Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Ramstad is given to genuinely sappy grandstanding:
"It's not just a policy issue," Ramstad said, "it's a matter of life and death for a lot of people."
Ramstad wants to mandate coverage certain employers provide, force workers to pay and leave millions uncovered. He refuses to reply to constituents who question his proposal.
After 18 years in the House, the non-partisan Congress.org website views Ramstad as the 247th most powerful member of that body. There is no such thing as 'a political legacy,' for the #247 member of the House. Decades from now, if Ramstad is remembered for anything it will be his failure to adequately evaluate our options, regarding Iraq, in 2002/2003.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I caught John Edwards at the Carpenters Union Hall in St. Paul on this -12°F evening. More than 1,000 people were in the room, with many more waiting outside, they said--it was completely packed and we were sweating by the time The Silk Pony entered, to riotous adulation. The candidate was more than a half-hour late.
I'll be voting for Obama at my precinct caucus on Tuesday, but the Edwards speech was really exciting, complete with pretty-boy wistful stares out into the mist. After his talk he walked into the crush and shook many hands, your blogger's among them. The speech was surprisingly left-wing, riveting the mainly working class white audience. Did you know--in contemporary parlance of working class Minnesotans--that they describe themselves as 'middle class'?
In answer to an email I received on my posting above:
I'd arrived more than one hour before the scheduled 6:45 PM start time and managed to get into the large hall before they closed the doors to the public. They would allow the masses to spill in later; perhaps there was some screening of entrants then. Inconveniently, I was carrying a stuffed Jansport backpack. While milling about, I was chatting with the unionists and one of their bosses walked up to me and, point blank, asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was a blogger; I showed him my driver's license and gave him this URL. I then continued chatting with the unionists; one said that if Edwards dropped out he'd have to support McCain. The union boss returned ten minutes later, now with an encyclopedic knowledge of my blog, but just to confirm he asked me whether I supported Bonoff, Madia or Hovland in the Third. So the entire 'third degree' was because he suspected me of Republicanism, not Squeaky Frommeism. At no point did anyone ask to examine my backpack.
This just in. Apparently we didn't cheer loud enough.
After exiting the union hall, I took one of my most dramatic Minnesota ice spills in memory, miraculously rising unbloodied. Still paying for it 12 hours later.
Monday, January 28, 2008
He sought the same office in 2006, pulling up the rear in the primary. The fellow who won the primary went on to garner a bit over 3% of the vote on election day. In a state with five million inhabitants, the Independence Party couldn't muster 100 delegates for the state convention it held this past Saturday.
Conversing with some of the delegates at the event, I quite frequently heard feverish denunciations of our 'rotten political system.' But when one tried to probe these perspectives one found quite a disparate array of grievance. Complaint is humanity's default setting--and mine too--but the great variety of indictment MNIP members direct at the two party system doesn't hold up, imho. In an email exchange earlier today, Williams wrote,
You raised the issue of the MNIP being a spoiler. For me the most obvious response is you can’t spoil something that is already rotten.
But when one has gout, the specter of hepatitis does not vanish. The mere fact that a situation is bad does not mean things can't get worse. And are things really that bad, within our political system?
The first point I want MNIP members to acknowledge is that a third party--particularly within our system of government--is capable of throwing an election. The most obvious example is in Florida in 2000. According to CNN, Bush beat Gore in Florida by 1,725 votes that year. The Green Party had Ralph Nader on the ballot in Florida, and 96,837 Floridians cast their votes for Nader. Had the Green Party fielded no candidate in Florida, let's conjecture that half of the 96,837 wouldn't have voted at all and the remainder broke 52-48 for Gore over Bush. (Both very conservative assumptions.) Gore would then have carried Florida by 212 votes.
Further I tend to see the two party system as being a single entity with two factions simply taking turns.
So is it your view that were Gore elected all would have transpired just as it did under Bush?
In my opinion Democracy, the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government, has been replaced by an oligarchy of a small group of political elites who use the politics of polarization and fear, along with the powers of incumbency to thwart democracy for the sole purpose of maintaining power.
An individual can have a pretty big impact, in my experience.
Take for example a citizen in MN-03, where I live. I'm a Democrat, and currently three Democratic candidates are duking it out for the nomination for US Congress in my district. If one wanted to put one of these candidates over the top, there's quite a bit one might do. And it is very easy, in my experience, to get access to the DFL candidates and ask them questions. So it's quite an open process in my party. Were anyone to say, 'This sucks. As an average citizen I can't have any impact on this process' I'd really be taken aback. The opportunities for citizen impact are wide open.
On the other hand, the candidate selection process in the MNIP, for MN-03, was decided essentially by one wealthy individual. That candidate is by no means the Antichrist, I'm aware, but the DFL exemplifies a much more robust process of citizen participation--and an on-going one. Given such an open, accessible two-party political system, why would one be attracted to the MNIP--a party built upon such a misguided cornerstone?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The risers fill with happy tots and then Erik approaches the lectern, unintroduced. Paulsen is 42, 6'3" and thin, with a hint of gray above the ears, in a navy blazer, tie and khakis. The speech contains no surprises: He points out his daughters, he thanks his family and Frenzel and Ramstad. He suggests that even some Republican members of Congress have failed to exercise sufficient budgetary restraint. His delivery is comfortable though he occasionally refers to notes.
He says 'America's dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue.' I agree, and believe that there are three major things our country might do to address this deadly serious national security issue: Raise the gas tax, raise CAFE standards and/or massively invest in research on alternative fuels. The first of these probably makes the most economic sense, legislatively coupled with tax cuts elsewhere, preferably on regressive taxes, so that revenue neutrality would be preserved. Paulsen's proposals for addressing our dependence on foreign oil don't sound serious to me. Indeed, Jim Ramstad likely put forward the same language over the last several elections. It's a national security issue, but utter failure is okay.
The brief speech ends in a promise that the candidate 'will not be out-hustled' in this campaign--a verbatim repeat of his favorite Almanac-tested sound bite. And one is reminded, implicitly, that congressional campaigns don't get decided on issues. I've long been amazed by how few CD3 voters can in any way accurately describe the political positions of Jim Ramstad. You get elected by successfully seizing the mantle of 'moderate, sensible, on-our-side' and the voter makes this decision based on a few tiny nuggets of information. Watch Paulsen on Almanac two days ago. During the five-minute segment, he's asked a dozen or so softball questions; this is a conversation without any depth, yet few voters will even have listened to this précis.
He doesn't mention abortion, guns or immigration during the entire speech.
I'm surprised that after the speech, the floor is not opened for questions, nor are questioners directed anywhere. I approach the candidate and ask, 'Are ethanol subsidies too high, too low or just about right?' Erik mildly tsk-tsks me and hints he'll answer me a bit later after a few hellos. A few minutes later I put the question to him again. He says as a legislator he opposed ethanol subsidy increases (I think that's how he put it). But I can't pin him down on my question, even when I restate it '$4 billion dollars a year in subsidies for ethanol...Does that sound too high, too low or just about right?' I ask a few other questions, and learn that he is 'pro-life,' though he's not so inflexible as to disallow murder in the case of rape and incest, thankfully. It was a noisy room, he could see that I was unsympathetic, it was an easy environment in which to avoid answering questions. As the Strib's reporter commandeered the candidate, I asked Paulsen if he wanted creationism taught to his daughters in their public school. No answer.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Photos: Carlsons' House Party
This afternoon Lauri and Tim Carlson of Plymouth hosted a house party for Ashwin Madia. It was a fun event with 30-40 guests. At today's event Ashwin underlined his determination to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, laying emphasis on his contention that 'my opponent' has not clearly stated her willingness to do the same.
During the Q&A, I noted a strong protectionist bent. It would be pleasant, in my opinion, were our candidate to remind supporters of the many benefits international trade has provided our country. When American companies create jobs in foreign countries, that's a good thing. Pleas for protectionism are invariably cloaked within the rhetoric of 'fair trade.' Resist!
Otherwise, a good showing.
The Independence Party of Minnesota held a state conference today at Bloomington's city council chambers. They were in Bloomington to decide whether the MNIP should link up with the national Independence Party of America. The 92 voting delegates were also meeting to consider bestowing the MNIP endorsement upon existing congressional candidates in districts where the party can't find a candidate. The MNIP does not currently have a single elected officeholder in Minnesota (excluding non-partisan races).
I attended today's event in order to meet David Dillon, who is seeking the MNIP's endorsement for US Congress in CD3. I'm a Democrat and believe the MNIP's role in Minnesota has been mischievous, throwing elections to Republicans and thwarting moderate-to-liberal majorities. Dillon disagrees, and believes that a number of factors are in alignment for him to win this congressional seat.
The MNIP delegates--about 80% of whom are male--are a colorful lot. Plenty of bushy mustaches and bed head were on display. Dillon doesn't look much like a MNIP member; he was dressed CEO-casual at the conference today, in a sweater and slacks. He couldn't be more courteous; at the lectern his speaking style is relaxed. He has a good voice. So here's what I learned about him:
Dillon voted for Bush twice. He is new to the MNIP. He abhors the religious right. He supported the invasion of Iraq but would now like the US to gradually get out. He would not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House.
He thinks Roe v Wade was a bad legal decision and should be overturned. He wants abortion to remain legal in the first trimester but would prefer to allow states to decide for themselves as to the legality of abortion after the first trimester. He would oppose any governmental funding for abortion.
He's very concerned about the standing of the US in international public opinion. To improve matters, Dillon would like to peacefully overturn the eighty or so dictatorships in the world. He'd like the US to renounce torture immediately.
He would oppose any additional subsidies for ethanol. He does not advocate an increase in the excise tax on gasoline. I think he supports CAFE standards.
Dillon is favorably disposed toward the idea of a flat tax--a nationwide 23% consumption tax--as a replacement of the income tax. He praises Ireland, crediting that country's recent economic boom to its reducing corporate taxes.
Dillon thinks the UN needs much reform, but he would have the US pay its dues.
Dillon will not self-finance his campaign; his personal contribution to Dillon for Congress will be a lot less than $100k, probably in the neighborhood of $50k. He thinks he'll need $500k-$1m for the campaign and he'll raise it on the internet. He's aware that even if he raises $1m, he'll be outspent.
He told me he's in the race to win. If he did win, I believe we'd have a good and decent representative. But I still think that if one campaigns for a MNIP candidate one accepts an imprudent risk of electing the Republican candidate.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Tonight Ashwin hosted a 'Campaign Office Open House.' The new place is big. I got there late but had a nice time meeting his delightful parents, staff (thanks Mackenzie, Laurie and Dan) and a dozen or so supporters. Katie Rodriguez and Ash are pictured above in 'The Field Room' mapping strategy. The candidate was asked if he'd seen No Country for Old Men (strongly recommended by the management of gavinsullivan.com); his reply: 'What? Is that a movie?'
Meanwhile, Team Terri hasn't gone fishing this past week. Her endorsers may soon outnumber CD3 Democrats--including Andy Luger, whose endorsement of Bonoff was predicted here last week. Queen Beatrix, Bono and the Dalai Lama are rumored to be waiting for space to open up on Terri's endorsements page.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Northbound drivers on 169 will note Ashwin Madia's lone billboard, featuring Ash's Bush-beleaguered scowl and a reminder to attend your DFL precinct caucus. The sign--just north of Spanlink--is tauntingly placed in Terri Bonoff's state senate district.
I was on my way to Anoka to attend Jim Hovland's encounter with the Coon Rapids LINTT ('Long in the tooth') club. The club consists of eight veteran DFLers, all but one of whom are women. Luanne Koskinen is one of the less fire-breathing of their numbers. The eight club members meet in the basement club room at Billy's Bar and Grill, a bustling Anoka institution. Billy's is in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, just north of the CD3 district line. I order a coffee.
When you start mapping out a congressional campaign, at some point you have to address practical considerations. Given the expense and massive time commitment, it's an unusual avocational choice for those who really don't aspire to win. Hence, the Hovland curiosity.
When I arrive Hovland is seated, wearing an immaculate gray pinstripe suit that could have been tailored. While not by any means a snob, if you drew an imagined sketch of a seven year old Hovland you might find yourself instinctively penning in spats and a cravat. His wife LaRae Ellingson is also seated at the table. In describing his legal career, Hovland rattles off 'Dalkon Shield,' 'Fen-phen' and 'breast implants' [note to self: exhaustive web search yielded no satisfactory link]...and so perhaps this little political valedictory lap is coming out of the petty cash. Could LaRae be the hidden engine behind this political riddle, playing the Jeri Thompson role? No theory I've yet entertained seems remotely plausible. Hovland has a lock on the bronze medal; the universe is in balance.
Jim still appears perplexed as to how to handle his recent conversion to the DFL. The candidate has to be able to tell a story that closes the issue, but Jim remains stuck in perpetual apology mode. When a man in a tailored suit approaches, hat in hand, the temptation to say no can be overwhelming. He reads our diffidence as a request for further self-flagellation. The cycle begins again.
One of the women asks how he is going to win. If you're running a distant third in a campaign that's coming to a head soon, this one is important. Of course you say you would never dream of speaking ill of another candidate--fine. But if you want to win you better damn well say something positive about yourself that distinguishes you from the other two. Hovland won't touch the question, saying he views his real opponent in the race as Erik Paulsen. (Damn--I paid $1.59 for this coffee!) But having dodged the opponent-bludgeoning opportunity, he has almost nothing of interest to say about Erik Paulsen.
Hovland gives friendly, low-key answers to the ladies' questions. The mayor talks about Iraq for awhile, repeating his view that preemptive war is always a bad idea. (Do people really believe this--that the USA should never attack a country that hasn't first attacked us? One would be required then to lay blame on Israel for the Six-Day War then, no?) As I was thinking this...
One of the women launches into a pro-Palestinian speech which unexpectedly morphs questionward. Hovland responds by affirming 'America's historic support for Israel,' but he continues, 'They need to be mindful of where they came from and make sure they don't treat others the way they were treated.' No follow-up question arose; that's what the candidate said.
Afterward, I zip down to the bottom of the district--to Bloomington's Kennedy Senior High School, where Team Ashwin is giving a precinct caucus training session. I arrive late, just as Katie Rodriguez and another Madia staffer are closing; no sign of the jarhead. Their lone citizen attendee is an enthusiastic Madia backer--before and after this evening's training session.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This evening I was able to attend just the beginning of the Edina/West Bloomington Democrats meeting at Davanni's. About twenty people showed up. Before the event started I tried to ask people which way they were leaning but didn't discern any consensus. I caught Terri Bonoff's brief speech and the beginning of her Q&A. Her talk was effective and short, concentrating on her effort as a state senator to strengthen anti-domestic violence protection by putting the restrained-against's photo on each restraining order. (Perhaps a good proposal, though I don't think it would have done anything to prevent the ghastly Lee/Hawkinson murders which gave rise to the idea.)
Terri and Ash are aiming at different places with their public personae. Terri is projecting competence, professionalism and 'common sense;' a 'local girl' who made good. There's more emotion packed within Ashwin's appeal. On the campaign trail, both of them know what they're doing and have good instincts. Terri wants to go to congress to focus on education, Ash (Semper Fi) on defense policy. I doubt they would vote very differently. But their personalities and biographies are quite different and that's spurring a good deal of passion and interest.
Before getting started Terri mentioned that she too is doing house parties lately, though she doesn't announce them on her site. Since they're arranged by people in the community she thinks it better to have the homeowner do the inviting. So it's difficult for me to handicap the race, as I haven't seen Terri doing her non-public campaign events.
At the February 5 precinct caucuses, some precincts may have more folks wanting to be delegates [to the March senate district conventions] than they have seats allotted. In such a case, the participants will then vote for the delegates of their choice, or: If enough participants call for it, they can force a walking subcaucus delegate selection process. In such a case, the group will divide into subcaucuses focused on their common support for some issue or candidate, or both. So a participant could call for the formation of a subcaucus in support of 'Jim Hovland and transportation.' The subcaucus groups will then be allotted a number of delegate seats, based on their numbers, and they will then elect delegates from among themselves. If a subcaucus is too small, or 'nonviable,' its members will be asked to join up with another group.
In other words, some delegates selected on February 5 may be committed to supporting a specific congressional candidate at their senate district conventions. Such a 'commitment' is a promise to the people who've elected you. As in all intraparty elections, the DFL requires gender balance in the delegate elections. When in doubt as to where to subcaucus, it might not be a bad idea to join the group where your gender is least in evidence.
At last night's Madia event in Maple Plain, Ash stated with pride that he is refusing all corporate PAC money. Adding a flourish, he went on to say that Paul Wellstone had always refused corporate PAC money too. This claim is incorrect; Wellstone accepted more than $800,000 in PAC money in 2001-2002 alone, some of it corporate.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
(Note to all candidates: Please invite me to your events; I'm really interested in getting a close look at this process. I'd particularly like to observe a Hovland or Bonoff house party. I adore bridge mix.)
Friday, January 18, 2008
Will the public garland Dillon for his 'courageous' stances on the issues? I hope not! His issue statements are almost pure pabulum.
What is the Independence Party's raison d'être? It got started out of some ideal for taking special interests and money out of elections. Then Jesse Ventura found a use for it. Then it became the plaything of the deluded, whose de facto role is to throw elections to Republicans by dividing moderate-to-liberal majorities. With David Dillon the MNIP has come full circle, providing politically naive millionaires with a means of getting their names in the paper. 'Do good, avoid evil. I am clever and have read Guns, Germs and Steel.'
Get me a bucket.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I want to try to follow this congressional race as closely as I can, so I frequently check the candidates' websites for events. And I often find events listed on Ashwin's site and no events listed on the other candidates' sites. Perhaps the other candidates aren't announcing their house parties for some brilliant strategic reason. But Ashwin is working incredibly hard for this nomination; he says he gets by on four hours sleep each night and is doing nothing but campaign work these days. The job at hand is to line up precinct captains for the caucuses.
So he gave his talk to the MG folks and then took questions from the floor. His audience was very receptive and asked thoughtful if softball questions. Then the folks volunteering to be Madia precinct captains were asked to go to the living room for their training session. Non-committed bloggers were informed they were unwelcome for that session, where the secret sauce recipe would presumably be unveiled. Adieu, Maple Grove!
Just after returning home a Bonoff volunteer called. He was nice and I told him I was uncommitted but liked all three candidates. He said about 60% of the people on his DFL caucus attenders list were telling him they planned to caucus for Bonoff. There you have it.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The event was conducted with more interactive activities than was my previous precinct caucus training event. As noted, I'd come to the event hoping to learn of people's feelings about the CD3 DFL congressional candidates...but tonight turned out to be occasionally cloying and somewhat interesting.
A good deal of the emphasis at tonight's training was on resolutions. Precinct caucus educators always want to instruct people on the importance of resolutions, implying that good, civic-minded folk ought to come to the precinct caucus with a resolution prepared. And I always want to ask why they think resolutions matter so much. Political discussion among citizens matters, but when was the last time a politician was asked for her viewpoint on something and said 'I'm not sure. Let me see what the platform says'? The platform is disregarded by everyone, not just the politicians. Politicians are not constrained by the platform. Aspiring politicians make predictions about what statements can advance their stature and electoral prospects. Successful politicians fuss little with the platform since they know it contains 1) platitudes; 2) sops to various interest groups and 3) inanities. New political positions simply do not emerge from the caucus/resolution process--that's a silly myth. And don't get me wrong, I think participation in precinct caucuses is extremely important.
The discussion of controversial issues among adults can happen at precinct caucuses. Such discussion can be stimulated during the resolution process, but that's an incidental result which might just as easily be achieved via other routes. Our Outfront Minnesota instructor today went so far as to claim that were it not for the resolution process, we wouldn't have the Peace Corps today. Well-meaning BS.
Were an extraterrestrial to arrive on earth in human form, we might seek to educate her about romance by handing her the collected recordings of Pat Boone. The same rarefied relationship between the unknown and established practice emerges at these precinct caucus training events. One of the conveners apologetically observed that the caucusing process 'was just like high school.' And it's true--you're entering a roiling cauldron of naïveté , self-delusion, apathy, the desire to attain social primacy, the desire to make the world better, the desire to get home before America's Next Top Model starts, etc. We often seek to avert our eyes from this reality, but she was correct--adult life closely resembles high school. On the positive side, one can attempt to approach this environment more thoughtfully and creatively this time.
Monday, January 14, 2008
More photos here.
This evening I headed over to the Edina Community Center--the 1960 structure once known as Edina High School or, in my day 'Edina East.' (I'm Edina West's very last graduate, Class of '81, before Edina's high schools merged.)
The SD41 Central Committee Meeting was well-attended; the high school classroom was almost full. I wasn't sure whether the congressional candidates would show up, but then I saw Mayor Hovland come in and we exchanged hellos. This ought to be ground zero for the Hovland movement, I thought, but really there wasn't any swarm. As people continued to trickle in, I saw Barry Bonoff (Terri's dad) and soon noticed Terri Bonoff and Ashwin Madia too.
The meeting was called to order and soon the congressional candidates were allowed the floor. Jim Hovland started out with his friendly if not exactly riveting threeminuter. Then Terri took the floor and gave an enthusiastic mini-stump. She was on top of her game tonight, putting particular emphasis on having won twice in SD43. So she was making an upbeat electability argument and it went over quite well. Ashwin followed with his fiery netrootsian message to the faithful--putting his emphasis on Bush-era civil liberties issues and tapping into the deep wells of Democratic outrage.
The crowd gave a friendly reception to all three, but one didn't note a great deal of swooning among the assembled for any particular candidate.
After the congressional candidates spoke they distributed enough full-color glossy flyers to paper the interior walls of an Edina McMansion or two. Then a few state house candidates rose to introduce themselves. Mick Spence and his young sons were in attendance; he spoke briefly announcing with regret his withdrawal from the 41B competition due to career demands. (Too bad; he's a nice guy and an '82 Edina grad.)
On my way out I ran into Andy Luger, who many thought the most likely person for this job, during the initial post-bombshell flurry. He confessed to some mild whiff of regret that the opening didn't coincide too well with his family and career priorities. I'd guess he'll be supporting Terri Bonoff--who strongly supported him during his recent campaign--but my hearing might have failed me; apologies to the advocate if I err.
1) The phrase suggests scientists remain in significant doubt as to whether the theory of evolution is correct, when almost no such doubt in fact exists.
2) All biological life is related, but that doesn't mean a randomly-selected prehistoric animal is likely an ancestor of homo sapiens; the vast majority aren't our ancestors.
I also hadn't considered:
3) The human scrotum is a somewhat inelegant design solution.
Watch the whole thing.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I went to a meet-n-greet with Ashwin this afternoon at the Bryndals'. Ash was speaking practically to the party activists in preparation for the upcoming precinct caucuses. More pictures here.
NB: I remain neutral, in the Ashwin v Terri battle--and like both of them.
A job-opening is announced. The job pays $14,108 per month, along with excellent benefits. Enormous social prestige comes with the position. You get to interact with many smart and interesting people and make important decisions. To qualify, you have to be able to tell a story and connect with people. You have to convince large numbers of people that their own interests are served by your selection.
There are hundreds of people in CD3 for whom such pay would constitute a step down, of course. But you have to look at the whole package.
In the DFL, three candidates have stepped forward. They've assembled teams working on their behalf, they're fundraising and each is working morning, noon and night so as to get the support of delegates. Their focus now is on the precinct caucuses. One senses each candidate views the stakes as being huge. You and I aren't candidates, so we can speak frankly: Each candidate knows that winning that congressional seat will/would be a massive, life-changing achievement. You and I know that that's part of what motivates candidates.
As a society, we've built a powerful incentive structure to attract candidates to this job. But I've usually thought that a young, smart, ambitious person is particularly well-suited to this quest.
There are two trampolines on the way to the goal. You have to seize one in order to qualify, in the applicant-winnowing. Conceivably one could attempt a way around the two trampolines, particulary if one had a million dollars to play with. But such an alternative route doesn't appear to be in the cards this go-round. [i.e. The Independence Party's nomination is presumably free for the asking.]
99% of people, imagining themselves taking a stab at this competition, would say 'never' and breathe a sigh of relief. But a number of people must allow the idea to cross their minds. And some actually get to the stage we're at now--with full-blown operations, passionately fighting--first for the trampoline monopoly.
Which leads me to this: Where is it that we see the most shocking absence of the entrepreneurial spirit? In the CD3 Republican Party. You know--the party that admires itself so fervently for the faith it places in the American entrepreneur. If the Republicans are going forward with Erik Paulsen as their candidate, don't you think it's weird that not a single ambitious young, smart, center-righty thought of fighting Paulsen for the trampoline? Nothing to lose, everything to gain, no? Paulsen, the ostensible ultrapro of Minnesota politics, who--months after making clear his interest in the seat--has yet to put a single issue position on his website! Doesn't his bootlicking subservience toward Ramstad tempt any Patriot listener? It amazes me--in a district with 600,000 people--that no such person exists.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
More photos here.
At 1 PM today the three DFL candidates for Congress met in the Brooklyn Park council chambers. The place was full of party stalwarts. Tim Willson, the mayor of nearby Brooklyn Center, called the event to order.
The moderator asked questions and then asked each candidate to respond. He went through more than twenty-five questions in all and so this session was vastly deeper than yesterday's Almanac show. A few quick observations:
Ashwin remains the most articulate of the three candidates. His legal and military background have prepared him well for quickly formulating an articulate multi-point response. The questions are all quite predictable; indeed, some were even repeated, giving the candidates a bit of free air time to talk about anything they liked. Madia takes to this with admirable fluidity. He has surprised me with the strength and depth of his backfield. Terri looked fine today also--and came across considerably better than she did on Almanac yesterday. But the oratorical prize remains firmly in Ashwin's hands. Madia connects with his supporters with passion. Bonoff certainly had many supporters in the room, but one didn't quite sense the intimate, electric connection between candidate and base one felt at times as Ash spoke.
I'd love to have a smart, witty independent congressional representative. Today we saw the three candidates wooing the base, and so little independence from liberal Democratic orthodoxy was on view. In pushing the various mainstream party positions, Ash tends toward a bit more specificity; I find Terri's generalities a bit soundbite laden. As we replace the mediocre, prematurely canonized Jim Ramstad, I'd prefer our selecting someone who might become our Millicent Fenwick or Barney Frank...and not just another bumbling partisan mushmouth.
All three candidates reiterated their intention to 'abide by the endorsement,' as the weirdly loaded stock phrasing has it. When asked the conventionally-phrased question, Bonoff went so far as to say, 'I respect the democratic process.' Funny, imho, that one expresses one's love of democracy by foreswearing a contested election for the nomination. One can criticize people for running in primaries for various reasons, but to suggest that people who believe in contested elections are anti-democratic goes several steps too far, no?
Jim Hovland is attempting to stake out the furthest-left position among the candidates--backing a single payer approach to health care. Hovland appears to have some money to spend on this campaign. He has great looking signs, buttons and literature and I saw a number of well-dressed professional-looking folks around wearing his flair. He seems nice, too, but I'm just not getting the sense that he's generating nearly the support and excitement that is coalescing around Bonoff and Madia. The latter two have raised big money and have generated real frisson out here in suburbia, among the activists at least. For the first time in memory, we're going into the precinct caucus season with two highly viable, competitive, smart candidates. No diss to Mayor Hovland--but I'm concentrating on Bonoff and Madia from here on out, unless I get some inkling that the mayor actually has some support out in the non-Edina precincts.
Illegal immigrants must be treated with compassion and respect, Terri argued. Hovland said the illegal immigration problem must be viewed as a 'humanitarian issue.' Can one simultaneously treat a person with compassion and respect while at the same time deporting him? I believe one can. And I think that the average suburban homeowner in this district views the influx of illegal aliens very much as I do: The priority must be in ending the influx. When I hear candidates that want to blather on about compassion and respect for illegals, I'm hearing someone telling me that they're simply not serious about ending the influx.
Another point concerning illegal immigration: Terri Bonoff today raised the issue of the importance of fighting global poverty--both for humanitarian and national security reasons. Great! She mentioned the outrage that half the world's people live on $2/day or less.
If we're seriously to address the unconscionable poverty in which 2.8 billion of our fellow human beings live, how much emphasis ought we put on the Mexicans--whose average citizen gets by on $29.31/day? Count me among those who would like to reallocate our compassion away from the visible Mexicans and toward the invisible 2.8 billion. Addressing the plight of the 2.8 billion is a vastly more serious moral issue than fussing over the Mexicans, who, relatively speaking, aren't even poor. And once we attain real border security--and only then--we can entertain admitting temporary guest workers in an orderly and time-limited manner. If rich countries promulgated a Singaporish policy allowing temporary guest workers to become 3% of their work forces, the global cash flow to the poorest of the poor could skyrocket--to over $200 billion annually. But such an orderly, legal program cannot be seriously discussed in today's USA, owing to the ongoing influx of illegal aliens. [This rant is drawing to a close, I promise.] In my view, politicians unwilling to seriously discuss solutions, to ending the influx of illegals are delaying the day when those massive cash flows to the Third World can really begin. The suggestion that ending illegal immigration is a mindless Republican wedge issue is bollocks, Ash. [There, there, he's done.]
There was a question on card check/EFCA and all three candidates supported both. Implicitly, it seemed that Ashwin and Jim both view unionization as a great boon to economic growth. I'd prefer my candidate in this forum to try to throw the dogs the smallest bone they'd accept without lunging for my jugular. Unfortunately, Ashwin and Jim in particular wanted to throw big fat t-bones to the chihuahuas. My ideal candidate would confess she really didn't pine for European unionization rates, nor does she think our economy would hugely benefit from expanded unionization in the American workplace. And she might let slip she thinks union power did not much benefit this nation's auto industry. But Ashwin Madia views his commitment to card check as a fundamental candidate spine test. (It's a classic candidate killer--an issue sacrosanct to the base, beloved by the candidate...and quite unpopular among the masses.)
Ashwin Madia holds quite orthodox, mainstream liberal Democratic positions and holds them with fervor. It was his day.