I recently read with interest state Senate Minority Leader David Hann’s March 7 commentary regarding political cronyism. For as long as the article was, I failed to see one positive suggestion about what he or his party would do differently. And while I disagree with most of his criticisms, he did manage to accentuate one critical point, although I doubt it was his intention. Minnesotans are generally tired of this sort of rhetoric.
Hann went to great lengths to portray the party opposite as nothing less than crooked. I am certain that the average Minnesotan sees through this and that he is playing only to his own base. And I say this because my conversations with folks across our state prove to me that the repeated negative politics is driving people further and further away.
All of us, as elected public officials, need to take a step back and re-evaluate. And I am well aware that it is happening at every level, from local to state to federal offices. The constant bombardment from politicians about how abysmal the “other guy” or the “other party” is has destroyed people’s confidence in government. Not every politician does this, but it is certainly happening enough to generate feelings of disgust.
What has happened to the days when we tried to sell something based on its merit? As a consumer, I want to hear about the positive features of your product, and why it will work best for me. I really don’t care what your opinion is of a competitor’s product. Can we not apply this principle to politics?
Let me try an example. I am incredibly proud to be a DFL legislator here in Minnesota. Why? All I have to do is look at the last two years and the amazing and progressive work done on behalf of Minnesota. Our budget is finally structurally sound, and we have made incredible investments in important areas such as education, health care, local governments, transportation, broadband and so much more. We have invested in growing Minnesota’s economy and put our children as our most important investment, and we did it all while not raising taxes on the middle class. See how that works? I was positive about the actions of the DFL, and not a single negative reference or accusation against anyone else.
There was once a time when members of opposing parties would take pride in debating the issues, without stooping to personal attacks. There was no barrage of negative mail or ads at election time. Voters made informed decisions based on candidate views or perspectives, and perhaps how the candidate portrayed themselves. It was not about making the other side look as unscrupulous as possible.
So I offer a challenge to all of my colleagues in the Legislature: Let’s try to focus on Minnesota — and I mean all of Minnesota. Tell your constituents why you are best choice, why your views are important and why your ideas are the best for our future, and let them draw their own conclusions about the other side. I am suggesting to you that if we don’t change this cycle of negative attacks, the voters will only continue to be disenfranchised.
Regardless of party or personal beliefs, we should all agree that we want Minnesota to be as good as it can be for everyone. We want our children and grandchildren to excel and live their lives here, raise their own families here and do so knowing that they live in the very best state in the nation. I am willing. How about you?
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.