And then there were none….
The withdrawal of Jim Graves from the 6th District race for Congress has drawn considerable comment as well as some interesting emotional responses ranging from bitter disappointment from moderates and democrats to relief from the right.
If possible, some perspective is needed.
First of all, political observers were truly taken by surprise because they looked forward to the marquee matchup of the year: Bachmann vs. Graves. This was to be the Joe Louis vs. Joe Wolcott fight from my time or, for a later generation, Ali vs. Frazer. It was the bout. Everyone was in the process of picking sides and getting involved. In a sense, we were already emotionally invested.
All of a sudden, Michele Bachmann embraced term limits just two weeks after running re-election ads on TV and then Jim Graves pulled out after announcing in April that he would be in. The battle of the year – the Super Bowl of politics – was no longer. How could they do that to us?
After eight years of Michele Bachmann dominating the Minnesota scene and emerging as a Tea Party favorite on a national level, many Democrats, independents and Republican moderates felt they had a real shot at bringing Bachmann down. After all, she was hurting from the wounds of legal inquiry with the likelihood of more shoes to fall.
And Jim Graves was now the ideal candidate; talented, successful in business, strong people skills, modest, and genuinely committed to building a better community. Old Timers may remember the radio show, “Jack Armstrong – the All American Boy”. Well, that would be Jim Graves.
I supported him in last year’s contest when he came within a whisker of winning. But I also support his decision to withdraw from a Bachmann-less contest. In politics, you rarely get more than two shots at opportunity and after that you are labeled a loser and cruelly assigned to the graveyard of the past. The result is you have to pick your shots carefully and Graves did.
When few others would come forth to challenge Bachmann in 2012, Jim Graves volunteered. His campaign was little more than his family and some truly dedicated friends. But the upper echelon of power in the DFL was noticeably absent both on the elected and party levels. He was not given a chance and political insiders try to not identify with likely losers.
In the closing days of the campaign, the polls tightened and more followers came on board. Had they been there earlier, Graves could have won.
If there can be a victory in defeat, Graves achieved that in his loss to Bachmann and this is what propelled him into the big time limelight. He had all the markings of a winner for 2014 but that would only be if Bachmann were the candidate.
In eight years, she had become the dominant national force of Far Right politics and the 6th Congressional District tilted in that direction. But increasingly, more of her supporters cooled as a result of her extreme comments and faulty interpretation of facts. By 2012, she was vulnerable and Graves proved that. (See Michele Bachmann...A Lady in Decline).
Now without Bachmann on the ticket, Graves’ chances collapsed and he wisely understood the folly involved. For those who remain disappointed, they should direct their energy toward the real problem: the gerrymandering of Legislative and Congressional Districts in order to deny competition and insure incumbency. That is the enemy of democracy.
As to Jim Graves. I hope he remains active and runs again for public office. He is the type of business leader we so desperately need: pragmatic, visionary, caring and committed to governance. I look back at so many solid business leaders who contributed so much to our well being at the local, state and national levels and hope he will follow suit. Look at the names and you realize what excellence is about: Elmer L. Andersen, Bill Frenzel, Wheelock Whitney, John Yngve, Roger Scherer, John Johnson, George Pillsbury and on and on.
The simple fact is that we need our best in public service and Jim Graves represents that.