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The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11. I’m sure we’d have other problems, but none of those problems.

 

As you know, national elections are actually handled by states, and states are charmingly diverse in how they do that. For instance, the technology of elections, and what you have to do to prove you are eligible to vote at the polling place, vary across states. But after the 2000 election there was some movement to make the system work better, to implement chad-free technologies, and to update the procedure for determining eligibility.

 

Eventually, of course, the changes got politicized. Everyone knew that Democratic voters and Republican voters are different, not just in their politics or who they vote for, but in how they vote. The Lockstep Party, Republican, is more homogeneous and generally privileged. You want to vote, you stop in at the voting place on the way home from work and vote. You know where it is because it is the church you go to, you have a car so transport and weather are not issues, you have access to information which is all in English and that is your native language, so you know things like when election day is and so on and so forth: Democrats have that too, but being a big tent Democrats also have other folks. Recent immigrants who don’t understand the system, older folks who don’t have a car and have a hard time getting across town, people who don’t happen to go to the well established local church so they don’t even know where it is. Also, among Democrats are people with overt labels as to how they are likely to vote. You can’t wear as button on your shirt declaring your support for a candidate, but you can, say, be black, and therefore visibly less likely to vote for the Republican. This last bit allows people who control the polls to harass or turn away certain voters.

 

At some point in recent history, Republicans got aggressive with strategies that would make it hard for that diverse subset of Democrats to vote. Some of those strategies are just downright dirty and illegal. When I was working on Get Out the Vote for some Democratic Candidates a few years ago I found recent African immigrants, likely Democratic voters, who had been told by Republican operatives that “Republicans vote Tuesday, Democrats vote Wednesday. So go vote Wednesday.” Seriously.

 
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Matt Entenza Is Not An Out Stater

by gregladen on July 22, 2014 · 2 comments

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This is a followup on my earlier post (see “How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up” also reposted here) on Matt Entenza’s bid for the DFL (Democratic Party) Primary candidacy for Minnesota State Auditor.

 

Entenza claims he is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, would do a better job representing the interests of Greater Minnesotans. This implies that highly acclaimed sitting State Auditor and candidate for re-election Rebecca Otto is not doing well in this area. In fact, she is doing very well. She is recognized for her fair and non-partisan treatment of people and local governments across the state. The previous State Auditor used the position in a more political way, implying bias, and voters rejected that approach by the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years when Otto was first elected. It is now well-understood, here and nationally, that Otto is doing it right.

 

This is similar to the misleading language Entenza is using on pensions and social security. "Too often these days, we hear stories about how folks who worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives have their retirement at risk by poorly managed pension funds and Wall Street middle-men that charge exorbitant fees. Privatization of pensions is unacceptable. Minnesotans’ pensions should not be privatized and that Wall-Street middle men have no business near our pension plans.” This, again, implies that Otto has somehow been involved in privatizing pensions. She has not. In fact, a review of Otto’s website shows that she has been leading the charge against the move to privatize public pensions, and that the Public Employee Retirement Association is stronger than ever on her watch.

 

A similar thing happened in a recent news article about Otto leading a national conference of State Auditors, bringing the State Auditors from around the country to Saint Paul. A few accounting firms that work with local governments were some of the conference sponsors. Entenza said of this, via his campaign mouthpiece, that "The people being regulated should not be paying for lavish events for those doing the regulating. Attending parties and events thrown by firms the auditor is supposed to be watchdogging is not how Matt Entenza will run the office.” Again, this is a blatant attempt to mislead voters. The State Auditor does not watchdog or regulate private CPA firms in any way, and there were no lavish events at the conference. In fact, the conference was part of required continuing education classes that help auditors keep up with the latest laws, regulations and trends. So here, Entenza would have readers believe that all State Auditors from around the country are somehow having a conflict of interest. Really? He says he wouldn’t attend such conferences if elected. How then, one wonders, would his staff be able to do their jobs?

 
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clowncarh/t Politics.mn
 
So there’s the underlying issue of frac sand mining, and the issue of who correctly construed who, as Republican gubernatorial campaigns go after each other. For the part of the story about Republicans going after each other, Bill Kuisle, running for lieutenant governor with GOP gubernatorial endorsee Jeff Johnson, said it makes sense to delay frac sand mining so the effects can be studied.
 

I’ve pulled the key quotes from the back and forth between the two campaign[sic]. Below is the quote from Kuisle from the interview, in response to a question about frac sand mining:

 

“‘I’ve followed the issue a little bit in the papers,’ said Kuisle, a farmer of 160 acres between Stewart and Rochester. ‘You can’t be an expert on every issue, but I think you’ve got to look at all sides. That is a tough one.
 
“I think the moratorium, give it six months or a year, to study the issue is a good thing. You need to determine what you hope to protect. Is it air pollution, trout streams, transportation? Source: The Caledonia Argus, “Republican-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor stops by Argus offices”, July 15, 2014

 
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Is Mike McFadden Running to Lose?

by Invenium Viam on July 17, 2014 · 9 comments

snakeyes-born-to-loseErnest Hemingway once said, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, sh*t detector.”

 

I like to think I’ve got a pretty good functioning unit. It may be old, but it’s pretty reliable.

 

That may be the reason why I’ve struggled with the nagging question whether Mike McFadden’s campaign to unseat Senator Franken is for real, or just for show. Something hasn’t felt quite right, not quite genuine, about what I’ve seen so far. My spidey-senses are all a-tingle.

 

I understand that McFadden is a political newcomer, never having held political office before. So it would be easy to pass off any misgivings about McFadden’s campaign bona fides onto that. While inexperienced he may be, McFadden’s certainly not dumb. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in Economics. He earned a J.D. from Georgetown. So you know he’s got the raw horsepower upstairs.

 

Presumably, he’s also a skilled business manager. He would know that you don’t try to push your way into a developed niche market against several strong competitors without having a helluva business plan, some ironclad financial backers, and Triple-A core competencies across the board. The risk of failure is just too great — and nobody wants to back a loser, especially the money guys.

 

So it’s telling that, after more than a year on the campaign trail, with less than a month before the primary election and little more than three months remaining before the general, McFadden remains largely unknown to Minnesota voters, his campaign is undistinguished, his messaging is unremarkable, his fundraising is woeful, and his crew seems unfocused and directionless.

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DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of running, flush with vast family resources, in DFL primaries and against the party endorsement process, and DFLers have a habit of not responding well. Nearly six million dollars of mainly family money got Entenza third place in a three way race for governor in the 2010 DFL primary.

 

DFL primary voters have to ask themselves three questions on August 12th. First, is Entenza bringing something to the auditor’s office that is valuable? Second, do we need to replace Otto; is she doing a poor job in her position? Third, is Entenza auditor material?

 

Entenza wishes to improve education in Minnesota. This is not actually the Auditor’s job. Also, Auditor Rebecca Otto has an advanced degree in education and a science B.A. and served as a teacher for five years. Otto chaired a successful $55 million levy campaign in a conservative district, and served on the Forest Lake School Board before serving in the State Legislature. She is not only pro education but a highly qualified contributor to that discussion. Entenza wants to make the Auditor more friendly to out-state Minnesota. Otto, however, has a reputation for fair dealing and respectful interaction with all of the municipalities with which she works state wide. Many, from folks on the street with whom I’ve spoken to the Governor, have questioned Entenza’s motive in running for Auditor in the way he has chosen, and a frequent conclusion often said with a wink and a nod is this: He wants to be governor, and sees the Auditor position as a stepping stone to that. The stepping stone hypothesis certainly explains his candidacy better than any of the things he’s said about why he is running.

 

His claim to address government handouts must be a reference to the system of Tax Increment Financing. But TIF is not a government handout. It is a development tool that has positively affected the lives of many Minnesotans. More importantly, TIF, as well as education reform, are policy matters for the legislature and Governor. It seems that Entenza wants to have the job as Auditor so he can be that … the legislature and the Governor. But that is not actually how it works, and it makes me wonder if he really understands what the State Auditor does.

 

We should not be replacing Rebecca Otto. When she came on board, the Auditor’s office had been used as a political tool by the GOP and State-Local Government relations were poor. Otto has been studiously non-partisan and professional in her role, and this has been recognized at a national level. She has the National Excellence in Accountability Award, was elected President of the national State Auditors Association, and was named one of the 15 most influential auditors of all auditors at all levels of government across the entire country (and that is a lot of auditors). She is also the first DFL woman in this position and only one of 7 elected female state auditors in the country. We should be proud of that, not trying to undo it. DFLers know that when they have a top person in a position like this, who chooses to run for re-election, you don’t damage their position by staging an attempt at turnover. That’s not only bad party politics but it is also a negative contribution to governance. Entenza running against a woman who is arguably the top in her field is very difficult to account for.

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Zellers Brags About Failure in Leadership

by Grace Kelly on July 14, 2014 · 2 comments

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Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers is bragging about his failed leadership in shutting down the state government in a press release:

 

“Democrats, political pundits, special interest groups, and even many Republicans predicted that we wouldn’t hold to our principles and that the Republican-controlled legislature would cave to the intense political and media pressure during the shutdown,” said Zellers. “But I did not surrender and the GOP legislative majorities did not cave. Instead, it was Governor Dayton who surrendered to us after two weeks.”

 

In the legislative races in the year after the shutdown, it was clear that Minnesotans thought the shutdown was the worst possible choice, They rightly blamed the Republicans because the Republicans are still bragging about it. I knew in the Jim Carlson race that I had a winning argument with Business Republicans. I would ask Business Republicans: Would they run a business this way? Would they run a negotiation this way? Would they trust a supplying business that ran this way? The answers are resoundingly “no”. As an MBA, I knew this. There is even a class in negotiating in the MBA curriculum, that Minnesota Republicans would have failed. Obviously, the improved winning margins in a non-presidential year meant that many voters saw the shutdown as wrong.

 
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Voter fraud story not quite over

by Eric Ferguson on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment

Brian Rice, we’re waiting. Not for evidence. We waited in vain for that. We’re waiting now for your apology.
 
The news Thursday was bad for Rice. Hennepin County investigated his claim of a “coordinated effort” to have people vote illegally using the address of a business that rents mailboxes. They dismissed this allegation not merely for insufficient evidence, and not even for no evidence. They actually disproved the charge. Ouch.
 
Wasn’t hard to disprove. From the Minnpost link, “In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”
 
That was Thursday. It’s now Monday. Well? Any apology coming? Rice surely knew he was dragging the reputations of legal voters through the metaphorical mud. He took his claim to an irresponsible media outlet to play up the story, knowing how voter fraud claims incite the partisans of the right, knowing he was throwing charges at an immigrant community that is detested in some quarters. How detested? Let’s put it this way: the Star Tribune stopped enabling comments on articles on certain subjects because of the hate speech those subjects attract, and one of those subjects was Somalis. Articles on Somalis bring out the racists, nativists, and islamophobes. Rice must have been aware this was the atmosphere into which he was throwing his scurrilous charges.
 
It didn’t have to happen this way. Had Rice restrained himself to claiming it appeared some people voted from an address that wasn’t a residence, he would have been fine. There was evidence for that. He could have said that without claiming or implying organized fraud or individual fraud. That would have saved him looking churlish in light of this paragraph:

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

In other words, many of the 141 did things right, registering with their current address, and adding the permanent address as the place where mail should be sent, and something got mixed up on the clerical end. Even the rest, where the voters made a mistake, were just voters making a mistake. Not one instance of fraud.
 
Republicans of course took the bait, jumping up and down in excitement because now the voter fraud accusation was being made by a DFLer. Vindication! Oops. Like every other claim of voter fraud, this one fell apart upon examination. So, Republicans, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong on this one? That you believed a charge that proved false? So far, nothing. A word of advice Republicans: if the information is coming from a Democrat, and you don’t want to get played like this again, then no matter how much you want to believe it, check it out first. You see how I saw right through it. You can do the same.
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The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

To be fair to the Star Tribune, they didn’t screw up nearly as much as KSTP. In fact, the egregious mistake was in the headline, “140 voters used single mailbox”. This wasn’t asserted in the article. However, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the Star Tribune did at some point replace that headline on the web version. They’re unfortunately stuck with it in the print edition. It’s a screw up because even Brian Rice and KSTP never asserted 140 people registered using one mailbox. They rented mailboxes from the same mailbox rental business. Yes, quite a bit different.
 
The Star Tribune writers talked to some people who registered using their mailbox instead of a residence — take note KSTP, because that’s what real reporters do — and got statements from more people than just the one guy making the accusation. The Star Tribune debunked — albeit inadvertently it appears since they didn’t point out the contradiction — the crux of the KSTP story, that there was a “coordinated effort” to commit voter fraud. “State records show that 419 Cedar Avenue S. has been used by some of the voters as far back as 2008.” Maybe Brian Rice believes people started registering back in 2008 to help Mohamud Noor run for state representative in 2014?
 
That said, some things were left out. And there was some silliness.
 
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Sincerely Held Beliefs

by Grace Kelly on July 3, 2014 · 1 comment

rule of religionBut officer, I sincerely believe that it is my god-given right to drive as fast as I want on the freeway.

 

But officer, it is my sincerely held beliefs and part of my religious rituals to take mind altering drugs.

 

But teacher, it is my sincerely held belief that we should no longer have tests. You should just have faith and give us all “A”s.

 

Billionaire speaking: it is my sincerely held belief that I should have all the money in the world and not be held accountable by law

 

Any extremist religious fanatic: it is my sincerely held belief that my religion is the correct religion, therefore any violence is justified to get people to follow my religion.

 

Any cheater: I could have that result the hard way, it is just easier to cheat.

 

Any racist: It is my sincerely held belief that my race is superior, therefore I may do anything as the superior race.
 
Provide your own sincerely held belief to triumph law.
 
The Supreme Court just put religion above the law and corporations above people again. While respect for religion ought to be part of the law, allowing religion to trump law about the way other people live their lives is just very wrong.

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Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

 
Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

 
Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
 
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).
 
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