Tevlin: GOP saga takes a North Woods twist in tweets, at Moose Country

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2011 - 7:56 PM

Of course it had to go down at Moose Country Whiskey and Food, for this is a quintessentially North Woods kind of scandal. And it had to be a high school buddy who lured Republican power broker Michael Brodkorb to the bar, "Your friendly neighborhood meeting place," and -- who knows -- kissed him on the cheek Judas-style before they let him have it.

As the bodies began to pile up in this strange Republican Party saga, the most powerful woman in the state, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, was forced to step down over an "inappropriate" relationship with an underling and Brodkorb lost two jobs as he was perp-walked to get his belongings in the dark of night. Are they related? No one is saying.

Their demise comes on the heels of the ouster of party chair Tony Sutton under a cloud of financial disclosures that the party is as much as $1 million in debt on the cusp of an election. Are they related? No one is saying.

All three disappeared from the media, except a few odd comments that Brodkorb posted on Twitter. The first was his take of the political thriller movie "Blow Out," about a witness to a crime who, "as he struggles to survive against his shadowy enemies and expose the truth, he doesn't know whom he can trust."

Highly recommended, Brodkorb wrote shortly after his removal.

Two days later Brodkorb mused on Twitter: "I've actually got a nice little Saturday planned; exercise, Planet of the Apes, Fright Night, maybe I'll hit Bed Bath & Beyond."

I e-mailed Brodkorb to make sure his posts were legitimate. He responded that they were, declined to comment and thanked me for "reaching out."

This week, just as a video of Brodkorb espousing the importance of his own family values got traction on the Internet, City Pages posted a police report that showed police had been called to his house this summer for a domestic argument. It's a sad document of marital discord and of a man, at least at that moment, untethered.

Sex. Money. Power: It's an unfolding drama that has it all, except answers.

Given that two of the felled politicians were among the most aggressive tacticians in the party, there was no doubt plenty of glee among the opposition. Add to it the sense of irony that all this unspools from the party that links its wagon the tightest to the ideals of fiscal responsibility and family values.

But the dean of Minnesota political history urges a more somber reaction.

"I could see the schadenfreude," said Hy Berman, a history professor at the University of Minnesota. "But is it good for our society or our political system? No, it is not.

"Even if you are a Democrat, you can't enjoy this because our politics are predicated on a two-party system and without the competition of a strong opposition party it doesn't work," said Berman. "It's not something the Democrats should be glad about."

Berman said that the capture of the party by the far-right wing, combined with financial problems and now hints of sexual impropriety "is the sort of disintegration I haven't seen before," and Berman is 86. "It's nearly the collapse of a major political party."

Wy Spano, a veteran DFL activist and pundit, is teaching graduate political science in Duluth and says his students are enthralled with the issue. Spano said he's noticed that a more arm's length relationship between the caucuses and parties has been ignored by Sutton and Brodkorb in recent years, making the two inextricably linked.

Brodkorb, a former blogger, "brought this kind of wildly negative perspective" to the party, Spano said. He hopes that as the Republicans rebuild with new blood, they bring back a debate that "revolves around normal issues again."

"I think the whole sense of politics has been destroyed among normal people," Spano said.

As this strange trip plays out in coming months, it will however captivate normal Minnesotans across the state, or at least from Moose Country to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Meanwhile, Brodkorb tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he might take up running for sport. He ran a marathon once, he said, and finished.

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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