Category Archives: Politics

An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

The news is really hard right now (as if it hasn’t been for months and years and… oh). Russia invaded Ukraine. Texas is trying to bully trans kids. People are trying to ban books and pretend racism wasn’t so bad and doesn’t exist today.

It’s just a lot.

It’s hard to focus, it’s hard to work, it’s hard to stop doom scrolling. (guilty)

When that happens, I find it best to focus on small acts of love and kindness.

So among other things, I shared this on social media today from my West St. Paul Reader accounts (nothing gives me more joy than using my platforms to be a positive voice):

“I could not look my granddaughter in the eye and tell her things needed to change but do nothing to change them.”

-KaeJae Johnson, the first Black candidate to run for municipal office in West St. Paul
Continue reading An Inspiring Quote in a Troubling Time

School Board Elections Matter

A school board candidate threatened me with a slander lawsuit last week. I guess that’s part of community news now? (See my update at the bottom of this post for more.)

But let’s not focus on him. (My conversation on race with the only person of color still running is a much better story to focus on.)

Big election on Tuesday—lots of school boards at stake. Hope you’re ready to vote.

I put together a voter’s guide and candidate chart for the nine candidates vying for three seats in my school district, ISD 197, plus a levy renewal (yeah, it’s a lot):

It’s an off-year election and nobody turns out for school board elections (seriously: the last contested election had a turnout of 5%!).

But have you seen the headlines? People raiding school board meetings? The unhinged comments? Books being banned across the country? It’s wild.

These elections matter.

This election is feeling a bit like 2016, when everyone assumed things would work out and we all sat back and waited. And then woke up on November 9 in shock.

So vote.

Find out what’s on the ballot in your area and vote.

Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, and vote.

(And maybe support local news too. Here’s how to support my efforts.)

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.

Continue reading There Is Always Light

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.

Continue reading The January 6 Insurrection: The Loss of Trust and Truth

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.

Continue reading 2020 Accomplishments: Better Politics, Please

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