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Chapter One

 

Why I Ran for Mayor

 

After turning sixty in 2001 and having never run before for any public office, I ran for elective office five times as a long-shot candidate in the remainder of the decade. I ran in the primary for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001 and received 143 votes. I ran in Minnesota’s Independence Party primary for U.S. Senate in 2002 and received 8,432 votes. I ran in Louisiana’s Democratic presidential primary in 2004 and received 3,161 votes. In 2008, I ran in the general election for U.S. House of Representatives in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional district as the candidate of the Independence Party and received 22,318 votes. Finally, in 2009, I again ran for mayor of Minneapolis and received 230 votes. This last contest was in the November election rather than a primary since the Ranked Choice Voting system was used in Minneapolis that year for the first time.

It was a huge disappointment to go, in one year, from receiving 22,318 votes as a Congressional candidate to receiving 230 votes as a candidate for mayor. The Minneapolis electorate is about half the size of that in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional district which includes Minneapolis. On the other hand, the vote in 2008 was swollen by the turnout of many new voters for Barack Obama. The turnout of voters in the 2009 election for Minneapolis city offices, including mayor, was the lowest in that city since 1902. Even so, my share of the vote - about 0.5% - was particularly disheartening. The only consolation is that it represented a gain of 87 voters from my vote total in 2001 as a candidate for the same office.

Why did I run for mayor again? Several considerations were involved. First, as a writer, I have been developing certain political and social ideas that I wanted to express in ways other than publication. Second, as co-director of Metro Property Rights Action Committee (a small group of Minneapolis landlords), I was worried about the future of that organization. Since it was basically a watchdog group critical of Minneapolis city government, I thought that we would need to get directly involved in Minneapolis city politics to be effective. The group had done this, with good effect, in 2001 but had not participated in the 2005 municipal elections. As a result, the weeds culled from the garden of honest government in 2001 had grown back. Minneapolis city officials had become arrogant and disdainful of us as a group. We no longer had teeth.

two sets of issues

My political ideas were embodied in two issues that I raised as a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2002. They appeared in statements displayed on opposite sides of a picket sign that I had used for publicity purposes. One side read: “I believe that the federal government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010.” The other side read: “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity and equality of white males (and of everyone else, too).” Abbreviated, this last statement was taken to say that I believed in “dignity for white males.” Economic policy and identity politics were, then, the two principal, but separate, areas of my political concern in recent years.

Judging from the fact that I received 31% of the 2002 Independence Party primary in a short, three-person contest, I would judge that my campaign platform was reasonably appealing to IP primary voters. On the other hand, my advocacy of “dignity for white males” might have marked me as a closet white racist, judging from the fact that the state’s largest newspaper gave my campaign no publicity and refused a paid ad including those words. My advocacy of a shorter workweek, while ineffective, carried no such stigma. Therefore, in my two subsequent campaigns, I avoided identity issues and stuck with economic ones. They concerned not only working hours but also international trade.

Over time, I began to realize the limitations of that approach. I was not a union member and therefore have no institutional platform on which to advocate with credibility for shorter workweeks and the like. (My best chance came when Paul Wellstone, whom I had previously known, was elected to the U.S. Senate. He wrote in a letter that, while sympathetic to my cause, he would not support legislation that did not enjoy broad (union) support.)

I tried, but failed, to get the Independence Party of Minnesota interested in alternatives to free trade as its founder, Ross Perot, once had been. And, because I was an Independence Party member, those most likely to support my approach would not support me because they were staunch Democrats. The national Democratic Party had sold out to Wall Street in return for parity in campaign contributions. So this avenue of approach was hitting a dead end.

Democrats, Republicans, where would I turn? The Republicans, the party of big business, would not likely sympathize with proposals involving shorter work time and trade “protectionism”. The Democrats were unsympathetic not only for the reasons previous discussed but also because I was, to put it bluntly, a white male who did not go along with the reigning consensus on race and gender.

focusing on identity

My feeling was that the political left was no longer concerned with economic questions. It was, instead, permeated with a latent hatred of white males or, more precisely, of that residual population of Americans, associated with “the power structure”, thought to be oppressing blacks, women, gays and lesbians, immigrants, and other groups. I would never be fully accepted by people in that coalition because of how I was born. That was the problem with leftist or “progressive” politics. Being the person that I am, I had no place there. I, in turn, came to believe that the model of an oppressive “majority” opposed by politically combative minorities expecting to become a majority some day and turn the tables on their oppressors was tearing the country apart; and all this in the name of peace, justice, and love!

So my thoughts increasingly turned to identity politics. Following the election of 2008, I produced a book-length manuscript titled “My American Identity” based on the proposition that I was no longer an “American” but a “white American” carrying all the political and cultural baggage this term implies.

Out of my writing came a belief that redemption was possible, even for white males. All people had a right to be proud of themselves. All had a right to human dignity. But this dignity, now denied to many people, had to be fought for and won, not by complaining but by pursuing a positive vision of oneself. Preferably, it should be done in the company of others. This politics was about creating a new culture of demographic self-affirmation to replace the hate-filled, demographically contentious culture that we have today.

My first thought was to get the book published, which for me means self-published. However, I was personally deep in debt. I could not afford to pour thousands of dollars into printing copies of a book and then trying to sell them. My last two published books have been commercial failures. In this case, the theme of my book would make the book unacceptable to most publishers and also to book reviewers at newspapers and magazines.

True, there are some groups that advocate for white people, but their position is often not the same as mine. White supremacy is not what I support, but white dignity and self-respect. I saw no inconsistency in seeking dignity for white people and others alike. This is how we ought to be in a pluralistic society.

Inevitably, such considerations led to the idea of trying to promote the cause through partisan politics. While the cultural elite would be implacably opposed to such effort, I thought that “the people” might embrace it. Therefore, the way to advance my position on identity was to run once more for political office. Judging from the experience in my 2002 Senate campaign, I thought that greater support for such ideas might lie outstate, in exurban or rural Minnesota, rather than in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities metropolitan area. So my sights were set initially on statewide office. There would be elections to such offices in 2010.

A plan emerged in my mind. Clearly, no existing political party would embrace my approach and risk being tainted with white racism. I could not run as an Independence Party candidate, for instance. Instead, I would have to start my own party. It might be called “New Dignity Party”. To get on the ballot for statewide office in 2010, candidates for this party would need to gather at least 2,000 signatures. That would be a daunting challenge but perhaps doable if the new party attracted a certain core of volunteers.

Once New Dignity Party candidates were on the ballot for statewide office in Minnesota, the goal would be for at least one candidate to get at least 5 percent of the vote. If that goal was achieved, the party would be blessed with major-party status. That meant that, in the future, its candidates could get on the ballot without petitioning but merely by paying a filing fee. Additionally, the party might collect revenues through the political check-off feature on the Minnesota income-tax form. Major-party status would put us on the map, politically speaking.

Property Rights group at a crossroads

Meanwhile, in the late spring and early summer months, I was trying to start a discussion within Metro Property Rights Action Committee about the future of our organization. Lately, Minneapolis city government had seemed to be growing more abusive. Draconian fines and fees were being heaped on property owners. The city was resisting downward adjustments in property-tax valuations. We who had helped elect R.T. Rybak mayor in 2001 were now being treated disrespectfully by this mayor.

The present approach seemed not to be working. What should we do - continue on the present course or become involved in partisan politics? If the latter, should MPRAC be converted into a political party, should it support MPRAC members who ran for public office, or should it stick with a more limited approach? Should a political party that enjoyed our support limit itself to landlord issues or should it get into other questions such as gender and race?

I did a mailing to the group’s active members that included a short questionnaire. The response was poor. Of those few who answered, about half favored becoming more political and half opposed that approach, some quite strongly. It became clear that the co-leaders of the group would be betraying the trust of members to use the group’s resources - we did have some money in the bank - to support a new political party or some of its candidates. The Property Rights group and New Dignity Party would have to be kept separate.

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