Friday, November 9, 2012
Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, stock Youtube footage in honor of the two amendments.
Overall, I consider the 2012 elections a resounding success for north Minneapolis and Minnesota. I have to include the "overall" descriptor because clearly the candidate I was most involved in supporting didn't win. Linda Higgins defeated Blong Yang, and did so convincingly. I remain proud to have supported Blong in this election, and I do hope he stays active in our political arena.
That being said, I issue a challenge to those of you who may have echoed such sentiments prior to the election. I heard that refrain frequently, most notably in the Star Tribune's endorsement of Higgins. "We hope Yang will stay involved in the political process. He has the caliber to be a thoughtful and effective elected official," is what they said. To which I respond, "How can the next generation of local leaders (like Blong Yang, Ian Alexander, Terra Cole, and others) become our new "thoughtful and effective elected officials" if we don't actually elect them?
By no means would I advocate for a wholesale cleaning of house. There is something to be said for seniority and experience, and north Minneapolis needs a healthy mix of the old and the new in our elected officials. I wish we had tilted towards the new for our next Hennepin County Commissioner, but I look forward to what Blong's next steps are.
Before leaving this topic, something ought to be said about the impact of Hmong and Southeast Asian voters in our community. I had the privilege of helping a few get to the polls on election day, including some who needed translation. (I left my Babel Fish at home though, so other campaign workers helped with that aspect.) I count helping people with language barriers among my proudest moments of election day work. Speaking fluent Spanish, this is an activity I do have some experience doing.
Yang engaged the Hmong community in ways that no other local candidate - at least in recent memory - has done. Lest anyone dismiss such engagement as insignificant, I would direct you to the twenty-vote margin of victory for Raymond Dehn in the primary. Blong estimated in conversations with me that there were dozens of Hmong voters, perhaps as many as 100-200, who voted for him and no one else in the primary election. Engaging those voters in 59B could have convincingly swung the tally in Dehn's or Cole's favor, or brought Alexander into a virtual three-way tie. If nothing else, Yang's campaign is a testament to the fact that the Hmong vote matters in north Minneapolis and future candidates would do well to remember that.
There were three other results that made me especially proud to be a Minnesotan, starting with...
...the 8th Congressional District. In that district, I'm more proud of the fact that the voters had the intestinal fortitude to kick Oberstar, a long-serving Democrat, out of office at a time when he became too big for his britches. Oberstar took his district for granted, perhaps most notably (at least to this preservationist) with his "sinking" of the Delta Queen riverboat. He didn't put his constituents first, he didn't campaign hard enough for the vote, and as a result he lost.
If you were to ask me who would have been better for the 8th District over the past two years, I would say Oberstar over Cravaack in a heartbeat. Over the long haul though, that district was better served by getting rid of someone like Oberstar, suffering through two years of less than optimal representation, and getting on the right track moving forward. (In case anyone is missing the parallel here, yes I mean we should follow their lead when it comes to those who voted for the Vikings stadium.)
The two amendments were the other vote tallies that made my heart swell with Minnesotan pride. I don't think I can say much about the marriage restriction that hasn't already been said. I'll echo the sentiment of how great it was to be the first state to reject such discrimination at the ballot box, and leave it at that.
The voter ID amendment was a different kind of hard-fought victory. Eighteen months prior to the election, over eighty percent of people polled were in favor of identification at the voting booth. Every single poll since then showed steady declines, but only the last one showed the slimmest majority against. Even then I was skeptical. Time after time, polling for ballot initiatives has skewed more liberal than the ovals people fill out when it comes time to vote. I expected the voter ID amendment to pass by at least five percent.
The proponents had it easy, or should have. "You need identification to buy things like beer and tobacco, to open a bank account, etc. Why not to vote?" They had the simple, seemingly common-sense argument. It took a lot of work (and yes, money for ads) to have a statewide conversation to the contrary.
Minnesota has clean elections, and our recent recounts (even locally) prove that. There is virtually no fraud, and the kind of fraud that does happen - felons voting before they are eligible - would not be prevented under such a change. The amendment was pushed by one party and our voting rules should always be a bipartisan effort. The "free" identification wouldn't be so free when you get down to it. Vouching would go away. Electronic poll books and other technology could be used instead. The amendment, if passed, would require a host of new laws. What happens if the governor vetoes one before an election? Bad legislation is hard enough to undo; bad constitutional amendments would be even worse.
And so on. Voter ID proponents had the simple, consistent message. Opponents had the nuanced, multifaceted argument. In large, protracted campaigns, the simple message almost always wins. It is a testament to Minnesota voters that this ballot initiative failed.
Finally, I'm thrilled to see the legislature back in the control of the DFL - although not for overt partisan reasons. I consider myself a Democrat, albeit a conservative one when it comes to some budget and spending issues. When the Republicans came to power two years ago, they did so on a platform of lower taxes, less spending, fewer regulations, and smaller government. "Ok," thought I, "Now is their chance to prove to me that the Republican platform actually serves Minnesota better. If they want my vote in the future, I'm watching."
Instead, they gave us uncompromising gridlock. Instead of smaller government, they tried to extend government into bedrooms, churches, and the ballot box itself. I still don't know if their positions on jobs, taxes, regulations, and spending are better for Minnesota because they never got around to acting on much of anything of substance. This crop of Republicans deserved to be swept out of power not because of their positions, but because they failed to make serious attempts at the very things they campaigned on.
Not everyone I supported won, but that's to be expected. I come away from the 2012 elections proud of the results and energized (after some rest) for my community. In that sense, there's no other way to describe November 6th than an unequivocal success.