Category Archives: Politics

How Does Our Democracy Move Forward in the Trump Era?

The current political climate, in the third week of the Trump presidency, is a little, um, overwhelming. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the constant political discussion on social media, and retreating from the conversation.

I get that.

But at the same time, well, this is not a normal time. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this new not normal. I think we all are.

The Era of Fake News & Alternative Facts

It’s frustrating because as much as Donald Trump complains about the media and “fake news,” hasn’t he been one of the main perpetrators and benefactors of fake news?

He stoked the birther movement against Barack Obama. He questioned the legitimacy of a sitting president, refusing to believe that the son of a black, Muslim immigrant could rightfully be president.

It was the epitome of fake news.

And where did it get Trump? The oval office. Continue reading How Does Our Democracy Move Forward in the Trump Era?

I’m Sorry

We’re two weeks into the Trump era, and I need to apologize.

In just two weeks we’ve entered brand new territory. I say that in the most non-partisan way possible. Some folks say this is just the polar opposite of eight years ago when Obama took office, but I think this is something different (and when I talk to conservatives, most [though not all] agree with that sentiment).

I need to apologize because I never took this election seriously.

In general I’m not a big fan of debating politics publicly (which may come as a shock, given my flurry of political tweets in the past few weeks). I’ve talked before about how I did too much of that in 2008, and didn’t like it. Throughout the 2016 campaign I didn’t say a lot. I said things here and there, but in general I didn’t engage.

I kept thinking there’s no way Trump will get the nomination.

Then I thought there’s no way he’d win the presidency.  Continue reading I’m Sorry

Encourage Women to Run for Elected Office

Before the election I wrote a blog post about women running for potential political firsts on my ballot. Only one of the three women I highlighted actually won, but it was still progress.

West St. Paul has its first ever female mayor in Jenny Halverson.

That’s pretty cool.

Yesterday a whole lot of women marched, making a powerful statement that they will not be ignored. It was pretty amazing. I’m inspired by all those bold women, and I want to see more women running for office.

For too long the political arena has been dominated by men, and I think when we’re so dominated by one, singular voice we can miss out on the contributions and perspectives of so many other voices.

Yesterday women marched. Today, I hope women run.

So who are the women who could run for office in upcoming elections?  There are some offices up for election in 2017. A ton of positions will be on the ballot in 2018—school board, city council, mayor, representative, governor, etc. Continue reading Encourage Women to Run for Elected Office

Coming to Terms With President Trump

Today is a bizarre day in American politics. In a few short hours, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.

I say it’s bizarre because I think people need to understand how far removed we are from politics as usual. A lot of conservatives tell me that now I’ll know what it was like for them to live under Obama.

But I don’t think that’s the case. I know what that was like. We had eight years of George W. Bush. Most of us have disagreed with presidents in the past. Maybe we didn’t like the person or we didn’t like their policies (Iraq, economy, healthcare, gay marriage—pick your issue), but there was still a sense of this is our president, and I can voice my complaint and we’ll move forward.

Donald Trump is something else.

A lot has been said about all his antics and the way he antagonizes so many minority groups. I could go on and on. But I think this Politico piece talking with Trump’s biographers offers a fascinating look into his psyche.  Continue reading Coming to Terms With President Trump

Save the Good Ideas in Affordable Care Act

It feels like my social media feeds exploded this week as Congress began the work to repeal and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Especially with the 1:30 a.m. vote.

Now I get it, Republicans won control. They’re going to do what they want. There’s no saving the ACA as we know it.

But we can save the good (and popular) ideas in the ACA.

I’ve seen an outcry over all the good things in ACA that could be lost. And I’m not just hearing it from my lefty friends. Support for the Affordable Care Act is widespread:

  • 66% of voters want preexisting conditions covered.
  • 63% of voters want to be able to keep their kids on their plans until age 26.
  • 56% want subsidies for low-income Americans.
  • 56% want federal funding to expand state Medicare programs.
  • 53% want insurers to cover birth control.

The ACA is flawed and needs improvement, but it has a lot of worthy ideas that have improved healthcare in America. Some of these ideas have literally saved lives.

For six years Republicans have tried to repeal the ACA without the votes to do it or a plan for anything better. It was simply a way to earn political points. In November they cashed those points in, but they still have no better plan.

But that’s fine. There are plenty of good ideas in the ACA. Take them. Use them. Come up with a better healthcare plan. Lives are depending on it.

We somehow managed to make it through a horrendously long political campaign season without having much of a substantive, public debate on healthcare. It seems a little late to do it now, a little late to hold candidates accountable when they railed against Obamacare but didn’t offer alternatives. But better late than never.

Contact your representatives. Participate. Be heard.

West St. Paul Fires City Manager for No Reason

 

I spoke at the West St. Paul city council meeting tonight. Not my favorite thing to do. I don’t like public speaking or confrontation.

Here’s the short version: Two new council members elected in November and sworn in last week tipped the balance, and City Manager Matt Fulton was forced to resign. The city council members behind this offered no rational for firing Fulton, other than wanting a “fresh start.”

Of course that “fresh start” will require an interim city manager,  increased burden on the staff as they wrestle with all the changes, a search for a new city manager that’s likely to cost thousands of dollars, and—oh yeah—the severance package for Matt Fulton that will include an additional six months pay.

Why do we need this costly and time-consuming “fresh start”?

Continue reading West St. Paul Fires City Manager for No Reason

A Better Way to Internet Politics

I often wonder if there’s a more productive way for politics to move forward. It’s especially bleak right now after the election of Donald Trump, an election that was very short on actual policy positions and very high on the spread of fake news.

Everybody has a take on the 2016 election, and I’m sure we’ll be reading about it forever, but one story I read compared Trump to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and suggested the way to beat Trump is to ignore his antics and focus on policy.

I wonder if that would work. That seemed like one of the most telling moments of the presidential debates (and I commented on it my election post), though I don’t know if that moment changed anyone’s mind (it was easily overshadowed by other moments).

Maybe it’s idealistic and wouldn’t actually work, but I think a better, saner grasp of the facts and issues would go a long way to helping democracy, for all sides.

So what might that look like? Continue reading A Better Way to Internet Politics

Local Politics & How Candidates Communicate

Oh this election. I don’t know what to do with you.

I usually try not to blog about politics. I did too much of that in previous cycles and said stupid things and annoyed even myself.

Early on this year, I couldn’t hold back and had to try to understand the Trump phenomena as it was happening. Even now I don’t understand it (though the Anxiety, Nostalgia & Mistrust Survey explains a lot), but I’m trying not to engage in the endless what ifs and blame and the rest (though I am being very vocal about stopping hate and violence).

I think instead of engaging on the national scene, I’ve been talking up the local scene. It’s bothered me for a long time how difficult it is to research local elections. Technology was supposed to make that easier, and in some ways it has. Most serious candidates have websites or at least Facebook pages these days (but not all of them).

But in other ways technology just allows politicians to spread the same misleading information they always have. And voters are stuck with just as little information to sort it all out.

This election I tried to sort out who said what, who did something questionable and who blatantly made stuff up assuming people wouldn’t research it. My only hope is that I’m making it easier for other frustrated voters like myself.

You know what? People liked it. Continue reading Local Politics & How Candidates Communicate

Love Trumps Hate

A lot has already been written and will be written about Donald Trump’s stunning victory yesterday, and I don’t imagine I have much to add. But I’m also a writer and need to get it out of my head.

The one thing I keep coming back to is how divided we are as a country, and not just that we’re divided, but that we don’t understand each other.

I shared this quote when I explained why I voted for Clinton:

“If two smart and logical people disagree, it’s most likely because they are acting on different information.” -Bill “Billo” O’Donnell (A Truck Full of Money by Tracey Kidder)

I think we’ve been acting on different information. If we’re going to overcome that division, we need to reconcile that information (not an easy task). I wish candidates did a better job of this (they rarely do because it doesn’t fire up their side), but now it’s time for us to do a better job of it.

So let me explain some information as I see it.

Today my social media feed is full of fear.

My minority friends are scared. People of color, LGBT friends, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled—scared.

And they’re sharing examples of harassment, intimidation, hate. (Those are just a few examples. Ask a teacher. Talk to a minority.) They’re justifiably scared.

Trump may say he’s not a racist, not a misogynist, not a xenophobe, not a homophobe, not an Islamophobe, but his words and actions—whether intentionally or through mere carelessness—bring hate out in people. (And it’s not just my liberal friends saying this. Many of my conservative friends refused to vote for Trump because of this.)

This political campaign has given license to hate. The rare few (I hope) who are racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic and/or bigoted have been emboldened to speak and act their hate.

And that’s not OK.

I know we disagree on a lot, but I have to assume that’s not OK with Trump voters either. I know we disagree, but I have to believe you don’t support hate. 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump, and I know faith in Jesus shouldn’t spread hate.

So prove it. Don’t endorse hate with your silence. Let’s make sure Love Trumps Hate is not just a campaign slogan tossed around as an insult. Reclaim it, bring unity across the aisle, and reject what I must hope are isolated acts of hate and violence.

Prove to my minority friends that there is a place in America for them, that you will defend them and stand up for them, even if you disagree with them.

Because otherwise, what are we doing?

These hateful acts are not America. I don’t believe that. But if we let them continue because they don’t impact us personally, then we’re enabling hate.

I can’t believe all Trump voters are hateful. Maybe we don’t understand each other, but that’s something we can work on.

I’m naive and idealistic and probably foolish, but I think love truly can trump hate.

Update: Maple Grove Students Respond (Nov. 10, 2016)

This is how we need to respond to hate. (And let it not just be warm, fuzzy words, but real action. May those kids love and protect one another.)

Voting as a Heroic Act

So Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the Avengers movies, created his own PAC to encouraging voting this year.

I love this comment about the ethos of what he’s doing:

“There is this heroic act called voting. And the world is scary, and things are overwhelming, and there’s a lot at stake. But this voting thing is actually beautiful. Not just necessary—it’s a wonderful thing and it makes you powerful.” -Joss Whedon

Pairs nicely with the Ms. Marvel “to the polls” image:

Ms. Marvel & Joss Whedon on voting

(And yes, that’s a direct visual reference to the 1830 painting “Liberty Leading the People.”)

It’s easy to become frustrated or disillusioned, especially this year, but I think there is something incredible about voting.

This year my family went together, lining up with a hundred neighbors waiting for the polls to open. I wore my Captain America hoodie—an older woman remarked about its appropriateness.

My son watched as I voted. I pointed out that I’d just voted for a woman for president for the first time in my life. I voted for what could be only the fourth woman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. House and our first gay member of Congress. I voted for what could be West St. Paul’s first female mayor. I pointed to the school district levy, that I was voting for his school to keep getting money. (And I voted for at least a dozen judges running opposed, which felt kind of silly.)

The candidates have had their many, many months. But now it’s our turn.

However you vote, this is our moment. So vote.