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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse


March 28th, 2017

What Does Democracy Look Like? @ 04:51 pm


...An overcrowded, stuffy room in the State Capitol building, apparently, at least for me, today.

Sometime ago I got invited to the "traditional constituents luncheon" for district 64. It sounded like a very relaxed sort of affair, boxed lunches for $11 from Cecil's deli, and "conversation" with my Minnesota Legislators: Dick Cohen (Senate), Erin Murphy (House 64A, my district), and Dave Pinto (House 64B).  Senator Cohen looked out over the standing room only crowd with more than a little trepidation and apologized profusely, "We don't have enough seats. Honestly, we normally expect about ten people."

Well, they got at LEAST 50, possibly more. I'd guess close to 80.

These are Democrats, representing staunchly Democratic districts in Saint Paul.

Let me tell you something, these people were all woke.  When they spoke, they mentioned specific bills, by number! (I was really pleased that I'd been following WatchYourReps MN enough to at least know which ones were being talked about by reputation, if not actual number.) And more than that, most of the people in the room leaned HARD Left. The biggest applause (nay, it was more of a spontaneous CHEER,) happened when Representative Erin Murphy suggested they push for Medicare For All for Minnesota.

Meanwhile, poor Senator Cohen was having a little trouble reading the room. After her big cheer, he cautioned that he'd be behind that, but it'd have to be economically sustainable, (which I actually agree with, but DUDE. CLEARLY, the 80-some people here want to hear you leading, radically, up in the front of the pack!)  But, I ended up liking Cohen. He reminded me of our governor, honestly. Kind of a slow build to any kind of fire, a bit plodding, but secretly very, very liberal.  Also, he's a career politician, with simple ambitions. It was a little hard to trust Rep. Murphy because she's running for governor.  So, she has been reading the room and knows EXACTLY what we want to hear. My sense was that she was at least somewhat sincere, but I watched her playing that room--calling certain people by name, waving to others as they came and went.... so, you know, grain of salt there.

The room was also damn near lily white. Only two easily discernible PoCs in the crowd that I noticed, which given the population of my district is... wrong.  On the other hand, this "luncheon" was clearly meant to be something for retirees and self-employeed people like me who can make time to be at the Capitol at 11:30 am on a Tuesday.  Especially since it officially went until 1:30 pm.  Also this was NOT MEANT as a town hall type meeting (though it kind of turned into one) and Senator Cohen kept stressing that normally this is very informal, but because so many people were there they basically were forced to make it a rapid-fire Q&A session rather than a conversation.  Apparently, there is a town hall scheduled for my district, so I'll have to look into attending that, too, and see if it's a different population or if this is basically my SUM (Stand-Up Minnesota, our Indivisible breakout) District group. (The invite to this luncheon got shared on my SUM group e-mail, which I'm not sure was 100% kosher, since I *think* this was an invite only event. They asked for RSVPs.)

Things I learned as far as activism goes:
     1) Go ahead and call and write the governor's office if something passes that's egregious. He's not likely to veto EVERYTHING, but he'll probably veto MORE if he knows we have his back.  This was good to know. I've been hesitant to bombard his office like I have been the legislators'.
     2) You can contact representatives out of your district on bills/issues, but they really stressed that should only be done if you have a strong, specific story that relates.  Better to get friends and relatives who ARE in that district to bug their legislators.
     3) Corporate interest show up at these things. I was really, really surprised to hear someone in the audience identify as a business owner (NOT RESIDENT) in the district, and they pointed out several other people in the room who were the same.  I'm really, really glad residents--actual constituents--outnumbered these people or this would have been a very different meeting, at least with a very different tilt, I suspect.  As it was our legislators all heard that what we wanted was strong defense, strong leadership, and for everyone to go as hard left as they possibly could.

So, that's about it. It was a fairly interesting time, I'd say, honestly.

Now I'm getting ready for my Loft class (12 students!) which STARTS at bedtime.  OMG, I don't know how I'm going to do this whole starting teaching at 7:30 pm gig.  WISH ME LUCK.
 
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From:naomikritzer
Date:March 29th, 2017 01:31 am (UTC)
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We live in adjacent districts: I'm represented by Dick Cohen and Dave Pinto.

Dick Cohen has been in the legislature forEVer. Seriously, I looked this up when I was doing my election blogging this time around and he was elected for the first time the same year my sister was born. And she turned 40 last year.

However, he's a solid progressive vote. "Slow build, plodding, but very liberal" is a fair description. (I wouldn't even say secretly. If you saw him in line at the grocery store you might assume he was conservative just based on his age, but he was an early supporter of marriage equality.)

He's pretty pragmatic, but most of the really long-time legislators are.

You would love Jim Davnie, FYI, my old House Rep in Minneapolis. He is a FANTASTIC speaker, energetic and fiery.

I was hunting down my comment on Dick's longevity on my blog and found this comment I made about someone running for legislature in another Minneapolis District:

There's a legitimate philosophical question about what you want from your elected representatives. Do you prefer someone who is pragmatic, who will set smaller, more achievable goals and get more of those things done, or would you prefer someone who is idealistic, who will have big goals and try to inspire people to work toward that goal, and who (honestly) probably won’t get anything done in the short term? If what you want is something big and sweeping, do you think you’re more likely to achieve it in baby steps, or with the revolutionary, aim-for-the-moon approach?

At this point in my life, I will pick the pragmatist pretty much every time. Half a loaf is not only better than no loaf, it’s way more than I was expecting. Typically I feel like I’m doing pretty well if we get 1/4 of a loaf. But I have very close friends whose views I respect who want their representative to throw that loaf to the side and say “you motherfucker, that is HALF. HALF A LOAF. For people who have NO BREAD. Why should we take this?”

I guess what I really want (and what I definitely feel like I had in my old district and have in my current district) is a legislator who will grab that half a loaf and put it somewhere safe and them come back to the table and pitch a fit about the missing half.


Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse