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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

What Did We Learn From Pennsylvania 18?

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 03/14/18 19:34

by Dave Mindeman

In the 18th District of Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb has, most likely, squeaked out a win in a district that Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

So what do we learn from this?

First, let's examine what we know about this race.

1) Conor Lamb is NOT a progressive candidate.
2) Rick Saccone was not a top of the line candidate.
3) This district will not exist by the next election.
4) The Republican Party sank an extraordinary amount of money into this race while the Democratic forces put very little in support.
5) Conor Lamb was a great fundraiser on his own, and put together his own centrist message without outside help.

Now that is a lot to absorb, so let's try to figure out what that means for Congressional elections coming up in the fall.

That first item is important. Conor Lamb did not run on a progressive platform. In fact, he stated that he would prefer leadership in Congress that did not include Nancy Pelosi and that he was not favorable to gun safety legislation. The district, itself, is very conservative and Lamb fashioned a very clever centrist message which appealed to the district's core values. But he did not shy away from being a Democrat either - he is pro-choice, ran against the GOP tax plan, and supports a fix to the ACA.

On the other hand, Rick Saccone never could settle on a message. He was tentative about Trump at first, then fully embraced him. And he made plenty of unforced errors. Republicans in Washington did not find a way to help Saccone and in the end almost threw him under the bus.

Going into the fall, Pennsylvania will be fully redistricted and Lamb and Saccone will both be in different redrawn districts. Lamb's will be slightly more blue and Saccone will fall into a fairly competitive one. Which made the Republican investment in this election all the more curious. Obviously, they were very afraid of the message a loss could send and their worst fears were realized.

The key thing in PA18 is that Lamb understood his district well and was not afraid to venture into positions that were unique to him - and not part of some national message.

Can that translate in elections across the country? Well, yes and no. Democrats can win with a national message in a lot of districts - but if they want to compete in red areas as well, that message will need to be narrowed to their own district.

I guess the bottom line is that Democrats need to open up the tent if they want that "blue wave" to materialize. We can't have litmus tests. The candidates have to know and understand the people they will represent.

Which brings me to the progressive movement. Progressives are going to have to be realistic about candidates like Conor Lamb. He won because he was NOT a progressive. He won because he fashioned his own message.

As progressives, our goal is progressive policy. To promote that, we need to have the potential of a majority vote in Congress. Yes, that means we will need to support a lot of progressive candidates - but in order to pass real progressive legislation, we need to have an opportunity to persuade centrist and semi-conservative candidates who have the ability to win in districts that have less than progressive priorities....to convince them that they need to support an agenda which will succeed for everybody.

So let's have the progressive policy debate AFTER we have an opportunity of working with a majority in Congress.

Win first - debate like hell later.
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Legalize Marijuana For The Chronic Pain Victims

Category: Society
Posted: 03/12/18 14:54

by Dave Mindeman

I have long been an advocate of legalizing marijuana. The evidence of this being a harmful drug are lacking and the incarceration rates relevant to it are completely out of line.

But here is the main emphasis I would like to make. Marijuana (Cannabis) would be a safe alternative to opioid pain treatment. And in this current crisis, we owe it to everyone on chronic pain therapy to have it available to them.

Maybe complete legalization is too far for some, but a much more open and simple process of medical marijuana must be allowed. The expensive bureaucracy that we are creating is just unnecessary.

Regulate it heavily. Make marijuana availability equivalent to the restrictions on alcohol or tobacco. But we need to cease the criminality farce.

Law enforcement has not been on board legalization efforts. And I understand that to some extent. Forcing weed underground with all of the criminal elements involved give police and investigators all sorts of headaches. And I assume that they cannot fathom changing that overnight.

But we can and we must. Because too many people have no other alternatives than opioids for pain.

Marijuana is not going to be a panacea of change here. It won't help everybody but in terms of medicine, it will do no harm. The evidence of what little study we are allowed to do on marijuana is very encouraging and for a country in an addiction crisis - what do we really have to lose?

New studies are giving us even better information....

A November 2017 study comparing opioids and cannabis had a very positive correlation. The conclusion:

The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.

Another study had further positive results....

34 percent reported having used opioid pain medication in the previous six months. A majority of patients reported that cannabis was just as effective or more effective than opioids -- but without undesirable side effects. Of the patients reporting having used opioids, 97 percent reported having been able to reduce or eliminate opioids. And, 81 percent reported using cannabis alone was more effective opioids.

Legalizing marijuana is becoming a necessity. And all the handwringing about its "dangers" are close to fantasy in actuality.

We do not have a friendly Justice Department in this regard. In fact, Jeff Sessions is the worst possible place holder for real progress on this issue. But the public needs to override all of that.

Chronic pain victims need your help.
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Harassment - Buried Facts and No Action

Category: 2018
Posted: 03/10/18 16:00

by Dave Mindeman

The House report on harassment policy after the Cornish cases, finally came out and only a small portion was made public. Once again, the House internalizes its dirty laundry and expects the public to be satisfied.

Remember when Erin Maye Quade, Lindsey Port, and Jamie Becker Finn called for an outside task force to study this situation? Well, maybe you don't because like everything else in Kurt Daudt's House, it got tabled, indefinitely, forever.

We need an outside group with some authority. The Cornish look see was assigned by Daudt, released to Daudt, and locked up by Daudt.

At least the general findings were released....

1) Some elected representatives don't appreciate or choose to disregard the power imbalance between them and staff, lobbyists and others who work in and around the Capitol.

2) No Legislature-wide policy or formal agreements on sexual harassment exist. Instead, the House, Senate and the Legislative Coordinating Commission each have separate policies.

3) When witnesses or potential interviewees in investigations are lobbyists, non-legislative state employees, or other third parties, the House has no power to compel them to take part in an investigation.

4) The House has not sufficiently publicized policies for third parties, including members of the public and lobbyists to make reports of discrimination or harassment.

5) A perception that House members will not be disciplined for violations of the House Policy may chill reports regarding members.

All of that is troubling, but with number two, it is obvious that the MN House does not take any of this seriously. And with number 5, why would there be any incentive to change it?

When these problems first surfaced, there was this sense that finally something would move on this. That the House would have to do something. But because the House continues to block public access to what it knows and keeps internalizing and hiding every bad actor - this subject gets buried with impunity.

We need some sunlight on everything the legislature does. How can we possibly evaluate policy when we are only allowed to see what Kurt Daudt wants us to see?

Change this; change the House; throw the bums out.
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