by Britt Robson
“You don’t have to race to the center to be elected,” says Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. “The time is absolutely right for political leaders to be linked to citizen movements in ways that can change the political landscape, and I believe that my campaign is part of doing that.”
That campaign has been a surprisingly strong but still uphill battle to secure the DFL endorsement over author and talk show host Al Franken and oppose incumbent U.S. Senator Norm Coleman in November. Nelson-Pallmeyer, a 56-year-old author of numerous books and a professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, has agreed to abide by the party’s endorsement (as has Franken), to be determined less than two months from now at the DFL convention in Rochester, June 6-8.
Nelson-Pallmeyer is certainly not racing to the center, although polls indicate that many of his positions, including withdrawal from Iraq (he has been a consistent opponent of the war) and a single-payer national health care system, have increasingly come to represent mainstream opinion.
“I am quite conservative fiscally, actually,” the candidate responds, when asked how he will rebut charges that he is a tax-and-spender who is soft on terrorism. “What outrages me is not the expenditure of taxes; taxes are what we need to invest in the future. What I am outraged about is where our taxes are going. With one day [worth] of Iraq war spending, we could hire 9,300 teachers for a year. This country will squander more wealth on occupying Iraq this year than we will the entire road and highway budget of our country. I relish the opportunity to debate Norm Coleman on fiscal responsibility.”
In this wide-ranging interview, Nelson-Pallmeyer also argues for “a domestic Marshall Plan” to combat global warming, defends his lack of electoral experience and real-life background in preparing him for the Senate, praises Bob Dylan and the joys of swimming in Minnesota lakes. Asked who he regards among his spiritual mentors, he cites the Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh and the Jesuit priests working in El Salvador who were murdered by U.S.-trained forces in 1989.
Listen: Britt Robson interviews Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (24:00)