The Folly of the Independence Party

November 11, 2006 by susan

by susan lenfestey
Kevin Chavis, or someone using his name, commented on my post about Peter Hutchinson's failed race for governor, Hutchinson's folly, saying the blame for Hatch's loss lies not with Hutchinson, but with Hatch. "You simply cannot explain away Pawlenty's election by blaming Hutchinson, Pentel, or anyone else. You should start by blaming Hatch for being a sad candidate to gain independent voters."
I started a short reply, which grew, (that happens with me) which made me decide to bump it up to a post because no one will go back and read old comments.
So, although I thought I was through picking over this heap o' hash, and ready to mend fences with Peter, here we go again.
(click photo to read on)

Kevin, I assume you are referring to the letter I wrote on election eve (and posted here), urging people to face the music and see that there was no way Peter could win, and so, to vote for Hatch. I think in that letter I also said that Hatch wasn't my first, or second choice. But in the end he was by far the more preferable choice -- who could win.

I agree with you that not all aspects of Pawlenty's victory were a result of Peter's delusional race. Pawlenty has a sort of Regan affability that appeals to people but masks a much more conservative and unsound agenda. That's all the more reason I wanted to make sure he got derailed, and not jump-started into a national role.

And I agree that there were people -- members of the Somalian community, young voters and others - who voted for (Muslim and left-leaning) Keith Ellison, (moderate) Amy Klobuchar, and -- (Christian Evangelical) Tim Pawlenty. Go figure! The affability thing?

Hatch himself is another part of the loss equation, but I think his heart is in the right place, even if his mouth isn't, which is the opposite of our victorious Governor.

(For the record, I think Peter's heart is in the right place too, and his mouth usually followed, though his speech was flawed in other ways. He had a hard time overcoming the wonk thing, the people's-eyes-glazing-over-as-he-speaks problem, and when he tried to be more "of the people" he sounded phony. Several people mentioned to me that when he said something about bad roads making people "pissed off" they thought he was pandering. "You know a intellectual from Kenwood doesn't really talk that way," said my dental hygienist. "Well," I said, "I know him, and in truth, he really does!" But it didn't feel real to her. Nor did his use of Jesse in his ads. She thought that was a loser.)

But I agree that in the end, there were people who, for whatever reason, just couldn't or didn't vote for Hatch, and not all of them because of Peter. Still, without Peter in this race, Hatch would have had the numbers to win.

The other thing that bothers me about this line of argument (yours) is, where were all the "I must vote for Peter now because the entrenched Dems put up Hatch" folks at the precinct caucuses and district conventions last spring, when they could have significantly altered the outcome? Steve Kelley, whom I supported and caucused for, came close to blocking the endorsement of Hatch, but in the end came up a few delegates short.

Most of the people I know who gave Peter early money did so before the caucuses and conventions. They were already set on running their vanity candidate and sniffed in disdain at any suggestion that they might try to work through the Democratic or Republican (but don't kid yourself) party. "I've always been an independent voter," they'd say, "not a party person," assuring themselves a gilded seat in the pantheon of the most-informed and above-the-fray.

When I urged Peter to run as a Dem he told me that the DFL was moribund. "Old Lakota wisdom: When the horse is dead, dismount." His words. I asked him if he'd ever tried to ride the horse, or revive it in any way, and he repeated that both parties were beyond hope. So Peter and his early supporters made no effort to attend the precinct caucuses of either party, or to advance to the district and state conventions if they did, to try to block Mike Hatch.

As we know, the world is run by those who show up. The early-birds who joined Peter's principled team, as well as many Democrats and neighbors of mine, did not show up, and rarely, if ever, do. This grunt level of democracy -- spending a long spring day in a high school gym with people who are . . . different from you, is best left to those with nothing "better" to do.
So over the years, in both parties, we've seen those with the dullest axe to grind and the most single issue to promote, take control. I think caucuses and conventions are lots of fun, (yeah, it's a bond I share with Lynnell and Barb) but in this recent era of divisive issues and a shrinking tent, I don't think it's been the best way to choose candidates who will win.

And no sooner do I write that that than I think of Amy Klobuchar's endorsement and great campaign, and Tim Walz's too, and Mark Ritchie's and Rebecca Otto's and Lori Swanson's. (And Andy Luger's, who ran against an iconic name, but deserved to win.) The tent is growing, and when we realize we are in it together, we can win.

Going it alone in the IP, with no standard bearer or unifying banner other than Not Like the Rest of You Sell-outs, will always produce losers, as even Jesse, the one victorious IP candidate, proved to be.

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