Friday, August 19, 2011

Bachmann Campaign Evangelical Dog Whistles: David Vs. Saul Edition

(For an explanation of the term "Evangelical dog whistles," please see my previous post.)

There was a reference that really caught my eye this morning that came from the Facebook page of a Bachmann staffer. The comment came from Peter Waldron, who works in faith outreach on the campaign.

At first glance, this may seem like an odd choice of metaphor to most people. When David is invoked as a political metaphor, it is usually in the context of David vs. Goliath, the well known Bible story about the underdog defeating his giant opponent thanks to his faith in and commitment to God. In fact, one may even expect such a metaphor to be used here. But it's not. And I believe the chosen metaphor is far more telling of the campaign's strategy.

Saul and David were both anointed Old Testament kings of Israel. David was Saul's successor. As Peter points out in his post, Saul had that anointing removed, but still wanted to be king. So he aggressively tried to hunt down David to ensure that he would not lose his position of prominence. But in the end, it was all in vain, as David was the Lord's newly chosen leader of Israel. (If you're interested in reading the whole story, you can find in in 1 Samuel  chapters 9-31.) But the importance of its use here lies not only in the story itself, but in what group of Americans often invokes that story.

The Evangelical Dog Whistles of 2012

Over the past few decades, election season has become a time when Conservative politicians start to court the Evangelical vote aggressively through public displays and declarations of faith. This is and of itself is nothing new. But I believe there is an aspect of this that the media isn't picking up on.

Dog Whistles. Have you ever heard one? Of course not. Dog whistles are made at a pitch out of the range of human hearing. Although dogs can hear it, to humans it sounds like nothing. As I've been watching the 2012 GOP race for the nomination unfold, there have been a lot of dog whistles, but of a different sort. These are what I refer to as "Evangelical dog whistles." In no way am I calling anyone a dog, I just mean that it is a similar phenomenon.

Evangelical dog whistles are those words, phrases, and metaphors candidates use that may mean nothing to most people but are instantly recognizable to certain aspects of American Evangelical Culture. There are especially a lot of them coming out of Rep. Bachmann's campaign, so I've decided to start documenting the more prominent ones.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Real Problem Revealed by Hoffman's Tweet

The verdict is in. The Minnesota Senate Ethics Committee  decided that Sen. Hoffman (R-Vergas) needs to apologize for  a blatantly false tweet about statements made by Sen. Goodwin (D-Columbia Heights).

In case you missed it, the complaint originated during Senate floor debate on May 18 regarding potential cuts to health and human services. Sen. Goodwin was talking about the history of the treatment of people with mental illness and how far we've come since then.

In response to this speech, Sen. Hoffman took to the Twittersphere:

Goodwin was obviously upset, and an ethics complaint was later filed. Hoffman stuck to her guns claiming that she was very sensitive to calling people those names, completely ignoring the fact that Sen Goodwin did not call people those names at all. 

This is politics at its worst. The claim Hoffman made shows her own ignorance at best and blatant deception to appease the GOP base at worst. I'm glad she needs to apologize. She should. But there's a bigger issue that is revealed by this controversy.

What do legislators think is the purpose of floor debate? To Hoffman it seems to be a time to tune out anyone you assume you will disagree with anyway and putz around online. The point of debate is to discuss the aspects of proposed legislation and their impact on constituents so that you can make the best decision for the state of Minnesota. The above tweet reveals that as Goodwin took the floor, Hoffman didn't pay attention long enough to be able to comprehend even a few simple and clear sentences. Worse than that, even if she truly believed that Goodwin had called people such awful names, isn't that why she also, as a state senator, has the opportunity to speak from the Senate floor? Debate between the two should have never ended up online. That was juvenile and unprofessional. Hoffman should have expressed her concern on the Senate floor and given Goodwin the chance to clarify.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Rep. Hackbarth

What is going on with Rep. Hackbarth? This week he has come under fire after a constituent received an email from him in which he compares unions to Hitler and Castro. The union in question has requested clarification but has so far received no response. I'm beginning to think that any congressional orientation should include the reminder that you don't always have to say everything your thinking. Why would you send such an e-mail? Even if that is your opinion, why would you treat your constituents so harshly? But there was something else about this story that bothered me.

Take a look at the final paragraph of the above link.

"He lost his committee chair in December after he was spotted carrying a loaded handgun in a Planned Parenthood parking lot in St. Paul. Hackbarth said he was checking up on a woman he was dating. Hackbarth had a permit to carry a handgun. No charges were filed."

That's right, this is the same legislator who was found with a loaded gun in a Planned Parenthood parking lot in St. Paul. Obviously, this was a big story initially given the history of violence at such facilities. When it was discovered that his presence there had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, many people dropped the story. Yet some of us, found the real reason he gave for being there even more disturbing.

"Hackbarth explained to police, as well as KSTP-TV, that he was checking up on a woman he was dating.
'I had a feeling she was lying to me about some different things, Hackbarth said. 'You meet somebody online like that, you want to find out what this person is all about.'

So, we're supposed to feel just fine about a man being out with a handgun because he was just "checking up on" a woman he's dating because he thinks she lied to him?? That's seriously disturbing. Now we have this tirade comparing unions to murderous tyrants. I don't know what is going on with Rep Hackbarth, but I find it troubling.

Good Grief!

To expand on yesterday's post, I wanted to present my theory that Tim Pawlenty is the Charlie Brown of the 2012 GOP presidential candidate field. Both are from Minnesota, usually mild mannered and seem rather likable overall. Yet they have trouble gaining close friends/support. Both are constantly trying to prove their abilities, but falling just short and every time they think they've gained some ground, something unexpected happens to undermine them. For Charlie Brown this came in the form of a kite eating tree, a dismal baseball season which he struggled to manage, and a "friend" that always yanked that football away at the last minute. For Tim Pawlenty this has come in the form of a drunk campaign staffer in a major primary state and an official campaign announcement that was greatly overshadowed here in his home state by a massive tornado that hit North Minneapolis. Now just when he has the chance to make a name for himself and set himself apart from the rest of the contenders at a CNN televised debate, his spotlight is stolen by Minnesota's most infamous Congresswoman. Pawlenty just can't win. He is the Charlie Brown of the 2012 GOP field.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Budget - Spending + Tax Cuts = Prosperity?

When this session started, there were many questions that I thought had the potential to become major themes in this years legislative story line: Will one time cuts be restored? What areas will see the most severe cuts? Are we headed for a government shut down? And so on. All of those are still valid questions facing our state throughout this session, but there is one question that's not being discussed but may be one of the most important we can consider.

When facing such a massive deficit, cuts are inevitable. But the real question lies in how these cuts are being discussed and presented to the public. Are we focusing solely on numbers or are we discussing exactly what programs will be impacted due to these subtractions?

For a great perspective on this problem, I encourage you to read Bob Collins' piece on this very issue.

I was further concerned when I saw this video of a DFL Senator trying to get permission to ask a number of Republican senators a question about what exactly is in the bill rather than simply talking numbers and vague generalities.

Can the governance of Minnesota be boiled down to a simple math equation? Or do the people directly impacted by such cuts deserve more specific debate and consideration?