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VIEW OF THE ELECTION FOUR YEARS LATER

(discussion on the Minneapolis e-democracy forum)





Bill McGaughey's introduction

Four years later, in 2013, another large group of candidates filed for mayor of Minneapolis. Most were better qualified than our group. There were four present or past City Council members, a past Hennepin County Commissioner, a multi-millionaire, and several others.

Yet, the 2009 election had left a bad taste in people’s mouths. The discussion in the Minneapolis e-democracy forum began with some speculating that the “vanity” or “frivolous” candidates were ruining the election process. Either a way should be found to limit their number or the Instant Runoff Voting system should be changed.

Having been one of those less qualified and successful mayoral candidates in 2009, I just had to comment. However, I was also interested in people’s attitudes about race.

Such an emotionally charged issue ought to elicit some reaction in a discussion list comprising 1,830 active members. However, it did not. I gave a detailed and complete description of my campaign issues in 2009. Not a single person cared to comment about this. Race remains one of the most highly suppressed political topics of our day - unless, of course, it is approached in a conventional way.

 

From: Jim Mork Date: 10:47 pm, May 07, 2013  

“ Said it before, will say it again. Candidates should have to gain ballot status with at least 1,000 signatures indicating the need for the person to be on the ballot. These vanity candidacies once vanished in the primary. Now they need to vanish BEFORE the general election or the whole thing will be a circus.

Maybe the newly elected council will take that matter under consideration. I don't see that money should be the deciding factor. I think proof of major support should determine it. The voters deserve to choose from a short list of people with constituencies. This is not a game we're playing here. Nor a way to get name recognition for ulterior motives.”

 

From: Brian Stricherz Date: 7:19 am, May 08, 2013  

“ Meaningless’ candidates. ‘Frivolous’ candidates. ‘Vanity’ candidates. If people feel that way about a candidate, then don't vote for them. That some people feel that there should be some litmus test of their own choosing that applies to everyone's ballot is ridiculous. You get your one vote just like everyone else. If you don't feel that is fair, I hope it remains your problem and doesn't become everyone else's.”

 

From: Connie Sullivan Date: 12:24 pm, May 08, 2013

“ We already have too many declared candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis in the 2013 election. Why do I say this? I remember the last mayoral election, when the incumbent, R.T. Rybak, refused to debate anybody. Why? He didn't want to give a stage or platform to people who really did not show strong qualifications for the office [forgive me: there were no strongly-qualified candidates in 2009,. besides Rybak himself]. He was right. He won. There was one, ludicrous, debate in the entire campaign. Were you satisfied with that process and outcome?

Now we have ranked choice voting, and a bunch of voices in Minneapolis and on this forum clamoring for a wide-open, y'all come candidate list, with a minimum dollar fee to be officially listed as a candidate or a minimum of signatures [residents or voters among them?] to get on that list. This is supposedly "democratic," because it's "open" to everyone. There are no filters, no requirements in qualifications or experience, no real barriers to becoming a candidate for Minneapolis mayor.

What if everybody who has the dollars signed up as a candidate? With sixty to a hundred candidates, minimally, would there be debates?

No. There would not be debates. And that's a real problem with the filterless IRV system. There WILL NOT be debates in 2013's mayoral race. Too many candidates to get on one stage. They all blur together in their choose-me-second blandness. There wouldn't be time in two hours to have every Tom, Dick, and Harriet say their names and a brief list of qualifications. No issues, for Pete's sake--wouldn't want stances on issues to become part of the personality parade.

That's the real weakness of instant runoff voting or ranked choice voting: the error of thinking that "the more the merrier." The case really is: "The more, the less able we are to choose among them." And, "The more, the less we hear from each in a deliberative and dialogic forum."

No debates; no distinction among candidates; no primary; no party endorsements to speak of that might help us ideologically; and every candidate trying to prevail on a relatively ignorant electorate that has nowhere to go to inform itself but to printed campaign literature--or worse, stuff printed by anonymous PACs--and wild TV ads--including those by anonymous PACs.

People have to be really, really well informed to know NOT to vote for this or that candidate because they're a ringer. Do you think the Minneapolis electorate (a huge majority of which knew in 2009 that it did not know anything about the mayoral campaigns and thus didn't come out to vote) is going to distinguish between all these candidates in 2013?”

 

From: Jim Mork Date: 1:10 pm, May 08, 2013

John Charles Wilson, the classic example for vanity candidacies, able neither to provide a constructive contribution nor to remain in the shadows. Makes me wonder if he also has a Youtube video with a couple of hundred viewings.

‘ This is a little IRV joke. One of the mayoral candidates on the ballot was Joey Lombard, whose ballot identity was "Is Awesome.'' He wasn't. He picked up only 0.97 per cent of the first-choice votes, finishing ahead of the Edgertonite National Party's John Charles Wilson, who was the first choice of 0.30 per cent of the voters.

Wilson, you may recall, is the man who professes to believe that Laura Ingalls Wilder is God.’ I notice he was beaten by "Write in" and by the "Is Awesome" party. I'm trying to figure out how that result acted as a reinforcer. The most viable losing candidate was John Kolstad, the only real candidate besides the winner.

Clearly someone who exists to mock the institutions of democracy. I say "not on my dime chum". Rybak's win looks impressive. Till you realize that only 33,000 Minneapolis residents actually marked his name. We achieve 75 percent participation in important elections. But that participation must have been really weak. And it wasn't because "there are so few choices". More choices than ever. Reminds me of that Bruce Springsteen lyric about 500 channels and nothing on. To me, Rybak as "the best choice" is a sad, sad commentary.”

 

From: John Wilson Date: 1:00 am, May 09, 2013  

@ All Those Who Personally Attack Me:

“ So, I'm a "vanity candidate"? LOL! The last time I ran for Mayor, the press relentlessly made fun of me and I came in 11th out of 11, behind even the *admitted* non-serious candidate who is awesome. Running again to stroke my ego? The reality is it's more like hitting it over the head with a baseball bat.

As to making a "constructive contribution", I had in 2009 and will have this year a unique program to improve the city as well as build a new political/religious movement to save the Midwest. The press was so locked onto my religion that my other ideas were ignored.

As to "hiding in the shadows", it is true that I suspended discussion of my campaign for a few months because I put my foot in my mouth last winter and was waiting for it to blow over while I formulate my new program. I am waiting until the filing period to do serious campaigning for tactical reasons.

I do not at present "have a YouTube video". I may choose to use YouTube as an advertising medium in the future, however. The people on this forum will probably be the first to know. The "IRV joke" quote is from MinnPost, not YouTube, and I am not its author.

The fact that I am a Lauraist should not disqualify me from taking part in the public discourse that is this election.

At least 10 of the 11 candidates in 2009 were "real". We all had serious ideas to put forward. We weren't out to "mock democracy". Democracy is letting the people decide. But it doesn't mean if you lose, you should never try again.

I suppose the person who made the crack comparing candidates to ice cream flavours got that from a Pioneer Press column where I was compared to tutti fruiti. Actually, that was kind of funny.

I ask people to vote for me based on my positions on the issues, and not my personality. My personality might not even get my *own* vote, LOL! As a person, I have four strikes against me getting elected, the same four that have kept me without a girlfriend for ten years now: 1) I'm poor. 2) I'm fat. 3) I believe in a "weird" religion. 4) I don't consider personal hygiene important. However, these four strikes also give me a perspective on life the other candidates don't have.

How many other candidates/politicians:

1) Have ever been homeless?

2) Have been poor most of their adult lives?

3) Get harassed on the streets on a regular basis about their weight, looks, clothes, and/or smell, almost to the point where they hate going out in public?

4) Get unfairly judged for their religious and personal beliefs even when it's not immediately relevant to the subject at hand? Could the point of view of such a person be a unique asset to a city struggling with what to do with poor and homeless people who may be mentally different from the average citizen?

Peace.”

 

From: Carol Becker Date: 6:23 am, May 09, 2013

“ When I teach public policy, I explain to my students that politics is often comprised of two groups: the visionaries and the practical. The visionaries say "We must go in this direction!" "This is right!" The problem is that there are equally passionate people on the other side of an issue saying "We must go in THIS direction!" "THIS is right!" So you need people who are willing to compromise because the system is geared towards small, not big change. Also the system tries to be inclusive of opinions rather than letting one side run roughshod over another side. So you need practical people to compromise because most change is made in small increments.

The problem is that the two groups never get along. The visionaries see the practical as compromisers, selling out the vision and not going where we need to go. The practical (elected officials fall here) see the visionaries as obstinate and irrational, pushing positions that could never be adopted in the practical realm of politics. The reality is that in a political system you need both. You need the visionaries to show the way. You need practical folks to get things done.

What we have in the Mayor's race is two groups. There are a few folks who are legitimate contenders for the position. There are also a number of folks who are running as visionaries, running because it gives them a platform to put their ideas out. The second group will not win the seat but they may win in the sense that they are able to advance their issues in a way that they could not do otherwise. I would hope that each group can see the value in the other and respect their role in the process.”

 

From: Bill McGaughey Date: 11:14 am, May 09, 2013


“ I was one of the less successful candidates in the 2009 election for mayor of Minneapolis. Bob Carney and I tied for second-to-last place behind John Charles Wilson. Was I a “vanity candidate”? Maybe I was if my sole or main purpose was to win. But that was not why I ran.

Carol Becker has it right. There really are two types of candidates: the practical ones and the visionaries. Both have a legitimate function in politics. Since it was not a practical expectation for me to be elected, that must make me a visionary.

In my case, I wanted to have a public discussion of race. I wanted one that respected white people as well as minorities. To my way of thinking, it was not quite right for particular white people to be condemning other whites or the white race in general for various sins for the sake of exonerating themselves.

This concept of historic guilt was becoming increasingly counterproductive. My advocacy of dignity for white people (and others) was conducted under the banner of “New Dignity Party”.

In Minnesota and most other places, you cannot do this without being considered a white racist. If I was not overtly a racist, I must be a secret one. In my heart, I must hate or despise racial minorities. The only acceptable attitude about race today is to admit that white people as a group are oppressive of minorities and are “privileged”.

But, in fact, the whole subject of race is so embarrassing that no one except for militant “anti-racists” wants to talk about it. My raising the subject did not win me any votes. Of course, none of the journalists interviewed me about race or any other subject. There were two debates in which I took part but the questions did not give me an opportunity to discuss my issue.

The irony was that I spent more time criticizing the authorities for harassing one of the African-American candidates for mayor than promoting white people’s dignity. (They had condemned his house for lack of water utilities. Strangely, he learned of this action while taking a shower.) The campaign was slipping out of my hands.

The only ways I could discuss my own platform in the campaign were: (1) through campaign literature and (2) through a debate on MTN with an African-American friend. It was a real debate and not the usual pseudo discussion of race directed toward a particular conclusion.

Well, my initiative didn’t work. I finished in second-to-last place. I thought this would be the end of my political career as a “perennial candidate”.

There was another irony related to this election. In 2010, Bob Carney, whom I had met for the first time as a fellow mayoral candidate, decided to run for Governor of Minnesota in the Republican primary. He asked me to join his ticket as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. I accepted without committing to do any work.

The result was that we won 9,956 votes, or 7.56% of the total, finishing second in a four-candidate race. It was not a bad showing for persons who had each gained only 230 first-choice votes in running for mayor of Minneapolis.

In the end, the 2009 campaign for mayor was a big joke. Rybak evidently thought it beneath his dignity to engage any of the other candidates. He agreed to participate in one debate only and only with Papa John Kolstad, who had been endorsed by the Republican and Independence Parties.

The media pundits and, I might add, the pundits in this forum were even more explicit in treating the election as a joke. Joey Lombard, the “awesome” candidate, was obviously joking. John Charles Wilson, the “Lauraist” candidate, was considered simply ridiculous. A national blog, boingboing.com, delighted in making fun of him and, indirectly, the other minor candidates. The pundits and most others seemed to enjoy laughing at people and generally feeling superior. We lesser candidates were part of a freak show or members of a “lunatic fringe”.

So that was the state of politics in Minneapolis c. 2009. I am done running for mayor. Bob Carney is back, wishing to promote a transportation vision. So is John Charles Wilson. Of him, let me say that, although his vision of society may be “far out” from a mainstream perspective, Wilson is a serious candidate in terms of commitment to a vision. He at least respects the process.

I admire Wilson for taking all the electoral setbacks and ridicule in good humor and persevering in his quest. It is the cynicism and air of superiority in the viewing gallery that I do not admire. It is the demonization of different views.

Elections for public office should be an opportunity to discuss serious political issues. The fact that such opportunities are limited - mainly by big-media gatekeepers - is a reason why politics today is not what it used to be.”

 

From: Connie Sullivan Date: 3:20 pm, May 09, 2013

“ Good try, Bill, but minimal vote-getters in an election do not get to be labelled ‘visionaries’ by default. Much as you and I both value Carol Becker's eloquent statement of why everyone who wants to be a candidate should be able to enter the contest, she oversimplifies the situation of who, actually, gets into our local races.

True, there is the occasional visionary. But mostly, we have the one-issue drumbeaters--there's one in this year's mayoral race, who insists always on talking about Minneapolis schools despite the fact that our mayors have nothing but jawboning to do with schools (that's what Mark Andrew proposes to do: jawbone on learning gaps, which he knows presses people's buttons). From your description of why you got into the 2009 campaign, that one-issue focus fits your campaign then.”

 

(additional paragraphs deleted)

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