner's platform included tax increases as an integral part of his budget solution, tolerance (if not open support) for abortion, and he would not have defended the institution of marriage. Those three issues alone clearly put Horner at odds with the GOP platform, and by extension put Carlson and the other 17 at odds with the party as well.
You can't go around calling yourself a Republican if you in fact don't believe at least the majority of what the GOP party as a whole believes in.
All of this of course ignores the very basic fact that if Carlson and his fellow former conservatives want to have a say in who the party chooses as its gubernatorial candidate, or what the party platform will be, they have only to show up and be heard. That is the main benefit of being involved, of going to caucus night, and county and state conventions. Try to influence fellow delegates towards your preferred candidate, or plank, or other idea. But in the end, you need to support the will of the majority of the party.
Who you vote for is your business, and if it were just their 18 votes that had gone to Horner, that would be a non-issue. But they didn't just vote for Horner, they publicly supported him, drawing attention to the fact that they were once Republicans and using that to their advantage. Not only did these former conservatives fail to support the candidate of the party that they claim to belong to, but they wasted their support on a candidate who never had a serious chance to win. The end result was to (likely) tip the scales just enough in favor of a governor who is to the left of Nancy Pelosi, will make Jesse Ventura look like a statesman, and will make Alan Grayson look like calm and rational.
The Republican party has lost its way before, putting political expediency above principle, and not surprisingly it began on former Governor Carlson's watch. Until he and the rest of the wayward 18 see the damage done to the principles they claim to espouse, I don't want any of them anywhere near my Republican party. The guy who disagrees with me 80% of the time is neither my friend nor my ally, no matter what he calls himself.