The Case for Endorsing Dan Severson for U.S. SenateMay 18, 2012 at 5:19 am | Posted in Political | Leave a comment
Tags: 999, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Schwanke, Chris Barden, Cuts, dan severson, Dick Morris, Doc, Endorsement, Fair Tax, gop, grassroots, Herman Cain, Immigrants, Integrity, judicial reform, King Banaian, liberty, Minority, mngop, Outreach, Photo ID, Reductions, Republicans, Senate, spending, tea party, U.S. Senate
The following is a compilation of posts made in the days leading up to the Republican Party of Minnesota’s 2012 state convention. Each offers a reason to support Dan Severson as the party’s endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate.
A Grassroots Fixture
Everywhere I went, he was there. That was a big reason why I decided to throw my meager support behind Dan Severson for U.S. Senate.
After years of heckling from the political sidelines, the advent of the Tea Party inspired me to activism in 2009. I fired up a blog and podcast under the name Fightin Words, and began attending every conservative community event I could physically get to. That quickly resulted in a network of new relationships with people of like mind. Whether Tea Partiers, libertarians, or established conservative grassroots activists, all were united in their abhorrence at the “fundamental transformation” imposed by President Obama and radical Democrats like Senator Amy Klobuchar.
One thing I observed over time was that some politicians are more in tune with we among the grassroots than others. An immediate standout was Dan Severson, then a state representative from Saux Rapids. In a time when many Republicans weren’t sure what to make of the Tea Party, and just as many were not naturally inclined toward the new movement’s positions on the issues, Dan Severson sat comfortably among us as a rogue advocate of causes like judicial reform.
Judicial reform is not a sexy issue. It can be rather esoteric to anyone unfamiliar with the system, and matters most to the slim minority of the electorate who have faced alleged judicial misconduct. In other words, it’s a political currency sink. As a politician, there is nothing to be gained by pursuing judicial reform, and indeed much to lose. The judicial establishment is a powerful institution with leverage over a legislature composed of a disproportionate number of lawyers.
In spite of this, Dan Severson championed the cause. He didn’t do it because it was a good political investment. He did it because it was the right thing to do, because he believed people’s essential rights were being violated, and because he was convicted in his heart that serving that minority was his duty as an elected official.
The same moral calculation informed Severson’s leadership on election integrity. It was the central issue of his 2010 bid for the office of secretary of state. As with judicial reform, the question of election integrity is an matter of essential justice. If our courts do not apply the law equally to all comers, and if our vote is vulnerable to cancellation by fraud, we lack the framework necessary to tackle other issues. Severson has been consistently in touch with the grassroots on matters such as these.
Dan and I have crossed paths regularly during the course of my activism. More than any other current or former legislator, I have seen and heard Dan declare principles and engage on issues important to me and those I break bread with. His heart is with the grassroots. He will stand with us at home, and for us in Washington D.C.
It’s refreshing to find a candidate with traits you aspire to. As a volunteer on the campaign to elect Dan Severson to the U.S. Senate, I have been afforded a significant amount of face time with the candidate in a variety of settings. One quality I have observed in Dan is an unabashed sense of integrity.
We all know fake people. We have some sense of when we’re being confronted with pretense. Perhaps we even harbor a degree of self-awareness regarding the masks we wear from time to time.
The thing about pretense is, you can’t keep it up for long. Sooner or later, the mask slips and the real you peaks through. As a result, the more time spent in someone’s company, the easier it becomes to determine when they are presenting their true self.
Dan is always Dan. Whether in the privacy of his campaign office, or in the harsh light of a public forum, Dan says what he means and means what he says. The day’s highs and lows never change the quality of his expression. Nor does a given audience change the content of his message.
In the weeks since the field of candidates has been solidified, I have noted some skepticism among the liberty community regarding Dan’s expressed support for their issues. Sadly, some have even mocked his focus on the Constitution, as if it were manufactured in a disingenuous attempt to appeal to liberty delegates.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Dan began as a liberty candidate, which is a why so many of his staff and volunteers are liberty activists. Deference to the Constitution, protection of individual rights, the respect for the lawful powers of the states and the people have always lay at the heart of Dan’s campaign. That’s because they lay within the heart of Dan.
When the time comes to cast your vote, your final decision is not likely to be based upon a particular endorsement. You will make a practical assessment of who best represents your priorities, and who has the best chance at victory.
However, considering the endorsements which a candidate has earned can aid your process. Dan Severson has attracted support from significant sources in his bid for U.S. Senate. Relevant to your assessment of his candidacy is the reasoning behind that support. Let’s review some samples:
Former candidate for Minnesota Attorney General Chris Barden wrote a letter of endorsement for Dan, calling him “a truly great American.” Barden got to know Dan as part of the slate of MNGOP endorsed candidates last cycle.
During our joint state-wide campaign in 2010 we spoke out for FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, against the unconstitutional OBAMACARE law, and for VOTER ID ELECTION INTEGRITY. I spent many fine hours with Dan, and his dear wife Cathy Jo, on speaking platforms, planes, buses, parades, lunches, dinners, media interviews, TV studios, and in many long, thoughtful conversations about the future of Minnesota and the future of the United States of America. Dan Severson is a man of great faith, solid judgment, integrity, intelligence, experience, and courage. He can and will defeat Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Barden’s endorsement is a vouch of character, the word of one man about the inner person of another. Those of us who got to know Barden during his campaign to oust entrenched DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson understand him to be a man of great character in his own right. Barden offered a glimpse of the work he would do if elected, treading where few established officials would dare, exposing signs of corruption. Integrity recognizes integrity.
Economics Professor and State Representative King Banaian
King Banaian knows a thing or two about economics. Before winning election to the Minnesota House of Representatives, Banaian was well known as a credible expert on matters of finance. Host of The King Banaian Show on Business 1570 in the Twin Cities, the professor and chairman of the Department of Economics from St. Cloud State University takes listeners to school from 9-11am each Saturday. His calculation for U.S. Senate? Dan Severson:
Dan understands that the key to economic growth is productivity. You make workers more productive by giving them tools to work with, including skills for workers to learn and apply to their jobs. Taxes are the enemy of productivity, and Dan will work to stem that tide.
Dan understands the distortions created by price controls, in both energy and in health care. He believes in free markets and their ability to bring us high living standards, with health care unmatched anywhere in the world. Dan knows that regulation of energy production has caused high gas prices, and will work to let free markets provide us cheap energy that grows our economy.
I had the privilege of working for David Horowitz as an associate editor for NewsReal Blog. Horowitz was a child of the Left who came to an epiphany in adulthood and made a dramatic conversion to conservatism. He is now an iconic leader on the intellectual battleground of our colleges and universities, not to mention the media, championing classical liberalism and standing against those who would submit us to any brand of tyranny.
There is unique value in being a convert. When you come out of a wrong-headed ideology, you do so with an intimate understanding of why it is wrong and how to defeat it. Like Horowitz, Dick Morris is such a convert.
Morris worked for the Clinton administration. There are those who continue to hold that against him. Indeed, since his endorsement of Dan Severson for U.S. Senate, some have attempted to portray him as a leftist Democrat. This ignores over a decade of history, trivializes his conversion, and insults the intelligence of those of us who know better.
Morris has been a fixture at Tea Party events since the movement began, sharing the stage with the likes of Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the 2011 Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit. Morris’ daily video commentaries are obsessed with unseating President Obama, retaining Republican control of the House, and winning a majority in the Senate. To regard him as anything other than a staunch ally of our cause is an exercise in selective perception.
More importantly, like Horowitz, Morris has a keen sense of how the game of politics is played and what it takes to win. You will note that focus in his comments endorsing Dan Severson for U.S. Senate. Morris recognizes the unique position of the Severson campaign to run through the general to victory.
Invaluable Legislative Experience
For better or worse, there is a pecking order in legislative bodies that is determined to a large extent by seniority. Freshman legislators are always going to be subjected to some degree of rookie treatment from senior members. Established seat holders have a vested interest in coopting fresh blood in order to secure long-sought status. Until a freshman learns to stand on their own two feet, they are vulnerable to the buffeting winds of deliberative peer pressure.
While that learning curve is not entirely avoidable, it can be greatly mitigated by stature and experience. Dan Severson is far and away the most experienced candidate seeking the MNGOP endorsement to run for U.S. Senate. That experience falls into three relevant categories, the first being legislative.
When you are looking to hire someone, it is preferable that the candidate has done the job before, particularly when you don’t have the time or luxury to suffer though comprehensive on-the-job training. As we consider our candidates for U.S. Senate, we do well to remember the urgency with which the next senator from Minnesota must act upon reaching Washington DC. There will be no time for orientation, no allowance for gaffes, and no margin for error. Our next senator needs to get to work right away, and he needs to know how to do so effectively.
Dan Severson has served four terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including one as minority whip. He worked from the minority to achieve reforms in tort litigation, veteran education and employment benefits, and judicial accountability through state statue. He not only knows how the deliberative process works, but how to work it to the good of his constituents.
That’s invaluable. Good ideas are worthless without the proven ability to act upon them. Dan Severson has that ability, and will bring it to bear in the U.S. Senate.
A Lifetime of Leadership
We left off yesterday citing Dan Severson’s vast experience as a distinguishing factor in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. His four terms in the Minnesota State House have uniquely prepared him to hit the ground running in Washington DC, mitigating an otherwise substantial learning curve.
The second category of experience where Severson stands out is leadership. For the same reasons that legislative experience is vital to the success of Minnesota’s next senator, so too is the proven ability to lead.
Washington is a long way from the kind of comprehensive reform necessary to restore our republic under the constitutional rule of law. Affecting that restoration will require both the courage to buck established trends – in a first term – and the skill to bring other members in tow.
Dan Severson has both. That’s no mere claim. It’s a matter of record. Dan is battle tested. His 22 year career in the Navy is distinguished by the elusive achievements of becoming a Top Gun fighter pilot and a squadron commander. Dan received two Meritorious Services medals in recognition of his leadership.
He has been out front at home as well, recently honored as a distinguished alumnus by the St. Cloud Tech Alumni Association. Of over 30,000 students which have graduated from St. Cloud Tech, 187 were nominated and Dan was among 10 selected to be honored. St. Cloud Tech Alumni Executive Director Terry O’Connell explained that nominees are “individuals that have risen to the top of their vocation and in doing so have also given back to their communities.”
Of course, most relevant to the office Dan is seeking is his leadership experience in the Minnesota House of Representatives where he served as minority whip in his most recent term. That is a role which required notable interpersonal and rhetorical skill to not only keep fellow Republicans on the straight and narrow, but work across the aisle as well.
Topping off Dan’s leadership attributes is a willingness to fly headlong into enemy fire when the mission calls for it. In legislative terms, that translates to standing up for principle when it is neither popular nor easy. As previously noted, Dan’s work on judicial reform and election integrity are examples of his willingness to fight for right regardless of the conventional wisdom or political pragmatism. His example has inspired others to join the cause and carry on to victory.
Statewide Electoral Experience
Defeating Senator Amy Klobuchar is going to be a challenge for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her name recognition. Between now and the general election in November, her challenger will need to introduce himself to many voters who are already familiar with Klobuchar.
Dan Severson has a significant head-start in that process due to his run for secretary of state in 2010. Critics are quick to point out that he lost that race. However, a serious analysis must be more comprehensive than that. Hardly a blowout, Dan garnered just shy of one million votes and came within 3.5% of victory in a year when every MNGOP statewide candidate fell short of the finish line.
Nearly one million people have placed a check next to Severson’s name on a statewide ballot, something no other candidate for endorsement can claim. It would be a mistake to take any of those past votes for granted this year, and you can bet Dan won’t. However, it remains true that he has a much smaller hurdle to jump than candidates who are just introducing themselves to Minnesotans outstate.
The other advantage from having run a statewide campaign is the first-hand object lessons in how to market the Republican brand to a diverse swath of voters. Within the echo chamber of party politics, we sometimes lose touch with how our message is perceived by the man on the street, independent voters whose support we need in order to overcome institutional biases. No other candidate in this race has spend as much time building relationships with Minnesotans as Dan Severson. He knows how to appeal to the innate conservatism within folks’ hearts and minds.
A Godly Man
Sunday seems an appropriate time to consider the spiritual life of a top tier candidate for U.S. Senate. Any length of time spent with Dan Severson and his wife Cathy Jo reveals their always on connection to the Lord.
Politicos know Cathy Jo as a founding chaplain and current president of the Capitol Prayer Network. Volunteers and visitors to Severson campaign headquarters are familiar with Dan’s regular invocations before embarking on any business. Their Christian walk is an integral part of their lives. Mark Johnson, lead pastor at Jubilee Worship Center in St. Cloud, expounds:
Dan and Cathy Jo Severson have been faithful members of our congregation for many years. They also serve as Elders at Jubilee. Dan is highly respected at our church, and has faithfully served in a variety of ways. I have been impressed with how Dan reaches out others, and serves humbly wherever needed, without seeking recognition. I have found Dan to be a man of his word, and with Christ-like character and high integrity.
Religious institutions and people of faith are under withering assault by the current administration, aided by radical cronies like Senator Amy Klobuchar. The freedom to associate and worship according to our own conscience is not only God-given, but rationally and objectively derived from nature. Dan Severson will always stand as a stalwart in defense of that freedom and an unapologetic practitioner of his faith.
These are trying times for the Republican brand in Minnesota. Known as the party of fiscal responsibility and family values, Republicans have recently had to endure highly publicized lapses in personal judgment. Whether fair or not, the party and its activists have come under ridicule for perceived hypocrisy.
Chances are that we have only begun to see the ways in which recent scandals will be exploited by the Democrats this fall. With the Marriage Protection Amendment on the ballot, you can bet that any opportunity to hoist candidates on the petard of the party’s expressed values will be seized and beaten beyond death.
It’s frustrating to see opponents fallaciously cite personal moral failure as an argument against the related moral principle. But political reality is that such rhetoric makes for effective attacks in an election year. We must therefore consider what skeletons in our candidates past may surface to the detriment of both themselves and our party.
As a four-term legislator and former statewide candidate, Dan Severson has been fully vetted. What you see is what you get, and you can be confident that his endorsement will not yield an October surprise.
The point here is not to speculate as to what secrets other candidates may harbor which could be held against them. Rather, the point is that we know Dan has none. In a year where character matters to our brand more than ever, endorsing a thoroughly vetted candidate provides some peace of mind.
The Solutions Candidate
Many of the reasons so far listed for supporting Dan Severson for U.S. Senate are practical. He is far and away the most experienced candidate. He is a proven leader. He has run statewide before and built the relationships necessary to win.
However, all that matters less without a platform of positions which promises to translate conservative principle into actual policy. Dan has that platform. More than rhetorical flourish, Dan has articulated specific actionable policy objectives.
The number one issue in this election is jobs and the economy. Dan understands that a job is not any old action for arbitrary pay. A job must be productive, creating wealth through action which obtains a value. Income is the net measure of that value. Taxing income thus taxes productivity, punishing wealth creation and deterring economic growth.
Dan is unique among the candidates for U.S. Senate in proposing a path to eliminate the federal income tax and remove its stagnating effect upon productivity. Inspired by the vision of former presidential candidate Herman Cain, Dan is prescribing the 9-9-9 tax reform plan. An intermediate step towards the Fair Tax, 9-9-9 broadens the tax base and begins to shift the burden of taxation from production to consumption.
Simplifying the tax code in this manner will free up a lot of manpower currently wasted on unproductive attempts at compliance. It lowers a barrier to entry for new business, fosters confidence in the market, and signals the pursuit of fresh economic value.
Of course, tax reform without a plan to reduce federal spending only rearranges deck chairs without patching the haul. Broadening the tax base puts some political restraint on spending. But stronger measures must be taken to actually cut spending and cap it at an objectively measured level. That is why Dan supports a strong balanced budget amendment and has proposed phasing out a number of federal departments including Education, Energy, and the extraordinarily intrusive EPA.
The Future of the MNGOP
One of the advantages of being a relatively new activist is not taking anything for granted. While more seasoned players may fall into routine for routine’s sake, new folks often ask why things are done the way in which they are.
Emerging from the role of armchair quarterback to join the Tea Party in 2009 and enter party politics in 2010, I questioned why the MNGOP was not more directly engaged in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The conventional wisdom is that these areas and their demographics are a lost cause for Republicans. However, accepting that as true means accepting generations of statewide defeat.
Indeed, election results from 2010 portent the future. Excluding the state’s urban core, the Republican statewide slate won by a respectable margin. Performance among urban voters was so abysmal that it dragged the overall results down to defeat.
The prescription is obvious. As demographics continue to shift and new immigrants and minorities take up a larger share of the electorate, Republicans must make inroads to these communities and build relationships around shared values. Northern Alliance Radio Network talker and Shot in the Dark blogger Mitch Berg concurs:
I’ve railed at GOP candidates – from Mark Kennedy through Tom Emmer – for failing to poke their noses into the city, for not meeting with charter school parents (who in the city are mostly minorities, and who mostly vote DFL, and mostly don’t know that the DFL will kill charter schools before they kill cockroaches), or with H’mong leadership, or with Latino groups to discuss their view of immigration reform (to Emmer’s credit, he did this. And hint: it’s a lot harder-line than most Republicans are). My railing has been met politely, and ignored.
But Dan Severson has led the way on this. He’s forged links with immigrant and ethnic communities in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that are a first in Minnesota Republican politics, and may be nearly unique in the US outside of Florida and the heavily-Latino southwest.
And that is the first step on the way to the future of the GOP and conservatism in Minnesota.
To his credit, fellow U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills recognizes the importance of Severson’s new American and minority outreach, having reportedly tipped his hat at a gathering of Young Republicans. But the unfortunate reality is that getting religion on minority outreach at this point is too little too late. We know this from recent experience.
In a special election in Minneapolis to fill the seat previously held by DFL State Senator Larry Pogemiller, the turnout among Somalis voting for the Democrat was a fraction of its historical average. This after Dan Severson had spent time in that community listening to their concerns and answering leftist talking points. However, in spite of the dramatic reduction in voter turnout for the Democrats, Republican Ben Schwanke still lost. That was because there was no substantial increase in turnout to vote for him. When asked why they did not turnout for Schwanke, Somalis told the Severson camp that they could not vote for someone who they did not know.
See, it’s not enough to just show up during election season asking for votes. There is a reasonable expectation among these communities that political support be contingent upon an actual relationship. Dan Severson has been building relationships in new American and minority communities since heading an outreach effort for the party early last year. The party’s involvement has since stalled, one of many causalities to recent restructuring. Regardless, Dan has continued, and succeeded remarkably.
I have sat in on meetings that you wouldn’t believe, because they so trample our preconceived notions and the dominant media narrative. Somalis, Cambodians, H’mong, Latinos, all pouring their heart out in terms which would make you blush. These are hardcore conservatives. In their own words, they are Republicans who just haven’t known it. What they lack is the welcome and mentorship of more activists like Dan Severson who are willing to go where they live, share in their traditions, and break bread in friendship.
It is so essential that these relationships be fostered and maintained, not just for the sake of this election, but for the future of the Republican Party in Minnesota. The dormant conservatism in this state is a force waiting to be unleashed, a potential torrent leading to not only political success, but the far more important shift in policy necessary to restore both this state and our republic.
It has been said that Washington D.C. is a few square miles surround by reality. National policy makers are easily insolated from the effects of their decisions. There has emerged a political class distinct from the people they are meant to serve.
One trait which makes the problem worse is ambition toward a career in public office. With the next election as an evergreen priority, the objective best policy tends to take a back seat to political pressures.
Our Founders had a different vision, prescribing a citizen legislature comprised of members whose livelihood was earned elsewhere, and who had to live under the laws they created. The concept of a citizen legislature is largely lost today. However, we can still find among our candidates for office citizen legislators whose life is not defined by public office.
Dan Severson is such a candidate. After a 22 year career in the Navy as a Top Gun fighter pilot, and time in the private sector developing a patent and marketing his invention, Dan was recruited from private life to run for the Minnesota State House. Then, like now, he faced a competitive endorsement battle. Then, like now, he faced a wildly popular incumbent. He overcame both and entered the legislature not as an hardened activist or name-builder, but as a true citizen legislator taking time away from his normal life in order to serve.
Dan has always held himself to an internal term limit, specifically to honor the notion of a citizen legislature. He understands that, if you see a future for yourself with nothing but public office, you will become wholly detached from the reality of a private one.
From Unity to Victory
An endorsement contest can be a setup for failure. Delegates tend to be activists who are passionate about a well-thought out set of principled positions, looking for a candidate who embodies those as closely as possible. However, when it comes time for the general election, the undecided among the electorate are much more focused on impressions of competence and stature. As a result, it is not unusual for a passionate party delegation to put forth a candidate who passes their ideological test without the fundamentals necessary to win.
However, every once in a while a candidate comes along who threads both needles, with the right stance on the issues and the stature to credibly bear the standard in November. Dan Severson is such a candidate.
Let’s start with the issues. On jobs, Severson understands that wealth is created by productive action which economic actors must be free to engage in and profit from. On healthcare, Dan recognizes that mandates and price controls are stifling innovation and leading to arbitrary rationing of medical care. On energy, Dan prescribes opening up new sectors to exploration and freeing producers from the gum of senseless regulation. Dan will work to pass a budget, prioritizing spending according to the enumerated powers laid out in the Constitution. Fundamental to all of the above, Dan defers to the individual rights upon which that founding document is based.
Beyond his positions, Dan’s extraordinary resume fosters confidence in his capacity to hit the ground running next year. He has had a distinguished 22 year career in the Navy, marked by his achievements as a Top Gun fighter pilot and squadron commander. He is an inventor with experience plying his wares in the private sector. He is a four term state legislator with leadership experience, well acquainted with the ways in which things get done through deliberative politics.
Dan also has a vetted stature which will stand up well against Senator Klobuchar. We need to make Amy the issue in this election – her radicalism, her irresponsibility, her failure to deliver for all Minnesotans. Doing that will require an impeccable candidate who does not become a distraction from the real issues or otherwise detracts from a thorough vetting of Klobuchar’s performance. Now is not the time for a revolutionary statement or an audition. We need a serious candidate who can unite not only our party but an electorate currently inclined toward the incumbent, someone with an even keel and a steady hand, someone tested and focused. We need that candidate, and we have him.
Join me today along with delegates from across our great state in proudly endorsing our next senator from the State of Minnesota, Dan Severson.