First, why do you care what I think? For these reasons: 1) I live in Congressman Phillips’s district; 2) While we are not buddy buddy, I consider him a friend, and we have a mutually respectful and trusting relationship; 3) I’m not really going to make much of a statement about the Congressman’s run, but rather, what I hope you consider when thinking about, and reacting to, that run.
I do not agree with Dean’s assessment of President Biden, though I do respect it. I’ve not personally been in the same room, or on the same airplane, with President Biden, but Dean has. So, I think it is reasonable to pay attention to what Dean says. But I know a half dozen other people who have been in the room and who have a different assessment, so I am not convinced.
I do think that Biden is on the older side of ideal for running for, or being, president. At the risk of being ageist, there is some point when one is ready to be President, Senator, or Congressional Representative (or Governor), and I think that as a nation, that our electoral will is not properly calibrated. I think we too easily reject younger candidates for their youth, and I think we don’t prefer younger to older during the electoral process as much as we should. In both these areas, I think Dean and I agree.
However, incumbency and a record of beating Trump are also considerations in this election year. Let me tell you a secret about politics that I’m sure you already know. There is a difference between the construct and the ideal. The construct is where we get our strength, and it is the framework that holds together our coalitions. For example, I was recently in a series of meetings where two specific environmental stances — political and legislative constructs for solving an environmental problem — were criticized by a smart person in the room as being imperfect. The criticisms were not accurate, but there was a modicum of truth in them. However, those constructs had been built over a 15 year period. Abandoning those policies and the associated rhetoric, to develop a different version that might or might not be slightly better, would literally destroy the entire existing movement over these issues, built over years and with much effort, and set us back to zero. Two really important very bad things, which we are effectively stopping, would happen to the environment, because of the search for exactness and perfection.
The Democratic Party typically rallies around the incumbent, and that is what we are doing now. I will support Biden in this race, because he is one of the best presidents we’ve ever had, he is still effective, and I see no reduction in that effectiveness. And, I do understand that parties are power building mechanisms, and I’m sticking with my party.
Nothing I’ve said above will change anything, but there is something I’d like to say now that I believe might have an effect. I am in communication with many people in Minnesota politics and activism. Among them, most that I talk to agree with my view of Biden vs. Phillips. There is a subset of people who are on board with Dean, and it is not a small number, but I think if I took a vote among of names on the Minnesota part of my contact list, the majority would pick “Dean, stand down” over “Dean, go for it!”
And it is to these folks that I speak now.
I see anger. I see people disagreeing with Dean. I see people starting to build up a resentment that will put Dean Phillips out of the running for anything he tries to do in the future. I see the growth of a phenomenon that is the very phenomenon that caused us in this district to be defeated, again and again and again, in our effort to unseat a really bad Republican. Local experts will give you a list of reasons that each of those DFL candidates lost, and that may be a valid list, but few will include this item, that I’m absolutely certain is relevant: Every cycle, there was anger and resentment about some dumb-ass thing some earlier candidate or ally of a candidate had done in some earlier cycle, often many cycles back. This made it harder for us to bring in the independents, and it probably kept some DFLers home — not home from voting, but home from door knocking and phone banking and donating. It was not the single reason we always lost, but it was certainly on the short list of reasons, no single one of which was determinative.
If I, or you (depending), or some other person, wants to run for office, and they fill out the forms correctly and honestly, it is their right to run. Every one of us has to remember that at all times. It is easy to be mad at someone running, and sometimes those reasons may be serious political considerations, but we have to separate respect for democracy, which includes respect for the process, with our political instincts. We need to have two trains of thought running at the same time. In this case, disagree with Congressman Phillips, and let him know that. Shout it from the rooftops. But don’t use this disagreement to start a list of long term resentments for a person doing something they have a right to do. Indeed, we LIKE IT when people run for office. Sometimes we don’t have enough good candidates. Indeed, when I work out the calculus of what happens if Dean Phillips gives up his seat in Congress, I see a lot of really interesting things happening in local politics. I’d like Dean to stay as my rep in DC, but I have a nice list in mind of people who can win and would also be great, and I suspect some of them might be interested!
The point by point list of resentments that I see developing is going to hurt. Or, we could just not make that list, stand back, and be ready to pick a great candidate on May Fourth (endorsing convention for this district), wish Dean well, and hope that he stays involved in local politics, one way or anther, after Biden shows him what’s what. He is a respectable person, and he is also — a person! And all of us persons can disagree non-destructively, and even, respectfully.