By Jim Heffernan
I want to thank the Minnesota Republican Party (well, maybe not the whole party but its leader) for introducing Vidkun Quisling to the political conversation this election season.
There had been concerns in some quarters – mine, for instance -- that the name of Mr. Quisling, who was Nazi Germany’s supreme leader of Norway during World War II, had disappeared from the lexicon. Even the Associated Press called the reference to Quisling (or quisling, as it has become) “arcane.”
Oh but we need background here. Much background. As the 2010 election campaign has “progressed” (not to be confused with “progressive”) in Minnesota (and the rest of the country, for that matter) things have been getting meaner and meaner, nastier and nastier.
This week, the news that many prominent Gopher State Republicans are supporting Independence Party candidate Tom Horner (no relation to Little Jack Horner, who sat in a corner, etc.) rather than the Republican-endorsed hopeful, Tom Emmer (not to be confused with Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son, who stole a pig, etc.) prompted Tony “The Tiger” Sutton, the state GOP chief, to call Republicans who support Horner “quislings.”
As noted above, there are two ways to refer to the nasty Nazi Norwegian who led Norway during World War II for Germany (Springtime for Hitler and Germany, winter for Norway and Lapland): You can either write Quisling or quisling. It’s easier in conversation, where you don’t have to differentiate between capital letters (or capital punishment, for that matter, read on.)
Vini vidi vici Vidkun was such a bad guy that immediately after the war he was taken out and shot, and, what is worse, the case was forever lowered on his last name. Now he resides in every dictionary as quisling, a synonym for traitor.
Years ago, when I was a newspaper columnist in Duluth, emphasizing humorous articles about traitors and rats, I wrote about Quisling (the traitor) quite often in connection with research on the Norwegian rat. But since then, Quisling – even quisling – seems to have disappeared.
Now, thanks to the Minnesota GOP’s Sutton, he is back in the news, albeit in the lower case. Sutton claims he didn’t mean to associate the Horner turncoats (my usage) with those nasty Nazis, but rather only to brand them as traitors, “like saying someone’s a Benedict Arnold.”
All good Norwegians (and they’re all good, ask one) should always remember Vidkun Quisling just as all right-thinking Americans (not all are right-thinking, some are left-thinking) should remember Benedict Arnold, whose heinous deeds during the Revolutionary War are too, well, too heinous to detail here. Besides, I can’t remember exactly what he did. Off hand.
Sutten’s entire quisling-loaded quote was, “There’s a special place in hell for these quislings.”
So Republicans who support little Tom Horner are not only like Norwegian traitors, but have a special place in hell reserved for them. Seems like Republicans always have special places reserved for them.