The Week in Commentary
Pawlenty, once again a bridesmaid
Veteran political reporter Bob von Sternberg reflects on Tim Pawlenty's having been passed over, again, as a vice presidential choice.
"Once again, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood on the brink of being named the Republicans' vice presidential candidate, having weathered vetting and a frenzy of media speculation about his chances. But just as Sen. John McCain passed Pawlenty over to make the utterly unexpected pick of Sarah Palin, who was then the governor of Alaska, Mitt Romney's campaign has left Pawlenty waiting once again at the altar. ...
"For weeks, Pawlenty bobbed along in the froth of pundits' chatter, appearing to be at or near the top of the short list of Romney's choices. He seemed to have much of what Romney needed in a running mate. ...
"Pawlenty has been willing to be an attack dog for Romney since his own presidential campaign crashed and burned in Iowa last summer. That's usually the primary job of a vice presidential candidate. He's been tested, however briefly, in the crucible of a presidential campaign. He has a brown-shoe, modest, affable manner that contrasts well with Romney, stuck with the image of an elitist rich guy. His personal history as a poor kid in South St. Paul, the son of a truck driver who was the first in his family to attend college couldn't be more different from Romney's biography.
"But he always had liabilities of his own in the race for the vice presidential nod."
Thanks to global warming, extreme rainfall may be more common
Ken Bradley, research and policy center director at Environment Minnesota, warns that deluges like the one that hit Duluth this summer may no longer be rare.
"Global warming is already beginning to affect life here in Minnesota, across America, and around the world. The first half of 2012 was the hottest January through July on record for the lower 48 states. Much of the country is suffering through prolonged drought. Species are on the move. Glaciers are melting while many political leaders are continuing to deny the indisputable science.
"Roughly one month after the extreme downpour that hit Duluth and other communities in Minnesota, causing $100 million in damages, Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center released a new report that documents one more way global warming is affecting our lives — an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainstorms. ...
"Scientists tell us that the trend toward heavier rainstorms is clearly linked to global warming, as warming increases evaporation and enables the air to hold more water, providing more fuel for these heavier rainstorms.
"The implications of more frequent extreme rainstorms are serious. In the 20th century, flooding caused more property damage and loss of life in the United States than any other type of natural disaster. More frequent downpours will leave Minnesota even more vulnerable to dangerous flooding in years to come."
"Ken makes some great points here but the conclusion is wrong. While there are many great reasons to improve fuel efficiency, preventing global warming is not one of them. Earth is in a cool period and warming is due, We need to find ways of coping with it." -- Terence Conklin, Boulder City, Nev.
"As climate changes affect our food supplies, perhaps the realization of our need to change will be intensified by market demands. I hope it won't be too late." -- Katherine Doerr, Wayzata
Shouldn't progressives favor photo IDs at the polling place?
Chuck Chalberg, a history professor and fellow at Center of the American Experiment, argues that those who are opposing the voter ID amendment should naturally be in favor of it.
"After all, there was a time when the 'good government' types were the progressives. And what could be more consistent with good government progressivism than assuring an honest vote? There was also a time when conservative types would have been horrified at the prospect of having to produce state-issued documentation to authenticate that its possessor is who he or she claims to be. Doesn't such a prospect smack of the entering wedge for a Soviet-style internal passport?
"To be sure, not all conservatives are of the libertarian variety. And the number of folks, conservative or otherwise, who recall the bad old days of the Soviet Union is dwindling by the day. Still, it's axiomatic that one of the hallmarks of the political right is a suspicion of the state. And what could be more suspicion-inducing than a seemingly innocent requirement that would-be voters produce a photo ID? ...
"Why aren't progressives insisting that nothing should trump making sure that our elections are as fair and honest as they can possibly be? And why aren't conservatives worried about the Big Brother temptations inherent in all of this? ...
"Might the answer to both questions be the same? Might both sides know that the photo ID requirement would be an effective answer to what at least one side deems to be a real problem?
"Progressives, of course, deny that such a problem exists. But how can they be so sure? And in any case, wouldn't the truly progressive approach to this matter be figuring out the best way of getting a photo ID into the hands of every last legitimately eligible voter who doesn't have one?"
"I don't doubt that many who support this sincerely think of it as cleaning up elections but the motivation by conservatives who originally put together this national campaign was to suppress the vote of those they perceive as voting for Democratic candidates. Unfortunately Chuck comes across as disingenuous when he appears to deny this motivation." -- Mark Bliven, St. Paul
"The author asks how we can be so sure there is no fraud. Well, how about convictions for such cases? After the 2010 elections, there were roughly 50 people (all felons) charged with voter fraud, but because felons can have ID, this amendment would not have changed anything. How about fixing the issue with felons voting, which affects a few hundred people in the state, rather than chase this nonproblem with an amendment affecting 3 million?" -- Kurt Nelson, Minneapolis
"If you can't win the argument, disenfranchise those who disagree with you. Supporters of this law, and of voter ID laws generally, may contend that every vote cast by someone who should not be on the voter rolls casts doubt on the election's outcome. But if so it ought to be equally true of every vote not cast by an eligible voter kept away from the polls." -- Richard Schulze, Walker, Minn.
Primary shows once again the flaw in our electoral system
Peter Hutchinson, former foundation president, state finance commissioner and Independence Party candidate for governor, suggests that Minnesota's primary system ensures the election of candidates who lack majority support.
"Another primary election has come and gone but the results are still the same. A pathetically small number of true believers decide the fate of our democracy by electing people at the extremes of party ideology. Thoughtful good-government types then wail and whine about the outcome, asking, 'When will it ever end? How can we stop the paralyzing polarization that has overtaken us?'
"The answer is that it will never end. We are getting exactly what the system is designed to produce. If we want a different result, we cannot blame the voters or the candidates. We need to change the system. ...
"A great place to start would be to require that a candidate get a majority of the vote to win an election. ...
"In many states and other nations, when there are more than two candidates and no candidate gets more than 50 percent, they hold a runoff election after dropping those who got the fewest votes. With a smaller list of candidates to choose from, everyone is invited to vote again. If in the next round no one gets 50 percent, they drop the lowest vote-getters and do it again. They keep doing so until one candidate gets at least 50 percent.
"Such a process has several significant benefits. First, it assures that the person elected has the support of the majority of the voters. Second, it forces the front-runners to pay attention to the supporters of those who got the fewest votes, thus pushing them to appeal to more than just their own narrow base of supporters. Third, it assures voters that their votes are never wasted. ...
"Ballots can now accommodate having voters rank their choices among multiple candidates, and we have developed systems to allow us to count and recount until someone gets at least 50 percent. This is called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), and it is now in use in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. It can and should be in use statewide."
"I think we all understand that this would be a much better process of electing people with a majority of voters, but why would the Republicans & Democrats want to do it? It would greatly increase the chances of another party winning. That is why we will never change the process. The people in charge have the system in their favor & want to keep it that way." -- Lonnie Ostrom, Andover, Minn.
"A number of DFL organizations do support RCV. It is possible for the parties to actually be interested in the common good! But there is another reason some partisans might like RCV. In elections, such as 2006 when Mr. Hutchinson ran, many of us believe that the third party candidate (Mr. Hutchinson) siphoned votes from Mr. Hatch. Without getting into an argument about who was better, Hatch or Hutchinson, there is at least an argument that, if we had RCV, Hatch would have been the second choice of a large percentage of Hutchinson voters, and he would have prevailed in the runoff." -- James Mogen
"I'm sorry, but I don't think we're ready to move to a system where only an elite group of educated, enlightened and wise people like you are simply allowed to ascend into positions of power without the consent of the governed. The honorable response to losing is trying to find a way to win, not trying to find a way to change the rules to gain the outcome you desire." Tim Droogsma, Red Wing
In House primary, hate speech was given a chance to cloak itself as a campaign ad
S.J. Schwaidelson, a writer and blogger, argues that a bigot used a political campaignas an opportunity to spread hate speech.
"During the recent primary campaign, a local TV station ran an ad for a guy who was running against Rep. Keith Ellison. His name is Gary Boisclair, he calls himself a Democrat/Tea Party candidate, and the ad he ran that day bordered on hate speech.
"No. It was hate speech. ...
"What Boisclair was spewing was right up there with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: libelous, hideous and patently inflammatory. He was using the guise of running for Congress to spread hatred and fear. His ad was basically an incitement to riot. ...
"My call to the TV station's news desk confirmed what I suspected to be true: No matter how disgusting the ad was, the station was required by law to run it. I asked the nice guy who answered the phone, 'When does it constitute hate speech?' He didn't know. ...
"For better or worse, Boisclair's ad falls under the category of protected speech. He received only a minuscule percentage of the vote on Tuesday. But we will have to wait to see if his message takes root, and what it spawns."
"Hate speech and hate crime laws border too closely on thought control, and that is a place we as a society do not want to go. The law already provides protection and penalties for crimes; those penalties should not be increased because the perpetrator was thinking 'hateful' thoughts." -- Kurt Nelson, Minneapolis