I didn’t want to blog about politics, but … MN-08!

I spent the better part of a year trying to ramp down my political blogging. I was waxing poetic about the small joy of mist rising over the pits and the unknown possibilities that are ignored in the small towns and townships of the Iron Range. I thought I could weave a tapestry of wonder and joy that transcended the partisan bickering you had seen here and especially elsewhere on Minnesota’s blogs over the years.

Nobody paid attention. And then MN-8’s congressional race heated up and I’m sucked right back into the spin cycle. My traffic has quadrupled! Yesterday I took a jab at the Duluth News Tribune and the unruly crowd at the first MN-8 debate. I also “broke” the DNT endorsement, a claim I have since “frozen” because the DNT did not release its endorsement Friday. I would imagine that it is being held for the larger Sunday edition and results of tonight’s debate in Grand Rapids. I’ve been bearish on newspaper endorsements in recent years, but regardless a DNT endorsement would appear to be a political coup for the Republican challenger.

Let Freedom Ring, a conservative blog, took issue with a couple of the more partisan assertions of my post. Namely, he implied that I was dismissing popular support for Cravaack’s policies and that I suggested that there was a coordinated message effort on the GOP-side trying to boost Cravaack’s standing. Most of the rest of the post was an argument that the terrible policy of cap-and-trade angered the crowd so much that, I don’t know, what could you expect? They HAD to boo. So mad. Grrr.

And I don’t doubt a lot of Cravaack’s supporters DO hate cap-and-trade to the point of spitting. I know the mining companies oppose it, as do the power companies. However, not all miners are jumping to Cravaack’s bandwagon as implied in the post. In fact, none of the Steelworkers locals jumped over to Cravaack, only a handful of individual miners who were probably conservative to begin with. Bear in mind, one of the advantages of being Jim Oberstar (until this year) is that his conservative social policy positions earned him conservative support that went Republican on nearly all other races. That may, indeed will likely evaporate this year, but it doesn’t diminish Oberstar’s support on labor issues, which is an equally big deal among miners.

The few dozen miners wearing “Dump Oberstar” hard hats to the debate are voting for Cravaack. A certain percentage of miners always vote Republican. Most miners vote Democratic and I’d bet they do again this year. Miners, and especially mine managers, reflect a tiny percentage of population in the 8th, actually, even if mining is a big part of the economy. The region, especially Duluth and the Range, has continually supported education funding, infrastructure and public health care options with as much fervor as mining. Not everyone, but a lot of folks. A working majority.

Indeed my problem with Let Freedom Ring’s post is not his hit on me. I haven’t written about policy as much as the horse race when it comes to politics this year. And I hate that. The reason is the same as what you see in the news media. It’s easier to talk about the speed of horses than what’s inside horses. This blog is part of how I spend my time, but only a small part. But the logical fallacies being propped up by LFR and other conservative blogs (If A=B, A=C, D and E) are just silly.

Jim Oberstar voted for cap-and-trade because he wanted to do something to slow carbon emissions in this country. The House bill wasn’t going to be the final bill, and he was part of the negotiations to improve it. If you reject the notion that we need to reduce carbon emissions, then you reject his reasoning. If you reject climate change, you’re already voting for Cravaack, aren’t you? Energy costs are already rising. A discussion of how to run cleaner energy that is home grown and cheaper is a worthy task for Congress, despite the inevitable hyperbole. This does not mean the whole mining industry is abandoning Oberstar, or that Oberstar will impede mining projects in northern Minnesota. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the chagrin of many in the Democratic party.

Jim Oberstar voted for health care reform. The bill wasn’t perfect. He tried to make it better. It is better than the status quo. Chip Cravaack would vote for repealing it back to the status quo, for thousands of northern Minnesotans without health insurance, running up taxpayer expenses on Medical Assistance and emergency care. There is a lot to dislike about the health care bill, mostly that it might not work as well as advertised. But it establishes an individual’s right to basic medical care, with costs shared across the population. Fix what you want, but repeal is a draconian step that probably won’t pass even with a GOP House.

Cap-and-trade is a political minefield that I’m surprised Oberstar walked through (and pleasantly so, as a person who’d like to see a long term plan to balance industry with conservation policy). I was proud that he found a way to balance his pro-life beliefs with a vote to expand access to health care for thousands of people in this district. But the words on the lips of the people I know who don’t follow this garbage (and it is garbage, even this post) are not “cap-and-trade” or even “Obamacare.” The words are jobs, economy and problems. People have problems. They feel empty inside because things aren’t going as well as things used to go in this country, it seems. Some are Democrats and some are Republicans. Most are neither. Some have responded with a visceral, cultural backlash to Democrats and especially anything associated with President Obama. They are entitled, but not entitled to own a political debate through bullying. The problems in this country span back several administrations, involving players on both sides.

When I talked to Chip Cravaack last winter I wanted to know how he was going to reconcile his deficit- and debt-reduction rhetoric with the immovable objects of the military, Social Security and Medicare. He passed on that bait, saying that repealing health care, discretionary spending cuts and ending pork spending would suffice. It just won’t. If you don’t raise taxes, you’ve got to cut vast amounts of a budget that is mostly military spending, Social Security and Medicare. I’ve got opinions on all this, but I’m not running for congress.

Mr. Cravaack’s position on this reality is what I’ll be listening for, quietly, patiently, respectfully, when he speaks tonight at the debate. I’ll also be listening for Mr. Oberstar to explain his reasoning, in his own words, to anyone confused about his positions by all the chum in the red waters. Let’s all listen, shall we?

Tonight’s 8th District Congressional debate begins at 7 p.m. It will be streamed live at The Uptake and at Debate Minnesota. It is slated to be rebroadcast later in a number of venues, including Minnesota Public Radio.


  1. I’ve noticed that some of the national news reporters are also asking the conservative candidates exactly what they would cut to get the budget balanced, especially since they aren’t in favor of higher taxes. The duck the subject. That makes me wonder if they are merely spouting campaign slogans (lower the deficit; lower taxes), or if they truly don’t understand the budget process and finances.

    Given that the Tea Party, and any party that is not the In-Party, loves to pick on the incumbents for what campaign promises they didn’t keep, we can expect the new batch of representatives to also get picked on for not keeping their campaign promises. The promises aren’t realistic. Some don’t fit with the constitution, at least not in a simple form. [For example, “term limits”…like a single representative can accomplish this by himself.]

    I’m not liking the current ugly climate, but I know that the new people who get in, whatever their positions, won’t accomplish all that much, and the pendulum will swing again as it always does.

  2. Naniboujou says

    I am not from the Iron Range, but am very interested in the politics. I plan to watch via theuptake.org tonight.

    It will be interesting to hear if Cravaack has any original ideas. I have the feeling he is probably just another Emmer clone: a fast talking blowhard who only knows how to recite sound bites–but has absolutley no concept of working on problems for the common good.

  3. It simply amazes me that Republicans are going to pick up seats this election. Just two years ago their terribly flawed policies were rebuked by the voters in mass. How swing voters cannot understand that two years is a drop in the bucket when it comes to righting the sunken ship is beyond me. Now they will vote to go back to the same thing that caused the mess in the first place.

    People ripping on Oberstar for his support of healthcare is asinine. I personally think the Healthcare bill that passed was a bloated gimme for insurance companies, but it did good things for average Americans too, and it can always be altered in the future. (And it hasn’t even began to effect the budget yet.) People tend to forget that it was predominantly Republican laissez faire economics and handouts to the ultra rich that caused this whole downward spiral in the first place…

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