Political Déjà vu

J.G. Janos, Governor of Minnesota, 1999-2003

In 1998, I voted for J.G. Janos for Governor of Minnesota, and I was thrilled when he won.  I had hoped that it would pave the way for a three-party system in my state (and beyond), and start to make room for political independents like me.  He held lots of interesting and some controversial political positions, but most of them were common sense.  There was a budget surplus, so he returned money to the taxpayers rather than raise entitlements; he proposed a unicameral legislature because he thought it was a waste of money for the state to fund a senate and a house of representatives; and he held liberatiarian positions on issues like prostitution, marijuana, and gays in the military.

Since he was the lone independent, some of use who elected him worried that he’d get bullied by the two major parties.  But he didn’t, at least at first.  He stood by his campaign promises and vetoed 45 bills in his first year, only three of which were overturned.

But after the first couple years of his tenure, the Republicans and the Democrats decided to hold their noses and work together.  Their cause? To defeat everything the governor proposed and thus scuttle his — and any third party successor’s — attempts at governance.  So, while the governor attempted to do what we’d elected him to do — namely, run our state in a common sense manner that defied conventional politics — the two major parties decided to stand in his way, regardless of the cost.

They chose politics over governance.

I supported President Obama’s candidacy for similar reasons that I supported Ventura.  I thought that he might bring a fresh approach and some populist common sense to our federal government.  Like Ventura, Obama has made some missteps and miscues in this first year, but mainly he’s been attempting to do what we elected him to do: clean up some financial messes, close Guantanamo, fix health care.

And yet, the politicos in D.C. are doing to him what the Minnesota politicians did to Ventura: they are choosing politics over governance because they think it’ll work, they think they’ll regain political power, and they think that Obama is weak and inexperienced enough to collapse under the pressure (Ventura did).

I for one hope that Obama has more tenacity than Ventura.  I hope that he sees the long tail of history and rides out the partisan bullshit of Boehner/Pelosi/McConnell/Reid (and, honestly, I find Obama to be a far superior intellect to all four of those combined — whether he’s a superior politician remains to be seen).

True, the stimulus didn’t work as well as planned.  And, yes, he was a bit ham-fisted in his first run at health care reform.  But he has been attempting to do what we asked of him, while most everyone in the legislative branch of government has been worried exclusively about saving their own political skins.

At what cost?  At the cost of governance.  It’s really a pity.

  • http://www.billsamuel.net/ Bill Samuel

    What we asked of him? Who is this we? And how was the asking done?

    We elect people. We do not elect policies. This is particularly relevant to the Obama election. For example, his campaign position was for escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a larger military budget, and an increase in the number of active duty soldiers. He kept all these promises. However, I believe that the majority of Obama voters oppose all three of those positions.

  • Kenton

    1. My 11-year old also has a far superior intellect than Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell & Reid combined. Your comment was not a reflection on Obama nearly as much as it was a reflection on the 4 folks you picked.

    2. Why can’t see that when it comes to “partisan bullshit” that Obama is a promulgator every bit as much as Boener, Pelosi, McConnell and Reid.

  • Jeremy

    Tony

    Although I believe Obama is sincere about wanting to bring change, I think the people are beginnning to see the kind of change he wants to bring…and we’re scared! He is not the peace candidate the some hoped he would be (the nobel peace prize awared to him is just ridiculous!!). And I think the people of Mass. voting in the first Republican Senator in very long time shows that we are not happy about his ideas of health care either. He talks about change that we can believe in, but continues to bail out corporations that should’ve went bankrupt, liquidated, and then bought be my more capable businessmen or women. whatever Barack Obama is…he is not the candidate of change. We want a President that will uphold the constitution and defend our personal liberties…. Not someone who is going to expand the military overseas and continue to fight immoral and undeclared wars. We want health care to be fixed by looking at free-market ideas…not a government run health care that will be run in the ground like ( in my opinion) it is in Canada. We want a president who is going to hold those who really responsible for the economic crisis: 1. The Federal Reserve 2. Washington 3. Corporatism…..and not blame it on phony ideas due to a lack of regulation from government.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Kenton’s second point is spot on. Obama has been just more of the same “Washington politics”… shortly after he was elected, he told a Republican to shut up because he (Obama) won and didn’t have to listen to Republicans any more. Guess how well that’s worked?

    He (rightly) tells us that Washington is broken yet he wants to solve the country’s problems with more of Washington… anyone else see the idiocy in that solution?

    Jeremy makes several good points as well, not least of which is the fact that Obama is a lackey for special interests. He railed against the Supreme Court’s decision last week even while his health care bill was riddled with pork favoring big business. His hypocrisy knows no bounds, apparently. He would work to undermine the ability for small businesses to support political candidates all the while big businesses are getting rich off of his leadership.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Regarding Kenton’s first point, how exactly does Obamatron have some great intellect when the guy can’t even give a speech without a gaggle of teleprompters by his side? Say what you will about Bush’s speeches, but at least he knew how to speak his mind for himself.

  • tom c.

    I tend to think that hopes for third party/independent political organizations would be best realized on the local level (first) and then regional and perhaps national levels. My politics are closer to the Green than the Democratic Party, but third parties strike me as being more viable at the local level (Mr. Janos, excluded) than state or national levels.

    In any case, I’m not sure Obama is doing such a bad job governing the country given that the country is and has been so divided (culturally, politically). There seems to be a good portion of the population that has never given him a chance; perhaps this is no different than the liberals, like myself, who never gave Bush a chance. (I was convinced I wasn’t going to like Bush’s presidency and I was not disappointed.)

    What’s hard is when supporters of the opposing camp are not total strangers living far away but are congregants at your church, co-workers, or family members. Like many of you, I have my favorite stories of civility and trust winning out over anger and fear, making possible an authentic conversation about political differences. But these are exceptional stories.

    In any case, the main reason I liked Obama during the Democratic primaries was his support of civic engagement and responsibility. The consumer-oriented nature of many political campaigns can lull people into thinking that democratic activity (small “d”) happens only once every four years or only with elections. A more active, and critical, stance from the citizenry is needed for a true democracy.

  • Korey

    It’s always remarkable to me to see the diversity of political opinion. I’m still a supporter as you are. The Republican intransigence and Democratic parochialism/cowardice is frustrating. I agree with the following post concerning the continued probability that health care reform will still pass: http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/why-im-hopeful-health-care.

    Darius, I’m actually one of those who thought President Bush actually gave a good speech and reject the idea that he was stupid or whatever hyperbolic nonsense was said about him. But I’m sorry you’ve bought into the right wing talking point canard about President Obama’s lacking intellect? How utterly silly.

  • http://dyfedwynroberts.org.uk/ Dyfed

    Over here in the UK we too find that the smaller parties and independents struggle to break through, especially under the current first-past-the-post voting system. In the devolved assemblies, though, we are seeing something different to the UK picture. In Wales where I live we have a proportinal system that tops up the first-past-the-post system and this has meant that the smaller parties are better represented.
    So maybe voting reform is a key to seeing politics change.

  • Luke

    It’s ridiculous to think that 300 million people can fit into one of two very generic boxes. I wonder if the formation of a greater number of parties is not inevitable. Seems to me that the more we embrace pluralism, the more we’ll be comfortable joining a smaller bandwagon that fits us better. Personally, I’d love to see us develop a system with a number of parties (5+) that rely on coalitions and compromise in order to govern.

  • s

    darius (5) obviously didn’t see the president’s meeting with the house republicans last week, where he ran circles around his interlocutors without a teleprompter. if FOX News has to cut out early to give their pundits more time, you know he’s doing well. please stop repeating the stupid right wing talking points and cliches. it hurts political discourse. it’s mendacious. you’re contributing to the problem.

  • Darius

    Yes, when Obama says “I won, you lost, so I don’t have to listen to you” (or something to that effect), that’s not contributing to the problem? Please, your leftist bias is showing.

  • Korey

    Darius, thanks for the red herring response.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Korey, I wasn’t so much questioning Obama’s intellect than saying I haven’t seen any evidence that shows that he’s MORE intelligent than the typical politician. The guy clearly doesn’t understand constitutional law (which is sad since that was his line of work for years) or economics, for example.

    On the constitution, from a column: “Obama said he did not [favor a constitutional marriage amendment] “because historically — because historically, we have not defined marriage in our Constitution.”

    I don’t care if you support a marriage amendment or not. That answer is literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. If marriage were already defined in the Constitution, we wouldn’t need an amendment, no?”

    Say, you know what else was “historically” not defined in the Constitution? Slavery.

    As for economics, Obama has showed no inclination that he understands the first thing about it since he entered office. If that is what we call intellect, then this is a sorry country indeed.

  • nathan

    actually, we DID define slavery in the Constitution in relation to the “personhood” of slaves and how they would be counted in censuses, etc.

    furthermore, when we define political governance aptitude around the criteria of a person’s speaking style or if we disagree with their policies then we’ve got no hope for any discourse.

    it’s patently dishonest to say someone is incapable of governing/holding office simply because i don’t like their policies.

    it was unfair to Bush and it’s unfair to Obama.

    the persistence of people on either side to make things personal in politics is incompatible with genuine Christian witness.

    it is one thing to disagree vigorously–something this President acknowledges is part of the process–it is another to claim the Name of Christ and start calling names, being unkind and disrespectful to those with whom we disagree.

    I am consistently disappointed by Christians who act this way and persist in unreflectively allowing themselves to be spiritually formed by the liturgies of right wing and left wing media.

    and, yes, you read that correctly…these behaviors indicate that many of us have been spiritually formed by drinking from these toilets without really considering what is being said.

    if you have to harp on the petty to undergird your political positions you are not cooperating with the Spirit of Christ.

    if your gut clenches, pulse quickens and you get all bent out of shape then we’ve missed the opportunity to take up the particular role of the people of God to NOT be litigants in the controversies of our day, but to be agents of reconciliation, compassion and kindness that proclaims a BETTER WAY AND A BETTER DAY IS COME AND WILL COME AND WILL BE THE FINAL WORD that will rebuke all human endeavors and sweep away all human systems…

    even democracy and free market capitalism….

  • nathan

    actually, we DID define slavery in the Constitution in relation to the “personhood” of slaves and how they would be counted in censuses, etc.

    furthermore, when we define political governance aptitude around the criteria of a person’s speaking style or if we disagree with their policies then we’ve got no hope for any discourse.

    it’s patently dishonest to say someone is incapable of governing/holding office simply because i don’t like their policies.

    it was unfair to Bush and it’s unfair to Obama.

    the persistence of people on either side to make things personal in politics is incompatible with genuine Christian witness.

    it is one thing to disagree vigorously–something this President acknowledges is part of the process–it is another to claim the Name of Christ and start calling names, being unkind and disrespectful to those with whom we disagree.

    I am consistently disappointed by Christians who act this way and persist in unreflectively allowing themselves to be spiritually formed by the liturgies of right wing and left wing media.

    and, yes, you read that correctly…these behaviors indicate that many of us have been spiritually formed by drinking from these toilets without really considering what is being said.

    if you have to harp on the petty to undergird your political positions you are not cooperating with the Spirit of Christ.

    if your gut clenches, pulse quickens and you get all bent out of shape then we’ve missed the opportunity to take up the particular role of the people of God to NOT be litigants in the controversies of our day, but to be agents of reconciliation, compassion and kindness that proclaims a BETTER WAY AND A BETTER DAY IS COME AND WILL COME AND WILL BE THE FINAL WORD that will rebuke all human endeavors and sweep away all human systems…

    even democracy and free market capitalism….

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    It has nothing to do with Obama personally… I think he’s a nice guy and he’s definitely not dumb. It has to do with his policies, and not just “do I like them or not?”… they are evil and unbiblical. Until Christians can start thinking Biblically, they will be irrelevant to politics.

  • nathan

    i’d be interested as to what policies we could define as “unbiblical” or “evil”…besides retreading the hot button issues of abortion and gay marriage…which aren’t really definitive of day to day governance in the first place.

  • http://www.billsamuel.net/ Bill Samuel

    I agree with the commenter who said Bush was not stupid. Although he was not studious and spent most of his time partying, at the same school at the same time as John Kerry, who was very studious, Bush got better grades. And who calls Kerry stupid?

    I’ve seen it remarked that Bush was intellectually lazy. I think that’s true. He would glom onto a position and not use the brain God gave him to really think it through.

    But sometimes Obama also appears intellectually lazy. A prime example is his Nobel speech. He used old cursory dismissals to say that peace was naive and impractical. If he had bothered to actually research the facts, he would have found that there were countries in Europe under Nazi occupation where most Jews were saved primarily through nonviolent resistance, and that there have been dozens of successful nonviolent mass movement since WW II, overturning many governments, while most of the violent efforts have had obviously bad results.

    His remarks on Constitutional matters have generally been quite poor, despite the fact that his field of study is Constitutional law. He’s very bright, but seems to use his brain (like Bush did) mostly for political purposes and not really apply it to some of the major issues which face a President.

    And when he speaks without a Teleprompter, he often stumbles all around as badly as Bush – he just doesn’t come up with the classic misstatements Bush was known for.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Bill, good points.

    “he just doesn’t come up with the classic misstatements Bush was known for.”

    Except yesterday, when he misprounced “corpsman” as “corpseman”. If that had been Bush, Jon Stewart would be all over it.

  • nathan

    but the fact that we care so much about whether or not Stewart is “all over someone” is demonstrative of the depth of the problem.

    if you don’t have the same level of concern and frustration (anger, maybe?) over the fact that people tried to make political hay out of Obama going to Copenhagen for the Olympic bid, OR the “terrorist fist bump” comment, OR the crazy prayer by a pastor at a McCain rally about how the god “Hindu” is being prayed to by “millions of people watching the election” to help Obama win, then it’s all just hypocrisy and demonstrates how incompatible with the Spirit of Christ this pervasive attitude/mind-set is.

    Unfair is unfair for whoever is on the receiving end.

    Unkind is unkind for whoever is on the receiving end.

    If that visceral response doesn’t cut both ways then you’re just a sell-out to what actually does matter.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    “if you don’t have the same level of concern and frustration (anger, maybe?) over the fact that people tried to make political hay out of Obama going to Copenhagen for the Olympic bid, OR the “terrorist fist bump” comment, OR the crazy prayer by a pastor at a McCain rally about how the god “Hindu” is being prayed to by “millions of people watching the election” to help Obama win, then it’s all just hypocrisy and demonstrates how incompatible with the Spirit of Christ this pervasive attitude/mind-set is.”

    Besides Copenhagen, which I agree was overblown, I have no idea what those other incidents were. I would suggest watching less Fox News.

    I don’t really care about the stupid insipid political ranting on either side… what matters are the issues, and therein lies Obama’s problems. His Marxist understanding of economics, his completely disregard for innocent prenatal life, and his stunningly misguided comprehension of race issues… he can be the most intellectual person in the world and still he’d be promoting evil policies.

  • nathan

    marxist economics may be something we disagree with, but I would not go so far as to say it is evil/unbiblical… leninist/maoist deployment of marxism had evil things happen in it, but saying Marxism is evil only demands that capitalism be deemed the same.

    I don’t see abortion as the defining issue for Obama…

    based on your argument the flipside was probably true.

    Bush had “correct” (maybe) views on hotbutton issues and he promoted tragically wrong policies in other areas.

    I just wonder if that bothered people who are so “anti-Obama” and have to cast his understanding of economics and race in “moral terms”. And on that point we see yet another example of the problem. Vigorous disagreement is one thing, casting those with whom you disagree about economics or race as “immoral”, “evil”, etc. polarizes discourse and pragmatically shuts down any sort of process politically. It’s unfruitful.

    From a faith standpoint, it’s un-christlike.

    I’m more worried about Christians unreflectively buying in to the voices of talk-radio et.al. way more than the 4-8 year effects of a president who has checks and balances during his term(s).

    as far as Fox News goes…i don’t watch it. But it does dominate information delivery and has other like-minded corollaries.

    It has influence and gives traction to crazy ideas that get reported on by other news outlets.

    the pastor thing i saw on another outlet.

  • nathan

    I say all this because a human system of governance is not eternal, nor is it the Kingdom of God.

    But the Church, if it does not recognize how it mixes it’s loyalties to a system under judgement with a veneer–a whitewashing–an appearnce–of loyalty to the eternal Gospel and the Eternal God, had better watch out.

    That is what i fear is real about us a people MORE than any passing political season.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X