Pragmatism or Idealism?; or A Vote for Hutchinson Was a Vote for Pawlenty
Recent history teaches that when the Republicans suspect they have a front runner, they rally convincingly. Thus George W. Bush was lauded as a Texas straight shooter who would be a breath of fresh air in the bloviating smog of Washington (not a prep-school scion with no track record who could barely string together a coherent sentence).
But because liberals are idealists, they are unwilling to do the same. They don't even compare their most promising leaders with the opposition. Instead they compare them with the ideal, the perfect candidate, the standard-bearer without flaw.
Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, October 30, 2006
It feels silly to even ask it at a time when the Democratic party has retaken the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, the Minnesota House, a Minnesota U.S. House seat that had been Republican for years, and the preponderance of state-wide offices up for grabs, but…
Why did Mike Hatch and Judi Dutcher lose?
This post was inspired by Dirty and TK
Here are my reasons (in no particular order):
Mike Hatch’s “Republican whore” comment cost them votes.
Judi Dutcher not knowing what E 85 is.
Hatch, like Skip Humphrey and Roger Moe before him, has/had a fine career in public service, but lacked the kind of charisma to really motivate people; and
As a result, though he would have won if Peter Hutchinson had not run (the Independence Party is the only third party in Minnesota able to even come close to overcoming the bias of the two-party system – and, as the Quindlen quote points out, Republicans, ever the pragmatists, rally around one candidate while Democrats, in search of the ideal, are prone to stray) he did not have enough in him to overcome his built in disadvantage.
Some other thoughts (in a particular order):
The Minnesota DFL needs to nominate better candidates.
We need a combination of issues and charisma; someone who can promote our agenda, and motivate the citizenry to do the same. Humphrey, Moe and Hatch were long on the first virtue, and lacking in the second.
Progressives, liberals and, as a result, Democrats want ideal candidates. I think we were damaged by Kennedy and Clinton. For right or wrong, we just can’t get inspired by the Gores and Hatchs of the world* (not to mention Dukakis and Mondale). But because we know this, we need to nominate more charismatic candidates.
Our inability to rally around our candidate, particularly when considered against the Republican ability to rally around their candidate (and particularly in a state like Minnesota where the Independence Party essentially runs as a more liberal version** of the DFL*** party) places us at an significant disadvantage.
Recent editorials in the Star Tribune have tried to pinpoint who’s to blame, here’s my list (in particular order):
The DFL state convention
The Independence Party (it’s the most viable third party in Minnesota, but, without a Ventura, it’s still not viable, and its candidates get a lower percentage of the vote with each passing election: Ventura won with 37% of the vote; Tim Penny took 16%; and Peter Hutchinson took 6.7%. Besides, what does the Independence Party stand for? In the final analysis, what is its legacy beyond Ventura and giving Tim Pawlenty two terms at the helm? And, don’t kid yourself, you know they get a lot of money from Republicans who use their pragmatism (and liberal idealism) to heighten their advantage by pumping up a party that will appeal to liberals even though it has no chance of winning**** works like a charm too).
Peter Hutchinson who now prides himself on bringing “levity” to the race. Thanks for the laughs, Pete!
Liberals who, in spite of the fact that he consistently polled well-below ten percent, and in spite of the fact that the gubernatorial race was a statistical dead heat, voted for Peter Hutchinson (they knew he could not win, they knew the risk that Pawlenty would win). To frame the issue in a way that plays on Quindlen’s Conundrum, liberals need to compare their candidates to the opposition and not to the ideal. Applying that standard, Hatch takes the office, even though he’s no Adlai Stevenson. It’s how Bush won, it’s how Pawlenty won, it’s how Bachmann won.
I’ll close with this. In Minnesota our last three Governors have been elected with less than 50% of the vote. 63% of the people did not want Ventura, Pawlenty won with 44% in 2002 and 46% in 2006. Until we get instant runoff voting, this structural flaw will continue. And, it must be said: if the goal of a Democracy is to identify the will of the majority, then, until we have instant runoff voting, elections in Minnesota must be considered something less than democratic*****.
Ooops, one other thought - yes, absolutely, people can vote for whomever they want. But, the sad reality is that in our flawed system, some votes count more than others do, and votes for some candidate C, can end up being, when all the precincts close, a vote for candidate B.
*In my view, the admiration, no (let’s call it what it is) the adoration for Baraka Obama is motivated, by the fact that he holds our two favorite virtues so completely. He’s spot on where the issues are concerned, and he is Kennedyesque – larger than life, handsome, passionate, articulate, and more charismatic than even Ronald Reagan.
**For example, Hatch was forced by political reality to equivocate on taxes. Hutchinson proudly proclaimed that he would raise them. Many Minnesota liberals are “proud to pay for a better Minnesota.”
***Democrat, Farm and Labor
****And consider this – something holds Republicans together even though their ranks include, at one extreme, Main Street Republicans and, at the other, Evangelical Christians (but also includes neoconservatives, libertarians, Eisenhower Republicans, fiscal conservatives and Log Cabin Republicans). You know what that glue is? You know what holds Republicans together? It’s that even though no candidate can appeal to all those Republican communities, whoever they select will be better (in their minds) than a Democrat.