It’s just over a month until the election, and while it might be useful to sum up what we know about the three main candidates, Tim Pugmire of Minnesota Public Radio takes the potentially more useful approach of asking what’s not being discussed. And what is that? Pugmire writes that “the three major-party candidates have largely ignored traditionally divisive social issues.”
Pugmire pinpoints several issues in which the next governor might have a say: gay marriage, abortion and gambling. And we actually do know where the candidates stand here: GOP candidate Tom Emmer opposes gay marriage and abortion, while DFL candidate Mark Dayton and IP candidate Tom Horner support the legality of both. All three, to some extent, support an expansion of gambling. Perhaps it is to their credits that the candidates haven’t been trotting out these subjects in order to create wedges but, then, perhaps the wedges are already there and they need not make a big fuss out of them. And perhaps they think the economy gives them a big enough stick to beat each other over the head with.
But that doesn’t mean these issues are in the background. Emmer’s opposition to gay marriage was at the center of the Target flap a few months ago, and if Emmer himself isn’t going to push the subject to the front and center of this election, others will. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis mailed out almost half a million DVDs this week in opposition to gay marriage, as the Glean mentioned Thursday. Further, the Minnesota Family Council and The National Organization for Marriage (who, in fact, oppose marriage, at least when it’s between people of the same gender) released a pro-Emmer ad where they invoke Martin Luther King and declare voting “our most important civil right,” stating that both Dayton and Horner oppose letting Minnesotans vote on the subject of gay marriage.
Now, we could discuss the fact that Dr. King actually supported gay rights, as Minnesota Independent’s Paul Schmelzer does. But perhaps we should simply point out that it used to be illegal for black people to marry white people, and it’s doubtful that Dr. King would have supported putting that up to a vote. But, then, marriage wasn’t really Dr. King’s focus. But they are right that Dr. King fought for voting rights — he was in attendance in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. And how did that landmark piece of legislation come about? Was it voted on, state by state, in an astonishing demonstration of the power of direct democracy? Er, no. It came about following a long series of high-profile court cases and was voted into law by Congress, the way most laws are passed.
It might be worth exploring this a bit more. Because, in fact, what’s being asked for is a modern variation of states’ rights — an ancient argument in American history about who gets to make decisions, the federal government or the states. And that argument does have a long history in the fight for civil rights, but it was most often invoked to suppress them. Most notoriously, there was the Bloody Sunday March on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965. There, civil rights activists were beaten by police while they marched to demand the right to vote — in Selma at the time, voting rolls were 99 percent white and 1 percent African-American. Of course, black people already had the right to vote, guaranteed by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. But Alabama, among others, had put all sorts of roadblocks in the way of voting, leading to massive African-American disenfranchisement from the voting process, and the argument for their right to do so was a states’ rights argument — that each state had the right to establish its own rule regarding the voting process. So there is some irony in a states’ rights argument against gay marriage making use of the iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
And here we have another subject in the gubernatorial race that’s not really being discussed: That Tom Emmer is very much a states’ right sort of guy. We only have to look back to March, when Emmer was one of three Republican lawmakers who tried to pass a bill that would allow the state to ignore any federal law they disagree with unless it is approved by two-thirds of the Minnesota House and Senate. Emmer admitted to MinnPost’s Eric Black he didn’t really know if this was constitutional; as Talking Points Memo pointed out at the time, it isn’t. Emmer also authored H.F. No. 3012, in which all federal laws are presumed to be null and void until the governor, speaker of the state House, and state Senate majority leader decides that the federal government actually has the constitutional power to make that law. And any one of the three can veto that law if they decide it’s an overreach.
He was also responsible for the “Firearms Freedom Act,” which was designed to “protect firearm owners and manufacturers in Minnesota from federal government restrictions on the lawful exercise of Second Amendment rights.” Emmer actually articulates his logic in this, and its not just that some laws might violate the Bill of Rights, it’s that each state gets to decide for itself if that’s the case. And why? “For far too long, elected officials and unelected bureaucrats at the federal level have passively forgotten or actively neglected the Tenth Amendment that guarantees rights not enumerated in the Constitution be left to the individual states,” Emmer explained.
The 10th Amendment. We won’t again go into the details of Tentherism — Eric Black detailed that quite nicely some time ago. But this is a very basic ideological divide in the gubernatorial race, and it’s strange that it hasn’t come to the forefront. Especially as the candidate who may make far-reaching decisions about abortion rights, gay rights and related social issues is somebody who believes federal law can be superseded by states’ rights. Heck, the first bill listed in this Glean, the one he co-sponsored with two other Republicans, was an attempt to block the federally mandated health care reforms. So while the candidates go on about the economy — which is important — we’re missing a discussion on how the next governor will position Minnesota in the context of the rest of the United States, and in relation to the federal government. As important as discussions of the economy are, that’s also an important discussion.
That’s not to say it’s not happening at all — but the only person who seems to be talking about it is our own Eric Black, who went onto FOX9 to discuss the subject. Black points out that strict Tentherism would require undoing enormous amounts of Supreme Court precedent, as that’s historically where the constitutionality of federal decisions has been tested. “Social Security, Medicare — even all the way down to segregated restaurants,” anchor Jeff Passolt responds.
Where are we now in the gubernatorial race anyway? According to a Rasmussen poll, reported by MPR’s Tom Scheck, Emmer and Dayton are in a dead heat. Emmer has 42 percent of the support of those polled, while Dayton has 41 percent. The candidates are pushing each other on the subject of education just now, detailed by MPR’s Tom Weber. All three are promising to increase funding for early childhood education — a reversal for Emmer, as Tom Horner pointed out, as he has consistently voted against such increases. Horner and Dayton have also promised to increase funding for advanced education, while Emmer would keep spending at its current levels.
Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent looks at two new ads from Emmer. “Good jobs start with a good education,” Emmer says in the first, where he positions himself as a pro-education candidate — “Protect and fund education!” the ad declares, presumably mostly discussing K-12, as Emmer is actually looking to defund higher education to the tune of $400 million. Emmer’s second ad goes after Mark Dayton: “He was one of America’s worst senators,” the ad claims. “Now he wants to be America’s worst governor.” We at the Glean don’t recall Dayton actually articulating that goal, although we respect the challenge Dayton has set for himself if it is true. It’s a lot of work to be America’s worst governor — there’s so much competition.
In arts: The classic Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis is in trouble, according to Gail Olson of North News, republished on the TC Daily Planet. The building, which is run by the Ballet of the Dolls dance troupe, is $725,671 in debt — this despite the fact that the theater has proven to be pretty popular, with 52,000 people attending shows since it opened. “When the theater opened, people weren’t aware that there was still work to do. We’re doing very well with box office revenue, concessions and theater rental. It’s all on target. Everything’s working. But we still owe this money,” according to managing director Michael Romens.
In sports: Judd Spicer, writing about the Twins for City Pages, asks which Jason is right for the baseball team — Kubel or Repko. We at the Glean don’t have an answer for this, and we’d be pretty much happy with any Jason. Jason Robards. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Jason DeRusha. Jason from “Friday the 13th.” Suit any of them up and we’ll watch the game.