Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In so doing, I emphasize that I have no quarrel with Lutherans; I wish them well and have never participated in any institution which accuses them of devil worship. That said, a commenter today attacked my patriotism for my previous blogpost, due to my supposed use of religion to divide people. (My inner North Korean was a bit on edge, for a moment there.)
In other words, Erik Paulsen can--for decades--happily participate in an institution which proudly proclaims the most buck-toothed hatred of the Catholic church--but I am an America-hater for arguing on behalf of tolerance and moderation. The commenter elsewhere quotes President Reagan: In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism, and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. But a commenter here left a clear statement of ethnic bigotry just the other day--and no Republican commenter issued a peep of condemnation.
What if Erik Paulsen had for many years shown passionate commitment to a non-religious institution committed (in its self-assessment) to improving America, and that among that organization's many commitments, it called for gay people to apologize and for adamantly rejecting the discoveries of evolutionary theory. Were this the case, my criticism of Paulsen--and my request for clarification from the candidate--would be unchanged. Religion is an incidental, irrelevant aspect of this dispute. Some commenters seem to be arguing 'Of course Paulsen doesn't believe this rubbish--it's his friggin' religion ferchrisakes!' And they're angry at me for treating his religious convictions just as I would any other belief of his. That makes no sense to me.
The United States Congress makes many important decisions on the funding of scientific research, the treatment of gay Americans, etc. Were we to learn that one candidate in this race believes in the lunacy of creationism, such a revelation should be considered disqualifying, imho. That's why engaged citizens should press Erik Paulsen for clarification on whether he supports or opposes some of his church's most bizarre errors.
Paulsen has a deep and abiding commitment to an institution that--to provide just one example--despises the Catholic church. Ashwin Madia has expressed no such disturbing commitment. So of course the follow-up questions get directed to Erik Paulsen. No candidate is required to announce a religious affiliation, and I've been clear in stating my own view that I assess the candidate, not the religion. If I ask a candidate her religion and she balks, I can sincerely respect that. (I don't believe morality comes from religion, in any case.) If a candidate does express fealty to some specific religion, I'm going to ask follow-up questions if I learn the candidate's church has wacky views. (That's not a double-standard.) It puzzles me that my Republican readers have such difficulty digesting this point.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
By all accounts, Erik Paulsen is an exceptionally active and devoted member of the Missouri Synod's Victory Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. (His name and photograph appear repeatedly on the church's website.) As Paulsen attempts to appeal to Catholic voters, he's going to have to defuse a matter relating to his relationship with the LCMS. Erik Paulsen's denomination believes the Bishop of Rome to be Satan's representative on earth--'the Antichrist'. (This doctrine is not an article of faith in the more moderate--and larger--ELCA strand of Lutheranism.) Would it be fair to assume Paulsen supports his denomination's bloodcurdling anticatholic prejudice? No; but Catholic voters are going to need some convincing.
Here are some questions Erik Paulsen ought to be addressing:
1) Do you support your church's teaching that the Catholic church has been hijacked by Satan?
2) What action have you taken to get the LCMS to rescind its attack on the Catholic church?
3) How would you feel if another religious denomination singled out your church's leader as the Antichrist?
Monday, July 28, 2008
Erik Paulsen is a very active parishioner at Victory Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie--which is part of the Missouri Synod. Paulsen's denomination believes that the Pastoral office is divinely established; a man becomes a pastor when a man has received and accepted a divine call. The Missouri Synod teaches that the ordination of women as clergy is contrary to scripture.
[Quotations from Wikipedia.]
When evaluating candidates who seek to be our next congressional representative, it is essential that they persuade us of their commitment to the equal citizenship of all Americans--and to the full, equal participation of women in our society. So when we learn that a candidate has long been contentedly participating in a private organization that relegates women to being second-class citizens, we want the candidate to do some explaining. 'How have you made known your opposition to this state of affairs?' we might ask.
Erik Paulsen has thus far refused to comment on whether or not he favors some version of equality between the sexes, let alone how that might square with his chosen church.
Ashwin Madia has elected not to speak out on theological matters, as is his right. Madia isn't running for bishop. Indeed, I rather admire the honor-obsessed marine for pocket vetoing the question, even at some political risk. (Madia strongly supports equality for women and opposes discrimination.)
Commenter Paul responded:
I still think you are making a bit of a leap by assuming that Paulsen would have to subscribe to every tenet of the Missouri Synod Lutheran philosophy. That is a bit like saying that because he resides in Eden Prairie, of course he believes in each point of that city's charter.
But I am not assuming that Paulsen supports his church's subordination of women. I'm simply asking him to clarify his position on it. If Erik Paulsen opposes his church's knee-high glass ceiling for women, then let us know when he first acted upon this viewpoint, and how. We have strong reason to believe the Republican candidate is quite comfortable participating in an institution in which the supreme being supposedly commands women to accept a subordinate role. If that doesn't make you feel queasy, it ought to. (And thanks to commenters Kikster and Dee Ann for seconding me on this.) A wide swath of the electorate--including Republican-leaning women--takes this issue seriously.
Does this mean that I must condemn Keith Ellison for the inequity practiced at his mosque? Or that I must retrospectively condemn President Kennedy's ecclesiastical foundation? No, it doesn't. The focus of this blog has been on the race for US Congress in Minnesota's Third District. I will leave it to the citizens of CD5 to evaluate which candidate to choose as their next representative; I know nothing about the worship practices at Rep Ellison's mosque, or the congressman's views in that area.
President Kennedy last sought office in 1960. The criteria we apply to candidates for high office ought naturally to evolve along with our values and social practices. Each generation drives its plow over the bones of the dead, quoth Camille Paglia; it is natural and fitting that we ask candidates questions which are meaningful to us. Were a Catholic candidate to call attention to her religious affiliation, it would make sense to ask her whether she supports her church's opposition to allowing women to advance into the hierarchy's first echelon. Yes, I'd want to know.
Would my position on this prevent me from supporting a Muslim for US Congress in CD3? Of course not--though I'd be asking similar questions of that candidate to those I am now directing to Erik Paulsen. Were I to learn that [hypothetical] Muslim candidate supports her faith's gender inequity, I would consider that a huge impediment to my supporting her candidacy for US Congress. Were she to duck the question--à la Paulsen--I would interpret that as meaning the candidate supports said inequity.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Any chance we could change topics and shut down the discussion of Ash's religion? Seems to me we're helping the GOP rather than helping Ash with this...Paulsen's social beliefs are fair game...as is his legislative record...
Thanks. I'm happy to entertain suggestions. When you run for Congress, you're going to be asked your religion. If you're a non-believer--or a Hindu--you can put forward a truthful [or a politely fudging] statement. If Madia refuses to answer this question, that's interesting and unusual. I'm sympathetic to Ashwin Madia's candidacy, though I'm committed to giving Erik Paulsen a fair hearing. On this website I'm not carrying water for Madia nor am I campaigning for any candidate.
And another reader emails:
I think you believe you are helping to expose Erik and benefit Ash, but I wonder if what your unintended consequence will be is to energize and anger the base. Frankly, if I belonged to that church, I would now be out to get you.
What if Erik Paulsen stated no religious affiliation and Ashwin Madia made known his participation in a religious sect holding the seven tenets listed in my previous post?
I'd then be helping to expose Ashwin to the benefit of Erik. In other words, I'm not attacking Erik Paulsen's radical rejection of science in order to get Ashwin Madia elected; I'm attacking it because it's goofy and false.
Why would a Victory Lutheran congregant 'be out to get me?' I've brought truthful information about Victory to public attention. I have no reason to think Victory members object to this.
And a third reader slams:
Regarding a Brodkorbian Observation: Does not seem up to your normal standards. It is rambling, overly convoluted and involves too much speculation, having opened speculative doors where yet even more possibilities exist, e.g. why Madia might not yet have replied to your inquiry.
Posing questions is great. Trying to guess other's answers and, even more so, their reasons for those potential answers, is much less valuable.
Okay, it was a rambling post, fair enough.
But when candidates refuse to comment on something, scribblers speculate. Witness the right's speculation-mania on that Al Franken matter. I'm different from Laura Brod, however: I don't hold press conferences announcing highly-questionable, speculative interpretations on a candidate's refusal to respond. Indeed, I'm not committed to any specific interpretation of Ashwin Madia's silence as to his religious affiliation, though I think it worthwhile to list the likeliest reasons behind that silence. Might some other explanation in fact explain his non-answer? Sure. But when candidates refuse to answer questions, they invite speculation. I differ from Brodkorb and Brod in that my speculation is nuanced, reason-based and emphatically fallible.
I'm just now viewing Esme Murphy interviewing Ashwin Madia. Madia blinks a great deal and doesn't look at the camera--we view Madia in profile thoughout the interview, as he looks sideways, towards Murphy. Nothing ground-breaking [substantively] in the interview. Paulsen is up in 20 minutes.
Erik Paulsen is glibber though also sideways-facing. He smiles a bit. He's less timeline-focused on Iraq, though he takes no responsibility for having supported the invasion in the first place.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Perpetually Outraged: Michael Brodkorb of MDE
Erik Paulsen has volunteered that he is active in Victory Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. Victory is a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church--a radically conservative Lutheran sub-sect that includes a number of jaw-dropping tenets. We need clarification on a number of Paulsen's religious beliefs--and some reassurance that he doesn't take the Missouri Synod's craziest tenets seriously. Were Paulsen the member of a secular club that included some of the same weird belief requirements as the Missouri Synod, we'd now be pursuing precisely the same reassurance from Paulsen--so our need for clarification has no basis in religious intolerance.
Regarding Ashwin Madia, we have a reasonably clear understanding of the candidate's viewpoints on social policy: Ashwin Madia supports the equal citizenship of gays, he opposes outlawing abortion and he supports the full equality of women, to mention a few important stances. I've spoken with Ashwin Madia on a number of occasions and know he has a conventional, progressive outlook regarding science--Madia holds that the earth is spherical and billions of years old and that a country such as ours ought to be at the forefront in science education and in advancing potentially life-saving discoveries, for example. Since I know these things about Madia's outlook, I haven't felt the need to pin him down on his specific religious affiliation, if any. When evaluating a candidate's religious views, I'm attempting to ensure that those views are not idiotic or repellent. I would vastly prefer a candidate with no religious affiliation to one in the thrall of an embarrassing one.
A commenter pressed me, however, to press Ashwin Madia-and get an answer as to what Madia's religion is. I am reticent about asking a person, on the record, about her religion: The question feels invasive and the incentive for a dissembling, uninformative response seems huge. But since I was sure that sooner or later Madia would have to articulate some response, yesterday I asked Ashwin Madia the question--making sure that both Madia's press secretary and campaign manager also received it: What religion are you [Ashwin]? I received no reply or acknowledgment from any of the three individuals mentioned.
How ought we interpret this tea leaf? I see several potential reasonable interpretations, as to the meaning of Ashwin Madia's non-response:
1) Team Madia views the question as offensive and refuses to respond, as they believe the question to be an ill-motivated, chauvinistic attempt to marginalize and exoticize their candidate. (This explanation makes sense if Madia's true answer to the question, if he were willing to state it, were Hindu [Ashwin Madia's inherited faith tradition].)
2) Team Madia refuses to reply to the question, [silently] insinuating that the questioner is motivated by cultural chauvinism, when Madia's actual refusal to respond to the question is because the candidate is a non-believer or 'undecided' of some stripe.
3) Team Madia is convinced they've already answered this question somewhere and that we're insincere when we ask for clarification on the question. [Send me the link then, guys.]
While the public at large almost certainly prefers a believing candidate--however nutty--to a non-believing one, I do not share this preference and indeed, wouldn't have any objection to voting for a non-believer. (Six members of the current House of Representatives claim no faith affiliation.) OTOH, I'd like a candidate who can win. If my candidate confided in me that he was a Dawkinsite, I can envision reviewing with him various problem-solving solutions, politically. And so, in a way, I'm impressed by Madia's unwillingness to bullshit his way out of this one. Were I a non-believer seeking public office [not that we know for sure, concerning Madia], it might occur to me to take a more expansive view as regards the potential meaning of the word Catholic, Unitarian-Universalist, or what-have-you, simply to lay the silly issue to rest (and put a nice coat of opaque beige paint over my natural magenta and electric blue polka dots).
Our knowledge of the person of Erik Paulsen remains largely a matter of speculation, as the candidate whenever possible refuses to acknowledge his critics. Given his refusal to engage with the non-groveling, I noted above he is a devoted and active member at Victory Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie--and so Paulsen is a Missouri Synod Lutheran. To be a conforming Missouri Synod Lutheran, you're required to believe that:1) Homosexuality is immoral and sinful and that gays should repent;
2) Abortion equals murder;
3) The universe was literally created in six 24-hour days and is no more than 10,000 years old; evolution did not occur;
4) Women cannot be ministers in the church [see Timothy 2:11-12];
5) Pope Benedict XVI is the Antichrist;
6) The fanatical proto-Nazi and antirationalist Martin Luther deserves our profound admiration;
7) The bible is inerrant.
If we became aware that any candidate were a member of a secular organization which held the tenets above, we would require reassurance from the candidate that he dissents from the organization on these points. And so I am now requesting that Erik Paulsen clarify his positions on the seven tenets of Missouri Synod membership listed above. The candidate has been emailed.
Erik Paulsen has hired (part-time) Michael Brodkorb. Brodkorb--who has been collegial in his interactions with me--has devoted a large portion of his blog in recent months to pillorying Al Franken, because a third party says Al Franken made a rape joke in a brainstorming session nearly a decade ago. So imagine how incensed Brodkorb must now be with Erik Paulsen:If you believe the bible is without error, then you're required to look with approval upon offering one's daughter for marauders to rape: See Judges 19:22-29. If you believe the bible is without error, you're required to favor capital punishment for twelve different offenses, among these: For a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night. So it matters a great deal, whether Erik Paulsen accepts the bedrock principles of his church, enumerated above, and nowhere moreso than on that church's crackpot assertion concerning the supposed infallibility of the bible. If Paulsen seriously believes in 'the inerrancy of the bible,' his view blows any decade-old, distasteful Al Franken joke right out of the water.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Y'all know: I have asked Erik Paulsen for his positions on numerous questions--and that he refuses to answer. A number of other Democrats have told me that they too have been stonewalled by Paulsen when they put questions to him. A Republican reader said to me recently [I paraphrase] 'What do you expect him to do? Clearly, there's no benefit to him in answering any question coming from you.' Well, the future is unwritten.
In a campaign for federal office, serious citizens must attempt to get information from candidates. And to be fair, in the CD3 race, Ashwin Madia has responded to vastly more questions than has Erik Paulsen. Madia has engaged the public in a vastly more open manner. Indeed, Paulsen's campaign somewhat resembles the strategy of a nominee for the Supreme Court. The candidate is taken aback at the very notion that someone might seek to review his history and ideas. What history? What ideas? How dare you!
Given that Paulsen refuses to respond to questions, a skeptical blogger is forced to author indirect ways of illustrating Paulsen's worldview. When Paulsen refused to acknowledge my email asking him to clarify his views on abortion, for example, I found another state representative whose voting record on abortion closely mirrors Paulsen's. No Republican reader has yet suggested that it would be unreasonable to expect great similarity between Erik Paulsen's and Rep Steve Smith's thinking on abortion--particularly since their voting records on the issue are nearly identical. And in interviewing Smith, we learned that his views are about as extreme as they could possibly be: Smith owned up to believing that Minnesota would be improved were abortion banned under the existing antihomicide statutes. It is hard to imagine a more irresponsible political position being professed by a candidate in the state of Minnesota--and likely a position shared by Erik Paulsen.
One needn't seek out a proxy who shares Ashwin Madia's views, since his views on this issue are well-known: He's pro-choice. It's important to bear in mind that a Republican blogger seeking to follow this race would not face a similar-though-opposite problem: She'd face the same situation--with considerable clarity on Madia's views and great murkiness concerning Paulsen's.
If Paulsen would prefer a blogger not seek out proxies and speculate on his views, he has a very obvious alternative: My email address is listed at the top of this blog. It is sheer hypocrisy to run for US Congress, refuse any discussion of your views and then plead religious persecution when someone attempts to paint your portrait with reference to the church you yourself have publicly referenced as your moral citadel.
When considering a congressional aspirant, we are interested in learning the candidate's views on issues such as abortion, evolution and homosexuality. On these issues, Paulsen is remaining mum. Are we then just stuck, or is there some obvious proxy for expanding upon our knowledge of Paulsen's viewpoints on these Big Three Social Issues?
There's a completely obvious proxy for learning about Paulsen's views on the Big Three Social Issues. By all accounts, Erik Paulsen is an active and devout member of Victory Lutheran Church--a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. And Paulsen's sect teaches that abortion is murder [and that, because abortion is legal, 'America has crossed over the line of a civilized society'], that homosexual behavior is sinful and immoral and that to be a real Christian one must believe in the [absurd antiscientific idiocy] of creationism--that less than 10,000 years ago god literally created everything on earth in six days.
Some people who attend Victory Lutheran probably disagree with the Missouri Synod on a few issues. Indeed, there might well be gay people who attend the church, or women who have had abortions and are unrepentant, or people who, if they visited their child's university and learned the institution was teaching that dinosaurs and humans once lived alongside each other (less than 10,000 years ago)--as Liberty University does--they would demand an immediate refund. But were a candidate for US Congress to refuse to answer your questions about his opinions on social issues, and you then learned that the church in which he is a devout and active member has noisy, reactionary positions on all major social issues, it seems completely reasonable to ask the candidate if he is in agreement with his church on these issues, or not.
Alternatively, what if Paulsen held the same political viewpoints he now holds but was a professed atheist, though still refusing interaction with those skeptical about his politics? What if we then learned he was a member of a secular club whose bylaws welcomed only those who strongly condemn abortion, homosexuality and science? Would hackles be raised were a blogger to speculate, saying 'Erik Paulsen won't answer my questions on the Big Three Social Issues, but he is a member of a club which takes a harsh line against gays, abortion and science. In the absence of any statement from the candidate, it seems fair to conclude that Paulsen shares his club's strident positions against homosexuality, abortion and science.'
By raising these concerns with regard to Erik Paulsen, some Paulsenistas have seen an opening for bringing forth a politically-useful exoticising narrative concerning Madia's religion. My response: I've been discussing the social teachings of the Missouri Synod because Paulsen refuses to discuss his viewpoints directly and gives strong evidence of taking his church's positions seriously. He is free to set me straight on these positions any time he likes, and the inferences I have been drawing are not in any way far-fetched: No Republican has thus far objected to any of my inferences. If Paulsen were willing to clarify his positions on these social issues, I would have no need to delve into the tenets of his church--and indeed, would have no inclination to do so. Since Ashwin Madia has been entirely forthcoming with positions on issues--and in several interviews with this blogger has never once sought to ground an ideological or political position in scripture--I can't think of a legitimate reason for pursuing his relationship with Hinduism, which Madia sums up, quite innocuously, as 'trying to integrate mental peace, forgiveness and generosity.' How could anyone object?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Brendan Prigge, 42, is pastor at the small church. He warmly greeted me and was entirely nice throughout. Brendan led both the Christian education and the worship service on Sunday. About a dozen people attend the former. The church is less than two decades old, small and intimate--with each family having a mailbox in back. People gather socially before the session begins and cordially welcome a visitor, introducing themselves and asking a few questions. The older men are wearing suits and ties. There's a flag to the left of the altar.
Prigge opens Sunday school with 'a silly question:'--'Is the Bible sufficient?' This question is deemed far too frivolous to merit consideration, so the lesson moves on. But:
Since the book acknowledges the existence of slavery and doesn't condemn it, it is at the very least insufficient. And there's something particularly complacent when an American belittles those who question whether the bible is sufficient. When a perfectly legitimate question is raised and then dismissed without consideration, the intellectual legitimacy of the enterprise is called into question.
Rev Prigge's Christian education topic Sunday is angels. Attendees feel free to chime in with uncontroversial thoughts here and there. 'Should we expect messages from angels?' the cleric asks. Are angels protecting us? Several participants note the marvelous accidents avoided and the many good works of the angels among us. While we're going through this, Prigge is using a PowerPoint presentation putting various angel-related biblical quotations on the screen up front. He's self-deprecating and apologizes for 'thinking out loud' and so he's going to 'shut up and move on,' and 'I'm just being a dingbat here.' 'Luther was just a dude--but he was a smart dude.' Prigge is inoffensive, with his nice-adult pseudo-adolescent phrasing, while advancing a toothless-sounding theology. An older fellow tells us how his car's audio-GPS sure sounds like an angel.
When quoting their denomination's namesake, it seems an odd omission that Prigge neglects to mention that Martin Luther was a fanatical antisemite who didn't simply revile Jews but went on--voluminously--to sanction their murder: 'We are at fault in not slaying them.' (Quite a number of additional doozies are attributed to Luther, too.) It puzzles how any adult could look to Prigge as a credible instructor when he invokes Luther as a moral authority without any caveat.
'Don't you wonder how the angels felt when Jesus was crucified?' (To be honest, no.)
Prigge says he's not sure whether angels have emotions. They are non-human and haven't developed from humans, he explains; the bible mentions angels hundreds of times. (That same book prescribes the death penalty for touching Mount Sinai, among numerous other crazy things. ) When making a supposedly high-theological point, Prigge occasionally waxes pompous-biblical, sometimes to inadvertently comic effect, as when he says 'These are the questions I covet your opinion on.' Seriously.
A bit later, the worship service (Extreme Makeover, Life Edition: Building Up--Encouraging Others) eventually attracts nearly fifty people, so a bit more than one-third of the seats are spoken for. At one point during the service, the children present are asked to come forward and Prigge communicates specifically with them, while we watch. He advises them on the benefits of complimenting others and provides a number of examples--all having to do with physical appearance. The treacle he dispenses to the children apparently meets with parental approval, but by boldly counseling the succeeding generation to improve the world by engaging in more empty, appearance-obsessed flattery, he isn't winning me over.
At one point during the service, Prigge, gesturing dramatically with Bible extended, exclaims: 'This we know is certain. This is sure!' But after reading Judges 19: 22-29, how could one conceivably make such a statement?
The Missouri Synod: Some Loony Beliefs
Victory is Eden Prairie's only Missouri Synod Lutheran church--supposedly the doctrinally conservative type of Lutheranism. (That triple-cross, above, is the Missouri Synod's logo.) But we're all postmodernists now: The bleach-blond cleric at the helm of Victory plays in a Christian rock band and promotes a mushy be-niceism. A young woman a few rows in front of me sits cross-legged during much of the service, scandalizing no one; if this sect descends from dour Judgment-terrified German immigrants, the Brady Bunch era has thinned the message considerably. Prigge repeatedly reminds congregants that believers have nothing to fear, regarding the afterlife, as they know they will go to heaven. 'If you have faith in Jesus eternity is secure, so you have a peace.' (Wooddale Baptist Church, by contrast, also in Eden Prairie, reminds worshippers relentlessly that you--yes, you, there--might well not make the cut.)
As Prigge and I chat between events, he mentions that Missouri Synod Lutheran churches vary tremendously from one congregation to the next. But in checking online afterwards, it appears the sect completely shares Erik Paulsen's extreme antiabortion stance. The Missouri Synod requires a subordinate position for women in the church and its website features a pdf brochure in which the denomination's president intones: 'Many aspects of evolutionary theory are directly contradictory to God's Word. Evolution cannot be 'baptized' to make it compatible with the Christian faith.' Around the world, many religions profess nutty ideas; the Missouri Synod is not special in this regard. But when an adherent seeks to take its tenets into the public realm, citizens are within their rights to request some explanation.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I attended the huge--and hot--Grande Day Parade today in Hopkins. [Photos / Slide show]. Someone said the entrance fee for today's parade was $500--which apparently put participation outside of the price range of both the Paulsen and Madia campaigns. Isn't that odd?
In the catbird seat: Rep Maria Ruud
(accompanied by Marge Hoffa)
It didn't stop Maria Ruud--who had an impressive contingent. Ruud is facing one Daniel Kim in the primary; Kim responded to my softly-softly telephone call this evening with 'I don't want to talk!' and then 'Don't talk!' just before the line mysteriously went dead. Of course he has every right to challenge the incumbent, but it would seem reasonable for him put forward some explanation and reasoning. None thus far.
I didn't see any sign of Ruud's Republican opponent Shari May at today's parade.
Blake grad David Dillon was the only CD3 congressional candidate to appear in today's parade; David really fought the good fight this weekend. He brought a good group to Hopkins today and worked the crowd just like a real candidate.
The Caskettes provided a welcome riposte to the schmaltz overload.
A commenter yesterday put forward his belief that parades don't matter--they're 'for kids, not voters.' I'm sure many winning candidates ask themselves what portion of the campaign drudgery and exertion they might have omitted and still have ended up with the same successful electoral result. My hunch is that parade participation is if anything underappreciated by campaigns--and that parade goers are disproportionately voters. As a candidate, you really want to reach out to the masses of non-precinct-caucus-attending, home-owning, churched normal people out there; parades allow you to provide powerful symbolism of your normalness, approachability and neighborliness. Voters vote for the candidate they would feel more comfortable touching--parades allow you a great opportunity to show people that they needn't fear sharing a handclasp with you. Parades also pump up your own supporters, embolden your fence-sitters and show an attractive beacon of community and solidarity towards which people instinctively gravitate--making possible a snowball effect. We are social primates; your candidate's participation in parades helps address a deep psychic need for group identification and belonging in the electorate.
Parades aren't really designed for the entertainment of political junkies, the blog-reading public or those of an ironic/alienated sensibility. But don't confuse that with saying 'parades aren't important.' Most people swim in this sea of mainstream insipidity without noticible complaint. Failing to extend the hand of friendship to them at events such as these must be scored as a lost opportunity. If you want to drink all day, you've got to start in the morning--and if in your political campaign you're committed to mounting a full-court press, you've got to show up for the Raspberry Festival. End of sermon.
While I ran into two Paulsen campaigners who were stickering the huge crowd, I encountered no Madia presence at today's parade, though the Madiaistas fielded an impressive group for the footrace earlier the same day.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Give the devil his due: The Hustler was in top formThis morning I attended Mound's annual Spirit of the Lakes parade. It sprinkled a bit at first and remained cloudy and cool-for-July during the parade. (Here's my slide show.) The Paulsen parade machine was humming nicely, with plenty of children and young people in addition to the AARP set.
Ashwin Madia didn't attend the Spirit of the Lakes Parade today, as he was running in the Hopkins Raspberry Festival's 5-miler*. Team Madia had an enthusiastic (if sadly kid-free) group, marching right in front of Nick Thomley.
This was MNIP candidate David Dillon's third parade, but the first one in which I saw him. We spoke for a bit before the parade started. Dillon actually seems to believe that things are going to start breaking his way within a few months. His campaign has raised only 2-3% of the war chests amassed by either Jiggy or The Hustler.
*Commenter Paul has corrected me: The Raspberry run is tomorrow--Sunday.
Friday, July 18, 2008
The DFL in the Third Congressional District is an ever-livelier organization. That said, the leadership has considerable independence from the grass roots--and at times seems quite bold in its willingness to chart a path at odds with the consensus of the infantry. The most obvious example of this occurred when nearly the entire leadership committed to supporting Terri Bonoff for Congress--and even after a clear consensus emerged from the senate district conventions, the party leadership tenaciously sought to stymie the senate district convention delegates' choice. But since that showdown--in which grassroots CD3 DFLers laid their party leadership low--many former Bonoff supporters now strongly back the endorsed candidate.
I spoke with Terri Bonoff today, who was friendly and upbeat. In answer to my questions, she said she was feeling great about John Benson's prospects in 43B; she thinks very highly of Clint Faust and sees his chances as excellent and would really like to see him pick up the seat in 43A (now held by Sarah Anderson). She's even door knocking for Clint.
And I eventually asked Terri about the office. She said her campaign had leased the space through November 2008 and that after her April 12 defeat, she communicated with the state DFL about their assuming the remainder of the lease, which they did; the Republicans, Bonoff noted, also broached the topic with her. When Bonoff for Congress vacated the building, they never got around to removing the sign; it was a busy time in Bonoff's life and she can be forgiven for wanting a little R&R after the endorsement battle. (I'm not suggesting anything untoward in this lease thing, though it was new information to me.)
Once the CD3 DFL Coordinated Campaign started using the building, some strapping DFLers were asked to help make the sign reflect the reality that Terri Bonoff was no longer running. When they went to work, they found the task more difficult than met the eye--and they thought it conceivable that by only removing the 'Bonoff' an easy update might be considered some weeks down the road, as passions dissipated. So Terri Bonoff played no role in making the sign appear as it now does. Furthermore, she assured me that if the CD3 DFL chooses to update the sign to say Madia for Congress, such a decision would not bother her in the slightest.
I was at the office; it had been a busy day...a thousand things were cluttering my synapses. At some point in our telephone conversation I asked Terri how her campaign was going--and with complete pleasantness and a chuckle, she reminded me that Minnesota state senators aren't up for election in 2008. Duh, Gavin!
Anyway, it remains my view that, if put to a vote, most CD3 DFLers would choose to have the sign updated to say Madia for Congress. But most of the time, the party foot soldiers put little pressure on their leaders to enact their preferences--the wasted sign opportunity, apparently, being a typical example.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Al Franken was accompanied by two staffers and Melvin Carter, the magnetic 29 year old, first-term city council member who represents the first ward. Having Carter on board benefited Franken's crowd-working much; the candidate walked up and down a number of rows saying hello to the seniors with Carter helping melt ice. I spoke with a dozen or so people at the dinner, trying to gauge the political situation generally and how Franken was doing. Almost everyone was enthusiastically backing Obama; I got a variety of responses when asking people about Franken. Some said they would keep an open mind about him as they looked into his positions. A few said they'd be unlikely to vote for Franken, though all but one of my interviewees stated categorically that they would not vote for Norm Coleman. No one uttered Barkley though several mentioned Ventura--aware that he was out of the picture.
If a person enters the voting booth pumped about casting their presidential and congressional votes, it seems likely to me they're also going to vote for someone for US Senate. Most said they didn't care about party--they vote based on their assessment of the individual.
If most African American Minnesotans don't admire Norm Coleman, I think the Six Week Senator presents an even less sympathetic face--merely my mind-reading, granted. So winning over African American voters shouldn't prove beyond Al Franken's abilities. Franken's staffer downplayed all discussion of polling--like any good campaign worker--but were Obama to appear with Franken perhaps it might help.
Christopher Truscott has again mentioned Porn-o-Rama--calling Betty McCollum courageous for attacking Franken for the article. When Truscott periodically announces how deeply offended he is by Porn-o-Rama, he never states his position in the form of an argument. He simply wants you to know that all upright people agree with him--that the article is highly offensive. Implicitly, Truscott wants to communicate that if you're not offended by the article, you've got a screw loose.
Truscott is conflating two assertions which don't mix well:
1) The article harms Franken's chances politically.
2) The article is offensive.
Everyone agrees on point #1, so we should be able to agree that when someone says 'The article harms Franken's chances, politically' this type of statement is neither insightful nor courageous. It is undisputed.
When a person prefaces any opinion with 'As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official,' it deserves mentioning that this blathering political boilerplate can be removed from the sentence without in any way altering the merit of whatever comes next.
Furthermore, it ought not be deemed courageous to simply announce that something by which many people aren't offended is offensive. Dogmatism in political argumentation is a sign not of courage but of its opposite. An announcement that you are offended by something can only be considered courageous if you put forward thoughtful reasons backing up your disapprobation.
So please re-read the Betty McCollum statements for which CD4's* representative has been awarded the Truscott Profile in Courage, and tell me if you can find a courageous word therein:
On Thursday, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called the sexually explicit article offensive and potentially damaging to Franken and other Democratic candidates in Minnesota.
"As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said of Franken's piece, published in 2000 under the headline "Porn-O-Rama!"
"I can tell you it's not playing comfortably in St. Paul, and I can't imagine this politically radioactive material is doing very well in suburban and rural districts," McCollum said.
After reading the original article, I wasn't offended. So I asked two people who I respect for their opinions, after reading the article. First, I asked Esme Murphy--who graciously responded to me on June 3, 2008:
Yes I have read it.
This article was satire. Playboy has a history of providing a literary forum for interviews and well known writers. I have no objections to anyone writing in Playboy. I have no objection to anyone writing an article like that.
So, let's make sure we're keeping score: I read it, and I wasn't offended. Esme Murphy read it, and she wasn't offended. So then (on June 3, 2008) I put the question to a third individual--my good friend Christopher Truscott--who replied,
It was offensive generally. I personally don't care, but recognize it as offensive.
If you're jumping up and down telling the world you're offended by something--albeit without articulating a single rational reason for being offended--and you freely admit that the entire matter is so unimportant to you that you 'personally don't care' about it, that qualifies as grandstanding, not 'being offended'--and certainly not courage.
Let the record note: I also attempted to get Michael Brodkorb to articulate a rational argument on behalf of feeling offended by Porn-0-rama--and received no response.
*When originally published, McCollum's district was misidentified above as CD5. Thanks to Munchkinmom for bringing the error to my attention.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Dear CD3 DFL Field Organizer,
The new CD3 DFL office in Wayzata occupies the same office which once headquartered Terri Bonoff for Congress. It is in clear view to numerous motorists who use Hwy 394 every day. In recent months when such drivers have looked north at the office, they've seen a giant sign that says "[ ] for Congress". I think this suggests to the public that CD3 DFLers are undecided as to whom they would like to send to Washington. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
We all know that the sign once had a different goal in life. But when Terri Bonoff conceded after the seventh ballot on April 12 of this year, she said:
I ask the convention to nominate Ashwin Madia and begin the work to unite this party and bring the Democratic message of change and opportunity to the people of this district.
It is time for us to take back the Third District seat in
We insult Terri Bonoff gravely when we refuse to take her at her word. Let's get that sign updated posthaste. What say you?Very best wishes,
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The filing deadline passed this afternoon; our next congressional representative's name is somewhere on the list at the bottom of today's post. Silly Season is nigh; let us now pause to consider Steev RamsDell, with whom I spoke this evening.
Steev RamsDell has filed for US Congress as an Independence Party [MNIP] candidate, challenging David Dillon in the September 9, 2008 primary. RamsDell tells me he is 52--and married to a woman from Korea who is the mother of a 19 year old daughter from a previous relationship. While the candidate does not adhere to any organized church, he admires the spiritualism of Dr. Wayne Dyer.
RamsDell doesn't sound particularly incisive or ideological, nor does he sound crazy, though he acknowledges ownership of ShowMeTheCure, a website advocating a boycott of drug companies and medical research charities--so as to force them to cough up cures for the various maladies they claim to seek to end. The day before yesterday, RamsDell bought a domain for his congressional campaign (which remains undeveloped, in both senses), using an address at which he does not reside. In addition, he owns San Mei Rejuvenation Center, a fact unlikely to help him with the MNIP's muscular 'Dobson in muttonchops' wing. (He also owns something called 7HeavenOrientalSpa. Ouch.)
RamsDell tells me he's from Florida but has lived in Eden Prairie for almost three years. Like the endorsed MNIP candidate David Dillon, RamsDell has no history of involvement with the Independence Party and doesn't care for political parties. RamsDell paid the $300 filing fee to run for US Congress. On the form, he lists an Eden Prairie address, but the homeowner at that address insists Steev RamsDell no longer lives there--but did--more than three months ago. ('He's a friend of my wife's. Nice guy.')
In September 2007, RamsDell heard that Ramstad was retiring. The entrepreneur reflected upon a wondrous similarity: RamsDell...Ramstad. (Clearly a sign.) He thought about running for Congress, but didn't participate in the MNIP's endorsement contest, as he didn't understand the process and was busy with his various commercial endeavors.
RamsDell supports alternative energy and opposes an expansion of domestic drilling. He opposes the legalization of marijuana but would permit those afflicted with serious illnesses to use it under medical supervision.
RamsDell would prefer a ban on abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy. He would like all other women seeking abortions to undergo compulsory dissuasive counseling and a required 48-hour 'cooling off' period between signing on the line and actually undergoing any abortion. (While many readers may perceive this position to be an astoundingly lackadaisical assault on women's rights, let the record note its extreme liberality in comparison with the probable position of the Republican standard-bearer.)
'What's your position on gay marriage?' I ask. The candidate pleads, 'Do you have any softball questions?'
RamsDell plans no strenuous effort at fund-raising, other than the occasional purchase of Powerball tickets. He suggests pro-Dillon voters ought to welcome his entry, as it might ignite interest in Dillon. Beating RamsDell in September will bolster Dillon's reputation as lion-killer--RamsDell implies--paving the way for a November Dillon shocker.
Got it in you, Dillon?
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