Don’t think of a shutdown: MNGOP leaders abandon values, campaign as nurturing parents


Earlier today, Bluestem noted the short memory of Washington Republicans when it comes to Southern Minnesota, a rather silly strategy in the sort of place where neighbors still call farms by the last names of families who re-settled the homesteads following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

There’s a lot of amnesia going around in Republican circles this summer. We’d missed one example in an earlier MPR report, Democrats try to make last year’s government shutdown a campaign issue:

The deep budget disagreements that led to last year’s state government shutdown are still echoing a year later on the campaign trail.

DFL and Republican candidates for the House and Senate remain miles apart when it comes to taxes and spending. And as they try to regain the majority in the state House and Senate, Democrats say that another shutdown could be looming if Republicans retain control.

Reporter Tim Pugmire asked Senate Majority leader if he thinks that the shutdown will play a role in the campaigns. Don’t think of a government shutdown, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man doppelgänger Senjem replies:

Senate GOP Majority Leader Dave Senjem of Rochester said he hasn’t run into anyone who’s still thinking about last summer.

“It’s not talked about,” Senjem said. “I think people have generally moved on. It’s certainly possible that the DFL will bring it up, certainly in debates and forums and things like that. But it just seems to be old news.”

Senjem said the shutdown is not a fond memory and it should have never happened. But a year later, he sounds more than a little proud of the stand his side took against Gov. Mark Dayton and his proposed income tax increase.

But as an old cliche suggests about elephants, if Minnesota is told not to think about a government shutdown, Gophers will do just that. Senjem’s staff must not be sharing Greater Minnesota newspapers with the genial Rochester Republican if he thinks no one is talkng about a government shutdown.

Take the June 16, 2012 column in the Marshall Independent, GOP wary of shutdown talk. Editor Per Peterson begins:

There was plenty of blame to share for the 2011 state government shutdown and, indeed, many Republicans and Democrats took on their share of responsibility for the breakdown in budget negotiations resulting from the Legislature’s and Gov. Mark Dayton’s inability to compromise on how best to plug a $5 billion hole.

The partisan fingerpointing didn’t stop, however, after that compromise was reached, and Democrats will likely use the shutdown on the campaign trail this summer as a prime example of how House and Senate leaders in the GOP, in their eyes, have failed to get things done since taking over in St. Paul. . . .

But he finds local Republican leaders wanting to abandon the blame game–the very blame game that swept their party into control of the legislature since Trix was a pup–and just have the North Star state nurture job creators, who might look at Minnesota if only we can just convince working people that their boats will rise if they accept lower wages and benefits.

Don’t think about a government shutdown, Minnesota Representative Chris Swedzinski of Ghent and state senator Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls tell Peterson. It’s enough to make George Lakoff blush.

Indeed Swedzinski and Dahms seem to be abandoning traditional conservative strict father family values to embrace their inner nurturant parents. So much for punishing bad behavior on Dayton’s part. Swedzinski says:

“It’s one of the most unfortunate things in politics – you see folks wanting to blame other people. I don’t go out of my way to blame Governor (Mark) Dayton for everything I believe is wrong. . . .”

There’s some truth in that: blaming everything on Dayton was Mike Parry’s job during the shutdown. But who talks about the shutdown? Don’t think of the shutdown, the Ghent Republican asks.

Both men want voters to believe that the legislature is really just one big nurturing family of people who just happen to belong to different parties, and it’s just those mischief makers in the media sowing perceptions of discord among the happy children of the voting populace:

The media, the two say, have played a big role in highlighting political fingerpointing during the last couple of years, portraying the Capitol more as a breeding ground for conflict than a place where things get done.

“If the media shows conflict, they sell more papers, or on the news, they get more viewers,” Swedzinski said. “A lot of the areas we focus on are areas where we work together, and I think if people saw that more, their attitudes toward politicians would be more pleasant. There’s always gonna be a couple bad apples that spoil the bush and make it a point to be a burr under the saddle, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.”

Dahms said the political blame game is played on many other issues, not just during and after a shutdown.

Nevermind the large number of state senators and representatives from both parties who retired this year while noting the bitterly partisan atmosphere in both chambers. Don’t think about a government shutdown.

It’s all being nurturing parents to the job creators, Dahms says:

Dahms said jobs are vital to stabilizing the state’s economy. Minnesota’s low unemployment rate compared to the rest of the nation notwithstanding, he said the state still has a long way to go, and increasing jobs is the best way to do it.

“In order to increase jobs, we’ve got to get the folks offering them to feel more confident in the economy in Minnesota so they will be more willing to start expanding,” Dahms said. “We also need to make sure we get job creators from other states taking a look at Minnesota. In order to do that we have to have a Legislature that is friendly to the job creators, because they could just as well go to another state.”

Why can we all just get along? If being nice to the creators is enough get Dahms and Swedzinski to abandon traditional conservative roles as strict parents holding Democrats responsible for everything, then all the rest of us can just SFTU about the shutdowns and retirements.

Because there’s no better way to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past than by forgetting them–or at least by hoping voters have the collective memories of gnats.