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Tom Emmer shows why he lost

by Eric Ferguson on July 8, 2011 · 3 comments

In a recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune, last year’s MNGOP gubernatorial candidate and current conservative talk radio host Tom Emmer tried to claim a mandate for Republicans — and himself (no, not kidding) — from last year’s elections.

When the dust settled after the election, Minnesota voters overwhelmingly elected Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. Dayton was elected governor by the slimmest of margins, approximately 8,000 votes out of 2.2 million cast.

Excluding the cities Minneapolis and St. Paul, I — as the Republican candidate — actually won the state by approximately 6 percentage points.

That election set the stage for the legislative session. The Republican majorities were sent to St. Paul to start the process of reform — to make government smaller and more efficient; to streamline the regulatory process that impacts people and business opportunities; to hold the line on government growth (meaning: Do not raise taxes … or any other revenues).

I bolded that middle bit because it sure felt bolded when I read it, and this was in print, so I know it wasn’t a trick of the HTML. That’s not the only nonsensical point he made (more on that in a bit), but at least that one was mathematically defensible. I haven’t checked his math, but I accept it as close enough. No, it’s the relevancy I’m questioning. Obviously it doesn’t matter for a statewide race — take off some chunk of the state, and the result changes such and such amount. So? So it comes in the middle of a case for a Republican mandate, meaning somehow it’s relevant to Emmer. What an attitude: “Though I lost, I really won, because I would have won without those ‘votes’ from the central cities.” I put “votes” in quotes because apparently urban votes don’t count as much, or at least shouldn’t, if the rest of the state just must indulge the idea that urbanites get to vote too.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, though I think that’s understandable after voter fraud imagineers tried to impose photo ID requirements for voting in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. No, not Minnesota, just central cities. Apparently suburbanites can be trusted to vote honestly, but I can’t, which helps explain why heavily DFL precincts have long had GOP challengers posted at our polling places. They search under every rock for fraud election after election and never find any, but the attitude never changes. I’m not feeling the love Mr. Emmer. I just don’t know why some “real Americans” think so poorly of city folk, but that some do think so, even us somehow less virtuous city boys can figure out.

Let me see if I can politely explain something to Mr. Emmer: we get to vote too. One Minnesotan, one vote: that’s how it works in statewide elections. It doesn’t matter if the vote comes from Duluth or Detroit Lakes. It doesn’t matter if it comes from St. Paul or St. Peter. It doesn’t matter if the voter is in my house in Minneapolis or all the way off in International Falls. Well, that does matter, just not for voting. I’m not inviting all of International Falls to stay with me. Well, OK, but call first.

Mr. Emmer, want to know what’s really weird? After us big city liberals lose an election, and usually after we win too, and sometimes other times, we look at the differences between regions of the state and ask how we can reach out, find some common ground, all that nice liberal inclusivity stuff. Know what we don’t discuss? How to stop people in conservative areas from voting.

I’m not insensible to how electoral maps can look to conservatives some years (see, there I go with the empathizing inclusivity stuff again, all I need is for my heart to start literally bleeding). The maps look like these huge red areas with just a few blue dots, with almost all the cities and counties having voted Republican. How Democrats could possibly have won is not immediately apparent. I get why that looks suspicious, but Mr. Emmer, try to understand, we’re not fraudulent. Just crowded. “Densely populated” probably sounds better because it doesn’t feel crowded once you’re used to it, but you know what I mean. Point is, the value of those votes does not decline with a more dense population. An urban vote is worth … let me see, I used to do this without a calculator … carry the three … one vote. In terms of winning votes in cities, may I suggest that “screw the cities” is not a winning platform.  

For those of you hanging around because I promised some other nonsensical point, here you go. Emmer claimed a mandate for the reason Republicans generally do, their majorities in the legislature. It was a huge flip, no question. They have every right to be happy about it. DFLers were after the 2006 wave. As far as a mandate from Minnesota voters however, there’s are couple numbers they generally choose to ignore, and to add a twist, I’m quoting from a counterpoint to the Emmer piece written by one of Emmer’s opponents for the Republican nomination, Bob Carney, about whom I know nothing else, but I have a guess he’s not welcome at party meetings any more:

Let’s look at the facts. According to figures published on the Secretary of State’s website, total statewide votes cast for Republican and DFL candidates for the Legislature broke down as follows:
STATE HOUSE:

• Republicans candidates: 1,036,019 votes (50.99%)

• DFL candidates: 995,853 votes (49.01%)

Republicans won by just under two percentage points.

* * *
STATE SENATE:

• Republican candidates: 1,021,633 votes (50.41%)

• DFL candidates: 1,005,132 votes (49.59%)

Republicans won by less than one percentage point.

Now let’s look at the dictionary (Webster’s): Overwhelm — “to cover over completely (as by a great wave), overflow and bury beneath … to overcome by great superiority of force or numbers: bring to ruin …”

Margins of 1 and 2 percent are not “overwhelming.”

The italics are Carney’s.

That Republicans could win solid majorities on an average margin of about 1.5% speaks less to a mandate than to how strongly DFL the DFL-leaning districts were. That they won by such a tiny amount in a wave election should worry Republicans. That Republicans would want to maintain the density of DFLers in redistricting is understandable. That Republicans would want to claim a mandate is pure spin. If seats were assigned proportionately instead of districted, Republicans would have majorities of one or two in each house. Just like in the gubernatorial race, there was essentially a tie.

“Tie” is not a synonym for “mandate”.

Where did Emmer get this math that’s factually wrong but ideologically incorrect? Maybe the same place he found the $100,000 waiters.

One bit of math neither of them mentioned: Tom Horner got about 12% on a platform which included raising taxes. He had a different proposal than Dayton, but nonetheless, that was 55% who voted for a candidate promising to raise taxes. 55-43.

That’s a bit more of a mandate.

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