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Campaign messages meant to inspire fear: We’re better than this

I received a political survey call last week that I can’t shake. The focus quickly turned to the attorney general’s race, and the messages that the Republican candidate, Doug Wardlow, is apparently testing. I hadn’t known anything about Wardlow, except his party; but now, I do.

Donna Greenberg Koren

His campaign, or one working on his behalf, appears to be testing messages against Muslims; immigrants; and a decades-old past association between the Democratic candidate, Keith Ellison, a Muslim, and a fringe group that Ellison disavowed years ago. These campaign messages don’t say who Wardlow is, or what he can do to serve Minnesota. They are designed to stir fear and hatred of the stranger, because of the way they dress, the color of their skin, the particulars of how they pray. They play on fear of the other, and they turned my stomach cold.

The next time that you or a loved one is in a hospital, look at who is serving you — the phlebotomist in the hijab who carefully places the needle in a vein that’s been threaded many times before. The nurse with skin the color of a shiny coffee bean, who smiles at you and says that he will pray for you, and means it, as he shows you how to empty your ileostomy appliance. The oncologist who came to America from India as a boy, who now holds your life in his hands. And your strikingly blunt but powerfully effective radiologist from China who saved you from a painful, invasive surgery.

Think about how every bit of food gets to your table; how the hotels you sleep in are comfortable and cared for; and how immigrants make our Minnesota economy hum with commerce, culture, and vitality, and with their children eager to learn and add their energy to ours. (See the work of  Bruce Corrie, among many others’, for empirical research on the economic benefits immigrants provide to Minnesota.)

Remember that if you were Catholic, Jewish, or anything but Lutheran, back in the day in Minnesota, you were on the outs, too. Then, you were the stranger.

Please raise your voice against this malignant strain of politics that has been infecting our country more virulently, with new citizens and potential citizens as its target. We are better than this.

Donna Greenberg Koren lives in West Saint Paul, is the granddaughter of immigrants, and greatly appreciates all of the contributions that immigrants provide to Minnesota and our nation. She also supports positive political campaigns.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 08/28/2018 - 09:13 am.

    No details given, but one cannot help but think that if the author is as tone deaf about the actual content of the survey as she is about the illegal, let me say it again *illegal*immigrant issue the message wasn’t anything like she has suggested.

  2. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 08/28/2018 - 09:46 am.

    Agree with not liking negative politics but…

    …why is this pointed because this one call was against a particular Democrat. What about the mountains of negativity towards conservatives and Republicans, many times virulent? If there is outrage for one side, why not all sides?

    Then again, there are many specifics missing in this write up about the call. What were the questions and messages actually saying? And who was actually making the call?

    Or are leaving out facts that don’t fit the narrative more convenient?

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/28/2018 - 10:38 am.


    Maybe, but there are times when we are just not afraid enough, when we take too much for granted.

  4. Submitted by Roy Johansen on 08/28/2018 - 01:10 pm.

    More fear/hate mongering

    Wardlow is also spreading anti-LGBT hate mongering too. He is a member of an anti-LGBT hate group the wants to make same-sex marriage illegal again, ban trans people from using the restrooms of their new sex, and spread the message around the globe. All this in the name of “religious freedom”.

    This week’s city pages has an excellent article on him and this is an excerpt from it….
    “The former one-term Republican legislator representing the Eagan area started working for the Alliance Defending Freedom in 2014; on LinkedIn, he still lists the Alliance as his employer to this day.
    And to this day, it remains, by the definition of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-LGBT hate group, supporting “the recriminalization of homosexuality of the U.S. and criminalization abroad,” defending “state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad” and “claim[ing] that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.””

  5. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 08/28/2018 - 05:44 pm.

    It says a lot

    That the immediate response of the Conservatives here is to defend the message or to divert attention from it. One says its all about “illegal” immigration and that the message isn’t as portrayed. I have to ask: How does someone know that? Unless you’re someone involved in putting the message out there.

    The next one starts off with the very familiar meme from the Conservative side: Victimization with a side order of Both Siderism. This one totally ignores the negativity and pure nastiness of the Republican party’s National Leader. Someone so insecure, so small, that he couldn’t leave the Flag on the Nation’s Capital at half staff for more than two days when a very prominent member of his own party died. All because the member criticized him.

    We don’t need to hear every little detail because the nature of the Conservative movement is on vivid display with every tweet, every nasty comment and every vindictive action taken by its National leader. Everyone knows that it starts at the top.

  6. Submitted by Pat Terry on 08/29/2018 - 01:35 am.


    We really aren’t better than this.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/29/2018 - 07:39 am.

    And fear it is…

    Trump at the evangelical gathering the other day….

    “This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the first amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Mr Trump said in a speech leaked to US media. “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa, these are violent people.”

  8. Submitted by chuck holtman on 08/29/2018 - 11:49 am.

    In the propaganda ecology,

    Each of the two major parties maintains a messaging frame to attract and keep its base. The Republican frame is aimed at the authoritarian follower. For 50 years, appeals to fear have been the foundation of the Republican electoral strategy.

    Asking Republicans not to campaign on fear is like asking Democrats not to campaign on empathy.

  9. Submitted by Joe Musich on 08/29/2018 - 09:39 pm.

    For what it’s worth…

    Remember that. Buffalo Springfield. The lyrical metaphor Seems to be the basis as they continuing terraforming a conservative and possibly dead planet. And yet they seem to think they are persecuted …

    There’s something happening here
    What it is ain’t exactly clear
    There’s a man with a gun over there
    Telling me I got to beware

    I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    There’s battle lines being drawn
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
    Young people speaking their minds
    Getting so much resistance from behind

    It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    What a field-day for the heat
    A thousand people in the street
    Singing songs and carrying signs
    Mostly say, hooray for our side

    It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    Paranoia strikes deep
    Into your life it will creep
    It starts when you’re always afraid
    You step out of line, the man come and take you away

    We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, now, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    Writer/s: STEPHEN STILLS
    Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

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