It’s interesting how Congressman Tim Walz has transformed in a matter of a few short months from a darling of progressives and proof that Democrats can stand by their principles and still win in Deep Red districts into a miserable DINO and shameless political opportunist.
Not that that’s actually the case, of course. Rather, I think what we see is an object lesson in the dangers of getting trapped in your own perspectives. We all do it … and we should all be wary of it.
Take Walz and the NRA for example. His former view of the NRA was as a gun rights advocacy group, which it certainly is. Millions of other Americans still see it that way. It is also a lobbying group for gun manufacturers and a fundraising arm of the GOP, which is how progressives see it. Myself, I see it as an Establishment front for radical political action, potentially including armed insurrection.
While serving as the elected representative of MN-01, accepting money from the NRA wasn’t much of a problem for Congressman Walz. He represented a Deep Red district. But then he started getting strong criticism and pushback from fellow Democrats, other progressives and gun laws advocacy groups. He reacted to that pressure — which he refers to as “a kick in the butt” — by rethinking his position on the NRA and the need for more restrictive gun laws and by changing his position accordingly. After the Las Vegas massacre, with 59 dead and more than 500 wounded, he broke with the NRA and donated all of the money they had contributed to him to a support group for the families of fallen veterans.
For some progressives, his conversion was too slow in coming and too convenient.
But isn’t that the foundation of representative Democracy, that the will of the people made known will cause political candidates and elected leaders to react accordingly and to conform their positions and policies to better accord with that will?
Or is intransigence on important issues now some kind of Gold Standard of Integrity of which I am unaware? If intransigence in the face of polarizing issues is the Gold Standard, then both King George III and Louis the XVI had more integrity than the Founding Fathers. Look how things turned out for them. In my view, intransigence on the part of any person when confronted by new, compelling information and cogent argument — political candidate or not — is the Gold Standard of Stupidity.
Walz is not the only Democrat to evolve his position on guns, gun rights, and the NRA. Senator Bernie Sanders took a lot of heat in the 2016 presidential campaign for his 2005 vote on a bill that gave gun manufacturers immunity from prosecution. At the time, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta saw Sanders’ conversion as a calculated reversal:
Regardless of his motivations, Sanders knew he had to modify his position to better accord with the voters and he did.
With regard to another polarizing issue, Hillary Clinton herself was never an advocate for same-sex marriage. In her New York senate race in 2000, she said: “Marriage has historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is … between a man and a woman.” By 2013 the American people had changed their minds about marriage equality. Clinton knew she had to modify her position to better accord with the voters and she did. I believe to this day that our dramatic cultural change in attitude towards gay people resulted directly from the millions of individual acts of courage in “coming out” and in claiming their right to live in dignity, as every extended family learned it had one or more gay folks in it who deserved to be loved and protected just like anyone else.
President Obama was no advocate for same-sex marriage either, even after he took office. As late as 2010, in a Q&A session with progressive bloggers, he stated that, while he was “… unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage,” times were changing and “… attitudes evolve, including mine.” It took Vice President Biden getting out ahead of the president that forced Obama to rethink the issue. He decided he needed to change his position, so he did.
Were Sanders, Obama and Clinton all DINO’s and shameless political opportunists who only changed their views and their positions to gain political advantage? That’s one way to look at it, I suppose. You could also see it simply as the machinery of democracy in action, of our democracy working in exactly the way it was designed to do.
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