Friday, February 07, 2014

The Nicollet Maul

To set things up, let's stipulate a few things:
  • Al Franken, who currently holds the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota, really needs to go.
  • The roster of current Republican candidates vying for Franken's seat is profoundly lackluster.
  • If a better candidate emerged in another party, I could see voting for that candidate.
Which leads us to the matter of Hannah Nicollet, who apparently is a candidate for Senate in the Independence Party. She's a fresh face and bears a passing resemblance to Zooey Deschanel. And the surname is pure Minnesota -- heck, she shares her name with the main drag in Mill City.

New Girl (photo via MPR News)
From what I've been able to gather, she's a fan of limited government. She's supported Ross Perot and Ron Paul in the past and also apparently supports the efforts of Justin Amash, a Michigan congressman who has proven to be an effective irritant to many people who deserve the irritation.

According to a profile on the MPR News website, Nicollet chose to run for the Senate because she was frustrated with the ongoing revelations concerning the National Security Agency, along with the ongoing wars and the size of the national debt. It's difficult to argue with her characterization of the current situation:
"The debt puts us in a very precarious situation nationally," she said. "National Security, if you want to talk about national security, our debt is a threat to it. The biggest threat, I would say."
In addition, she's skeptical of the War on Drugs and would prefer to get the government out of the marriage business entirely. I know rather a lot of people who share those views as well.

I've often argued for the Cincinnatus model of public service -- the citizen who puts down the plow and takes up the mantel of government for a short time. As a stay-at-home mom from Roseville, Nicollet fits that model much more closely than someone like Mike McFadden, the investment banker whom I expect will ultimately emerge as the Republican standard-bearer against Franken. We have a boatload of wealthy businessmen in the Senate already and McFadden seems superfluous, even before he opens his mouth. So I could see an opportunity for Nicollet in this cycle. Having said that, I see two pretty major problems with the nascent Nicollet campaign, to wit:
  • She's thrown in with the Independence Party, which throughout its amorphous history has been a center-left amalgam of technocrats and egotists.
  • Some of her most visible supporters aren't exactly diplomats.
Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, it means that the party apparatus at her disposal would be at best lukewarm to her principles and potentially openly hostile to them. I don't see Tom Horner or Tim Penny, IP standard-bearers of the past, rushing to her aid. And then you have some of her supporters, who take a dim view of people whose support she will need:
Hannah represents the views of most people under 50 who consider themselves free market advocates. If the GOP wanted to earn new votes, it needs to do a better job appealing to real people. The flag waving, Reagan worshipping, God fearing aspect of this party is no longer a mainstream perspective in American life and especially in Minnesota.
That's precisely the sort of charm offensive that builds goodwill and winning coalitions. If Ms. Nicollet is serious about going to Washington as someone other than a spectator in the gallery, she'll need to manage the messaging of some of her would-be surrogates. The only way she'll win office is if she can earn the votes of  a significant percentage of the mossbacks her acolytes disdain. Because this much is certain -- while there are plenty of people in Minnesota who sneer at Reagan worshippers and flag-wavers, most of them will be voting for Al Franken.

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