Let me start by saying I’m about as apolitical as a person can get. Just about everything about politics turns me off. It feels, mostly, like a bunch of people who think they’re smarter than they are making petty arguments and self-serving agreements that wind up helping or hurting large numbers of people. Yet somehow, it works. It’s worked for about 236 years, in fact, so well that the United States is easily the best and most powerful country in the world.
I’m also a die-hard Viking fan and ardent supporter of the new stadium. With that as a preamble, I have been following the legislative machinations over the Vikings stadium issue over the past three days with infinitely more interest than any other political event, well, ever. While at times mind-numbingly boring, at the same time it’s somehow been absolutely fascinating.
My first observation is that, apparently, being well-educated about an issue is not a prerequisite for being elected and, ultimately, casting a legislative vote. That may be harsh, but I was struck by the sheer idiocy of many of the arguments, both for and against, the proposed stadium. I understand that much of the posturing and the bringing forth of ludicrous proposed amendments is a political tactic employed by legislators on both sides of the issue, but some of it most certainly isn’t. It’s both frightening and shocking to see how ill-informed some of the legislators were on the issue at hand.
For example, here are just a few of the absurdities that occurred during the initial debates in the House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday:
- One congresswoman stood up and declared her desire to add an amendment that would require that every Vikings game be carried on television for free for every citizen of Minnesota. The NFL’s blackout rules and the television networks be damned, by law we were going to force every game to be on free T.V. for everyone! During her argument, she made vague reference to “rumors” about the NFL starting their own network. Hate to break it to you, ma’am, but the NFL Network debuted in 2003.
- A legislator made reference to “Zygi Wolf.”
- Another railed against the expansion of gambling one minute, only to subsequently propose an amendment that would have created an online lottery.
- There was an attempt to make the Vikings a publicly-owned entity, like the Green Bay Packers. NFL rules no longer permit public ownership of their franchises – it’s been disallowed since the 1980s.
- Late on Wednesday night, a legislator stood up and confused the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs with Saks 5th Avenue.
- Within a span of a few hours, the Senate added a requirement for a Minneapolis referendum to approve the stadium plan, only to revoke it, then they passed an amendment that would have dramatically increased the amount of user fees in the bill, only to have the same amendment voted down on a re-vote only moments after it had been approved.
- One of the main proponents of the bill held up a sign saying “Help!” as one of his colleagues proposed yet another hare-brained amendment. In a refreshingly candid revelation, a representative stood up late in the House debates on Tuesday and said, “People are watching, and see how stupid we look.” Amen, brother.
And that’s just a tiny fraction of the shenanigans that occurred during the combined 20-plus hours of debate on the stadium bill in both houses of the Minnesota legislature. Eventually, it got to the point where it wouldn’t have been a surprise if someone had raised an amendment proposing that the Vikings be allowed to play with 15 players on the field, or another forcing the Packers to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Vikings. Many of these legislators evidently believe they can do just about anything they want.
To be fair, there were more than a few very intelligent and well-spoken people arguing on both sides of the debate. But generally speaking, it’s nothing short of astonishing that these are the people who are making decisions on not only the stadium, but on far more important issues. I can only hope that they are less ignorant when it comes to things like health care and education.
Somehow, despite all the senseless time-wasting, absurd amendment proposing, and petty political maneuvering, the democratic process actually worked. On Thursday afternoon as the final minutes wound down just prior to the final vote, a Senator stood up and made an impassioned speech about how the end result of the hours of debate was something to be proud of; a bi-partisan effort that resulted in a brand new stadium that will keep an important piece of Minnesota culture around for another 30 years. It was almost enough to make me forget about all of the ridiculous stuff that happened in the preceding 48 hours. Almost, but not quite.
In a way, though, he was right. The process certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was shockingly ugly. Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave if he saw legislators fumbling their way through parliamentary procedures, ill-prepared speeches, and un-researched proposals while grown men wearing purple and gold face paint chanted rallying cries from outside the door; all of it unfolding in front of the world on television and on the internet. But the end result of it all was a compromise between the state and the owners of the Vikings that some will hate and others will love, but that ultimately represents what most of the citizens of Minnesota seem to have wanted.
Where else in the world can a dude wearing purple-and-gold zebra-striped Zubaz with a painted face, two yellow ponytails, a leather vest, and a nordic helmet with matching horns help dictate what happens at the highest levels of government? Only in America.
Follow Christian on Twitter: @CP_ChristianP