In Praise of Political Parties

In this space, I’ve documented how a single Democrat donor—Alida Rockefeller Messinger—has leased Minnesota’s politics for the past decade or so for the bargain-basement price of $1 million per year, give or take.  Perhaps she is ready to pass the porch to another donor.  The names may change at the top of the table, but the party label does not.

The vehicle that Messinger has used to secure power in our state has been the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and its fundraising arm, WIN Minnesota.  Both entities are organized as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt charities.  According to its most recent publically-available IRS income tax return, Messinger serves on WIN Minnesota’s board of directors.


Progressives hail this state takeover–orchestrated outside of the state’s Democrat party—as a model for the rest of the country, perfecting a structure first developed in Colorado.  As Mother Jones reported, Messinger met with Colorado operatives in the mid-2000’s and

Inspired and emboldened, she returned home and launched WIN Minnesota, another group of liberal donors that soon became the primary funder of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and a key bankroller of Minnesota’s permanent political machine.

Evan Mother Jones seems to get the joke.  Visiting the offices of WIN Minnesota, they report,

Inside are photos of native sons Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey along with posters for fundraisers—captioned, ironically, “Minnesota is Not For Sale,” under an umbrella with dollar bills raining down.

But sold we have been.  As Mother Jones describes, progressives,

have built a political machine that chugs year-round to elect Democratic candidates and pass progressive policies.  It is fueled by big unions and wealthy donors, the best data in the business, and an unusual level of collaboration among organizations that have very different priorities. Their strategy has created a road map for Democrats from Concord to Santa Fe.

Among my many objections to this situation—the secrecy of anonymous donors, the skirting of Federal tax law, the ends-justifying-means level of dishonesty and libel—is the core issue of accountability.  The foundational premise of representative democracy is that those in charge are accountable to the people (voters, citizens).  If our leaders are not elected, but instead serve as officials in a private, tax-exempt corporation, how does that accountability still function?

Consider, in contrast, the political party.  Political parties are more (small “d”) democratic.  Over the weekend, I attended the recent Minnesota Republican central committee meeting at which we elected a new representative to the Republican National Committee.

To be in the room and to be eligible to cast a ballot, I had to win two elections.  The first took place in February 2012:  to become a GOP delegate from my local precinct to the local state senate district political unit.  Earlier this year, I had to win another election to become one of the district’s delegates to the statewide committee.

In addition to electing our representative to the National Committee this month, we had elected our leadership for the state party last spring.  In this manner, the national Republican party and the state party are accountable all the way down to Republican voters at the local precinct level.

Turning that around—if I don’t like the way in which the party conducts its business or I don’t like the policies put forward by the party—I can show up to a meeting and let my thoughts be known and/or declare my candidacy for a party post.

Although the details will differ, the state’s Democrat party operates largely along the same lines.

If I am unhappy with how political charity has run my state, what I am, as a citizen and voter, to do?  When is the WIN Minnesota caucus held?  Where is the ballot line on which the Alliance for a Better Minnesota appears?  When is the next Alida Messinger press conference or town hall meeting at which I may ask questions?

For a state that is now under the yoke of (large “D”) Democrat one-party rule, there is something profoundly (small “d”) undemocratic about Minnesota’s current power structure.

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In response, there are those on the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian side of the spectrum that advocate for finding our own version of Messinger and replicate the left’s political machine brick-by-brick.

I like winning as much as the next person, but creating our own political machine sounds more like a hostile corporate takeover than a political movement.  Outbidding Mrs. Messinger for the lease on Minnesota’s politics will not make for a better state.

Cross-posted and comments welcome at Bill Glahn.