I recently had an interesting exchange with a writer on a progressive blog that put into sharp relief the challenges and travails, the trials and tribulations of mobilizing a cross-partisan majority in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District to defeat U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in the September 14, 2010 primary[*].
But first, for those eager to see Bachmann disappear from the political landscape but unfamiliar with Minnesota’s political system, it’s important to understand that Minnesota does not have party registration. Yes, that’s right — Minnesota has no registered Democrats or Republicans. Stated differently, on paper Minnesota has no Republicans or Democrats — only registered voters; party-political affiliation is strictly a matter of self-identification.
This has important practical implications, the most important of which is that in a primary election every voter gets an identical ballot, irrespective of personal party identification. The ballot has three columns, one for each political party with major-party status in the state of Minnesota: Republican, Democratic-Farmer-Labor, and Independence Party — and voters are free to vote in the primary of their choice. The only legal constraint is that they select one column and vote only in that column.
Sample primary ballot. Click to see larger image.
The strongest weapon we have at our disposal to defeat Bachmann is Minnesota’s open primary system. Bachmann’s Achilles’ heel is the open primary, where nothing prevents self-identifying Democrats or independents from voting against Bachmann in the primary election.
The fact that Bachmann received only 47 percent of the primary vote in September 2008 shows just how vulnerable she is. If voters who marked their ballots for the unopposed Democratic candidate had voted for Bachmann’s primary challenger instead, Bachmann would have been defeated even before she made her October 17 “anti-American” remarks on Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Back to the progressive blogger.
To defeat Bachmann, this individual proposed the “offbeat strategy” of endorsing former Independence Party lieutenant governor candidate Dr. Maureen Reed as the Democratic candidate for Congress in an effort to deter someone else from filing on the IP line and creating a three-way race, which, he asserted — incorrectly in my opinion – would favor Bachmann.
We know from experience that that particular strategy is unlikely to work, because in 2008 when the IP chose not to run a candidate – cross-endorsing Democratic endorsee Elwyn Tinklenberg instead – political unknown Bob Anderson went and put his name on the IP ballot to create a three-way contest in which he won 10 percent of the vote in a race on which he spent just a few hundred dollars. (Bob Anderson has already expressed an interest in running again in 2010.)
In response the the blogger’s suggested strategy, I commented that “the only viable strategy to defeat Bachmann is to shut her down in the September Republican primary,” but that “that cannot happen if there are contested Democratic races in the 6th District U.S. House or Minnesota gubernatorial races.”
I added, “Bachmann’s Achilles’ heel is not her outrageous political rhetoric or delusional conspiracy theories,” which endear her to her base, but “Minnesota’s open primary system, which allows Democrats and Independents to vote along with reasonable Republicans against Bachmann in the Republican primary.”
Referring the blogger to my website for a more detailed analysis of how to beat Bachmann, I concluded: “In 2008, barely 19,000 of the 6th District’s more than 430,000 registered voters turned out for Bachmann. Anyone with the means and ability to mobilize 20,000 voters from across the political spectrum in the Republican primary can beat Bachmann.”
The progressive blogger responded by concurring that I’m correct that Bachmann could be eliminated by a coalition of anti-Bachmann Republicans, Democrats, and independents, but then summarily denounced it as “a strategy of election trickery” and “foolishness.”
I find it difficult to understand the thought process that it’s “trickery” and “foolishness” for voters outraged by Bachmann to break loose from the shackles of party politics and unite as Minnesotans to put country first and vote Bachmann out of office.
Indeed, the wise legislators who gave us open primaries had the foresight and judgment to recognize that occasionally the need might arise for a backup failsafe mechanism that enables us to form broad cross-partisan coalitions to recall rogue elected officials.
To be perfectly blunt, there’s no good reason for 6th District constituents to subjugate their own best interest to the dictatorship of partisan consciousness.
* Update: In spring 2010, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law a bill by the state legislature to move the 2010 Minnesota state primary up to August 10. That measure pulled out the rug from the campaign strategy outlined in this post and induced me to seek general election ballot access as an unaffiliated independent candidate.
By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
October 14, 2009
Aubrey Immelman, the Republican academic who trudged across the 6th Congressional District last year as part of his primary challenge to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll attempt to unseat the congresswoman again.
“I expect 2010 to be a Republican year, with the GOP taking back around 20 of the seats they lost to Democrats in 2006 and 2008 – a climate in which Bachmann will do very well if she advances to the general election,” said Immelman in a recent e-mail.
“I’m hanging around the ballpark, so to speak, in case an opportunity opens up for a walk-on,” wrote Immelman in part. …
Related reports on this site
Can a Democrat Beat Bachmann? (July 27, 2009)
How to Beat Bachmann (May 9, 2009)
Election 2012 update
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago Today — August 5, 2008
One year ago today, on the 22nd day of my campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I received a call from a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps regarding a constituent issue involving illegal immigration and featured, as a public service announcement to help draw attention to the sacrifice of National Guard citizen soldiers serving in Iraq and the families they leave behind, Part 3 of the Associated Press series, “The Longest Deployment” (the story of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, of the Minnesota National Guard and its tour of duty in Iraq).
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