What is the difference between a dozen dead second graders and a dozen dead high school students?
The high school students’ best friends will be able to vote next year.
And no, I will not apologize for the strong words and horrifying imagery. It is time for strong words and horrifying imagery.
I am facing a number of different poltical choices this year. Some of them come in two weeks at the Minnesota DFL (Democratic Party) Convention in Rochester. I’m a delegate, and I will be casting my vote to endorse two US Senate candidates, the State Auditor, the State Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Governor. Recently, I was engaged in the endorsement decision for my US House District, and my local state House Representative is up for election.
Filtering out races that are fait accompli, there are three people running that I am firmly committed to NOT vote for, and to work against in any way possible, because of their contribution to America’s gun-hungry, gun-happy, gun-crazy culture.
They are, in order of geographical zone covered by their potential purview as an elected official:
Tim Walz, currently in the US House representing Minnesota’s first district, now running for the endorsement for Governor of Minnesota; Erik Paulsen, running for re-election to the US House, and Sarah Anderson, running for re-election to the Minnesota House.
I can not vote in early June for Tim Walz’s endorsement because for the last 12 years he maintained an A rating form the NRA, took their money, voted mostly as they told him to vote, and made numerous public statements in support of this gun culture.
Walz started his career around the time of a school massacre in his home state, up at Red Lake, Minnesota. Following the tragic shooting of little kids and their teachers at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Walz responded by voting for bills put in Congress by the NRA specifically to be a slap in the face of the Sandy Hook families and children, made statements supporting those initiatives, and took his NRA money. He maintained this pro-NRA policy before and after Sandy Hook.
Then two things happened. One, Walz left his post as a potentially re-electable Democratic Congressman in a very conservative district, to run for Governor. In this state, running for the Democratic Party endorsement at this time, he needed to be a full on progressive. So, he started to use the word “progressive” in every sentence as he stumped around the state. His stand on mining in the northern boundary waters region of Minnesota is conservative and serves the mining interests and hurts the environment and the people. But he claims that to be a progressive policy. He supports the continued building of fossil fuel pipelines in Minnesota, calls it progressive. He has voted repeatedly against the EPA (not the Trump EPA, the Real EPA), supporting bills that damage Minnesota waters. That is not progressive (and he does not mention this too often).
So, Walz needed to remake himself as a progressive, and did this entirely by using the word “progressive” when describing himself in every instance where the correct word is actually “blue dog.”
Then, Parkland happened.
And with Parkland, a revolution.
Suddenly, meaningful, safety-enhancing gun legislation was possible. Indeed, several states including Florida, Vermont, Maryland, Kansas, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Rhode Island passed such legislation right away. Suddenly, it was not possible to be a Democrat with a wishy washy noncommittal view of gun violence and get or maintain any support from the people in the party. It even became difficult for some pro-gun Republicans to toe their old party line. Certainly, the full-on pro-NRA stance Walz had maintained for 12 years, across six terms in Congress, was utterly untenable. So, he jettisoned it.
He was unable to simply substitute a word. He needed to totally reverse policy, and has done so. He has had his come to Jesus moment when it comes to guns.
But this is not good enough. First, if this moment of change is real for Walz, it is too late. You don’t get to piss on the graves of Sandy Hook children and later pretend like you didn’t support the gun culture year after year as one mass shooting after another ripped apart families and communities across the country, then pretend like you are a good guy, like nothing happened. There may be a sort of socio-political statue of limitations on nefarious policy in this country, but it is longer than a few months. Walz does not get a pass for this.
Second, it is pure and simple BS. He changed his mind to get the votes, just like he is putting the word “progressive” in where “blue dog” pertains again and again, because he has to for his campaign to survive. (Shame on everyone who bought into that, by the way … or are there really that many crytpo-gun-nuts in the Democratic party?)
Walz deserves scorn, not votes. I will not cast my vote as a delegate for Tim Walz even if it is clear he is en route to the nomination (which is not, by the way, apparent at this moment). In the general election, I’ll vote for the Democrat whoever it is, but I will work only for a Democrat I can trust and that I know is not an NRA supporter in temporary disguise.
Which brings me to the other candidates. Here in Minnesota’s Third District, we are represented by Congressman Erik Paulsen, Republican. Paulsen has been repeatedly re-elected by my bone-headed neighbors for a number of different reasons, but mainly, because they think he is a “moderate Republican” and partly because the Third District likes to vote for Democrats at the top of the ticket (President or Governor) and, being Minnesotans, this means they have to vote for a Republican or two down ticket.
There is a huge movement, spearheaded by Indivisible, to change that here. The fact is that Paulsen is not a moderate, and by the way, he has been a friend of the NRA since the very day he first took office. People of the third district are being educated on this, and the endorsed Democratic candidate, Dean Phillips, has a very good chance of unseating the perennial putz Paulsen.
And, Dean Phillips is not an NRA shill.
On the very local level, this is a no brainer for me. I live in Minnesota district 44A. My representative in the House is Republican Sarah Anderson. Sarah Anderson is an ALEC loving right winger who has led the efforts in this state to gerrymander the Republican Party into House and Senate control. At one point, she redistricted her very opponent out of her own district.
I am supporting Ginny Klevorn to unseat Anderson. Ginny is a neighbor (one big block over). She ran to unseat Anderson last time around, and almost won. Perhaps if I had not just moved into the district weeks before the election, and had been helping her with her campaign then, it may have made the difference. Well, I’m helping with her campaign now! If you live in 44A, I’ll be knocking on your door at some point. But I digress. The point is, Anderson is yet another NRA shill. This year she co-sponsored two anemic bills that looked vaguely like they would help with guns, but knowingly did so late enough that they would not be considered. In general, Minnesota Republicans, who control the legislature and hope to extend that control to the Governorship this November, are very pro gun, and very anti-gun safety.
Three days ago, a little boy in my son’s school district died of a gunshot, just a short distance from my house (in the next big block north of Ginny’s place) in a way that would have been likely avoided had sensible gun safety laws been in place. The gun was a randomly stored loaded pistol the kid ran into among some toys. Sensible gun laws, and a rejection of our gun culture, would have made it much more likely that guns like that are very very rare instead of very very common.
Here are the statements made by Walz, Paulsen, and Anderson on that gun death:
(Note, the child lived, I think, just a short distance from Representative Anderson.)
In the light of the tragedy in Texas, with ten more dead of senseless gun violence, and given what we know about the political background of the various electeds and candidates, I ask my fellow Minnesotans to do this:
If you are a delegate to the State Convention in June, do not vote for perennial NRA supporting Candidate Tim Walz, even though he has suddenly appeared to change a life long love of guns and a career-long support of NRA into something that might look agreeable to the Parkland protesters.
Vote for the Democratic candidate representing your US House District. We need Minnesota to NOT be the only state in the union to go redder rather than bluer in the US House. Right now, with Walz leaving his post and various breakdowns in the 8th district, it looks like Minnesota will shift towards the Republicans by two members if Phillips does not win in the Third, or by one if he does. Let’s try to make that a wash, at least.
Vote for the DFLer running in your house district. We need to make the State House bluer, not redder.