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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Thoughts Of A Pragmatic Realist

Category: Legislation
Posted: 05/09/16 14:20

by Dave Mindeman

Over the years I have gravitated from a liberal ideologue to a results pragmatist. I know that a lot of people hate labels but this is more of a message centered thought process than some sort of principled liberal stand.

I am very happy to see the progressive idealistic surge...most of it fueled by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. He has resurrected the old style liberalism that went into dormancy during the Reagan years.

It has emerged with a vengeance but shows the same purity test that doomed the movement in the late sixties and early seventies.

The Democratic Party is the focal part of the liberal base. But just as the Republican Party is not only about conservatism (as they are finding out all too well right now), the Democrats are not only about liberal, progressive thought.

The two party system has a way of roughing out the edges by the larger tent philosophy. This is the main difference between this country and the European parliamentary system. We rough out the edges within the party while Europe roughs out the edges in a messier end game finding a ruling majority.

Ideologues feel the need to control the party they are working in. The Republicans have been working their way through this process over the past several cycles. Unfortunately for them, the extremes in their party have found a way to really, actually control the process - and this resulted in Donald Trump.

In the Democratic Party, we are going through this process as well.

I consider myself very liberal. But I am also not naive enough to think that I have ideas that are part of a majority opinion. As I have moved into a more pragmatic thought process, I have looked for common ground. For areas that can move good ideas forward. I don't expect the perfect - but I do want the better.

I understand the disappointments people feel when their ideas or their candidates do not rise to the political level they expect. I have been there. I have had my share of major disappointments. But the edges continue to get smoothed out. We move on.

This year has been an anomaly. Trump is a jagged edge that made it through the party process. He benefited from an incredible series of events and used taboo rhetoric and process to establish a different type of candidacy in a year when all of our institutions have been questioned.

Bernie Sanders has vaulted forward under similar circumstances. He has shaken up the system and raised the ideology bar, but, in this case, will probably fall a bit short. But what he has done has contributed that edge that has changed the amount of smoothing out the party will end up with. He has done what an insurgent candidate campaign should do - he has added to Democratic politics, not subtracted.

Even though Hillary Clinton will probably be the nominee, she will be a different candidate than she would have been prior to the Sanders challenge. The pragmatist in me is appreciative of that. We don't have to just settle, we can accept the refinement and move ahead with a better message and agenda.

Bernie has been very tempting for a lot of liberal minded people. He has been that reform minded liberal that progressives have looked for and speaks with the confidence that all things are possible.

While that can be a resonant message within a party that leans that way anyway, it is difficult to see that same confidence level reaching a general electorate. Hillary Clinton has always respected that concept. When she seems to be hedging against a liberal agenda, it is because she sees how that plays to the broader pool of voters. Bernie has moved her ideas to the left (a place that I believe she is naturally inclined), but she tempers it and adds nuances that may seem like cop outs to the ideology, but really are trying to move an agenda into a complex political environment.

That has become the way of the results pragmatist. Look at the ACA. Obama could not get single payer through Congress. He even tried an end around on that with a government option. That didn't happen. But he persevered to expand health coverage to more of our citizens. It did away with pre-existing conditions, insurance caps, exclusions on preventative care, etc. It has been messy and not without a lot of frustrating backslides that have slowed everything down, but it has improved the lives of the formerly uninsured.

If ideal legislation is never going to become law, what good is it? We can get angry and ratchet up the rhetoric and complain bitterly, but what have we accomplished? Nothing.

So finding methods that that can improve how government works and improve the lives of our people are the real agenda we need to be involved with. It is not always smooth, in fact it is downright messy and frustrating, but, in the end, it is the way to get results.

And results are what really matters.
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Special Prosecutor In Police Shootings - A Worthy Conversation

Category: Legislation
Posted: 04/13/16 08:11, Edited: 04/13/16 08:11

by Dave Mindeman

Sen. Scott Dibble has proposed legislation "that a special prosecutor be created to handle every case in which police use deadly force."

I believe this is a very good idea.

Here is a summation...

The proposal would route every officer-involved incident that causes great bodily harm to a newly created special prosecutor's office for investigation and a decision on whether the officers should face any charges.

Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat and the bill's chief proponent, said the proposal is not a response specifically to the outcome after Jamar Clark's death but a move to address the attention on officer-involved deaths nationwide and remove doubt about a judicial process that critics complain lacks accountability and too often leads to no charges against officers. He called it an extra layer of independence.


Here is why this is necessary. Law enforcement depends on the trust of the citizens they serve. That trust is under suspicion. Until we can remedy that situation, we need to have a method of examination (in cases of officer shootings) that is outside the normal pathways within the system.

A special prosecutor's office that has no direct ties to the police, the city, or the county attorney, would be given jurisdiction. How that office is staffed and organized needs to have input from all parties - citizens, police administration, and the city.

Whether this lack of trust in the police department is deserved is pretty irrelevant. If the citizens don't have that trust, then we need to find a method to repair it.

Senator Dibble's proposal will not get through this session, but the conversation needs to get started. This is just one aspect of racial disparities in the justice system that can be addressed, but it is a critical one.

When trust between the police and the community is broken, we have a public safety problem. For all of us.
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Transparency Forecast Is Overcast And Gloomy

Category: Legislation
Posted: 05/14/15 09:57

by Dave Mindeman

Whatever happened to transparency?

For all the political rhetoric that goes on about the public's right to know, we sure have the seeming necessity for a lot of secrets.

We have a legislative session that starts in January. We have several months of partisan barbs and a lot of posturing and then when the session is about to expire, we put three guys in a room to decide the budget for all of us.

And how can the two sides be this far apart, this late? What was the point of holding all those hearings and all those sessions, only to end up with stances that could have been predicted 2 years ago?

All of this secrecy extends to the press. It always happens. As they start the "behind closed doors" sessions, they tell us that dueling press conferences are not productive. We just can't talk to the press anymore. Well, here's a suggestion - talk substance and not political talking points. Decide that your purpose for coming in front of a microphone is for information, not bashing the other side.

Divided government? Its a joke. Republicans and Democrats use each other to delay and divide....to use government for political purposes. They say that we, the people, are involved...but its a lie. They use polling data only when it fits their current agenda. They ignore us when we don't agree with them. They cloud the question to get the result they really want.

And don't forget special interests. For all of that closed door secrecy, it is amazing how the groups that matter get the first trial balloons that move toward agreements.

I know I should be used to all of this by now. It hasn't changed in years and gets worse after each election. But it is irritating to watch government working behind locked doors - in the hands of fewer and fewer people as government workings grind on.

The sun doesn't shine on these proceedings....and the forecast is overcast and gloomy for the foreseeable future.
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