GOP Chair Sutton: Don’t be biased toward compromise

sutton.JPGGOP party chairman Tony Sutton sent out a letter to the Capitol press corps this afternoon, saying the media shouldn’t be looking for the middle ground between Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers.

Here seems to be what we in the business call the “nutgraf”:

It is certainly not reasonable to expect people who understand the dangers of an unrestrained government to accept the status quo notion of “compromise”

We’re not quite sure what that would mean to Capitol View or our coverage on MPR, but you’re welcome to determine for yourself if we live up to the chairman’s expectations. Here’s his letter in its entirety:

A Personal Note to the Capitol Press Corps:

I am forgoing the usual press release format and writing a personal letter to the media because I am deeply and personally concerned about portrayal of “compromise” when reporting budget negotiations. I don’t consider your coverage politically biased, and this letter is not a rant about the “liberal” media. I wanted to address you directly, sans political rhetoric. The media bias I see, which is a common perception, is the belief that compromise is ALWAYS a good thing, that the best solution is ALWAYS somewhere in the middle and that compromise is ALWAYS a win for the people of Minnesota. That is far from ALWAYS the case.

The favorable bias toward compromise is pretty well reflected in media coverage. It’s a non-insightful “dog bites man” story: Gov. Dayton demands that Republicans act “reasonably” and “compromise” on a “balanced approach” to the budget. The implication is that if Republicans were indeed “reasonable,” they would accept the idea of a balanced solution of spending cuts and tax increases. They would compromise and increase the budget and increase revenue, as compromise is in and of itself a good thing irrespective of its consequences.

I think the media is missing out on a more thoughtful and more interesting perspective of more service to readers and viewers – Does compromise necessarily yield a better solution?

Give and take on details of policy is not compromise; it’s simply good governance to consider all ideas when formulating policy in search of an integrated solution that solves the problem at hand. Republicans have made it clear they are willing to negotiate on points of policy. Compromise requires sacrificing principle. Compromise is taking a position you have confidence in and “compromising” it to a position neither side has faith in.

Republicans have been down that road before.

When Democrats, wedded to a governing model making Minnesota a high service/high tax state, controlled the Legislature, they would biennially propose new spending and new taxes as the starting point of the budget process. The assumptive question of budget discussions was “How big can we grow state government?” Republicans fought tooth and nail against DFL spending and tax increases, but at the end of the day they were “reasonable” and “compromised” at less spending and lower revenue expectations than the Democrats wanted. Nonetheless Minnesota moved to the left and the next budget discussion started at a higher number. The only Republican victory was “it could have been so much worse.”

My point is simply this: Starting budget discussions with the assumptive question “How big can we grow government?” is always going to yield a compromise to the left, a compromise toward bigger, more expensive, more resource consumptive government. Even if you are biased toward that approach, it is certainly not reasonable to expect people who understand the dangers of an unrestrained government to accept the status quo notion of “compromise” — giving the DFL a little less of what it wants — as a good thing in an of itself.

Without being overly rhetorical, a compromise to the left is a compromise of good and evil; it is foisting upon Minnesotans a high tax/high service model that Republicans believe (and budget deficits have vindicated) just can’t be sustained, and the people hurt the most are the people government is supposed to protect, benefit and secure.

Preparing the state budget is not simply an accounting exercise; it is a philosophical definition of the proper role and function of government. The people of Minnesota sent Republicans to St. Paul to give new birth to the uniquely American ethic of “Live Free; Live Better.” Republicans in the Legislature are not about to compromise that ethic for the solace that things “could have been so much worse.” Republicans will not separate compromise from its consequences. Republicans will not compromise away the power of the free market to create the jobs and prosperity that make a compassionate society possible. And for that, Republicans need not apologize.

In closing, I am not asking the media to compromise its journalistic integrity. I would just ask that the press thoughtfully consider the nature of compromise in reporting ongoing budget negotiations. There are “man bites dog” stories in that perspective, and I trust you will find them.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Tony Sutton, Chair

Republican Party of Minnesota

  • Eric Ferguson

    If you’re trying to redefine the meaning of compromise, you must be trying to sell snake oil.

  • Timothy

    Wow. Any reasonable person knows that in politics, you don’t always get your way. You negotiate/compromise to get things done. Apparently Mr. Sutton only believes in a one party system.

  • Timothy

    Has somebody asked Mr. Sutton why, right now, MN has one of the leanest state workforces in the country (see recent MPR article)?

    Has anyone asked the GOP why MN is number 1 in the nation in fortune 500 companies per capita? I’d be very curious what their answer is.