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Chapter Six

 

The Website

 

The real work of a campaign begins when the candidate communicates with voters. A good first step would be to build a website. Ours started to take shape in July, shortly after the party was organization as a nonprofit corporation. The domain name, unsurprisingly, was “newdignityparty.org”. This would be a site for New Dignity Party and all its candidates even if I was the proprietor.

The first step was to check with a firm that issues or reserves domain names to see if the name was already taken. It was not. I paid $14.95 to have the name for a year. Since I have constructed several other websites, it was no problem for me to set up the home page and subsidiary pages linked to it using Dreamweaver software. A friend who hosts web sites, Mark Stanley of 4insight.com, helped me set up my first site ten years ago. I am still using the same basic design. I simply copy existing pages, rename them, and then replace existing content with that for a new site.

As a result, my political websites are not state-of-the-art but rather old-fashioned pages that lack features such as video and a “Donate” button. I am content to post position papers on the site and add a few photos. This may be appropriate for an issues-driven campaign but perhaps not for one focused on winning. Once I have the rudiments of a new site, then I need Mark Stanley’s help in placing it on an external server for the whole world to see.

a statements of candidates and principles

A person typing http://www.newdignityparty.org into a browser will be lead to a home page that visually identifies the party’s three candidates - Jim Swartwood, John Butler, and me (Bill McGaughey) - and then identifies three sets of issues in various ways before linking to subsequent pages. The three issues were:

We aspire to establish a new paradigm in the politics of identity.
We would rein in powers assumed by local governments without the consent of the governed.
We lament the decline of honest journalism as big media companies shape the news along certain lines.

Beneath those statements was a restatement of the same issues in more specific terms. For instance: “We like white people (and people of other races, too.)” or “And you’d better shape up, too, Star Tribune!” Then there were links from the home page to other pages that amplified or illustrated each of those themes. The first went to a “mission statement” on identity; the second, to a letter that I had sent to Mayor Rybak complaining of city-levied fees; and the third, to an article that gave examples of how the Star Tribune had slanted political news.

At the very bottom of the page was a digital photo of one of the blue lawnsigns - the most visible element of our campaign. It had a cute slogan, the name of the party, and the names of the three candidates.

Previously, I had posted a digital photo in this space that showed one of those electronic speed meters that shows a driver how fast he is driving. When I snapped the photo, I was driving 21 miles per hour in a 30-miles-per-hour zone. The caption read: “The campaign’s not yet up to speed but we’re getting there.” When all the lawn signs were placed around town, we were presumably up to speed. The picture of the sign then replaced that of the speed meter.

That was, essentially, the first page. It linked directly to a second, third, and fourth page.

on the other pages

Page 2 was devoted to the three candidates. Again, pictures of Jim Swartwood, John Butler, and me appeared at the top, each identified by name. There was a three- or four-sentence biography for each candidate. Then there was a section that disclosed what each candidate hoped to accomplish if elected to the office he sought. Finally, because we would be using Ranked Choice Voting in the Minneapolis city election this year, a final section identified the Second Choice candidate for each of the three candidates. I wanted people to vote for my friend Papa John Kolstad as mayor if they did not vote for me. John Butler wanted his friend, Nancy Bernard, to receive votes for the Park Board at large position. Jim Swartwood listed DeWayne Townsend as his second-favorite candidate for Board of Estimate and Taxation.

Page 3 was for posting position papers and other writings that pertained to our three issues. At the top were links to ten papers that pertained to race and identity. The middle section listed five articles that pertained to “abuse of power by local government in Minneapolis.” A section below this linked to five articles that showed “biased reporting at the Star Tribune.” Most of the papers were already written and were merely copied from existing files to the website. Some were new productions. There was also a link in each section to another website of mine that was related to the featured theme - notably, to http://www.identityindependence.com and to http://www.landlordpolitics.com. Finally, at the bottom were “other” writings such as a piece inspired by Leonard Cohen’s music.

Page 4 was titled “campaign activities”. (This year, my campaign actually had some.) At the top was an announcement that New Dignity Party would hold an open house at one of the Minneapolis library branches. It needed to be updated periodically. Then came a list of times when a video program featuring a half-hour discussion of race between an African American friend, Ed Eubanks, and me would air on the Minneapolis public-access television station, Channel 16.

Other activities mentioned were a debate between the mayoral candidates (except Rybak) at the MTN studio on October 7th and the community celebration held at the former site of Uncle Bill’s Food Market on September 19th. Finally, I posted some digital photos taken during the campaign: a lawn sign placed in a yard, a rally with some other candidates on Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis on September 26th, and a protest event outside the mayor’s office at Minneapolis city hall on October 21st that was covered by KMSP-TV.

position papers

The creation of this website went hand in hand with the formulation of issues, especially regarding identity politics. I wanted viewers to be clear that this was a different take on race than the “politically correct” position. At the same time, it was not an explicit or implicit expression of white racism. I was trying to develop a position that would allow all individuals, whoever they might be, to be proud of themselves, both individually and as members of groups. Racial minorities have been doing this for years; but for white people, it is something of a novelty. The party’s position on race needs to be free of racial contentiousness or hate. It has to seek the positive without breaking down into sweet platitudes. Later I added a statement made by Bill Clinton at the top of the first page. The former President said: “We still haven’t managed this identity thing.”

One of my first productions was a one-page statement on identity that was later used as a campaign flyer. What was “new dignity”. It was, I said, “restoration of dignity that has been lost ... regaining respect for one’s own or another’s personal identity.” There were some proposed principles of a sound personal identity: “You do not add luster to your own character by putting someone else in a negative light. You stand on your own two feet. You do not define someone else’s identity but only your own ... You neither intrude on someone else’s personal space nor accept another’s intrusion on your own.” And then: “We say everyone deserves a positive identity - white people, too. Are you ready for that? Old hateful terms have lost their sting. A new day of more universal respect is about to dawn ...” This was an identity manifesto “announcing a new political party”. I thought it set the right tone.

Later on came some other writings. First, I proposed a “party platform on race and identity” reaffirming the right of free speech and freedom of belief but also disavowing racial supremacy as an element of party policy. Again, there were statements supporting the healthy development of personality. “People of all kinds can rightly feel proud of themselves.” This was a statement in support of “freedom, dignity, and prosperity for all people.”

I was proud of another formulation: “Five Pillars of Personal Pride”. Anyone can legitimately feel proud of himself or herself, I wrote, by exhibiting (1) courage, (2) creativity, (3) kindness toward others, (4) persistence toward a successful end, and (5) a positive attitude. We need to cultivate those qualities in ourselves. Then we can truly be proud of ourselves and openly accepting of others. I might have added that honesty is another personal quality contributing to that end.

Was I a white racist?

One of the most unusual writings had to do with the paradoxical fact that, while I was affirming the virtue of white people, I was running into repeated examples in Minnesota where black people had been wronged. I asked this question: “Mugged by reality ... Am I wrong about racism in Minnesota?” Regardless of one’s general beliefs, we each have a duty to acknowledge truth in particular situations.

In this case, I could think of three situations involving possible white racism. First there was the condemnation of a house inhabited by Al Flowers, a black mayoral candidate, for lack of water even though water was still running to that house. Was someone at City Hall out to “get Flowers” because he was a mayoral candidate? A black man? What was it? Second, there was the questionable condemnation of a building that belonged to an African immigrant, Uncle Bill Sanigular, on orders of the white mayor. Another example of racism? Third, there was the prosecution and conviction of Jermaine Stansberry, a black man, for the murder of a Gopher football player even though DNA analysis and a police report regarding the murder weapon tended to exonerate Stansberry. In this case, the likely murderer was another black man so the racial motive is unclear. But the fact that no one seemed to care about this man’s situation deepened my suspicion.

Another paper of note was the one titled “Trying to get to the Heart of what I believe about Identity Politics.” The initial inspiration for this was a statement in Southside Pride, a community newspaper, to the effect that “Bill McGaughey is still serious about white men being discriminated against.” During a previous political campaign, I had discussed race with the paper’s editor, Ed Felien, whose political views are left-leaning. “Discrimination” against white men or anyone else is the conventional leftist way to look at identity issues. Maybe I was in favor of requiring more white-male CEOs or some other equally absurd position?

But Ed’s statement started me thinking. If discrimination was not my complaint, what was? I decided that I was complaining not of being discriminated against but that other people were trying to define me. My and other white people’s identity was being hijacked by people who may not much like us as a group. So that was the complaint. It needed to be explained.

In any event, creation of the web site gave me an opportunity to clarify my thinking about the three topics at hand, especially racial identity. My views were now exposed to the world. I expected to take flak for my racial opinions or, more optimistically, hear from persons who agreed with me. It did not happen. I had initiated a “discussion” that provoked only silence once I had stopped speaking.

 

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