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Tom Emmer, Target and national backlash

Gosh, you wouldn’t think what is fundamentally a real estate and zoning issue in lower Manhattan would call for comments from Minnesotans. But the so-called Ground Zero mosque — which, as we at the Glean have pointed out before, is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque — just continues to attract comment. It’s not unexpected that Rep. Keith Ellison might have a few words to say as the first Muslim in Congress, and he wasn’t circumspect about his viewpoint when queried by FOX9’s Jeff Passolt, who asked about common sense and sensitivity. “You would not want me to put your constitutional rights up for popular approval,” Ellison said. “You’re right about that,” Passolt responded. Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio’s News Cut has the video.

Sen. Al Franken has also weighed in, and is likewise direct in his opinion, describing the controversy as “one of the most disgraceful things that I’ve heard,” according to the State Journal-Register of Illinois. “They (Republicans) do this every two years,” he added. “They try to find a wedge issue, and they try to work it.”

We don’t expect to hear any Manhattanites opining on light rail construction in Lowertown, even if, as Laura Yuen of Minnesota Public Radio points out, it’s become something of a headache. But, then, public transportation can be unpopular, but it lacks that extra je ne sais quoi of Islamophobia that can really push a topic into the national limelight.

Of course, there’s no Islamophobia at the center of the Target controversy, another local topic that has gone national. It certainly isn’t every day that a business giving money to support a Minnesota politician sparks a flash mob protest in Seattle; but, then, the business is Target and the politician opposes gay marriage, and both have national impact — and isn’t it curious that both the Cordoba House story and the Target donation story revolve around issues of the rights of America’s minorities, and when those rights come into conflict with the already long-established privileges of the majority?

This has complicated things for Target. After all, they have a fall line to get out, and the company had big plans for it, but as Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent points out, that’s being overshadowed by the gay marriage controversy. Birkey quotes David J. Carr, digital strategy director at Chemistry Group, who discusses Target’s ingenious social media campaign for the Kaleidoscope Fashion Spectacular. You can see the Facebook page here, and you can also see that significant amount of the social media discussion in the lower left hand corner is not about fashion, or the party Target is throwing for it, but instead calls to boycott the business and complaints about Target’s support of GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. How did this happen? “If your brand and your deeds diverge you will be found out and called out,” Carr notes.

As you might imagine, this has investors a little nervous — you don’t hire Squeak E. Clean to create a composition featuring a 30-piece orchestra and 10-person chorus in order to have it be the soundtrack to protests. According to the Associated Press, investors filed shareholder resolutions with Target (as well as Best Buy). They called the Emmer flap a “debacle” and called for a review of corporate political contribution policies. Trillium Vice President Shelley Alpern, representing the investors, demanded the following: “We expect companies to evaluate candidates based upon the range of their positions — not simply one area — and assess whether they are in alignment with their core values. But these companies’ policies are clearly lacking that.”

There’s a bit more to this story, as MinnPost’s David Brauer points out. Specifically, the investors in this story — Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, and Walden Asset Management — are all “socially responsible investors,” meaning, as Brauer puts it, that “they incorporate human rights, diversity, environmental and other moral stands into their investment decisions.” In other words, this is not blowback from everyday investors, but instead from investors who already have a commitment to social issues.

One effect of the protests against Target is that, according to MPR’s Tom Scheck, it has other Minnesota companies wondering if it is worth it to invest in this election.

And what of Tom Emmer, the politician behind this so-called debacle. Well, there are a few pieces of news we should report: Firstly, there was a gubernatorial debate Thursday in Winona, but Emmer wasn’t there. (“Just one of those scheduling things,” he explained.) His absence, according to Eric Roper of the Star Tribune, “was hard to overlook, given the empty seat at the table and a placard bearing his name.” The other candidates, Dayton and Horner, went ahead and had a lively debate about tax policy without him.

Secondly, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota has been running an ad charging Emmer with missing one of every five votes in Minnesota’s House. WCCO’s Pat Kessler takes a look at this charge and finds it misleading, in part because the ad makes it sounds as though Emmer had done the equivalent of miss one out of every five days of work. But Kessler also points out that Emmer skipped votes that are central to his campaign, missing a vote on the Legacy Amendment for a softball game and excusing himself from a vote on Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget cuts to attend his son’s hockey tryouts. Kessler mentions that missing votes isn’t uncommon but also points out that Dayton missed 3 percent of his votes while senator and Republican Marty Seiffert has a perfect voting record.

In arts: Local band Pink Mink wrote an ode to one of the Twin Cities most enduring characters, artist Scott Seekins, which, appropriately, they titled “Seekin’ Scott Seekins,” which you can watch on YouTube. The truth is, you do’t have to look very hard to find Seekins — he pops up with great frequency at cultural events, such as the “4 Nights in Loring” afterparty organized by Andrea Swensson of City Pages, where, wouldn’t you know it, Pink Mink was playing. Swensson tells the story of the band meeting their muse in City Pages’ Gimme Noise blog.

In sports: For those of you whose passion for baseball is only matched by your intolerance for gluten, there’s good news! As blogger Amy Leger points out, republished on MinnPost, Target Field has a larger selection of gluten-free snacks than previously advertised, and that is as it should be. After all, neither peanuts nor Cracker Jacks have gluten in them, and for some reason those are the two foods we at the Glean always associate with the sport.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 08/20/2010 - 11:08 am.

    On the news report I saw (Channel 4 I believe), Emmer’s absence rate was MUCH higher than other legislative candidates running for Governor, including higher than Margaret Anderson Kelliher. His was 23% and MAK’s was in the teens.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/20/2010 - 12:36 pm.

    As someone farther to the right than I will surely point out eventually, the commitment on the part of Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, and Walden Asset Management is not just to “social issues,” or “socially responsible investing,” these are organizations that look at those social issues from a perspective that’s decidedly left of center.

    Personally, I find that refreshing, and wish more companies had that same perspective, but I have no doubt that someone from the starboard fringe will denounce the investment funds’ liberal slant as something vaguely sinister, whereas investment groups and companies that support right-wing causes are magically pure and patriotic.

    There’s a local example I could cite, but no, that’s too easy…

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/20/2010 - 12:46 pm.

    While admittedly not as flashy as reports of a flash mob sighting, the mosque story seems to be gaining steam among folks not often seen at such gatherings (you might know them as mainstream America):

    “Opponents of the planned Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan have public opinion firmly in their corner. According to a new TIME poll, 61% of respondents oppose the construction of the Park51/Cordoba House project, compared with 26% who support it. More than 70% concur with the premise that proceeding with the plan would be an insult to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center.”,8599,2011799,00.html

    Meanwhile, Gallup has more bad news for the light worker himself:

    “PRINCETON, NJ — More Americans disapprove than approve of President Barack Obama’s recent comments concerning the planned construction of a mosque near where the Sept. 11 terror attacks occurred in New York City, but 4 in 10 do not have an opinion on the matter. The vast majority of those with an opinion hold it strongly.”

    Yeah, 32% strongly disapprove, 16% love it.

    No flash mob, but wall to wall disapproval….yeah, I guess when it comes to national backlash, I’ll take it.

  4. Submitted by Max Sparber on 08/20/2010 - 01:03 pm.

    I presume your comment is a breath of relief that human rights are not up to a vote, Mr. Swift. I would hate to think that you are siding with Islamophobes against one of the basic values of this country — to freely meet and worship.

  5. Submitted by Cecil North on 08/20/2010 - 02:22 pm.

    “[T]he mosque story seems to be gaining steam among folks not often seen at such gatherings (you might know them as mainstream America)”

    Fortunately, our founding fathers were bright enough to design a system of governmental checks and balances that protects individual rights from a tyranny of the majority. And it doesn’t include opinion polling.

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/20/2010 - 04:06 pm.

    It’s interesting that it has been the gay rights movement that has commanded most of the attention in response to Target’s contribution. Mr. Emmer is opposed to far more than gay marriage, after all.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/20/2010 - 04:20 pm.

    Initially, those opposed to the construction of Cordoba asked city officials to block the project. In legal terms, they asked for government action on the basis of a group’s religous orientation. Now that it’s been pointed out that such action would be illegal, the emphasis is on the offensive nature of the project, it’s alleged insensitivity to the 9/11 survivors and Americans at large.

    Both were and are based on the belief, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that 9/11 and Islam are synonymous. To call it “Islamaphobia”, the fear of Islam, is too polite. Let’s call it what it is: religious bigotry.

    I can readily imagine the howls of outrage in here St. Paul, my hometown, if I were to blame every Roman Catholic in the community for the predation by a relative few of its priests and the complicity of some its bishops.

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/20/2010 - 06:05 pm.

    James Hamilton (#8) is absolutely right.

    The fact that a majority of Americans seems to believe that all Muslims are guilty of the 9/11 attack just shows how successfully the bigots and haters have carried out their propaganda campaign.

  9. Submitted by Joe Williams on 08/21/2010 - 09:26 am.

    Just to illustrate how tuned in people are to the non-mosque non-controversy, the Gallup poll that Thomas Swift referred to says that 41% of people don’t know enough about Obama’s comments about the mosque controversy to say whether or not they approve. That’s well outside the margin of sampling error and probably more significant that the 32% that strongly disapprove, which, by-the-way, was mainly Republicans.

    Context is everything, Mr. Swift.

  10. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/21/2010 - 10:31 am.

    Let me add just a simple comment. Those who are opposed to the Muslim Community Center in Manhattan should be ASHAMED of themselves, first, because what they so earnestly desire would violate the Constitution of the United States and endanger their own ability to practice the faith of their choice. When they take offense, they are being offended at the wisdom of our nation’s founders, many of whom had suffered under religious restrictions both in England and in most of the first colonies.

    Second, I strongly suspect that, although many of these folks regard themselves as “religious,” their attendance at their houses of worship likely leaves a good deal to be desired. In fact, they’re most likely to be the type of Christians or Jews who attend a particular congregation only so long as the pastor or rabbi doesn’t preach anything they don’t want to hear.

    If, of course the pastor or rabbi does remind them of what the Bible REALLY says in ways they don’t like, they’re often the ringleaders in trying to undermine or remove them. If they can’t manage to do that, they’ll go shopping for a congregation where they’ll never hear anything they disagree with.

    In other words, their “faith” does not involve seeking God, but rather, seeking support for their own closed-minded, hard-hearted, ideologically-blinded perspective(s). God has PRECIOUS LITTLE to do with them (since they won’t allow God to intrude on the very limited, human, and therefore, imperfect, perspectives they, themselves, mistake for absolute and universal “truth”).

    When it comes to “strangers” in our land, God has other ideas than theirs:

    “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. YOU SHALL ALSO LOVE THE STRANGER, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall [stand in awe of] the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.” [Deuteronomy 10:17-21]

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/21/2010 - 03:13 pm.

    “A majority of New Yorkers oppose plans to build a mosque and Muslim cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday.”

    “Fifty-two percent of the respondents said they did not want the mosque to be built at all, 31 percent are in favor of it, and 17 percent are undecided.”

    52% of New Yorkers are Islamophobic bigots…who knew?

    Isn’t New York a “deep blue” state?

    Seems that not everyone is buying into Joe’s context argument….The LA Times, for instance….

    “Obama mosque stance hurting, Gallup finds, as Americans disapprove of it and him”

    “Two-thirds of Americans told Gallup they are paying a great deal or fair amount of attention to the mosque issue, which Gallup suggests is playing a role in Obama’s overall approval this week falling to 41%, the lowest level of his 19-month presidency.”


    More, just like that, please.

  12. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/21/2010 - 06:05 pm.

    And how many Americans though Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt for Reds in the entertainment industry and government was a good idea? Probably a whole bunch, but that didn’t make them right and it sure didn’t make those who opposed McCarthy wrong.

    In times like these, we need people who will stand up for the civil rights all of us — ALL of us — guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights.

  13. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/22/2010 - 08:13 am.

    Clearly, we should always address the lowest common denominator. I know that the black family down the road had the *right* to move in to our previously outstanding neighborhood, but it was awfully insensitive of them.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/22/2010 - 09:03 am.

    The Islamic center is sorta near ground zero. How about the folks opposing the mosque state the precise extent of the Muslim-free-zone around Ground Zero which would spare their feelings? Clearly 2 blocks is too few and 10 blocks OK. Would 5 blocks be OK?

    This is hardly rocket science. America is plainly safer if its Muslims feel part of “us” and not a part of “them”. And that means reminding Americans of the difference—a real one, by the way, not one fabricated for the purposes of political correctness—between Islam, a religion with a billion adherents, and al-Qaeda, a terrorist outfit that claims to speak in Islam’s name but has absolutely no right or mandate to do so.

    Why would any responsible American politician want to erase that vital distinction? Ask Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or the many others who have lately clambered aboard the offensive campaign to stop the Islamic Center.

  15. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/22/2010 - 07:03 pm.

    Mr. Swift:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It’s called the First Amendment. Not really a whole lot of wiggle room there. Not that Mr. Swift won’t try to get his camel through the eye of a needle…

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