The center in America Politics is to be highly regarded and protected!
by Charlie Leck
It seems to me that there is now a strong element of society that wants to rush toward electing lame-brains to public office. Minnesota, to my ever-lasting shame, is not an exception to this rule.
The new rule seems to be that we should vote for the one who screams the loudest expressions of outrage and hatred – and generates the most buffoonish appearance of anger, with shaking fists, fiery eyes, twisted mouth and bellows-like cheeks. I see crowds of Minnesota citizens applauding such monsters and sending them support money. These people do so even though they don’t understand the utter lack of depth and ability that these candidates have.
There are two strong examples in Minnesota: (1) Tom Emmer, who is running for Governor of the State and (2) Michelle Bachmann, the incumbent member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota’s 6th district, who is running for reelection. They are two of the biggest, most outrageous air-heads to whom I have ever listened.
I learned some politics from two of Minnesota’s best when I got to spend some close-up and personal time with them in the late 60s and through most of the 70s. One was a Republican and one was a Democrat. They began with the rule of “what’s best!” They wanted what was best for the people of our state and for the health of the state as a whole. It was from there that political strategies and positioning began. Most frequently these guys came to a position that placed them pretty close to the center of the left-right political spectrum. In other words, about as many people agreed with them as disagreed with them. Most importantly, in real public debate and discussion it was possible to move a portion of those who did not agreed into the column of those who supported them.
It had to do with the great center of American politics and governance. Into this balancing position most of us fit; and most would actually step from one side of the line to another depending on the issue.
A nation and, I think, a State cannot be successfully governed in an atmosphere of hatred and rage. The most extreme example of this, of course, was the period leading up to the great American Civil War and during the period of Reconstruction after that war. It is, perhaps, the only time in our history when the political center did not hold and more citizens were out on the extremes than in the middle. It’s been such a pleasure for me to go back, over the last 3 months, and look at this period of our history in pretty significant depth. I tried to view it from a political perspective and particularly watch those political leaders who tried to keep the center intact; however the strong feelings of the South, toward their states’ right to preserve a productive slave economy, and the fervor of the North against slavery (the abolitionist movement), which northerners believed had to end with immediacy, drove nearly all voters away from any compromising center position (if there was one).
Abraham Lincoln and other extraordinary centrist politicians of the time, like William Seward, worked tirelessly to preserve that center. As we know, it didn’t hold and the nation was plunged into its saddest period of destruction – and almost into ruin.
The other period of our history during which the center was in great danger came in the 1960s, when the nation was torn and racked by controversies over both the war in Vietnam and the explosion of the Civil Rights movement in both the South and the North. One of the most extraordinary and emotional moments of my life came while I was listening to Bobby Kennedy’s speech on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Kennedy, witnessing the violence and burning in Washington, D.C., quoted Yeats.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The sixties, in my view, ended on that day in May of 1970 when members of the Army National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State University, killing a number of them. The nation wretched and good people began dragging themselves back toward the center in an effort to return to sanity.
Politics 0f 2010
And now there are people of extremes who try to draw us from the center to the edges of political thinking. Strength in America has always been at the center. As in physical fitness, it begins at the core of the body and it must be cared for and kept strong. Minnesota and all of America must guard against the dangers exhibited by this current movement of extremism that is both hard to describe and define, but which is labeled the “Tea Party.”
Even those of us who tend to meander away from the core and move leftward, are hungry for a return to the center.
What prompts today’s blog?
Today’s blog is a response to a proposal by gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer to institute as a state amendment to our constitution a requirement of a two-thirds majority consenting vote of our state’s legislature before any federal law would “apply” to our state. If such an amendment were ratified it would be an act of anti-federal proportion unobserved since those historic events that led up to the Civil War.
I don’t believe Mr. Emmer has the intellectual capacity to understand what he is proposing and how extreme it is.
Why then the Union, Mr. Emmer?
So then, our state should be a state that doesn’t provide full and just human rights to all? Don’t laugh! It could happen. A proposal like Mr. Emmer’s, if passed and allowed by the courts, could alter the landscape of our state forever and make it difficult to protect individual human rights.
“Under Emmer’s amendment, Minnesotans would not be bound by any national law passed by Congress and signed by the president unless Minnesota expressly ‘opted in’ to the federal law. And opting in would require clearing a high hurdle. Each house of the Minnesota Legislature would have to approve the national law – each by two-thirds vote.
“…Emmer styles himself a ‘constitutional conservative,’ but his proposal is neither constitutional nor conservative. In fact, it runs head-on into the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that federal laws ‘shall be the supreme Law of the Land,’ notwithstanding anything in a state’s constitution or laws to the contrary. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, it signed on to this form of Union.
“…His idea that no national law is valid until a state opts in goes well beyond even John C. Calhoun’s discredited pre-Civil War theory of nullification. Calhoun believed that a state had the right to opt out of any national law that the state deemed unconstitutional. Emmer would presume that any national law is invalid unless and until a legislative supermajority and the governor agree with it.
“Most Americans thought this issue was resolved by the Civil War, which determined that liberty and union are ‘one and inseparable.’”
[ David Lillehaug in the Twin Cites Star Tribune, 20 June 2010]
The problem here is that I don’t think Tom Emmer understands or can understand!
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