Tag Archives: Minnesota Primary

Drama in the Minnesota Democratic Primary: Ellison, A-Slim’s Mom, Lori Swanson’s Staff

On Tuesday, Minnesota has its primary. This is the second of a two stage process of putting up candidates for the general election.

There is an endorsement process here in Minnesota, where delegates gather at various meetings and typically endorse a candidate for each of the partisan races. Then, the candidates go through the primary process if they are continuing to challenge each other, or if others jump into the race.

This process works fairly well most of the time for most races. People complain about it, but the complaints can be sorted into those that are pretty legit and we can’t do much about, those that are pretty legit and we can fix, and those that are largely imagined. Compared to having only a primary, in which bigger money wins the larger share of votes for state wide races, the endorsement is in some ways more democratic, if by democratic you mean anyone can be involved. If by democratic you mean anyone can show up without any knowledge and vote for the pretty name, then the primary is more like that.

There is evidence that the endorsement-followed-by-primary process does not work well for the governor’s race (but see this important discussion on that), it does work very well for the vast majority of races in Minnesota. For local races, such as the state House of Representatives, it is impossible to see how a primary-only system would serve better than the endorsement process.

But I digress. The point is, when there is an endorsement, there is considerable thoughtful vetting by numerous people and organizations. People who know a lot about the individual candidates, and public interest groups such as environmental groups, unions, etc., engage in a multi month long conversation. There are candidates that get past this without real vetting, the anointed ones, and I’ll talk about them in a moment. But most candidates get a pretty good look-at.

But then there is the primary, and in the primary, anybody can run. This year, there was a big mixup in who was running, described here. This mixup resulted, among other things, in these two novelties: AG Lori Swanson, previously fake-running for governor, then (apparently) fake-running for attorney general, then real-running for governor, kinda snuck into the race; and Congressman Keith Ellison was suddenly running for attorney general instead of Congressperson for Minnesota’s Fifth District, where he was endorsed for re-election in a district he normally wins by a huge margin.

The thing is, both of these individuals are what I call “Anointed ones.” What does that mean? It means this. If you go and ask a random selection of 20 democrats, and back up that process by selectively asking 5 or 6 trusted individuals that you know know everything about the process, about a particular candidate, they unequivocally assert that candidate is great. But if you dig deeper, you will not really find out why. If you get an answer it will have to do with the fact that the person represents their identity very well. “She’s the first woman to be in that position” or “it is great to have an African American in that position.” There may be other reasons a person is anointed, but it seems often to be an outcome of identity politics. And, I agree that those are GOOD reasons to like a candidate. But if these reasons are held up as sufficient, it is possible for serious problems to be ignored. That may be the case with both Swanson and Ellison.

Congressman Keith Ellison is the rare African Americans in Congress, and the only Muslim. He also is a great member of Congress and does a better job than most of the rest of them, and he represents his district very well. But, he is anointed, so things could get past the vetting owing to his status, as long as he is running for re-election in that race. We really don’t want anything to be wrong with him. He is golden.

Attorney General Lori Swanson, I think, was one of the few higher ranked women when she was first elected, and perhaps for that reason her SDS, even though, when you dig a bit deeper, you find all sorts of problems. She is also anointed and golden.

This is a system that seemed to be working as long as each of those politicians stayed in their lanes, in their offices running for re-election. But now that they are running in competitive races, against real alternatives, they are getting suddenly vetted and things are going badly. Had either of them gone through the endorsement process mentioned above, we likely would have found out what we are finding out now much earlier (assuming it is all real). As it is, we are finding out just a few days before the primary (and weeks after early voting started!) that each candidate may have a serious deficit.

The problems with Swanson, as described here, were revealed just a few days ago. If these revelations turn out to be true, Swanson has inappropriately and extensively used her Attorney General office staff as campaign workers on several campaigns. If that turns out to be true, it is actually in line with other allegations that have to do with the AG’s office, Swanson, and her prior mentor and the previous AG, Mike Hatch.

Then, suddenly, overnight, and this is just being learned about now, allegations have also come out regarding Keith Ellison. I’ll post the whole of it below. You can make your own judgement.

I don’t know for real about these allegations about Ellison. No, I do not agree with the #IBelieveHer philosopphy at all. I strongly prefer the #ITakeHerSeriously and #DueProcessForAll and the #IfThisIsRealWellThenLetsSeriouslyAddressIt philosophies. So I’m not saying these allegations are real or not. But that there is this big ass allegation on the Sunday before the Tuesday primary is a big ass deal.

Let me say a word about early voting. The other day I was at a thing with a bunch of Democrats. One of them asked me, “did you vote yet?” I said no. She said, “you can vote early, you know!” I said “I know, I’m not doing that. I’ll vote on voting day.” She got mad at me. Dirty looks and all. Somehow I was doing something wrong by not voting early. She tried to convince me that early voting is a good thing, not a bad thing, and I should do it.

Jeesh. Of course early voting is a good thing to have as an option. But a given individual need not vote early. If there is any chance you will not be able to vote on election day, go vote early. If early voting is the only way you get to vote, absolutely vote early! But early voting has a cost as well. Two costs.

The first cost is that it literally costs money. If 20% of the voters in a given state switched either to early voting from regular voting, or the other way around, then the shift in the cost of elections would be something like tens of millions of dollars. It costs minutes of time to process an early vote. Scaled up, machine voting is almost free to add more.

The second cost is what we are seeing right now. Many people are going to arrive on Tuesday, election day, having voted for a candidate that they then realize they can’t support. Worse, they will have voted for a candidate that would be destroyed by the Republicans in the general election. Personally, I wasn’t going to vote for Ellison for AG or Swanson for Governor anyway, but still. And it is now Sunday AM. Tuesday is a LOOOOONG way away, politically. Apparently.

So yes, early voting is good. But don’t do it if you don’t need to!

Another piece of my mind: If you are a politician or hope to be one, follow this rule if you can. Don’t say nuthin’ about nuthin’ when it comes to attacks on your rivals. Refer people to the system. Like this attack on Keith Ellison. At least one person, and I shall not name the person, came out with the Ellison information publicly, and was instantly attacked for doing so. That candidate probably lost votes.

This is especially true in Minnesota. Let me explain how this Minnesotan cultural trait works.

Joe rapes and murders several children in a day care center.

John, at Thanksgiving with all the family around, gets mad at Joe and says, “That mother fucker … I want to kill that guy.”

The fact that John swore at Thanksgiving makes him as bad as whatever he swore about. Since Joe is a multiple raper-murderer, John is now regarded as a multiple raper-murderer. It is a Minnesota rule. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there many times.

Anyway, if you are running against a candidate and someone makes an accusation, say nuthin’ about nuthin’.

Here is the story, provided for your information but with the caveat that this is totally unverified and does not come from a vetted source.

Austin “A-Slim” Monahan is a dude on Facebook. I can’t say much about him. He claims to be one of the hoottest upcoming rappers. The claim is that his mother had a relationshipo with Keith Ellison that went bad then got worse. A-SLims statement on his facebook page reads:

My name is Austin Monahan and I am writing this letter on behalf of me and my brother.
My brother and I watched our mom come out of pure hell after getting out of her relationship with Keith Ellison. For several months we knew something wasn’t right and couldn’t figure it out. When we asked our mom if everything was ok, she told us she was dealing with some stress and would be ok.
In the middle of 2017, I was using my moms computer trying to download something and I clicked on a file, I found over 100 text and twitters messages and video almost 2 min long that showed Keith Ellison dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming and calling her a “fucking bitch” and telling her to get the fuck out of his house. The messages I found, were mixed with him consistently telling my mom he wanted her back, he missed her, he knew he fucked up and we wished he could do things different, he would victim shaming, bully her, and threaten her if she went public. I text him and told him I know what you did to my mama and a few other things.
I met up with my mom that night and asked her what happened. She said nothing happened until I told her I saw a video and hell of a lot of messages saying something different. She finally talked. My brother and I were so angry and hurt for our mom. We were ready to go public but our mom begged us not to and she along with others convinced us it wasn’t in our moms best interest.

I saw message after message through out all that time, where my mom was telling him she wasn’t going back to him but still saw his humanity and offered restorative justice. I honestly don’t see how she would offer him that, but thats her choice.

Sitting all this time, watching what our mom went through and not being able to say or do anything was hard as hell. None of you know the hell our family has gone through. I don’t think half of you would even care. We watched her so called political friends stand by say or do nothing. People had an idea what happened and never reached out to my mom. The same people who are posting about social justice are ready to smear my mom, protect a person who abused her and broke the law. You think we give a shit about a politics when we saw what our mom went through? She may not matter to none of you, but she is our mom, our kids grandmother and she is actually someone. There is a lot more he has done to my mom and others that we saw in the text but our mom can decide if and when she wants to tell the world that part.

Whether we saw the video or read all those messages, we still would have believed her if she had told us. #Ibelieveher

My mom has always tried to protect me and my brother. She doesn’t have to protect us anymore and we aren’t letting her stand alone. When we found out our mom was planning on sharing her story, that is all we needed to hear for us to share ours and stand with our mom. You want to smear someone, try to lie about a person who didn’t do shit to deserve the ongoing emotional, physical abuse, smear me and my brother.

I use to believe the Democrats were the ones who would stand by a person who went through this kind of abuse, now I know both Democrats and Republicans could care less when it comes to violence toward women and girls.

I have learned a lot about how patriarchy has shaped me as a 25 year old through all this. I just became a father and I am working on how patriarchy influenced thoughts ad decisions I have made as a young man so I can teach my son better. I am starting today by standing with my mom, my sons grandma. It is not just on women and girls to speak out, it is on men to do some of the emotional work. I’m not here to prove shit to anyone, I’m just stating facts. You can take it or leave it.

Mom, I am sure you are getting contacted about this post. Just know we love you and we are standing by you.

Austin Monahan
#Ibelieveher #wearemanenough #Timesup

Political costs of black lives not actually mattering

The real cost, the important cost, of black lives not mattering to the white establishment, the police, and others, is of course uncalled for injury and death of, mainly, young black men, but also anyone of color regardless of gender or age. But here I simply want to point out a different thing, which will circle back. These are my opinions as an observer of politics in Minnesota, and focus on the Twin Cities. I am not issuing an endorsement or a criticism of any individual in office, formerly in office, or running for office. Just pointing out some key realities and giving my perspective, which is in my view at least partly correct, but likely subject to revision.

Here is the typical scenario. Something happens that brings together a group of Minneapolis or other Twin Cities metro area police officers, and a person of color, probably a male of a certain age.

There is a certain chance the man has in fact done something to attract legitimate attention of the police, but maybe he hasn’t. Either way, he now has the attention of the police. This is scary for many police officers who happen to have a racist streak, because black people of all sorts are scary to many white people. Add to that the fear that naturally comes along with being a police officer, etc. etc., and you end up with the cops shooting the black person. It is even scarier for the person of color because he or she is now confronting a real chance of violence, injury, or death.

This is not good set of circumstances for a rational and productive conversation.

There are usually two other elements. One is the idea that the black person has a gun, or that it looks like the black person has a gun, or in some cases, the black person is “acting in a way consistent with having a gun,” a formulation recently seen in the media that would totally make me laugh if it wasn’t so utterly un-funny.

The other element is a video, either taken by a passer by, or a dash cam or cop cam video.

And, in the cases of these meet ups that we usually hear about, the cops end up shooting the citizen. Usually killing the citizen.

Now we come to the political elements.

First, acknowledge that a black person shooting at the cops with a gun is liable to get shot to death. But, a black person with a gun in his or her possession is likely not violating any laws. Minnesota is a conceal and carry state, and as a country, we are gun happy and love guns and everybody could have a gun, nearly. So putting the gun in the hands of a black person does not justify their death on the street. Keep that in mind.

When we have a police shooting in the news, there will be all sorts of information, often contradictory (and thus not that reliable) about what happened. Pretty quickly, the prospect of a video of some kind comes into play. Investigators justifiably want to keep the video under wraps for a period of time in order to not influence witnesses. Community members, the family of the slain, and others, justifiably want the video released. But, the people who have the video, such as the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or a County Prosecutor or similar, get to choose when to release it.

I strongly suspect that the cops and prosecutors hang on to the video longer than the absolutely need to. A little bit of that extra time may be in an abundance of caution. But I suspect that most of that extra time is some sort of power play, and is inappropriate.

The mayor of the city in which this happens is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The mayor likely wants to please the citizens by releasing the video sooner than the cops do. But the prosecutors make the point that if it is released too soon, and this ruins the case, then the mayor would be responsible. And so on. So, the mayor tries to put the issue off, making the claim that we simply have to do what the police do, and not interfere with the investigation.

You know the drill. We see it every week or so somewhere in the US. The Twin Cities Metro has this happen every few months, it seems. It is happening right now, as I write this.

Which brings us to three elected individuals, what is happening to them, and what I opine about it.

Mike Freeman is the Hennepin County Attorney, and thus, responsible for making many of these decisions about what to do. He just now decided to not prosecute the police after a recent police killing. There was a video, there was a gun, the community is angry,etc. There is a good case to be made (though I’m not saying this is what happened) that at the moment the cops emptied their guns into this particular black man, they were justified, because maybe he had this gun pointing them. But there is also a good case, it appears, to be made that the entire incident was botches by the cops, and that the police essentially goaded this man, who was clearly having some problems of his own, into this confrontation.

Mike Freeman has been County Attorney for a long time. (Full disclosure, I’ve known him as a politician, and was a member of a group he represented in private practice.) I am not entirely sure what happened at this year’s County nominating convention, but Freeman did not get the endorsement of the Democratic Party, as one might normally expect. Another guy got that endorsement (though Freeman is still running in the primary). I strongly suspect this pushing off of the established candidate was because of a general feeling among the population that we’ve had enough. I don’t know if giving the endorsement to the other guy was definitely that, or if it was the right reaction. But I suspect the idea that black lives need to matter more was behind this fairly stunning political shift.

Betsy Hodges was the Mayor of Minneapolis. She lasted one term, then got replaced with a new guy. A major contributing reason for this was almost certainly because of a string of events in the city where black lives were being shown to not matter, and with Hodges not jumping in on the side of the community. She said good tings, but when push came to shove, she did not march into the police chief’s office, grab the video off her desk, and give it to the press.

Now, with this latest shooting, we see the new mayor, Jacob Frey, under the political gun. I don’t have an opinion on Frey. But I do see him doing some of the things Hodges did. He is, I suspect, being cowed by the police establishment. He is not coming down hard on the side of the community. He will not last as mayor if this happens one or two more times this term. And yes, it is unfortunately likely that the opportunity for Mayor Frey to tell the Minneapolis cops to shove it will arise two or three times in the upcoming term. I hope he does. But I expect him to not.

Hodges did stand up to the police union, but she did not stand up to the prosecutors. She should have risked the case being damaged, if necessary, to get at least one of the videos related to a shooting while she was mayor out to the public. If the public, the community under threat here, is actually making a mistake by demanding early release of videos, then so be it. Let’s find out if releasing a video two days after the event really does mess up the case. Personally, I doubt it would. But even if it does, we know broadly that the problem here is deep, wide, and systemic. What happens to a cop in a given shooting, with respect to the criminal justice system, is actually not as important as forcing overall, deep, systemic change in how the system works.

Hodges, down. Freeman, threatened. Frey … figure it out.