A friend asked who I plan to vote for in the Minnesota Primary Election Tuesday, August 14. More on that towards the end of this post. If you’re Minnesotan, here’s the page to find the candidates who are on the ballot in your precinct for the primary.
Some personal observations:
It is easy to complain about “politicians”, and “government”, and “bureaucrats”, and “taxes” and all of that, but a civilized society is essential to everyone, and in a diverse society, as ours is, we should be thankful that there are people willing to put their names and their opinions out there, and run for office – any office.
Freely elected representative “Government” civilizes.
We weaken ourselves by increasingly being a nation of individualists. We can, now, ally within “tribes” of special interests, where members are in synch with each other, and can pretend other points of view do not exist. This doesn’t square with “community” in the greater sense…but we are in community, nonetheless.
We are also a deeply and hopefully not fatally polarized society When society plays the game as if the winner is the Super Bowl Champ, entitled to the spoils of victory, and the losers count for nothing at all, everybody loses. You cannot thrive. (The American Civil War – the ultimate Super Bowl – had winners and losers. 10% of then-Americans were casualties and we still haven’t recovered. It was a necessary war, yes, but in its wake were unresolved problems still vexing us. How would Abe Lincoln have dealt with the aftermath had he not been assassinated?)
Succinctly, speaking of the present day, there are more points of view than my own; others have needs that I don’t have, or can’t understand. These differences are ignored or dismissed at peril. Somebody has to help sort this out. It is those “politicians” – and yes “bureaucrats” – in “government” who daily must take up the task of attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable.
We take elections for granted in this country, and it is a very dangerous habit. The July/August 2018 AARP Bullletin (illustration above) notes that only 50.4% of Minnesota’s eligible population even bothered to vote in the 2014 midterm election…and Minnesotas participation was greater than three of its nearest neighbor states. (More detail here. A pdf of the graphic is here: Election 2014002) Considering the entire United States, only 36% – about one of three – of those eligible even bothered to vote in 2014.
Primaries, such as ours, next week, attract even less interest and thus participation than the General Election, and when one considers those who actually vote, with minimal knowledge of what their chosen candidate has done or is likely to do, you have a frightening scenario, which leads to what we are facing now in this country, and what’s ahead long term for today’s young people, who will inherit what we leave behind.
Which candidates, at all levels for all offices, win on November 8 makes a huge difference.
The actions for success need to be personal; the results will be collective.
VOTE, VOTE WELL INFORMED, URGE OTHERS TO REGISTER AND VOTE, IN EVERY ELECTION.
The Minnesota Primary.
Like it of not, we are a two-political party nation. With very few exceptions, after the Primary results are announced probably all successful candidates will have been endorsed by either the R or the D.
The D stands for Democrat (in Minnesota, DFL).
My opinion: at this time in our history, and for the foreseeable future, the only reasonable party, the party this country needs to have in charge, are people who stand for election as Democrats. (This is the first time in my political life span that I have said this – I value the two-party system.)
In my view, at this time in our history, the R is not what it used to be.
R is not Republican.
For several years, R has increasingly meant Radical Party (I’d even add Right and Religious), and the moderate R’s know this is true. There is no room for a Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon would in many ways be considered a “liberal” by today’s true-believer Radicals in today’s Republican power structure.
An endorsed R is, by all odds, a disciple of the Trump philosophy. Trump himself is a creature of the Right, his success dependent on endorsement by the Republican establishment in 2016. This is not an accident of history: it has been evolving for many years.
Republican used to be a perfectly respectable political party. It was…. At this time it is not.
The goal of the kingmakers of the Radicals has been single party dominance and control of all government at all levels: people like myself deemed irrelevant and dis-empowered. This is no secret and goes back 30 years or more; names like Norquist and Gingrich, and many others have facilitated this. 2018 is their zenith, thus far. Their leadership despises the very government they wish to control.
For the good of the ordinary people of this country, these kingmakers of the Right must be reined in. This will happen only if voters change our own exceedingly sloppy behaviors as the employers of those selected to manage our democracy.
To answer my friends question: in the DFL Primary and General Election I will vote for the Democrat who has, in my view, the most reasonable chance of success in November. And if my preferred candidate does not prevail August 14, then I will vote for whomever the DFL party chooses to officially support.
In the Primary, my choices for statewide office:
U.S. Senator: Amy Klobuchar
U.S. Senator Special Election: Tina Smith
MN Governor and Lt. Gov.: Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan
MN Attorney General: Mike Rothman
(There are perfectly reasonable and respectable alternative DFL candidates: There is lots to recommend Richard Painter for Senate; Lori Swanson and Rick Nolan, and Erin Murphy and Rick Nolan for Governor/Lt. Governor; several DFL candidates for Attorney General, Debra Hilstrom, Tom Foley, Keith Ellison. But in the end I can cast only my single vote for each office.)
A PERSONAL AND IMPORTANT FOOTNOTE:
I would correctly be identified as a Democrat for nearly all my adult life, though I was not active politically till in my 30s. I see the DFL and Democratic party as by far the most reflective of the “community” role of government. Of course, this makes Democratic politics quite messy – lots of points of view.
Hubert Humphrey catches my bias well: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” (Quotation 11-1-1977, note Government here.)
But some my most important political role models have been those who are now the extinct persons who would be proud to be called “Progressive Republican”. There are many of these folks. My list would include Harold Stassen in his influential days; it would include Gov. Elmer L. Andersen, who I counted as a personal friend; it would include Dwight Eisenhower, president in my high school and college years.
There continues to be a flood of misinformation in public “media”. For a tiny example: I know trash is being sent around using my e-mail address. I receive it myself, and the ultimate insult is that I cannot block it because it is from, supposedly, myself.
Disinformation and misinformation is epidemic. The antidote is to ignore it.
I treated myself to three books on a recent vacation. Two were about politics and very interesting historical perceptions of the practice of politics in both the most positive and negative senses. They are both carefully researched histories, heavily footnoted, and illuminating. Check them out.
Patriot Hearts, published 2017, is about 1917 in Goodhue County MN (Red Wing and area) in the run-up to the U.S. entering World War I. The book can be ordered through Minnesota History Center bookstore. “Passion and Prejudice” are its key words. It is about patriotism run amuck.
Stassen Again is about Harold Stassen, who became a punchline for jokes, but who, between 1938-58, in his 30s and 40s, was a power actor in American politics, and a man with a passion for peace. This book was published by Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2008, but gives plenty of food for thought for today.
COMMENTS (including in the blog comments section at the end):
from Phil: Dick–thanks for your reasoned and straightforward opinion about politics today and in MN in particular.
from Jerry: Thanks for your comments, Dick. I agree wholeheartedly. You picked the same candidates as I intend to support. What a disruptive time in American history.
from SAK: Thanks for that Mr Bernard.I note from the voting map that although the figures are low in general, still southerners are less likely to vote than northerners especially Alaska were presumably elections provide a welcome break & excitement during the long cold winters J!
A brief review of Patriot Hearts I found on the internet:
While world war raged in Europe, an America divided by ethnic, political and nationalist unrest struggled to come together. Nowhere were tensions greater than in Minnesota, then under dictatorial control of a temporary seven-man commission—arrests for treason multiply, watchful secret agents are on duty, a U.S. Supreme Court justice condemns the state’s “policy of repression.” Patriot Hearts details the ongoing clashes between superpatriots and their rivals, the political left, pro-Germans, and those less than “100% American.” Readable, relevant and carefully researched, this study supplies a fascinating supporting cast of radicals, seditionists, spies, firebrand farmers, profiteers and provocateurs who combine to tell an extraordinary story of Minnesota’s home front during the stormy 1917–18 war years.
[Dick: here is another, longer, review from a recent issue of the Journal of the Minnesota Historical Society: Patriot Hearts001]
I wonder if there is a bit about the Protestant-Catholic divide in the book? Happily it is much less of an issue now but US history hasn’t been innocent in that respect – British history of course was far bloodier & Catholics suffered many episodes of repression & even carnage. Protestants suffered in neighbouring France bien sur! The “superpatriots” mentioned above can claim that Catholics’ allegiance is to the Pope! This was used to defeat democratic candidate Al Smith in 1928 for example. It was much less of an issue in 1960 of course.
[Dick: this book was more about a clash of ideologies, and stoking fear of nationalities, rather than religion. At the same time, at this period in history, the Ku Klux Klan was rearing its head, and in not too long Catholics became a major target in Minnesota and elsewhere.]
Throughout history it is more frequently members of minorities & those defending them who suffer persecution & assassination – Martin Luther King, JFK, Abraham Lincoln, MalcolmX . . .? Aristotle’s call for moderation (the golden mean) is as vital as ever: extremists tend to be obviously more violent. Extreme leftists as well as rightists – e.g. McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist.
With the rise of the internet & social media polarization, radicalization & hence extremism are on the increase; a report by a UK parliamentary committee last week concludes that the “wild west” world of social media & fake news etc is a serious threat to democracy. It made some very strong recommendations.
You also raise the important issue of individualism which some are referring to as hyper-individualism.
Another book I would heartily recommend is Age of Anger by Mishra. [Dick: I have read this book, and it is an outstanding review of the topic, as politically used.]
‘But Mishra’s governing idea that the world is afflicted by what Albert Camus astutely called “autointoxication, the malignant secretion of one’s preconceived impotence inside the enclosure of the self” isn’t off the mark.’
Good luck & may the best candidates win.
from Norm: Good observations, Dick.
My father was in the state senate for 18-years before losing in a primary to another DFLer following a re-districting where two incumbents got thrown into the same new district.
I agree that in view of all of the demands and expectations put on and have it is great that many good people do run for office and, if successful initially, stay around to run for re-election.
I know that elected officials, i..e. politicians to most folks are easy pickings for folks who want to have someone to blame for this or that situation that has befallen them or their community. Criticizing public employees is also easy pickings for the same reason. The GOP candidate to fill Franken’s unexpired seat includes something about “do nothing bureaucrats” in her main TV ad. As a former bureaucrat, I know that is not true in my long experience but I also recognize that making such claims regarding politicians and public employees is red meat for many folks…so making such claims is an effective campaign tool.
Good choices for the 14th as well!
from Pete: I like Keith Ellison a lot, but I’m afraid he would not do well in greater Minnesota.
from Peter: I had a thought or two about all this, and went to the website, and could not see any comment buttons. [Dick: There is a comment button. Note comment at end of post. Check again.]
The book I’m working on tries to make the case that we each have sufficient power to save our world; that there was a major paradigm shift around 2014 that made possible the ascent of our current President to power; and that it matters where we direct our gaze. It was when the information markets tanked. They were displaced by a market nobody quite understands, the Audience Market.
Once the global networks penetrated the “last mile”, one person could send a billion people into “fight-or-flight” in seconds. That is a power that no human has ever had in the history of the world. Now, at least one human does hold that power.
A human brain reacts before we can begin to think. When we hear there might be hordes of drug-crazed rapists swarming over the border, a percentage of people get terrified. When a million people have such strong emotional reactions at the same time, well, we all saw what happened.
Fortunately, along with catastrophe, our networked society has brought a real possibility for humanity to survive the deadly, accelerating impacts of chemical changes in our upper atmosphere. We are developing the potential for real-time communal response that is quick enough to keep up with our rapidly deteriorating situation. Think of a flock of birds, or a school of fish.
Your attention is now your vote. Appeals for it are like appeals for your money. We take responsibility for our own attention whenever we notice how precious — how essential to our being — is each moment of awareness. There is some ground to cover, in harnessing this incredible artifact to save our world, and that work has started, and it begins with each of us, and it begins again in the next moment.
We are all equal citizens of continued human existence. Our attention is our only asset. It is enough. Individual-ity will never disappear, but individual-ism must. Otherwise, we are already extinct.
The stakes are really that high now.
Dick: After publishing this, I went to a retirement party for a respected DFL legislator. At least a couple of people had already read the post. One commented that Richard Painter is anti-union; another referred me to a commentary on Lori Swanson, which you can read here. The commentary is very long, It is not complimentary. I simply provide it for anyone interested.
I do not know Lori Swanson personally, and did not contribute to her campaign thus far, though I had (and have) positive feelings about her capabilities to lead a complex state. I had written her on a couple of occasions, and received obviously personal and well thought out replies. My only context for Richard Painter was his early and outspoken ethical concerns about the Trump operation. I knew he was Republican. He spoke out when few were being outspoken, and he was an informed critic. His point of view is being supported by people on the progressive left who I respect.
Personally, I think conversation is essential at this time in our history, and not only between “birds of a feather”. There is no perfect person; our society is far from perfect. What we have now is abominable.
Wednesday, friends held a retirement event for our retiring State Legislator JoAnn Ward. (Photo below. Behind JoAnn is our State Senator Susan Kent). “A good time was had by all”, as the weekly news report in the older days country newspaper would say.
JoAnn’s watchword, I think, would be “civility“, of which there is very little in today’s politics. She’s taken her job of representing all of us very seriously and did a great job. The same can be said of Sen. Kent.
I am very impressed with the young man who will be the candidate I’ll vote for as JoAnn’s successor. More about Tou Xiong here. If you’re in the area, for sure read “about Tou”.