Monday, January 27, 2014

Minnesota 6th District: An End to the Michele Bachmann Legacy of Lunacy?

by Nomad

For seven years, Michele Bachmann has held Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District seat. In that time she has unintentionally amused and often horrified the rest of the country with her antics. Since her announcement that she would not be seeking re-election this year, the field is now wide open now for the state's most conservative district. 
What chances do Democrats candidates like Jim Read, have?  A glance at the Republicans in the race tells us that it all depends on whether Minnesota voters are looking for a change or just Bachmann's clone. 

Reading Jim Read
On January 24th, Jim Read, 55, from Avon, Minnesota, declared his candidacy for Michele Bachmann's district. The district, the most Republican-leaning of Minnesota’s congressional districts, is up for grabs ever since Bachmann announced she would not be seeking re-election. For years, under the Bachmann, the district has been under Republican Tea Party control. (Some might call it a form of witchcraft.)
Jim Read is, without much exaggeration, Bachmann's polar opposite.  With a solid middle-class background, Jim Read wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In high school, Read worked as bus boy and dishwasher and later on a paving crew for the National Park Service in summer. That work record is the kind of thing that appeals to Minnesotans. 

On the other hand, his educational background is nothing to snicker at (unlike Bachmann's Oral Roberts University degree.) He then went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago and then went on to earn a Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University.

Since that time, Read has taught political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.
In addition to that, Read is the author of three books, including Doorstep Democracy: Face to Face Politics in the Heartland, an account of his door-to-door campaign for the Minnesota Legislature in 1992. 

The crux of that book reveals Read's idea that "conversations between citizens concerned about their communities can get us beyond the television ads, mass mailings, and sound bites to rejuvenate American democracy."

Professional campaign organizers might not agree. The verdict is out but it's a nice thought. Relying solely on the common sense and maturity of the voters of District 6 could be a risky proposition.  I mean, just look how they've voted in the past (an' stuff). 

Read explains his reasons for running like this:
I am running for Congress because our national politics have become recklessly partisan, and economic opportunities for middle-class Americans have been steadily shrinking. This district’s incumbent, Michele Bachmann, exemplifies all that is polarizing and divisive in our political life. It is time to make a clean break with the Bachmann era in Minnesota’s 6th District.
The question is whether the voters are actually looking for a "clean break"  or whether they are eager for more hysteric politics- the kind that Michele excelled in. Although he will be facing some pretty stiff competition from the Republicans, none of them seem to be offering a respite from the sort of nuttery that made Bachmann a national embarrassment.

Tom Emmer: Republican Front Runner?
On the Republican side,  there are three candidates in the race: Tom Emmer, Phil Krinkie, and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah.
Let's take a look at each of them in turn.

Tom Emmer was a Minnesota House of Representatives member from 2004 to 2011 and so
is probably the most seasoned candidate of the group. But, for special reasons, that might not necessarily be to his advantage. In his case he could be better off if he were a dark horse. When it comes to Emmer's political notions, exposure to public scrutiny of his legislative history may be a political handicap.
Let me explain.
In spite of a $150,000.00 donation by Target Corporation which is headquartered in Minneapolis, Emmer lost in his bid to become governor of the state. The reason for his loss could just have been his reactionary positions on a host of issues. His views were reactionary even by conservative standards.
Emmer wants to cut government services by at least 20 percent. But poor people vote too, so how did Emmer propose cutting service costs without having to outright deny poor people access to state assistance? He authored bill HR857, which mandated drug screening for Minnesota Family Investments Program eligibility.
But he can be fun too. Emmer also authored bill HF1131, which greenlights surgical or "chemical" castration of sex offenders. Naturally, he's not just anti-abortion-he authored a bill that said Minnesotans had "no constitutional right to abortion."
In addition to that, he introduced a so-called Heritage bill to mandate the inclusion of religion into history studies at all Minnesota schools. In 2005, Emmer introduced that would have eliminated Minnesota's minimum wage law
But there's more. As Minnesotans say, there's a slurdge more, donche-no?

Emmer also supported a constitutional amendment declaring the definition of marriage must be limited to one man and one woman. His support for personal and financial ties with Bradlee Dean, founder of Christian rock band, youth ministry, and anti-gay hate group You Can Run But You Cannot Hide (YCRBYCH) made headlines on the Rachel Maddow Show. 
In addition that all that he stated in a debate that he opposed any legislation voted aimed at combating school bullying against gay and lesbian young people

Indoor smoking bans, he has stated, were an infringement on individual rights. Emmer supports legislation that would allow pharmacists to decline contraception to whomever they deem unfit. 
Could there possibly be more? Yer darn tootin' there is.

In 2009, he sponsored a bill that would shorten the period for license revocation for impaired drivers and for those that refused to take a sobriety test. Under this bill, drivers would still be allowed to operate a vehicle until they are convicted at court. Innocent until proven guilty was the reasoning but according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the head of the Minnesota DWI task force Emmer's bill would allow arrested drivers to continue to drive during the time between their arrest and hearing.
Impressive, huh?

Krinkie and Sivarajah
Things do not get much better when we look at the other Republicans.
Phil Krinkie's educational background isn't Harvard. According to his website, it is "diverse." In this case, the resume language means a B.A. Degree in Urban Studies from Coe College, a liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He also got some technical education from Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis.   

Like Emmer, Krinkie is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. He served for last 16 years, including roles on the Taxes, Government Finance and Capital Investment committees. The highlights of his voting record are rather few and far between.
In 2006, he voted against the Clean Water Legacy Act and voted for Voter Registration Photo ID. That should suffice, I guess.

In an interview, he was clear about where he stands on some issues- and it was enlightening to say the least:
There are 3 things that keep him centered everyday, and would like to see them worked into, or continued to be present in our Government. He holds them as his own core values, and feels they go beyond politics.
His deep sense in God, Life, and Marriage will guide him.
Marriage- It is pretty obvious how God created us. Adam and Eve were one man and one woman. Even the most Liberal Bibles still have Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam, or Eve and Eve.
Life- It starts at conception, and goes through until natural death.
God- The Left is trying to eviscerate God from our Constitution and our way of life. Which is evident by the threats and attempts to remove the ’10 Commandments’ from the town square, the attempts at removing "under God" from our pledge of allegiance, and they are banning Christmas in our schools and say that Christmas trees are offensive. Then they make up holidays for some groups and call it diversity.
For moderates and progressives, the whole passage is chocked with so many warning bells it sounds like a pinball machine on steroids. As far as specifics:
I don't have any obvious, easy solutions, but I have a passion for serving our state and our country.
Like Religion without morality, passion without sensitivity or intelligence is a dangerous thing. Passion for doing something could just mean that an candidate has more ambition than talent.
We seen far too much of that. 

Both Phil Krinkie and Sivarajah have sought the endorsements of the Tea Party to carry on the Bachmann legacy. Both of the candidates must realize that they will be walk a fine line between replacing Bachmann without scaring away voters by being too much like her. 
Said Krinkie:
“I have a lot of the same philosophical principles and ideology as Congresswoman Bachmann, but I have a totally different style. In over 25 years of being in public office and being president of the Taxpayers League … I have never, in that period of time, said anything that was so over the top or was criticized as being non-factual.
Totally different but.. well, striking similar. Is he saying that he is so different that he wouldn't appeal to the Tea Party?  If so, he seems to be missing the Bachmann appeal. Being over-the-top was what the Tea Party voters craved.
Facts, smacts. Just say anything and then deny it later when it hits the national headlines. That was the first rule in Bachmann's playbook.

Nevertheless, Krinkie's personality might win them over. Here's his idea of economic policy (brace yourself, faint hearts):
“All we really need to do when we are looking to expand the economy, we direct all the money to the women in the economy, and they will spend more and the economy will recover. Then when the economy is overheated, we go the other way and we give all the money to the men, and they’ll be very frugal and hold onto it.”
Completely different? No, that sounds all too familiar. 
Hold on, we aren't quite finished with the lineup.

As Anoka County Commissioner, Rhonda Sivarajah's management style was criticized by advocates of rail service and labor organizations and by a veteran's group. It takes a special talent to make so many diverse people upset. Words like "appalling" and phrases like "no transparency" and "no conversation" were used by her critics to describe her management style.   

She may have even upset the Tea Party, something she can ill-afford to do if she hopes to win the Republican nomination away from the likes of Emmer. 
Late last year, she canceled a scheduled appearance at a  rally on Minnesota State Capitol lawn,  sponsored by Minnesota Patriot Rally for the Constitution. That rally had been called the "Impeach Obama" rally until the name was suddenly changed.
Right up until a few days before the event, Sivarajah's Facebook page had displayed announcements but then, equally strange, these were scrubbed. (In fact, eventually all of the guest speakers dropped out. Anyway, there's nothing online about what happened or whether anybody turned out at all.)

In addition to that odd event, her moderate views on immigration may not appeal to the Tea party voters.  “We need to, as Republicans, stop looking at immigration as a bad word." She would say that, of course, her husband is a legal immigrant from Malaysia.  

So that's the last of the Bachmann replacements offered by the Republicans. It seems as though the party has learned nothing at all.

So the question is: Does Jim Read have really any chance of turning the sixth district Blue or will the voters there send another Bachmann clone to Washington. Unlike the Republicans, Read doesn't seem locked into partisan group-think. In an interview, Read was quite willing to criticize President Obama's handling of the healthcare website:
“People who are angry because they can’t get into the website — those are people who need affordable insurance. Why should people be celebrating the fact that they can’t get in?”
Meaning, of course, Republican politicians.
“Barack Obama made mistakes; I’m not denying that. Clearly the website had a lot of errors. And President Obama should not have made the absolute claim that everybody will be able to keep their current policy. “But this is what I want to get across: This is not about Barack Obama. He’s not up for re-election. This is about us. Where do we go from here?”
 Read told the interviewer:
“We have to go forward. We can’t go back.”