As I watched the numbers come in that night, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. District by district we began to lose seats in the House. As I looked around the room that night in the Mankato Event Center, the reason for the extreme loss was not lost on me. No, my friends had been pointing it out for quite some time.
You see, I’m unfortunately what some may refer to as a rarity — an early 30s, outspoken, female, small business owner … who is conservative. Not the “norm” for sure, especially in our area.
But nothing could provide a better illustration of the Republican red wave of obliteration better than the announcement that four Republicans formed a new caucus. People keep referring to them as the “renegade four.” I have my own opinion and thoughts on the matter, but first, some background is necessary.
I’m an average citizen. I happen to own a business and I happened to compile public data into an over 3,000-page report regarding the train wreck that is the Department of Human Services in this state. But until last April, I was never involved in political organizing. And honestly, that is most voters. They aren’t going to become heavily invested in the inner workings of the GOP and no amount of yelling at them will convince them otherwise, they just want someone to stand up for their constitutional rights — all of them.
I spent February right up to election night in a baptism by fire learning about BPOUs (Basic Political Operating Unit — which is the lowest level of political organization) and other political organizations. I will be the first to admit I have a lot to learn, but I also believe an outside perspective is good. But again, the average voter doesn’t know what a BPOU is and honestly, they don’t care.
So, let’s get down to the heart of the matter. What happened?
What happened is we failed to organize. We failed in messaging. We failed to inspire people to get out and vote. And the reason to me is very simple.
We have become a party of panderers. That may seem harsh, but it’s honest.
I spent more than 30 days at the Capitol fighting against over-regulation of my private business — child care. What I learned in those 30 days is the difference between leadership and a dictatorship. The topic of child care is in the news cycle on a continual basis across the state. We have a child care crisis. Some believe the government should step in while I believe, and the public data would support, that the government is actually the problem. Shocking, I know.
Amid this I thought if I brought data up to the Capitol, lawmakers would welcome the solution to the child care crisis. Spoiler alert, I was wrong. The only legislation that passed were things that were part of the federal funding guidelines for the Child Care Assistance Program — no broad sweeping reform. And it all comes down to leadership.
I honestly was shocked that with control of the House and Senate nothing occurred, even with hard data. I soon realized that what happened in St. Paul was vastly different then what we are sold.
So, as I sat in that room the night of the election, it wasn’t a surprise to me. I wasn’t shocked that we lost.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. It can continue on in its current manner, but the party will eventually fade into a sunset of ashes and become obsolete.
The party needs to cease with the pandering. Friends and clientele who shared with me why they did not vote each voiced a similar statement, “I’m more conservative but they (the GOP) aren’t really standing up for my rights anymore, so what’s the point?”
And there you have it. We failed to inspire anyone. Take a look at the Republican legislation that continues to be presented. It is often representative of the metro area and not greater Minnesota. But above all, it often shadows the more liberal perspectives in a “liberal-light” approach that says, “If I give you $90 of my $100, you won’t take the other $10” and then sheepishly asks “…right?”.
(Insert palm to the face and sigh)
If you’re wondering what happened this election cycle, look no further than your own party. And maybe we can start calling the “Rogue Four” the “Fab Four,” because the party may have reappointed Rep. Kurt Daudt to the leadership role in the House, but in my opinion we need a leadership change — no Daudt.
Elizabeth Bangert is the owner of Here We Grow Early Childhood Center and founder of Minnesota Citizen Lobbyist. She and her husband reside in St. Peter.