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Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Case for Throwing Senator Norm Coleman Under the Bus

Although this post is directed at Senator Coleman many of the arguments apply to other alleged Republicans and RINO office holders and candidates who apparently think that "moderation" (a euphemism for moving to the political left) is the key to their personal success and, secondarily, the success of the Republican party. I believe that while following this course may win a few elections in the short term it is detrimental to the long-term Conservative agenda and will eventually keep the GOP from ever attaining and retaining a political majority.

I make this post at the risk of drawing the ire of the Republican establishment, but I don't really care. Senator Coleman and the Republican establishment obviously don't give a damn about alienating us in the Conservative base, so why should we care what they think? From the actions of the good Senator and many in the GOP it seems pretty obvious that we are not held in very high esteem anyway.

It is common knowledge within the GOP that Senator Coleman has privately acknowledged a very cynical "where else will Conservatives go?" attitude. His campaign has made the calculation that he can maximize his vote total by moving to the left. Apparently the thinking is that the DFL mainstream has moved so far to the left that many traditional old school Democrats could be swayed to vote for him (and I concede that this part of the thinking is accurate). This strategy also figures that Conservatives, no matter how angry they become at him, are stuck voting for him to avoid the even worse choice of the DFL candidate.

Conservatives have generally voted for Republicans because the GOP used to be the best and often the only practical vehicle to advance the Conservative cause, but this is no longer necessarily the case. RINOs like Coleman, Pawlenty, McCain, and others have far too many times advocated (and even authored or co-sponsored) legislation that is as detrimental to our life, liberty, and property as the worst bilge pushed by liberals and socialists.

We have been for far too long having to vote against liberal candidates more than voting for a Conservative. This practice may be strategically acceptable on occasion or on a case-by-case basis, but when it becomes the Norm (yeah, bad pun) our political clout gets diluted and the GOP ceases to strongly stand for anything. It may not have been eloquent, but President Bush's statement that "If you don't stand for something, you don't stand for anything" truly applies. Ironically Bush's presidency has been hurt in part by some of his own RINO tendencies.

It's high time we Conservatives started a "we're as mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore" campaign against the RINOcracy, and the Coleman campaign is an ideal place to start it.

No doubt that some of you go-along-to-get-along Republicans are going Alpha Sierra on me now. Good! Now that I have your attention let's examine why figuratively throwing Senator Coleman under the Wellstonian green bus may be the right thing to do to promote the Conservative agenda and, if we do it right, that it doesn't necessarily mean conceding the seat to a buffoon like Al Franken.

I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not advocating that people vote for Al Franken. Rather my position is to urge people to vote for Norm Coleman if their conscience allows it, but make it clear to Senator Coleman that a vote is the only support he will receive - no phone bank time, no campaign contributions, no literature distribution, no promotion on our blogs, etc. Think of it as a kind and gentle throwing under the bus rather than one of extreme prejudice.

Coleman is an ideal candidate to apply this strategy to. He is running against a relatively weak opponent and has a decent chance of winning even if his campaign makes some mis-steps or he does not get optimal support from Conservatives. Yes, the course of action I am advocating could possibly contribute to Coleman's defeat. However, the upside is that it will definitely send a message to Coleman and, perhaps more importantly, to other RINOs that if they give minimal support to the Conservative agenda they will in turn receive minimal support from Conservatives at election time. At a time when the difference between winning and losing an election comes down to a very small number of votes Republican candidates may well think twice before they betray Conservatives. Additionally there are other potential benefits besides just sending a message.

I believe the potential benefits of this action outweigh the possible outcome of Al Franken becoming our Senator (please don't go Alpha Sierra on me just yet...please continue reading). In terms of a sports analogy, consider how the intentional walk is used in baseball. Walking a batter is generally not a good thing, but if the walk sets up a double-play that quells the threat from the opposition it would be a good move. On the other hand if the next batter gets an extra-base hit or hits a home run the walked player ends up scoring and the strategy back-fired. Like the intentional walk, the kind and gentle throwing of Norm under the bus has potential benefits as well as risks. The outcome is not guaranteed, but under the right circumstances I believe the idea has merit.

Am I really off base even considering such a tactic? Before answering, please consider the following:
  • Al Franken could possibly win the race regardless of how much time, money, and effort Conservatives put into the Coleman campaign.
  • The Democrats will more than likely have a larger majority in the Senate than they have now, regardless of whether or not Coleman retains his seat. How much would it really matter it they had, say, a seven seat majority instead of six?
  • Senator Coleman votes for Conservative interests about 60-70%. Franken will vote against our interests close to 100% of the time, so the "discount" we are looking at in a best case versus worst case scenario is about a factor of 30-40%.
To begin the journey of embracing this concept consider the perspective that the "product" we are discussing is the US Senate as a whole, not individual senators.

A hypothetical: Would you make the trade of replacing Norm Coleman with Al Franken if all of the other seats in play this fall went to Conservatives? I sure would. Franken would still be a huge embarrassment, but the overall product of the US Senate would be better for the Conservative agenda than having Norm Coleman as our senator with a Democrat majority.

Although the preceding was an extreme hypothetical, I believe the principle has real world application. US Senators do not vote on legislation that exclusively impacts his or her home state. Each senator, at least theoretically, has an influence of one percent on all legislation and the legislation applies to all of the states. Granted, some members of the Senate realistically have more influence than others via committee chairmanships and arm-twisting clout, but does it really matter what state a senator comes from as long as he or she looks out for your interests? Unless one subscribes to the belief that the main function of the person we elect to the US Senate is to "bring home the bacon" for our state I don't see that it matters where the members come from as long as they support the Conservative agenda.

This is the real potential and practical upside to a soft throwing of Norm under the bus. If a person was going to vote for Coleman anyway and was not going to donate any time, effort, or money Senator Coleman has lost nothing. On the other hand, what if I was going to vote for Coleman as well as make some additional contribution, but instead ended up only voting for him and directing my time, effort, and money to a Conservative candidate in another state? If my other-than-a-vote support for the out of stater ended up helping them retain their seat or knocking off a Democrat incumbent I think my support did more for the goal of advancing the Conservative agenda than merely increasing Coleman's margin of victory or lessening his margin of defeat. Think of the strategy as a "redeployment of resources" to better the product as a whole rather than a withdraw of support for Coleman if it makes you feel better.

There is not a real good chance of re-taking the majority in the upcoming election, but minimizing the size of the Democrat majority as well as sending a strong message to future Republican candidates that excursions off of the Conservative reservation will not be tolerated by the base are both positive steps toward eventually re-taking the majority with a team of people who will retain it for a long time. Little is accomplished in the long run by winning a razor-thin majority that gets quickly squandered because we put too much stock in mediocre candidates who were more interested in their career than in building a long term Conservative majority.

Jerry Seinfeld once said that sports fans cheered for laundry - the hero on one's favorite team becomes a bum if he is traded or goes free-agent to a rival team (of course, Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell became much better players when they switched from green to purple shirts). I think the concept also applies to politics in that we too often support a candidate merely based on the letter after his or her name on the Senate or House roster.

We do more for our cause by taking actions that support building the best overall team in a political body rather than devoting undue resources to "our" candidate more due to party affiliation than performance. While Senator Coleman's performance has been better than the potential performance of Al Franken, it has still been a largely sub-par performance and should be dealt with accordingly in terms of our support.

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Blogger John Galt said...

Exactly, exactly, exactly--or if you're temporarily Swiss German, as I am, "Genau!"

The spouse is unhappy with me for declaring I will not go vote for McCain, for saying over and over again, "I'm done voting for anyone just because they're better than the alternative." And I told Norm Coleman months ago I was done supporting him, when he had the effrontery to justify expanding the hate crimes legislation to cover gays by saying he understood hate crimes, being Jewish. Can you say non sequitur? Can you say false equation?

The Republican party needs to die and be reborn as something worth working for again. Until then, I have no interest in anything above my local precinct activities, where the people might actually care what I think.

6/09/2008 7:44 AM  
Blogger Minnesota Central said...

Very interesting post. One fact that you did not mention is that Coleman’s war chest is adequate for this campaign at $6,960,912 as of 3/31/08 … and as someone who will be forced to switch TV station channels whenever one of those commercials come on, that’s okay with me if he can only run 20 spots a day instead of 30.

My personal thought is that for Minnesotans, this election is the classic bad election – trying to pick the least offensive … and it is tough.

One question: After listening to all the complaining about Coleman at the MN-GOP State Convention, why didn’t anyone come forward and challenge him?

You realize that IF Coleman is re-elected that he will immediately be talked about for President in 2012. He will have won in a state that has voted Democratic since Nixon. He will be of the right age. He will have experience. Depending upon what Dick Lugar does, Coleman could be the Ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. He will travel the country as Fundraiser-in-Chief in 2009 and 2010 garnering cash for the Party and IOUs from the various state conventions. Then, we in Minnesota lose a Senator while he campaigns throughout the nation in 2011 and early 2012 versus Huckabee, Romney, and Pawlenty. IF Coleman wins, Minnesota loses.

6/09/2008 8:06 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

"where else will Conservatives go?"

That's a good question, where else will conservatives go? The choice right now is either to be represented by Senator Coleman for another 6 years, or being represented by Franken for 6 years. I think I know the better choice.

You could let moderates and liberals make the choice and hope that you get something, but the problem is that if Senator Coleman is reelected solely by moderate voters, who will he be more inclined to represent for the next 6 years? It's best for conservatives to throw their full support behind Coleman's reelection and give Coleman a reason not to write off representing conservatives completely.

6/09/2008 8:24 AM  
Blogger Right Hook said...

Brent -

Coleman rarely represents me anyway. I have no problem with being represented in the Senate by people like Jim DeMint, Jim Inhoff, Mitch McConnell, etc. or maybe even someone who gets elected because of the financial support of people like me.

As long as the number of Conservatives in the senate is maximized Norm or Franken can go play footsie with their tree hugging pals. On the House side I consider Duncan Hunter to be my representative (with "B1" Bob Dornan before that) as "Brows" Vento and Betty McCollumn have never represented my interests.

If you want to cheer for "R"'s tune into Stress-me Street and have at it. I choose to support Conservatives and the re-birth of the Conservative movement for the long haul. I realize there may be some pain involved along the way, but I'm afraid that's the cost of doing business that the current political marketplace has established.

6/09/2008 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think many conservatives are already doing as you suggest, but I don't think the world works as you and some others think it does. The way to convince the ONLY candidate for Senate inclined to vote more conservatively is to make the conservative vote the margin of victory. Norm Coleman is going to vote for those who supported him in ways other than the secret ballot. To the degree you can convince him that your
support has "strings," just as any lobbyist's support has strings, you've made a big dent.

I like your idea of helping other states' conservative Senate races, but I think that until the Coleman seat is adequately defended /by conservative support/, we need to hold that down to what we can afford above and beyond Coleman support. Mind you, I haven't done it myself, yet, waiting for the Warner-Lieberman vote, but I will.

Brent has it right. If you let Coleman be elected by moderate voters, he'll become more moderate. Let Coleman be defeated for lack of conservative support, and I guarantee you the next Republican nominee will be MORE liberal than Coleman is.

J. Ewing

6/09/2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger Thrifty Scot said...

It makes no sense to vote for Coleman on the assumption that, if conservatives provide votes to put him over the top, he will vote more conservatively in Washington.

Given his current strategy, should he win he will chalk it up to having moved leftward, no matter what support conservatives lend to his victory. This is his formula for success - if it pans out he will feel vindicated, regardless of what any exit polls tell him.

Coleman has been lost to the left - he's not coming back. It's up to conservatives to decide for themselves what to do about this. I think Right Hook makes a fair case for abandoning him.

6/09/2008 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe there was a challenger to Norm at the State Convention, but of course the nominating committee didn't find him qualified to run, like it didn't find Sue Jeffers qualified to run against Pawlenty 2 years ago.

6/09/2008 4:01 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

I believe there was a challenger to Norm at the State Convention, but of course the nominating committee didn't find him qualified to run

At least the MNGOP has a sane nominating committee left. We can be thankful for that.

6/09/2008 7:49 PM  
Blogger Right Hook said...

It doesn't take much to be sane relative to the DFL. Endorsing a NOP like Franken was bad enough, but doing it by a convincing margin on the first ballot should have been cause to demand that delegates submit to a drug test.

In any case Norm should consider the Franken endorsement as a gift.

6/09/2008 9:54 PM  
Blogger G-Man said...

Good post Hook! I am already applying your strategy.

I do contend that politics is not a religion and that it is self-defeating for a conservative to withhold one's vote from a Republican who isn't "conservative enough". Career politicians often try to read the electorate rather than uphold the principles that they may have originally advocated. If the liberals win the election, these politicians will most certainly move to the left on the next go around. This is exactly why Coleman has moved left for this election – he doesn't buy the argument that Republicans lost in 06 because the base got fed up with them.


With respect to the Presidency, as much as it pains me, I'm convinced that it is imperative for conservatives to vote for McCain. Granted, it would feel good to stick it to McCain by withholding my vote, but the risk of an Obama presidency is too great. Obama threatens to be another Jimmy Carter.

True, one might argue that Carter gave us Reagan, but we are still paying the price for Carter's four years in office. Arguably, the current threat of radical Islamic terrorism got it's kick start when Carter ignored Iran. Then there are those judges that Carter put in office, many who are still there today.

If Obama is elected, the price we pay will be high. Terrorist friendly regimes will likely thrive, courts will be packed with judges bent in fixing the law more than upholding it, we will see the return of gas lines, and the Misery Index – not to mention a black market on Edison light bulbs.

I, too, want to be done voting for someone because he is better than the alternative, but there is no way around the ramifications of this decision. Not voting for McCain equates to helping Obama – to voting for Obama. Period. I simply cannot vote to put the country in peril and in economic turmoil for four years on the hope that change will save us in 2012. This sounds as desperate as those who actually believe in Obama.


Still, as Hook point's out, the threat of losing Coleman's seat is not as great as losing the White House. This is what makes Hook's post more interesting.

Because Coleman did move so violently to the left, it will be easier to pin a loss to Coleman's decision to abandon his base. As Thrifty points out, should Coleman win, he will attribute it to his leftward tilt.

HOWEVER, for this to work, I think it is essential that we raise a stink to Coleman for abandoning us. Whether it's calls to his office or responding to those requests for donations, tell him that you won't support his campaign because he stopped representing you in the Senate.

Before Election Day, we need to make it clear that Coleman is doing this alone – without the base. Should he lose, it needs to be clear that Coleman lost because he was too liberal and not because Franken was the better liberal.


Arizona law requires that a vacant Senate seat be filled with a member of the same party. Arizona Governor Napolitano is a Democrat. She is likely to fill the seat with a moderate, but McCain's seat is up for reelection in 2010 and there is bound to be a primary fight. Electing McCain to the Presidency might be our best chance to replace him with a more conservative Republican in the Senate.


Sue Jeffers had reported that Harold Shudlick was seeking the endorsement, but that State Republican Party leaders refused to give him the chance. Now, there does appear to be problem with the State GOP and the control that its Exec board wields over nominations. Still, Shudlick had no campaign this year (he did try in 2006).


Not unlike Hook, my plan is simple – three steps.

1. Move the pendulum of conventional wisdom to the right by participating in the public discourse with truth, logic, and reason – the essence of conservative thought. Hopefully, this will give rise to more discourse and encourage more conservative candidates to come forward in the future.

2. Actively support true conservative candidates. These are the only ones who get my time and my donations.

3. Vote Republican – or the most conservative candidate on the ballot. No cheer leading here. No emotional devotion to the team. Just a logical strategy for returning government to one that our Founding Father might recognize.

6/09/2008 11:35 PM  
Blogger Daria said...

"Our Independent Senator" voted along with the libs for the windfall profits tax on oil companies as one of six turncoat Republicans.

Not a dime, Norm. Maybe not even a vote!

- D

6/10/2008 5:13 PM  

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