Kevin Winge

Kevin Winge is a native of Minnesota. He lives in San Francisco, California where he is is the executive director of Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people living with disease. Read more about Kevin Winge.

An Open Letter to Yoko Ono

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: March 26, 2013 - 8:20 AM
Dear Yoko Ono:
 
You’ve been criticized for a lot of things in you life: your art, your fashion, your relationship and marriage to John Lennon. You’ve certainly been pilloried for your views on issues of the day. While I get that criticism oftentimes accompanies fame and artistry and celebrity, there is one topic that you should not be criticized for addressing – your anti-gun campaign.
 
Anyone who witnesses their spouse being murdered by a man wielding a .38-caliber handgun should get a pass on being criticized for their views on gun control. You are more than entitled to your opinion on this issue and you should be applauded for continuing to speak out about it.
 
Your recent tweet (https://twitter.com/yokoono#) that shows your deceased husband’s bloodied eyeglasses beneath the heading “Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.A. since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980” dramatically brings home the staggering scope of gun violence in the nation while poignantly reminding us that every victim of a shooting is someone’s spouse, parent, or child.
 

It takes unimaginable strength, resolve and courage, to use your experience from that December night outside of the Dakota in New York City, more than three decades ago, to push for changes to our gun laws in the United States. May these changes come to pass, and may your part in realizing a country with less gun violence be part of your legacy.

An Open Letter to Senator Portman

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: March 19, 2013 - 12:08 AM
Dear Senator Portman:
 
Congratulations on joining the right side of history.
 
Your recent support of same-sex marriage comes after earlier co-sponsoring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while a Congressman in the U.S. House. Apparently your son coming out as gay to you and your wife two years ago triggered your recent change of heart. You’re quoted as saying, “It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like Jane (your wife) and I have had for over 26 years.”
 
While I don’t want to diminish the significance of having the support of someone like you, a Republican in the Senate whose historic record on gay rights has been called “openly hostile,” forgive me if I don’t join the “Portman as Gay Ally Bandwagon.”
 
There are millions of Dads and Moms out there who love their gay sons and lesbian daughters a lot. No doubt, throughout your political career, some of them tried to talk with you – to tell you why your support of DOMA hurt their children. When you voted to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children, I’m sure you heard from parents who told you that your actions were hurting both their children and grandchildren. Couldn’t you see the love that those parents had for their children?
 
There are those who say that critics like me are being too hard on you. They cite President Obama as a man whose position on gay marriage has also evolved over time. But Senator, there is a difference between your evolution and other politicians’ changed positions. You couldn’t do the right thing until it affected you and your family directly. That is what concerns me.
 
Every day, you make decisions for your constituents in Ohio. How you vote in the Senate impacts millions of other lives. You shouldn’t need to be directly affected by something before doing the right thing. It should be enough to just listen to other people’s stories and to believe them. Maybe you will from now on.  

Who Says the Presidency Is Not For Sale?

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: February 12, 2012 - 12:57 PM

With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision a few years ago, I realized that my occasional donation to a political candidate really wouldn’t make a difference – except perhaps in the most local of elections. After the state shutdown fiasco of 2011, I said a pox on both of your houses and vowed to make no political contributions – to any candidate – last year.

Now we are well into a critically important election year and it’s more obvious than ever that access to leadership in this country and an ability to influence elections is determined by the size of checks you can write – be it to a particular candidate or a political action committee. Aside from casting our votes on November 6, the overwhelming majority of Americans are really shutout of this campaign.
 
Mitt Romney has his “Restore Our Future” Super PAC. Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, “Winning Our Future,” is being bank rolled by a billionaire casino mogul. Rick Santorum’s trifecta last week has energized his “Red, White and Blue” Super PAC. And the millions of dollars flowing into all of these political action committees resulted in President Obama joining in and endorsing his “Priorities USA Action” Super PAC. Given that, does any candidate really believe that I’m going to respond to a robocall seeking a contribution from me?
 
Super PACs my be the real game changer in this election, but if you want to get close to President Obama, you best be prepared to still write a big check.
 
President Obama will be in San Francisco later this week raising money. If you want to hear the President, $100 will get you into the venue. If you want preferred seating, a VIP ticket will set you back $1,000. Want your photo taken with the President, be prepared to cough up $7,500. But if you really want to engage with the President and maybe even ask him a question, you can be one of just 60 people to attend an intimate dinner with the President following the larger fundraising event. The cost of the dinner is $35,800 per person. The first $5,000 of that will go to the Obama Victory Fund with the remaining $30,800 going to the Democratic National Committee.
 
If I hadn’t vowed to not contribute to any federal campaigns in 2012, I would invite the President over to my place for a nightcap following his dinner. I would have a few friends in and we would pass the hat to see if we could raise a few bucks for him. But I guess those days of average constituents actually being able to interact with their leaders are gone. Maybe I could afford to attend an event with the President’s dog, Bo.

S.O.S. for the Republican Party

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: February 9, 2012 - 12:13 AM
After the events of the past few weeks, I just have to wonder if the Republican candidates even bother to read a newspaper. If they did, they would see in the headlines that this course they are on can only end in defeat. While Gingrich, Paul, Romney and Santorum pander to extreme conservatives on the right, the rest of us – the majority of us – see progress being made on critical issues and causes.
 
Take the Susan G. Komen fiasco, for example.
 
America’s premier and beloved breast cancer organization makes a confounding decision to stop supporting Planned Parenthood and what happens? Conservatives don’t carry the day for Komen. Rather, Americans of all persuasions are outraged and Komen is brought to its knees. Overnight, the Komen brand is devalued and Planned Parenthood becomes the cause du jour. This will be a graduate school case study for years, but the Republican presidential candidates should study it now. The extreme right might determine who wins the Republican nomination, but they couldn’t save Komen’s reputation and they can’t carry the day for Republicans in November.
 
On the West Coast, the state of Washington prepares to legalize same-sex marriage and in California, a federal appeals court declares the voter-approved ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. While Gingrich threatens to go all the way to the convention, and Romney attempts to explain why he doesn’t care about poor people, and Santorum claims victory in beauty contests and caucuses that don’t actually translate into delegates, and Paul does whatever it is that continues to attract a handful of supporters to his campaign, the country moves forward.
 
The majority of Americans now believe that lesbian and gay Americans should be allowed to marry; yet the Republican candidates don’t seem to have picked up on this yet. This isn’t surprising, really, considering that two of the candidates don’t seem to understand the duties of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
 
New Gingrich said the appeals court decision was caused by “radical overreach of federal judges” and Mitt Romney criticized the decision of “unelected judges.” Not only are both men out of touch with the increasing will of the majority of Americans, they clearly don’t understand how our democracy works. The former point suggests they will never make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the latter supports why they shouldn’t win the White House.
 
Of course there is one Republican who actually owned the airwaves for a time during the Komen unraveling and is also someone who is known to be a friend to the gay community. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg puts his substantial money where his mouth is on issues of reproductive health and supports same-sex marriage. He seems to have his hand on the pulse of what the majority of Americans believe. Then again, maybe he just reads a newspaper.

Obama the Real Winner in Republican Primaries

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: January 28, 2012 - 10:06 PM

No one is probably more surprised by the red meat antics of the Republican primary season than President Obama – unless it’s Mitt Romney.

Governor Romney, who really has been running for president since he announced his first campaign in 2007, has been the perceived frontrunner in this Republican race – until South Carolina. Prior to that, back in the days when Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann were still in the debates, Romney elevated himself from the pack and stayed out of the fray. He had an air of invincibility about him; as though he had decided that the others were nothing more than also-rans and that he would coast to the nomination.
 
Well, things didn’t work out the way the former one-term governor of Massachusetts had planned. Now, with Newt Gingrich nipping at his heals, Romney has realized he needs to bite back. President Obama and the Democrats can just relax and watch the bloody mess unfold. And what a bloody mess it is.
 
Only in the Republican Party would a rich candidate who made over $3 million last year, Newt Gingrich, present himself as a populist in contrast to a super rich candidate, Mitt Romney, who is said to be worth over $250 million dollars. One candidate has a six-figure account at Tiffany while the other had money in Swiss bank accounts. Neither seems to understand that while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at Tiffany or investing millions in Switzerland isn’t illegal, it just doesn’t look good. Not when you are running for president.
 
When it comes to investments, however, Gingrich might have the upper hand over Romney. The quarter of a billionaire didn’t do himself any favors by offering Rick Perry a $10,000 bet. Romney’s lame explanation of his investments and Swiss bank account – that “my investments are not made by me” – doesn’t really cut it. And the man who manages Romney’s blind trusts who called the Swiss account “an ordinary bank account” indicates a certain level of out-of-touchness with the majority of Americans who would be happy to have a passbook account at Wells Fargo.
 
But if Gingrich can bloody Romney over his wealth and investments, the monogamous Mormon can clearly jab at the cavorting, converted Catholic on anything related to ethics and morality.
 
It’s one thing to have an affair while married. Though, in Gingrich’s case it’s actually two things: two affairs in his first two marriages. It’s quite another thing, however, to lead the charge of the impeachment of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal while the former speaker of the House of Representatives was himself having an adulterous affair. Clinton, you might remember, completed two terms as president. Gingrich paid a $300,000 fine, resigned from Congress and was, according to The New York Times, “the first speaker ever disciplined for unethical conduct.”
 
Barring some late entry into the race by a more acceptable candidate who could sweep in at the last minute and grab the Republican nomination, it seems likely that the nominee will either be Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. No doubt, Democrats are already preparing ads to remind voters, come this fall, of just how bruising this primary season has been.

Enough with Religion in Political Campaigns

Posted by: Kevin Winge Updated: January 8, 2012 - 12:03 PM

I don’t care that Mitt Romney is Mormon. Nor do I care that Newt Gingrich was Lutheran, then Southern Baptist and is now Catholic. I don’t care that Al Franken is Jewish and that Keith Ellison is Muslim. I don’t care which church Barack Obama attended and who his pastor might have been at one time. I don’t care what religion a politician or candidate believes in as long as they keep it to themselves, don’t try to use their faith to win election and certainly don’t try to cram their individual beliefs down the throats of Americans.

I do believe in an absolute separation of church and state.
 
Faith, religion, spirituality – call it what you will – plays a vital role in the lives of the majority of Americans. Let’s just keep it out of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
 
The mainstream religion in which I was raised believed that one’s faith was a personal matter. It could be expressed within the congregation where our family worshipped and within our home. Aside from that, it was no one’s business.
 
We were instructed, by our parents and leaders in our church, to be suspect of those who wore their religion on their sleeves. The more pious and devout one claimed to be in public, the more hypocritical they would often turn out to be. Time and time again, in the town where I grew up, those who proudly took their seats in the first pew on days of worship were the ones whose lives would often be racked with scandal. We’ve seen that same scenario played out on the national stage.
 
What I would love to hear in the upcoming campaigns is a candidate who would refuse to answer questions about religion. A candidate who believes faith is a personal matter. A candidate who would remind voters that politicians are elected to lead on civic matters – not matters of faith. A candidate like that would get my vote – even if they had no religion whatsoever.

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