The state Republican party made party chairman Ron Eibensteiner redundant
Saturday, as they say, and elevated the secretary-treasurer, Ron Carey, to the top post. Unlike the Democrats, where Mike Erlandson was stepping down, Eibensteiner's retirement was not pre-planned.
Some Republicans are saying this doesn't mean much, but it seems to clearly be a case of putting the smackdown on Governor Pawlenty for his abandonment of some core Minnesota Republican beliefs, such as expanding gambling and raising taxes (under the pseudonym of "fees").
Was it fair? Eibensteiner said that it is not the party leader's job to enforce party beliefs on office holders. He may have a point. People have spent countless hours debating the whole purpose of party organizations in our country's non-parliamentary, weak party election system. The fact is, anybody can call themselves a Republican and get elected, and the party leadership can't do a thing about it. Both Eva Young
and Michelle Bachmann are Republicans, after all. But it is also clear that the party grunts want to at least believe they have control over elected leaders, and taking down Eibensteiner as a proxy for Pawlenty made a lot of sense to them.
What does this mean? I don't see a whole lot of change for the Republican party; in fact, it may have slightly weakened itself. Eibensteiner's record spoke for itself, and it was a pretty good one, tarnished only by the 2004 elections. I know nothing about Ron Carey, except to say he's not the Ron Carey I know, another person entirely. The Republicans have a lot to do in 2006: take away a Democratic senate seat, elect a Republican to Mark Kennedy's seat, try to take over the Senate and add seats to an uncomfortably close cushion in the House, and, above all, defend Pawlenty. That's a lot to ask for, especially in an off-year election where the party in power, now the Republican party, doesn't do well. Is Carey up to the job?
Convention delegates are always more extreme than the public at large. Those Republican delegates who gave Eibensteiner the boot are much more conservative than most Republicans (and, of course, DFL delegates are much more liberal than most DFLers, something I'm reminded of every time I go to a convention). They got their pound of flesh and sent Pawlenty a warning. As Dean Johnson pointed out, this means Pawlenty probably isn't going to be in a compromising mood when it comes to the state budget. If the media story coming out of this is that Pawlenty is refusing to compromise to appease his ultra-conservative party regulars, it's not going to aid his re-election campaign. There's a price for demanding orthodoxy from elected officials from party regulars (another fact that DFLers often fail to remember). By forcing Pawlenty to kowtow to the extreme elements of the Republican party, they may be causing his
unplanned retirement in a little over a year as well.
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