Tag Archives: Partisan Rhetoric

More than 8 years of blogging and my environmentalist roots

When I first started blogging, technically when I first started it was an email list that became an email newsletter, then a blog, I started because of two specific actions that were occurring in tes country, the widespread rollback of environmental protections, and the unilateral decisions being made in Washington by one party and one president whose first term would be up in about a year.

George W. Bush was president, he had just started what seemed like an unwise second war in the oil rich Middle East, environmental actions removing restrictions were regularly happening with the sign of his pen, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Area Refuge (ANWAR) was continually popping up in emails from conservation groups.

So much of what we were doing seemed to be revolving around energy, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.  The price of gas was approaching $2 a gallon, and instead of doing what previous generations did by investing in Universities and solving problems, many in the country seemed content to delay the problem for further generations by drilling now and using up the dwindling resources rather than daring to consider how to fix the problem.

Never mind that just two decades earlier foreign countries in the Middle East exercised the leverage they had on our economy by restricting oil sales.  An OPEC decision could literally thrust us into the beginning of a deep depression immediately.  Yet we continued to ignore and delay logical changes in how we live, and float in the breeze of an unstable Middle East that doesn’t really seem to like us very much.

I was frustrated and began blogging (or newslettering) about how important it was to replace Bush with Howard Dean, Wes Clark, John Edwards, John Kerry or whoever.  I was literally an ABB person – Anybody But Bush. And as we approached the 2004 election, blogging became mainstream and a logical place to write.  Sites popped up that made it easy to blog.  I used one site for about a 2 years, I don’t remember what it was, maybe Homestead, then Blogger for many years before the current incarnation in WordPress.  And what happened over those years is that I increasingly ignored the environmentalist base and core of what is important to me, my three boys and any grandchildren I might eventually have, in favor of partisan political blogging activism.

Today I am entrenched in partisan activity — in my blog, volunteering for the DFL, and in the candidates I support.  And where has that gotten me?

A friend from church recently said about the current state of politics:

“No respect, no creativity, nothing constructive, nothing positive. I just struggle to engage in a process that has become so divisive and so destructive.”

I used to think that that was exactly why we should be involved, to change that.  Now I am beginning to think that it won’t change and I have better things to do with my time.  I know one blogger who has already done that.

Anyway, I found some of those old blogs and thought maybe I need to return to my roots.  After all, I have been an environmentalist since I was a little kid.  When I was in elementary school, I was very interested in saving whales.  I think I was in 5th grade when a librarian at Fulton Elementary in Minneapolis, who knew of my interest in whales, gave me a pamphlet that had a picture of a cute baby harp seal on the front of it.  When I opened it up, it was graphic pictures of seal hunters with clubs, bloody baby seals, and pools of blood on the rocks.

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Our Deficit is Huge — Our Compassion Deficit…

There is a huge deficit in the United States right now, and it isn’t a financial deficit. It is a deficit of compassion.  As a nation, and all the way down to our local communities, we are not being compassionate.

One of the most well-known stories of compassion is the story of the Good Samaritan.  The parable tells us a certain man went from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves.  They stripped him, beat him and left him half dead.  A priest saw him and passed by on the other side.  A Levite saw him and passed to the other side.  But a Samaritan saw him and had compassion on him.

Sometimes compassion isn’t easy.  It is really easy to justify passing by on the other side.  It could be dangerous, or maybe we’re in a hurry, it might be uncomfortable, or gross, or smells!  Regardless of the reason, and we are all guilty of passing by, passing by is never right.  We have been called to help our neighbor — to love our neighbor, and love means acting to meet that need of our neighbor.

We are not meeting those needs, and politics and the politicians we elect are exacerbating the problem.

Politicians, even politicians who claim to be compassionate, or to be followers, are waging a war on compassion.  There is a frame being used by many people that depict those mired in poverty, those who are unemployed, and those who accept social service aid as lazy, unworthy, users and freeloaders.  Or they see someone who came here to benefit from the riches of the greatest nation in the world as a parasite.  The continuous use of this frame makes disdain toward people easy to accept and compassion hard.

Politicians say we are going broke because of these people.  These human beings…

Some of these same politicians dismiss our engagement in two wars when they talk about going broke.  While we are killing human beings…

These politicians and their supporters are using this framing technique to foment a war.  It is a war on government.  It is a war to support one’s own self interest.  And it is a war being waged on a segment of the population that can’t fight back.

And worse yet, the politicians and parties waging this war are waging it like a drone war.  People who are poor, immigrants and people with disabilities don’t have the time, or the power or the ability to fight the rich, the well-connected and the powerful.  They don’t meet their elected officials, or sometimes even have the time or energy to vote.  So politicians can lob bombs at these invisible people without seeing the devastation it causes first hand.

There is no compassion.  And they use finances to justify the lack of compassion.  It is justified because one person over here took advantage of the system, one person took a vacation while unemployed, one person buys candy instead of bread.  But everybody deserves compassion.

And it isn’t just equal compassion that they deserve, they deserve even greater consideration!  I could quote Jesus on this, but I don’t think I need to.

Partisan Political Derangement

Between Friday and Monday, an interesting set of conversations took place that all seemed to coalesce into what I can only recognize as personal disgust with the current state of politics.

On Friday night, at the Senate District 36 DFL picnic in Lakeville, we were fortunate to have Franni Franken visiting our picnic and engaging with people in our group.  One of the stories she told, which I heard second hand, was that she and Senator Franken routinely have dinner with another Washington couple, who – get this (whispering) are Republicans… I know, can you believe that?!? 

At that same picnic, the account of one bad incident at the Lakeville Pan-O-Prog parade was also discussed.  The story was that as I was walking in the parade and introducing myself as a Candidate for State Senate.  I was approaching a group of about six kids between the ages of 8-12.  They asked me if I had any stickers.  I told them I didn’t but I could give them a high five, and I jogged toward the line of kids with raised hands for a high five.  Just as I was about to give a high five to a boy, a woman, I assume his mother, stood up so quickly her lawn chair fell down backwards and yanked him with enough force backwards by the shirt that she had to catch him so he didn’t fall on his butt.  Of course I don’t know exactly why she didn’t want me to give him a high five, but I can only assume she didn’t want him touching a Democrat.

Finally, the third conversation happened at a Monday morning Bible study I go to.  We don’t spend all our time discussing biblical scholarly work, there is a bit of social engagement within the group.  We started talking about the State Fair, and the milk booth came up, and the cost of the milk.  From free, to a nickel, to a dollar, depending on age and memory.  I brought up Rudy Boschwitz’s flavored milk booth.  I remember it being a quarter, and I remember several flavors, although root beer was the best.  And what I remember most vividly about that booth was being there with my Grandma Quist one year while she dug in her purse looking for more quarters. 

None of those stories have anything to do with each other, but all three together represent the serious problems we face politically.  And as I sat in traffic this morning on my way to work, I connected the three stories.  There are big groups of people that can’t separate a person and their political beliefs.  Al Franken and the Republican Senator he shares a monthly dinner with can do it.  My Grandma an ardent Democrat could buy milk from Rudy Boschwitz.  But that mom would rather give her child whiplash than risk the possibility of Democratic cooties infecting her son.  And that woman at the Lakeville parade wasn’t the only one, there was the man who slapped my friends arm who was reaching out a sticker to see if anybody wanted one, and the boos and vulgarity from people who didn’t know me in the least bit other than that the three letters DFL were associated with my name. 

This uber-partisanship is preventing work from getting done, deals from being made, the economy from improving, and preventing our communities from becoming better communities.  It needs to end.  These divisive political figures need to be rebuked for the damage they are causing.  But the only way that will happen is if moderates who are turned off by all of this partisan politics all of the sudden become active.  Not likely… (Sigh)

Partisan Political Attacks Create Angst and Apathy (in me)

I’ve noticed myself ignoring my unread item notices on Google Reader regularly recently.  I follow 14 blogs, most of them overtly political, the rest of them vaguely political, and all of them local.  Not only am I ignoring the unread notices on a regular basis, when I do decide to clean it up, I hardly read them, I just clear the unread notice.

I’m not sure if it is the current political subject matter that bores me, or if my recent political run has just jaded my outlook.  I do feel a little depressed based on the news.  Right now, you have the Chamber of Commerce in alliance with The Republican Party together attacking workers in what I see as a divide and conquer manner.  There is no chance that the assault on unions here in MN or WI is budget related or freedom related.  It is purely and simply politically motivated. 

The goal in the Republican ideology is to prevent unions from influencing elections.  But instead of passing laws to stop the influx of money influence in elections that might come from Unions, which by the way was dwarfed by the Chamber of Commerce, Republicans have decided to destroy unions with phony “right to work” laws designed specifically to bankrupt unions and constant blame for everything from lazy workers to them being “cause” or at least scapegoat for budget deficits.  But labor is not the issue, and it will not solve budget problems.  These “solutions” simply weaken workers and thus, to the delight of the Republican Party, it will eventually weaken a strong funding mechanism for progressive politics.

Side Note: Notice I said “progressive” and not Democratic politics.  Despite the demonization of the word progressive by Republicans, maybe I should say by Glenn Beck, the word progressive in politics is simply a word that labels a group that supports an agenda of political action to fix the problems plaguing our country.  Republicans were called progressives at one time, Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Cumming, Robert La Follette, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and his dissenting partner Justice Louis Brandeis, even Abe Lincoln was a progressive in action, if not by label.  But Democrats started out-progressing Republicans under Woodrow Wilson and later under Franklin Roosevelt.  As political parties are want-to-do, the Republicans couldn’t just agree, they had to counter and become more conservative.  If nothing else, grasp at straws to destroy.  Unions will support whoever supports workers, today and for three-quarters of a century is has been the Democrats who have been progressive on labor issues.

The problem is that we could solve everything without destroying the rights of workers and save a ton of money in society by passing election laws that limit election spending and create publicly financed elections.  How many millions of dollars could be saved and invested in a businesses and workers if as a state we weren’t spending many millions of dollars on lobbying and commercials to influence politics.

How much time would be saved in our legislature if legislators could just go ahead and vote with their conscience instead of based on their reelection campaign funding or based on the support they pledged to get an endorsement?  And how much better would our state be if legislators were beholden to all of their constituents instead of only their financial supporters?  How many more people would feel good about voting if they felt they had a voice instead of the feeling that the biggest spenders have control?

Maybe that sounds a bit jaded, but I am tired of what’s happening now and I’m tired of the snarky remarks and blame being tossed around, when the system is what is flawed.  I was recently the subject of a “comment lecture” on Facebook blaming Democrats for something Republicans were equally responsible for, if not more responsible for.  The partisan rancor is absurd, and at a point that drives the average person away from the political process, creating even more extreme ideas and extremist control in each party.  I specifically got involved in the DFL Party because of that.  And despite my growing angst about the rhetoric, I keep moving deeper in to the process.

I started this rant by mentioning blogs.  I did have a point.  The blog post I enjoyed reading the most recently had nothing to do with politics.  It was called Insecure About Money by Joey White at the blog Wide White.  It isn’t some major piece of great writing, but it is a subject I completely identify with.  I think that is what so many bloggers are missing right now, personal identification.  Popular blogs are filled with crazy and shrill remarks to draw readers.  A blog shouldn’t be a popularity contest or a ego builder, it should be honest opinions.  I don’t write about a DFL political agenda, although sometimes I think I should.  I write about what interests me and what are truly my opinions.

Joey and I have differing views on a lot of political issues, probably most issues, but he and I are very similar when it comes to partisan politics.  Using a quote Joey made on a blog post of mine he said “I realize partisan politics is really the only option in America, I just hate it.”  That’s why even despite our differences, I like his blog, he is honest and I respect him for his honest conviction and opinions.  I’m not sure I always get that from the extremists on either side.

I know what my right-wing attackers are thinking.  On my blog I attack Tim Pawlenty and John Kline regularly, as well as “Republicans!” in general.  But that is because I see so much hypocritical Republican Party politics in them.  Party agenda first, constituents second.  I respect Republicans who have honest beliefs that jive with the party.  I don’t have a problem with the conservative agenda if that is what you believe in, that doesn’t mean I have to like it or agree with it, but I believe you have a right to work toward and think that way, just like I have the right and deserve the respect for my beliefs.  It is that partisan rhetoric and attack that needs to stop.  We need to be honest and respectful, and we need to stop thinking one side is always right and one side is always wrong.  There is a middle ground and there can be compromise.  There are adequate solutions that will make the state, nation and world a better place, that do not rely on one single political outcome.

I got to interview former congressman, Minneapolis mayor and state legislator Don Fraser for a project I am going to work on, and the thing I really liked was his discussion on political parties in the state.  He said state legislators were not aligned with parties until recently.  Just like city council races, all races were nonpartisan elections.  He felt that was a good thing because there were bills that two people would be on complete opposite sides of an issue, and in debate on the next bill be strong allies.  That can’t happen now.  Partisan politics prevents it.  Look at the override 6 here in Minnesota, Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman, Richard Lugar, Orin Hatch and the term RINO in general.

I think I’ve rambled long enough here, and I fear my blog is reaching the end of its usefulness.  I find myself becoming more cynical about politics and more cynical about the extremist actions of many politicians today, especially those aligned with the Chamber of Commerce.  I find it harder to pay attention, and am less willing to, even when it is a person I support.  I strongly believe in the ideals of inclusiveness, equality and justice, and the DFL fits with where I am right now, I’m just not sure this is the best avenue for my work, the problem is based on my short time experience with the State DFL Central Committee, I’m not sure the DFL is either.  I guess local is the way to go.

That may be my longest post ever, and if you got this far, I think I am sorry…

Did our American soldiers die for socialism?

No they didn’t.  And I am pretty sure they didn’t die to be used in an absurd political ad geared to inflame an illogical group of right wing zealots either.  Whoever decided to create this ad should first read the book Flags of Our Fathers, and if they still feel this photo is appropriate to be used in a partisan political ad, I guess they should just be slapped.

Who is GreMar?