When one views the evidence Sharon Sund and Brian Barnes have presented, we have little basis for viewing either as a paragon of public probity. There's no known factual reason to view one as being more honorable than the other. The various endorsements thus far published bring essentially no worthwhile information to the fore and amount to little more than chest-thumping, preening and self-flattery--standard party hack vices.
Let us be frank: A well-informed bookie would likely view Sund or Barnes' probability of unseating Erik Paulsen as equivalently minuscule--though on this score we might remind the gambler that Barnes has not intimated any global conspiracy of Obama-hating petroleum price-fixers.
The media and public attention spans are incredibly limited, even among the 1% of Democrats who'll be allowed to cast ballots at the April 14, 2012 CD3 DFL Convention. People are presented with sane-appearing snippets such as this:
As with almost all public discussion on Sund/Barnes, NCT does not seriously ponder candidate-statement substance, observed during the debate--and instead lazily asserts no important ideological distinctions exist--'Sund...and Barnes...largely agreed on issues...' The debate is perceived instead as a content-free flesh-pressing opportunity. Who did you like more?
Blah blah blah came out of his mouth and blah blah blah came out of her mouth, in other words--so the intelligent participant is now free to make her decision based on gut instinct, identity politics or considerations of flattery.
The respectable club members (i.e. Usual Suspects like Joe Bodell, Maureen Hackett, Paul Groessel, TwoPutt Tommy, Betty Folliard, Channel 12, etc.) are not evil; they are task-saturated and lacking in intestinal fortitude: When faced with a complex public problem such as Sund/Barnes, it just seems easiest to throw one's hands up in the air and say 'they're basically the same on the issues, so the decision should be made based on intangibles.'
Such indolence represents an abdication of civic duty.
If you listen to the debate, the two candidates do in fact differ on important matters of substance. Despite being fine human beings and wonderful neighbors, both are quite bad on several issues--each in their own specific way.
I recently re-listened to the half of the debate made available by The UpTake--and commented on a number of Sharon Sund's ill-considered positions. Today I want to go over several of Brian Barnes' errors.
When asked for his particular forte, Barnes puts forward leadership--and contrasts himself with the incumbent who he calls 'a tool of the most extreme elements in the GOP.' (Even a fourth grader could be instructed to vote as Paulsen does, the contender witlessly avers.)
I don't doubt leadership is an important quality, though it's a difficult thing to assess in a person one doesn't know well. I am deeply skeptical about the idea that leadership is easily discerned upon first meeting someone, or that true leadership is demonstrated when someone says--often and loudly--'I'm a great leader!' as Barnes appears to enjoy doing.
Along with Barnes, I somewhat agree that Erik Paulsen straddles the right-wing fringe of his party. Barnes pines for the days of Ramstad and Frenzel, representatives 'who reached across the aisle' as good-natured centrists. On this point I disagree--as I think Ramstad was himself a bit of a drip.
Barnes is proud of having served as associate chair of his senate district; I'm skeptical that this represents even a minor qualification to serve in the US House. (Were I asked to appoint the next DFL congressional candidate, I'd score 'associate chair of senate district' a minus one.)
When asked for his central pro-growth economic proposal, Barnes profoundly disappoints: He wants an across-the-board increase in educational spending--a thick red envelope for Education Minnesota. Possibly candidacy-dooming in its stupidity.
Unlike Sund, Barnes is seriously concerned about the deficit and--like Sund--wants to address the problem by raising lots of taxes. (Barnes is apparently worried about his excessive electability--and doesn't want to embarrass Paulsen too badly on Nov. 6, 2012.)
So if you listen closely to the candidates' answers, you can indeed make important distinctions. Both Sund and Barnes hold a number of ill-considered viewpoints. While fine citizens and friendly neighbors, CD3 DFL voters should focus on the issues--and reject both Barnes and Sund in the state primary on August 14, 2012.