Category Archives: Politics

Statehood: Who’s Going to be the 51st State?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a new state. And it seems like we’re closer than ever as Congress debates D.C. statehood for the second time in a year. Puerto Rico has also come up a lot lately, and it all makes for some fascinating what ifs.

For my entire life, the U.S. has been 50 states. It’s a nice round number. Makes the flag with 50 stars nice and symmetrical. As a kid, I assumed that was it—no more states because 50 is a round number.

Of course 50 states is entirely arbitrary and we can add states whenever we feel like it.

And maybe now is that time.

Continue reading Statehood: Who’s Going to be the 51st State?

Ranked Choice Voting for Better Democracy

This week I wrote an opinion piece for Minnesota Reformer advocating for ranked choice voting. In short, ranked choice voting allows voters to pick a second choice and requires the winner to earn a majority of votes, not just more than anybody else.

It’s a way to empower voters, break the stranglehold of the two-party system, and ensure we’re not led by someone who only got 20% of the vote. The article breaks it all down, but imagine how much better the recent presidential primaries with upwards of a dozen candidates would have been if you could vote a list of preferences.

Is It Realistic?

I write about the piece for Minnesota, and the constant question is can it realistically pass? Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, and now Minnetonka use ranked choice voting. So it’s tried, tested, and gaining popularity.

The challenge is would the Minnesota legislature consider it. Right now? No. It doesn’t help that the state has divided government and has trouble doing basic things. But the bigger issue is that even the Democrats don’t support it.

My legislative district had a town hall on Sunday, and all three DFL legislators (one senator and two reps) didn’t support it. One was against it, one was undecided, and the other went with reality—now is not the time for that fight.

And I get that. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and there are more pressing priorities. I’ve heard others argue that there are other voting reforms that are more important. But I’ll take all the voting reform and voter empowerment I can get.

Maybe now isn’t the time, but it is time to start building the case and making the argument.

For more on better politics, check out my book Better Politics, Please.

There Is Always Light

Every time we sing the national anthem we ask the question, “does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” amid the perilous fight and the bombs bursting in air.

These past two weeks, since violent insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capital, the answer has been in doubt. Not literally—Congress reconvened that same day and democracy carried on—but the spirit of the nation has been dazed as we suffered this terrible attack and reckoned with the deeper divide.

But today, Inauguration Day, as Lady Gaga belted out “The Star Spangled Banner” on the same Capital steps that two weeks ago held a swarming mob, it did the spirit of this nation well to see those broad stripes and bright stars so gallantly streaming.

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The January 6 Insurrection: The Loss of Trust and Truth

Yesterday a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as a joint session of Congress attempted their Constitutionally mandated task of approving the electors for the next president. We spent yesterday watching the news unfold on Twitter and live TV.

I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m grieving for our nation.

There will be so many better opinions and commentaries and I hesitate to add to the noise, but I keep coming back to one thing that I think is important to emphasize.

An erosion of trust and a lack of common truth has imperiled our democracy.

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2020 Accomplishments: Better Politics, Please

Since 2020 has been such a dumpster fire, I thought it might help to recap a few accomplishments. One of the big ones is my latest book: Better Politics, Please.

The Idea

I came up with this idea before the pandemic struck, but really fleshing it out and making it happen was a total pandemic project. I needed that. I needed something to focus on in the midst of all the chaos.

A project I worked on for 15 years came to an end at the close of 2019. I went into 2020 not knowing what was next (whoa, boy howdy!). Better Politics, Please was a fun way to try something different. It gave me a lot of hope, despite a real lack of hope in the rest of the world.

I’m grateful for all the help that made this project a reality. I couldn’t have done it without the many people who supported it.

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Vote Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council

I’ve held off on making endorsements this year in a number of local political races because of my work with West St. Paul Reader. However, I am enthusiastically endorsing Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council.

The Bullying, Lying Opponent

Given the competition, my endorsement should be no surprise. I wrote extensively about her opponent, David Meisinger, in 2018 and his bullying, intimidating behavior.

He hasn’t changed.

This year he’s making false, misleading statements, implying that he’s the sole ‘law and order,’ pro-police candidate while also suggesting we’re living in “lawless” times with “unchecked crime and disorder.” He’s wrong on both counts. No candidates in West St. Paul have attacked police or even suggested defunding police. And there is no significant spike in crime in West St. Paul.

Anyone supporting him should be asking some serious questions about the statements he makes, his lack of transparency, and his completely inappropriate behavior.

Vote for Lisa Eng-Sarne

But why waste any more time talking about him? Let’s talk about Lisa Eng-Sarne.

Eng-Sarne first ran in 2018 in a four-way primary for the Ward 3 City Council. At the time, I supported Wendy Berry. But I also wrote letters to the editor encouraging people to pick Berry or Eng-Sarne. I could only vote for one, and I ended up with Berry. But I also supported Eng-Sarne when a seat opened up on City Council and someone had to be appointed. So Eng-Sarne has represented my ward on City Council since January 2019, and I’ve been impressed with her work.

Let’s look at why.

Continue reading Vote Lisa Eng-Sarne for West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council

Political Scare Postcards

It’s an election year, so the political mailers are coming fast and furious. You know it’s bad when you can’t tell the difference between the Republican and Democrat scare mailers.

What’s a scare mailer?

The ones with manipulated photos, misleading attacks, charged language, and not a damn positive thing to say.

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MN House 58A: Koznick Reveals Fear-Based Strategy, Preese Offers Hope

Today saw a few interesting twists in Minnesota state politics, including the Republican-controlled Senate ousting a member of Governor Tim Walz’s cabinet and a DFL House member disclosing that he had COVID-19. But no twist was bigger than Republican Representative Jon Koznick of Lakeville mistakenly emailing strategy talking points to his Democratic opponents instead of his Republic colleagues. Oops.

It’s more than embarrassing, however. On the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, when we’re reminded to ‘never forget,’ the Minnesota Legislature debated whether or not to override an extension of Walz’s emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,800 Minnesotans have died, more than 190,000 Americans have died, and we’re debating whether or not this is an emergency.

It’s the content of Koznick’s strategy that goes beyond embarrassing. He was attempting to urge his Republic colleagues to stay on message in the debate:

“COVID issues are not our winning message. PUBLIC SAFETY is our ticket to the majority, let’s win with that.”

Continue reading MN House 58A: Koznick Reveals Fear-Based Strategy, Preese Offers Hope