One marker of how deeply Tea Party thinking has steeped into the Minnesota Republican Party: The party's Second Congressional District convention in Red Wing on March 20 came within two votes of supporting a resolution supporting what state party chair Tony Sutton described as "the right of states to secede from the union."

The resolution was defeated, but only after Sutton, who was functioning as the convention's chair, departed from the usual neutrality that role requires by reminding his fellow Republicans that opposition to secession by states was a founding Republican principle in the late 1850s.

The nation's bloodiest war was fought begining in 1861 to keep the Union intact. Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey was the first in the nation to promise troops to President Abraham Lincoln, the nation's first Republican president. The losses the First Minnesota regiment sustained at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 were larger, in proportion to population, than any other state's.

It's stunning that the Republican Party in a state with that history would even flirt with a pro-secession resolution now. Sutton defended the move as an attempt to send a message to the federal government on the eve of the enactment of a new health care law Republicans oppose. But he also allowed that the resolution likely would have met with a more resounding defeat, had it come to a vote earlier in the day, when more delegates were present. Apparently at GOP conventions, people with a keen sense of history are the first to call it a day.