A Responsible Electorate

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256px-Jeff_Flake,_official_portrait,_113th_Congress

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

During last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” interview, Sen. Jeff Flake was asked if he could have done what he did last week in the Supreme Court confirmation process if her were running for re-election. He was quick to respond. “No!” He and his colleague from the other side of aisle, Chris Coons, confirmed what many Americans have come to lament: the tar and feathering of compromise — the art on which a democratic republic depends.

In the simplified mindset of good versus evil, there is no room for compromise. The Judiciary hearing room was a room like that. But the behavior we saw in the hearing room wasn’t really about good versus evil. Jeff Flake’s “No” tore off the mask. It’s about money — the ability of candidates to secure financing for their campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Any candidate running for election in 2018 would be foolish to reach across the aisle, even though conscience might lead to do so. Sen. Mitch McConnell later put it bluntly: any Republican who votes not to confirm Kavanaugh will no longer receive campaign money. The Republican National Committee (RNC) will turn off the faucet.

256px-GOP_SquareMeanwhile, RNC money and dark money pours into the race in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. I’ve waded through mud many times over the years, but this is the dirtiest campaign I’ve ever experienced. Yesterday’s snail mail, for example, contained TWO slick negative ads funded by the Republican National Committee, slandering the Democratic candidate. These same ads leap out from my computer monitor whenever I open a YouTube video. Someone has mastered cyber analytics, and it’s not the Russians. The RNC-sponsored, complete with “I [Erik Paulsen] approve this message,” approved by Erik  paint Dean Phillips, as a monster, A hypocrite. They twist facts. The real message? Erik is the “good guy”; Dean is the “bad guy”.

Yet only Dean Phillips refuses to accept money from the PACs, special interests, and lobbyists that elects partisan loyalists who surrender conscience and the courage to compromise. The “good guy” refused to join the “bad guy” in that pledge. The money is pouring into the 3rd District from outside Minnesota — like fire trucks and rescue squads responding to a 5-alarm fire. The hoses spew mud.

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It’s the responsibility of the electorate to slog through the mud and take off our waders before entering the voting booth.

Gordon C. Stewart, Minnesota 3rd Congressional District, October 3, 2018.

Finding Bigfoot

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“Americans are the best entertained and least informed people in the world.” – Neil Postman.

AmusinghknI still watch football. I’m sorry — mea culpa — but I do. Always have. But it’s different this season. Though my hopes for my teams have always been subject to injuries, something worse gets injured every two years: truth.

Watching the Gophers (University of Minnesota) and Minnesota Vikings (NFL) last weekend, most of the ads were what we’ve come to expect. They sell us products by entertaining ads that create our appetites for what we don’t need.

But there were other well-placed ads during breaks in the action: “information” ads meant to stir my righteous anger by painting Dean Phillips (D) — the candidate running against Congressman Erik Paulsen (R) in my district (Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District) — as an immoral hypocrite. It’s not information; it’s carefully crafted disinformation meant to evoke outrage and fear. The campaign season and football season are a lot alike with one big difference: football has penalties. There are referees and umpires.

Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business appeared way back in 1985, years before Citizens United uncorked the tightly secured laboratory vile containing the life-threatening, infectious virus of unaccountable slander, and released the contents into electoral stream of a democratic republic.

We Americans pride ourselves in being a nation “under the rule of Law.” Everyone is equal “under the rule of law.” Citizens United exposed the dirty little secret that we’re not. Slowly over time, the American democratic republic has become an oligarchy. Dark money — big money from unnamed deep-pockets, vested interest sources — was legitimized under the rule of law by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision. The rule of law became more explicitly the rule of oligarchs, who buy presidencies and congresses with their campaign contributions, and who spend big money for ads like the one they hope will keep Rep. Erik Paulsen in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Paulsen represents my district. I know him. Well, I don’t really know him. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him face-to-face. During his eight year tenure in Congress, he never held a town hall meeting before candidate Dean Phillips made an issue of his inaccessibility to the people who elected him to represent us. While others across the country held town hall forums in their districts, Rep. Paulsen refused to hold one. Finally, after increasingly public criticism, Rep. Paulsen offered an alternative: a telephone conference call. My phone would ring at 7:00 P.M. “Hello, This is Congressman Erik Paulsen inviting you to join me in a live conversation . . . Press 1 to participate….” I couldn’t bring myself to press the button lest I contribute to his claim of accessibility. Finally, after his unwillingness became a bigger issue in the Paulsen-Phillips debate, Erik Paulsen held his first face-to-face town hall meeting in eight years.

Yesterday we shared the ads that interrupt my football watching. The Paulsen ads interrupt far more often than the Phillips ads. There’s a reason for that. Money. The Paulsen campaign is well-funded by the unaccountable deep pockets uncorked by Citizens United. The Paulsen ad we posted yesterday is dark in tone and slanderous in content. The Phillips campaign refuses PAC, special interest, or federal lobbyist money. They too are carefully crafted to tell the truth with humor.

Football couch potatoes in MN District 3 are the best entertained voters in the country.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 20, 2018.

Falsifying Reality: the Road to Power

[George] Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily about changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.” – Adam Gopnik.* Here’s an example from my congressional district.

Big money for Erik Paulsen‘s re-election is pouring in from PACs, special interests, and federal lobbyists. Dean Phillips refuses dark money. Ads like the one below are funded by small donations from little guys like me who don’t like falsifying reality.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, courtesy of the coffee shop wifi, 20 minutes away from the cabin by the wetland, September 19, 2018.

*Adam Gopnik is author of “Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Trump’s America” Click the LINK.

Thanks to William (Bill) Britton’s Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings for bringing my attention to the quotation, one of several by Gopnik, Thomas Merton, Noam Comsky, and the Apostle Paul (“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind”). Bill’s daily menu is worth the price!