Think Marco Rubio is “Moderate?” Think Again.

The popularity of Donald Trump among Republicans poses huge long-term threats to the Republican Party. In a nation that is increasingly diverse, the nomination of Trump could further cement the party’s image as the party of bullying white bigots and misogynists. But if there is a silver lining associated with the dark Trump cloud, it is this: It sometimes creates the perception that Trump rivals like Senator Marco Rubio are “moderate” by comparison.  If Rubio gets the nomination, such a “moderate” label would serve him well.

That’s quite a gift to Senator Rubio, because he is far from a moderate. Rubio’s positions put him far, far to the right on the American political spectrum. For instance:

  • Marco_Rubio_Tea_PartyRubio ran for Senate in Florida as the candidate of the extremist Tea Party, not as the moderate alternative to the Tea Party.
  • He has a lifetime pro-choice record of 0% from NARAL Pro-choice America.
  • On safety net issues, the Alliance for Retired Americans gives him a lifetime voting record rating of just 5%.
  • On environmental issues, the League of Conservation Voters gives him a lifetime voting record score of only 9%.
  • On science issues, the Evolution Institute rates his voting record a rock bottom 0%.
  • On veterans issues, the Disabled Veterans of America gave the flag waving Rubio a 0% on its most recent rating.
  • Overall, the American Conservative Union (ACU) gives Rubio a lifetime voting record rating of 98%. In other words, Senator Rubio favored this ultra-conservative group’s positions 98% of the time. For context, conservative Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got an 87% rating, conservative House Speaker John Boehner got an 83% rating, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), an actual “moderate,” got a 47% ACU rating.

Admittedly, the definition of a political “moderate” is not a precise one. But I think we all can agree that the definition of “moderate” is not “one who supports conservative or liberal positions 98% of the time.”

no_moderate_Rebulicans_chartBy any reasonable measure, Senator Rubio is a far-right extremist, as is Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich (88% lifetime ACU rating), who is also sometimes inaccurately labeled a moderate by simplistic pundits.  Political scientists have documented the fact that Republican members of Congress have moved sharply to the right in recent years, and that seismic shift away from the political center is reflected in this year’s field of Republican presidential contenders.

Senator Rubio is not even a moderate in comparison to Mr. Trump. Rubio is more considerably conservative than Trump on several issues, such as affirmative action, Planned Parenthood funding, a progressive income tax, gay rights, and an assault weapon ban.

It is true that Senator Rubio’s rhetorical tone is more mild than Trump’s, and that often drives shallow pundits’ characterization of him as a “moderate.” The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart explains Rubio’s smooth style well:

Rubio has mastered the same technique Barack Obama used so effectively when he was seeking the presidency. When faced with a controversial issue, he doffs his cap to the other side, pleads for civility and respect, insists that it’s a hard call—and then comes out exactly where you’d expect him to come out. On social issues, Rubio is as predictably conservative as Obama is predictably liberal. What they share is their moderate-sounding rhetorical style.

But in the end, moderation is not a function of decibels and diplomacy. Ultimately, it is a function of positions on the issues. If moderate voters are searching for a substantive moderate in this year’s Republican presidential field, the truth is they’re not going to find one.

Reality Check Needed In GOP Debate Venues

GOP_debate_audience_-_Google_SearchIf I were a political party chair, I would make one simple adjustment to make my party more competitive. I would only allow general election swing voters to attend candidate debates.

In general elections, history tells us that the Republican nominee is going to win most Republican voters and lose most Democratic voters. Therefore, their fate is usually going to be determined by their relative ability to attract the roughly one-third of the electorate who are undecided and/or don’t have predictable partisan voting patterns.

If only these type of “swing voters” were sitting in the audience of the debates, candidates would get the kind of reality check that they just don’t get when speaking at partisan debates, rallies, fundraisers, and interest group endorsement interviews.

For instance, when billionaire Donald Trump demeans women, Hispanics, immigrants, and other large voting blocks, he wouldn’t hear the roar of approval he hears from his loyal supporters. He would hear the groans of a broader group of Americans, 59% of whom now have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Trump, by far the worst of all Republican candidates.

When Dr. Ben Carson says the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the worst thing since slavery, he wouldn’t be rewarded with the hoots and hollers he gets at gatherings of extreme conservatives. Instead, he would hear disapproval from Independent voters, a plurality of whom want the ACA either maintained or expanded (only 30% want it repealed).

When Senator Marco Rubio brags about his legislation opposing Affordable Care Act funding of birth control, he won’t hear the “amens” he gets at gatherings of his anti-abortion supporters.   He’ll hear boos from the 69% of Americans, and 77% of women, who support that ACA birth control benefit.

When Jeb Bush describes his predictable plan to further cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, he won’t get the cheers he gets from the GOP establishment. He’ll hear boos from the 66% of Independent voters who want to increase income taxes on people earning over $250,000 per year.

When Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Bobby Jindal and Dr. Carson all tout their support for a constitutional amendment banning same sex couples from getting married, an audience of swing voters would not react nearly as positively as conservative audiences do.   After all, a solid majority (61%) of Independents now favor same sex marriages.

To save their party, Republican candidates desperately need a reality check to prevent them from taking extreme positions that sell well with extreme right wing activists, but harm them in general elections, when they need to win a majority of middle-of-the-road voters. Removing the conservative hallelujah chorus from presidential debate audiences would be one good way to begin to inject such a reality check.

Progressives Should Be Proud To Protect Outstanding Young Teachers

young_teacherAnybody who has followed my lunatic rantings knows that I’m an unabashed wealth redistributin’, Wall Street regulatin’, minority rightsin’, carbon tradin’, Keynesian spendin’, Medicare-for-Allin’, tree-huggin’, consumer protectin’, Pentagon cuttin’, infrastructure rebuildin’, union supportin’, monopoly bustin’, education investin’ liberal.

But the moment I support allowing younger teachers to have their classroom achievements considered as one factor in firing decisions – the same position supported by more than 90% of Minnesotans, the liberal Obama Administration and two-thirds of younger Minnesota teachers with less than 20 years experience — you’d think I’m the second incarnation of Michele Bachmann.   “Teacher basher!!!”

LIFO_teacher_seniority_firing_mapA talented young teacher who is successfully improving kids’ learning automatically should be mandated to be the first to be fired? That’s putting kids first? That’s pro-teacher? That’s pro-education? That’s respecting the teaching profession?  That’s helping struggling low-income school districts, who have a disproportionate share of younger teachers?  That’s liberal?

I’ve listened. I really have. But on this issue, the teacher’s union, for all the good it does, is simply wrong.  Any progressive should be proud to fight for the rights of outstanding young teachers and the kids benefiting from them.

If Vikings Pick Punters “Strictly Based On Performance,” They Should Bring Back Kluwe

kluwe_censoredIn the wake of Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s advocacy of gay marriage, Vikings Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer publicly said he was tired of Kluwe-related distractions, privately told Kluwe that the gays should be rounded up and nuked, and fired Kluwe and replaced him with an untested rookie.

Despite the timing of all these events, the Vikings vehemently denied that Kluwe was fired due to his activism. The Vikings released a statement assuring Minnesotans:

“Chris was released strictly based on his football performance.”

There you have it.  Not salary. Not age (he was 31, relatively young for punters). Not activism. “Strictly based his football performance.” The Vikings assured us that they run a pure meritocracy, and Kluwe’s performance just wasn’t up to snuff.

But that was always a head-scratcher. After all, the statistics show that Kluwe was the best punter in Vikings history. For instance, Kluwe is at the top of the heap in Vikings history in career punt average, at 44.4 yards per punt. Of course, punting is also about placement, but Kluwe is also number one in Vikings history in punts placed inside the 20-yard line.

Despite Kluwe’s impressive performace-based records, Kluwe was fired and replaced by Jeff Locke, a rookie who was completely untested in the NFL. Priefer assured Vikings fans that Locke had bested Kluwe during a brief closed-door punt-off at the Vikings’ practice facility. So, while Kluwe was statistically the best punter in Vikings history, Locke was, Coach Priefer assured us, going to be even better. Kluwe wasn’t even get a chance to compete for his job at training camp.  One closed-door punt-off supervised by Priefer, and the most accomplished punter in Vikings history was shown the door.

How is that working out for Priefer and the Vikings? Kluwe’s replacement Jeff Locke was named by the wonky analysts at Pro Football Focus as the single worst punter in the NFL. Bleacher Report elaborates:

While Kluwe may have been outspoken and a hassle at times, he certainly was able to get the job done from a punting perspective, something Locke has not been able to do through nearly two seasons.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Locke has received a combined rating of negative-20.8 since he entered the league in 2013, which is far and away the worst rating of any punter during this time fame. His negative-10.2 rating this season ranks dead last among 33 analyzed punters.

If it’s really true that Kluwe was replaced by Locke “strictly based on his football performance,” maybe Coach Priefer, or Priefer’s replacement, should be bringing back Kluwe for the 2015 season.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also published by MinnPost.

Where is The Vision of “Progress” From Minnesota Progressives?

Can someone please tell me what Governor Mark Dayton, Al Franken and the DFL Legislature plan to do with another term in office?  Because I have no earthly idea.

I know what they have done in the past, and it’s impressive – an improved economy, health care system, and fiscal outlook.

franklin_roosevelt_new_deal_campaign_button-_Google_SearchBut progressives are also supposed to lead the way forward.  The dictionary says a “progressive” is “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.”

Where is the “new” part?  Where is the “advocating” part?

It’s entirely possible that I’m not paying close enough attention, because this campaign season is putting me to sleep.  But I can’t discern where these top DFLers propose to take Minnesota.

  • ACHIEVEMENT GAP PROGRESS?  For instance, the education achievement gap is a morally shameful and economically perilous problem.  What specific solutions does the DFL offer that are sufficiently bold to at least narrow that persistent gap?
  • CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRESS?  Climate change is the most urgent problem of our times, and Minnesota remains hopelessly addicted to dirty coal-fired power plants and cars dependent on environmentally destructive fracked petroleum.  I know the DFL supports more renewables and less fossil fuels, but how exactly are they going to realign financial incentives to make that more of a reality, and not just rhetoric.
  • COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY PROGRESS?  College is increasingly important for earning a good living, and increasingly out-of-reach for middle- and lower-income families.  What progressive ideas does the DFL offer to address this important challenge?
  • RETRAINING PROGRESS?  Many unemployed and underemployed workers lack the career skills to thrive in a fast-changing economy.  While increasing the minimum wage and funding job-creating bonding projects are great steps, what specific education and training help does the DFL offer to help those workers adjust to our economy’s new normal?

Does the DFL have a “secret plan” for more progress on any of these issues, like the secret plan President Nixon promised to end the Vietman War?  If so, why is it secret?    I just finished watching the PBS televention series about the Roosevelts, and I was reminded that Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor reaped political rewards by fearlessly advocating for bold solutions to society’s toughest problems.

Again, Minnesota DFLers  have earned reelection.  They have a strong record of paying back schools, implementing reforms that have a record 95% of Minnesotans with health insurance,  improving tax fairness, increasing the minimum wage, passing marriage equality, funding job-creating infrastructure improvements, delivering all-day kindergarten, and balancing the budget on-time, in a fiscally responsible way.  That’s very impressive work, at a time when extreme Tea Party-backed Republicans have offered only mindless obstructionism.

But we live in an impatient “what have you done for me lately” world.    To prevent an electoral setback a few weeks from now, DFLers need to fire up their progressive base enough to get them to vote at higher rates than they typically do in non-presidential year elections.  And in terms of a bold new progressive way forward, Minnesota DFLers haven’t offered much to fire them up.

– Loveland

Note:  This post also was also published by MinnPost.

Dear Target: Better Never Than Late

Target_gay_marriage_protestersSo four years after Target Corporation backed fiercely anti-gay rights candidate Tom Emmer for Minnesota Governor, and three years after it refused to oppose Republicans’ mean-spirited ballot measure to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota Constitution, corporate executives have apparently read rapidly changing public opinion surveys and are consequently endorsing a legal brief backing  marriage equality.

“It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage,” ­Target’s human resource chief, Jodee Kozlak, said in a posting on the company’s blog.

What next? Perhaps Target Corporation will come out against Jim Crow laws half a century after they were struck down. Maybe they will reveal their newfound love of the Magna Carta.

I know, I know, that’s not very gracious.   Marriage equality supporters are supposed to celebrate Target now. As a marriage equality supporter, I’m tempted to say “better late than never.”

But the more I think about it, I’m going with “never.”

In other words, I wish Target and its corporate brethren would just get out of politics, even when they agree with me. Target, stop judging our bedroom choices. Hobby Lobby, stop judging our birth control choices. All of you, stop funnelling dark money to bankroll any brainless politician who promises to free you from all corporate responsibility.

Just stop it.

Target’s latest public policy pronouncement is not better late than never. It would be better if Target never again put its valuable retail brand in the middle of divisive politics. I don’t need Target to be a policymaker or kingmaker. Leave that to the voters. I need Target to supply me with a steady stream of cheap, stylish crap that I don’t need. They’re better at that than they will ever will be at politics, so they should stick to their “core competency,” as the C-Suiters  say.

That would be infinitely better for their brand, and our country.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured on MinnPost.

Viking Coach Priefer Still Doesn’t Get It

Mike_Priefer_nuke_gaysEveryone makes mistakes, but the key is to learn the right lesson from the mistake and move on.  That’s the message being stressed by the Minnesota Vikings leadership in the wake of discovering that their Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer had been lying to them about making breathtakingly ugly anti-gay remarks in an attempt to stop punter Chris Kluwe from championing gay rights off-the-field.

That’s a good message.  Yesterday we learned that Coach Priefer is all about the “move on” part of that message.  But the “learn the right lesson” part?  Not so much.

Priefer did appear to learn some lessons:  If you lie, you might get caught.  And if you lie and get caught, that can embarrass you, your family and your team.

Those are lessons all right.  But are they truly the most important lessons?

Coach Priefer was given the golden opportunity at the news conference to prove that he had learned the most important lessons.  As the Star Tribune reported:

Priefer got emotional when asked what he regretted most about what transpired between him and Kluwe.

The biggest thing I regret is I brought a lot of bad publicity to the Minnesota Vikings and I felt like I let my family down,” Priefer said, choking up as he finished his sentence.

Wrong answer, Coach.

When you say that we should round up a group of human beings, put them on an island to be murdered, your biggest regret should not be that the remark created embarrassing publicity.  Your biggest regret should be that you said something unbelievably hateful and hurtful about your fellow man.  You should regret that you infected the world with verbal violence that, intended or not, really does feed and rationalize actual violence against gays and lesbians.   You should regret that you stood in the way of the cause of equality and freedom of speech when you bullied an employee who championed those uniquely American values.

Those are the right lessons, the more meaningful lessons.

Coach Priefer clearly still thinks everything is all about football.  Human rights?  Sure, whatever.  Hate speech feeding hate crimes?  Shrug.  Freedom of speech?  Whatever.  No, Mike regrets that he got caught slamming Kluwe and the gays because it created a distraction from football and an embarrassment to his football organization.  Football, football, football.

I hope someone is dreaming up an industrial strength sensitivity class for this guy, because it is going to take one kick ass class for him to get it.  In that class, they need to show Priefer how many morons with heads full of Priefer-esque “jokes” humiliate, maim and kill people, solely because of who they love.  They need to show examples of how power-drunk employers throughout history have punished African Americans, women, workers’ rights champions and others courageous enough to stand up for American values.

I also hope they line up a management class for Priefer’s boss, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer who told the Pioneer Press:

“I’ve had a chance to visit with Mike Priefer on numerous occasions, almost every single day, to find out what kind of person he is,” Zimmer said. “I knew his father. I know what kind of family guy he is. He made a mistake. So I just go by what I see; I don’t go by what I hear.”

“I just go by what I see, not by what I hear.”  Are you serious?  This guy just repeatedly lied to you, and you’re still saying that you  just go by what you see when you look at the guy and his background?

With that kind of attitude, Coach Zimmer is poised to sweep all kinds of future personnel problems under the rug.  Allegations of sexual violence, domestic abuse, or criminal activity?  “I just go by what I see, not by what I hear about those allegations, and I don’t see a rapist when I look him in the eye.”

The Vikings organization’s words and actions show that it looks upon Priefer’s “nuke the gays” remark as a PR embarrassment, and little more.  Make it go away with some obligatory spin. But they need to take off their football goggles for a brief second to learn the truly important lessons stemming from this ugly episode.

– Loveland

What Chris Kluwe Should Be Saying

chris_kluweChris Kluwe, the former Minnesota Vikings punter who has been blowing the whistle about Vikings speical teams coach Mike Priefer’s anti-gay remarks, could use some PR help. I’m a PR guy, so I can’t help but want to put words into people’s mouths. These are the words I would advise Kluwe to speak today:

 It’s time for me to shut up. Those who know me know that’s not easy for me. But upon reflection, I’ve decided it’s time.

First, I need to do what I urged Coach Priefer to do when he did something ugly. I want to admit I was wrong and apologize.

I was a moron when I pulled an immature locker room stunt that made light of people being raped by a coach at Penn State. I wasn’t threatening an employee for speaking out about civil rights or advocating violence against a class of people, but I was very wrong in a different kind of way.   I was seeking laughs, but I was doing it at the expense of innocent victims. At the time, I thought I was joking, but it obviously looks very different through victims’ eyes, and I should have realized that. That was wrong, and I sincerely apologize.

It’s also time for me to shut up about Coach Priefer.

I achieved what I most wanted to achieve when I started speaking out against my coach’s anti-gay remarks. I got the truth out, an important piece of it anyway. I’m very proud of that, and that made this all worth the effort. After repeatedly denying it for months, Coach Priefer corroborated my story that he said gays should be rounded up and nuked.

It was gratifying to hear Coach Priefer say that I was not lying, as he had accused me of doing. It was much more gratifying to hear him say that he was wrong to say those hateful things. I sincerely hope he means it, and I hope the training he takes about gay people truly changes his heart.

There are still things I don’t understand about this whole situation. I don’t understand why the Vikings don’t release the whole truth, the full investigative report.   I will never understand that. Truth heals, and covering up the truth causes festering.

I also don’t understand why the Wilf’s sanction isn’t commensurate with the transgression — a boss using violent, hateful speech about a whole class of human beings, and threatening his employee for advocating for civil rights. If Coach Priefer had said the same things about African Americans, or other minority groups,  the punishment obviously would have been much heavier. That makes me think the Vikings don’t give gays and lesbians the same level of respect they give others. That is wrong.

Finally, I don’t understand why the Vikings would release a punter who, according to the statistics, was the best in team history. I don’t understand why they would do this at a time when I was doing everything the coach asked me to do for the sake of the team, including punting shorter and higher, which helped the coverage teams and hurt the statistics upon which I am judged.

I know that money and age are always part of player retention decisions in the NFL, but I also know that my championing of civil rights also was part of that decision.  I know this because Coach Priefer said publicly that “Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you.”  No employee should ever be punished by an employer for  speaking out in favor of civil rights.

I knew I would never get my job back. I knew I would never get lost salary, because any money I would have won was promised to LGBT rights groups. But I was still tempted to sue, because I was worried that my employer’s firing of me for speaking out would stifle other NFL players from speaking out for what they feels is right. I still worry about that a lot.

The Vikings are dead wrong about those things. But I’ve decided not to file a lawsuit after all. I got the truth out, and that was my top priority. I hope we all learn the right lessons from this whole ugly chapter. Onward.

Mr. Kluwe is not going to convince the court that age, performance and salary weren’t also part of the Vikings’ decision to release him, so he should reclaim the one thing that is still available to him — the high road.

– Loveland

Photo credit:   Sophia Hantzes, Lavender magazine.

Why Doesn’t Chris Kluwe Just Shut Up?

Kluwe allegations?  Meh.  Why doesn’t former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe just quit all of his blathering about Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer and the gays? Kluwe had his time in the limielight, and it’s time for him to let it go already.  With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to let the home team have a fresh start. The last thing the world needs is another lawsuit.

If you listen to sports talk radio, that’s the dominant vibe from  diehard Vikings fans. Kluwe’s allegations are just a tiresome buzz-kill for them. They’re indifferent about the issue.  For them, it’s all about “let’s play!”

If Kluwe is lying about Priefer, then the fans are right. Kluwe not only should shut up, he probably should get the Jesse Ventura treatment from Priefer.

Truth_to_PowerBut if Kluwe’s boss did ridicule and threaten Kluwe for championing civil rights, and wish genocide on a whole category of human beings, then Kluwe has a moral obligation to sue the Vikings to get the truth out.

At first blush, a Kluwe lawsuit may seem like a money grab.  But Kluwe has said he will donate any lawsuit proceeds to LGBT rights groups.

At second blush, a lawsuit may seem punitive and petulant. But at this point, a lawsuit is really the only way the truth can be revealed. A lawsuit is the only way Kluwe can put former teammates under oath.  It’s the only way he can compel them to tell “nothing but the truth” about what they heard Priefer say. That looks to be necessary, because these are people who would surely be scared to speak out about their current boss.  After all, Priefer could release those players Kluwe-style, costing them millions of dollars. Talk about your inconvenient truths.

What’s the Big Deal?

So before an indifferent Vikings Nation rushes to cry “shut up and let’s play,” let’s step back and reflect for a moment. Here is what Kluwe alleges Priefer said:

Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that “a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance.

Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.

Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was “messed up.”

After this point, Mike Priefer began saying less and less to me, and our interactions were stilted. I grew increasingly concerned that my job would be in jeopardy.

If that’s true, that’s not just rude or insensitive. It’s dehumanizing, abusive and bigoted.  It’s unbecoming of a team representing Minnesota. More importantly, it’s the kind of verbal violence that, intended or not, feeds and rationalizes actual violence against gays and lesbians.

Double Standard

What if Priefer had ridiculed and threatened an employee who marched to champion equal rights for African Americans, women or Jews?  Society wouldn’t tolerate that.

Imagine Priefer had said we should round up all the African Americans, women or Jews to be nuked.  Again, that would not be met by shrugs from an indifferent news media, NFL and  Vikings organization.

So why are so many seemingly indifferent about these allegations?  We should be standing up against this bigotry, just as most of us would if African Americans, women or Jews were the target.  As Hitler death camp survivor Elie Wiesel observed: “The opposite of hate is not love.  It’s indifference.”

I’m not blind to the possibility that Kluwe could be lying. But if he is lying, I can’t believe he would sue, as he has promised he will do if the Vikings don’t release their internal investigation report.   If Kluwe is lying, I would think he would quietly slink away.   If Kluwe moves forward with a lawsuit, I’m much more inclined to believe he is probably telling the truth about Priefer’s outrageous behavior.  After all, why would he put his former teammates on the stand if he knew the truth they would be compelled to tell — under threat of perjury charges — would show Kluwe to be a liar?

Viking Nation, I want to move on to football too.  I want to see if Teddy can throw, Captain can cover the slot and Mike and Norv can coach.  But as difficult as it may be for the face-painting crowd to grasp, some things are bigger than the game. Getting closure on these extremely ugly allegations is bigger than the game.

– Loveland

Would Vikings Have Doubled Down On Priefer If Accused Of Racial Slurs?

Al_Campanis_Nightline-2When Los Angles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis said black players “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager,” he was quickly fired.

When Minnesota Vikings punting coach Mike Priefer was accused of saying something much more violent and radical about gay people, the Vikings gave him a vote of confidence before the issue was properly investigated.

That’s messed up.

Imagine if a Minnesota Twins pitcher accused pitching coach Rick Anderson of saying the things Priefer is accused of saying:

“Coach Anderson would ask me if I had been defending the black people recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that a mixed race couple would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance.

Another time, Coach Anderson made a joking remark about me leading the Martin Luther King Day parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Coach Anderson, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the black people, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

Would the Minnesota Twins shrug off such an accusation?  Would they announce him as their guy for next year before an investigation was completed?  Not a chance.

Watching this, you have to conclude that there is an ugly double standard at work here.  It is  much more acceptable to use gay hate speech in the professional sports world than racial hate speech.

To be clear, I’m not concluding that Coach Priefer is guilty.  The matter needs to be fairly investigated.  But giving the accused a professional vote of confidence in the midst of the investigation is a boneheaded PR move. Worse than that, it is an act of its own form of institutional bigotry.

Here is what I keep asking myself:  If Mr. Kluwe made up this story, why wouldn’t he fabricate a story where there are no witnesses and evidence involved, so he wouldn’t be forced to produce witnesses and evidence?  Because there are claims of witnesses and text messages, at this stage Kluwe’s charge can’t be prematurely dismissed as obviously groundless.

Again, there is a double standard at play here.  If Coach Priefer had allegedly castigated Kluwe for marching in a Martin Luther King parade, the Vikings would have taken this much more seriously.   If Priefer were accused of saying that  people with black skin should be murdered en masse, the Vikings would not have announced yesterday that they were doubling down on him.

There was a time when spewing racial hate speech was much more acceptable among professional sports coaches.  No more.  But with gay speech, we clearly have a ways to go.

– Loveland

Vikings Should Investigate Priefer Bigotry Charges Before Making Him Head Coach

Chris_KleweLast year I wrote a blog post asking the question “Is Chris Klewe Getting A Same Sex Divorce?”  I asked whether the Vikings punter, who had the best punting statistics in Vikings history according to KFAN Vikings analyst Paul Allen, was replaced by a Vikings coach who opposes same sex marriage because of his vocal support for same-sex marriage.

But whatever the real reason(s) for Mr. Klewe’s firing, new information shared by Klewe may need to be factored into the Vikings’ pending decision about its next Head Coach.

In a lengthy Huffington Post piece released today, Klewe shared several stories of allegedly disgusting encounters with his Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer, who is reportedly the leading internal candidate to replace Leslie Frazier as Vikings Head Coach.  Klewe claimed Priefer’s tone changed after Klewe starting speaking out for gay rights:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things. After all, he was directly responsible for reviewing my job performance, but I hoped that after the vote concluded in Minnesota his behavior would taper off and eventually stop.

According to Klewe, all pretenses of joking went away as time went on:

Near the end of November, several teammates and I were walking into a specialist meeting with Coach Priefer. We were laughing over one of the recent articles I had written supporting same-sex marriage rights, and one of my teammates made a joking remark about me leading the Pride parade. As we sat down in our chairs, Mike Priefer, in one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing, said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” The room grew intensely quiet, and none of the players said a word for the rest of the meeting. The atmosphere was decidedly tense. I had never had an interaction that hostile with any of my teammates on this issue—some didn’t agree with me, but our conversations were always civil and respectful. Afterward, several told me that what Mike Priefer had said was “messed up.”

Messed up indeed.  If this account is accurate, Priefer has proven that he can’t separate his personal bigotry from his coaching job.  That’s a huge problem.

It will be very difficult to get players to publicly corroborate Klewe’s version of the stories, because current players obviously have every reason to avoid offending coaches who hold their multi-million dollar careers in their hands.  Special teams players especially tend to be “on the bubble” between being on and off the team.  Therefore, they will be particularly careful about what they say about the people who make decisions about final cuts.

But this is why I’m inclined to believe Mr. Klewe:  If Klewe were making this whole thing up, why he would be citing rants that happened in front of large groups of other players?  Love him or hate him, Klewe is a bright guy, and he could surely fabricate more bulletproof lies, such as tirades that he alone witnessed.

Reasonable football fans can disagree about whether Mr. Klewe should have been replaced as the Vikings punter.  In his piece, Klewe himself acknowledged that his high veteran salary and his age were likely contributory factors, in combination with his outspokenness.

But reasonable people should be able to agree that anyone who rants about killing an entire class of humans because of who they love should not be representing the State of Minnesota as the head coach of our most popular professional sports team, a team that is now being heavily subsidized by Minnesota taxpayers.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf should be able to learn whether Klewe’s accounts are true.  Confidential one-on-one inquiries with other other special players who were at the meetings Klewe references should reveal the truth.  If Wilf finds that Klewe’s accounts about Priefer are true, or even half true, Priefer’s name should be immediately removed from the Vikings’ list of Head Coach candidates.

– Loveland

5 Reasons the DFL Will Lose Ground in 2014

Will the DFL lose ground in state legislative elections in 2014?  Following the 2013 legislative session, there are a lot of things swirling around  suggesting that they might.  In no particular order, here are five things to watch:

Freshman Frailty.  Newly elected DFL freshman won in lots of places in 2012 where they were not expected to win.  There was a good reason why they were not expected to win.  Many of these are difficult districts for DFLers to hang onto under the best of circumstances, and the circumstances will be more difficult than they were in 2012 (see below).  That could make many in this large freshman class of DFLers one hit wonders. Continue reading

Legislators Defending Gay Marriage Vote Should Ask “What Would Wellstone Do?”

If I was a DFL state legislator in St. Paul or Minneapolis who supports gay marriage, I’d be elated about today’s Star Tribune Minnesota Poll showing 46% of Minnesotans agreeing with “the Legislature’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.”  After all, two-thirds (66% agree) of residents of Hennepin and Ramsey Counties and even more DFLers (78% agree) are on my side.

But if the majority of my constituents were outside of those core Twin Cities counties  (only 37% agree), over 35 years old (only 41% agree) or earning under $50,000 per year (only 37% agree), I’d be on edge.

A lot of newly elected DFL freshman are in this position.  If I were them, I would be thinking WWWD – What Would Wellstone Do?

The late Senator Paul Wellstone was much more liberal than the majority of his constituents, just as DFLers in Greater Minnesota are on this issue.  Still, Wellstone was widely respected, even by those who disagreed with him, in large part because he was proactive, sincere, respectful, civil, unapologetic and direct about his disagreements with constituents.  When explaining differences, he made values-driven arguments, not politics-driven arguments. Continue reading

Will Target Put Emmer Back In Its Shopping Cart?

Talk radio pundit and former state legislator Tom Emmer is running to become the new Michele Bachmann.  He fits the part.  Remember, this is the guy who sponsored a “nullification” amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that says Minnesota won’t obey any American laws – civil rights protections, interstate commerce rules, banning of health insurance pre-existing condition limitations, etc. – unless the Minnesota Legislature agrees to do so by a two-thirds majority, a threshold that in recent times has proven to be nearly unattainable.

In other words, Mr. Emmer wants to go to Washington to set federal laws, which he wants Minnesotans to ignore.  It makes perfect sense.

If Mr. Emmer can win the GOP nomination, he will become the new Michele, since Bachmann’s district has been custom gerrymandered for GOP domination.  There won’t be a lot of suspense in that general election contest.

But one interesting question that remains is whether Minnesota-based Target Corporation will again back Emmer, and his anti-choice, anti-fair wage, anti-gay rights, anti-tax, anti-contraceptive, and pro-nullification ways.

To be fair, an  Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel vigorously defended its 2010 backing of Emmer by insisting that he was merely purchasing the anti-tax and anti-fair wage portion of Emmer, not the anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-contraceptive, pro-nullification portion of him.

Continue reading

The Morning After

After yesterday’s enactment of Minnesota’s gay marriage law, I was pleased to wake up this morning to see that:

1)   The sun rose, Armageddon had not arrived.   Fire, brimstone and locusts appeared to be in short supply;

2)   I was still married, despite the unsuccessful defense of my marriage;

3)   Thousands of Minnesotans had not converted to gayism, as per the alleged “Gay Agenda.”

Continue reading

Symmetrical Couples and Asymmetrical Stadiums

Yesterday was a tough day for traditionalists.  If you like your weddings square and your stadiums oval, it was not your day.

The Minnesota Senate passed a law extending the freedom to marry to gay people.  A few hours later the Minnesota Vikings presented a stadium design that is more likely to be featured in the Hirshorn Museum than the Football Hall of Fame.

I feel for my conservative friends, who are hopelessly nostalgic for the glory days of their youth, when Ward and June were prototypical couples and football was played in Met Stadium’s glorious mud, wind and ice.  Yesterday, they were served a heapin’ helpin’ of contemporary change, and I know it was jarring for them.  As of this post, shrapnel from Joe Soucheray’s head reportedly has been found in three neighboring states. Continue reading

The Real Heroes Of The Gay Marriage Debate

As the Minnesota House debates legislation to extend the freedom to marry to gay people, I’ve been reflecting on my own journey on this issue.  I suspect I’m not alone.

My first exposure to homosexuality was being called a “fag,” “queer,” “homo” or “mo” on the playground of my Catholic elementary school.  Before I alarm people, this isn’t a confession, at least not the kind you may be thinking.

Continue reading

Is Chris Kluwe Getting A Same-Sex Divorce?

Statistically speaking, Chris Kluwe is the best punter in Minnesota Vikings history, according to KFAN Vikings analyst Paul Allen.

Yet this weekend, the Vikings used a high draft pick — high for a punter anyway, a fifth rounder — to potentially replace Kluwe. The Vikings say this move is strictly about Mr. Kluwe’s on-the-field performance, and has nothing to do with any off-the-field issues.

As noted, Kluwe’s punting career statistics just don’t warrant a firing.  Moreover, Kluwe is not trending downward.  He is coming off his best statistical year of his eight year NFL career, averaging a net 39.7 yards per punt.

Continue reading

Norm Coleman To Return To His DFL Roots?

Former St. Paul Mayor and U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is nothing if not flexible.

  • When  leftist radicals were de rigueur in the 1960s, Norm 1.0 was a leftist radical.
  • When Skip Humphrey and Bill Clinton were on top of the political world, Norm 2.0 clung to them and the rest of the Democratic establishment.
  • When the easier path to higher office appeared to be through the GOP, Coleman retrofitted into GOP Norm 3.0.
  • When the Tea Partiers became power brokers, Norm 3.0 dutifully donned a tri-corner hat, formed a Super PAC to fund Tea Party-backed candidates, and endorsed Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann for, I kid you not, Vice President.

Then in 2012,  the going got tough for Senator Coleman and Tea Partiers, so the tough got a poll. In a St. Paul Pioneer Press commentary this week, Coleman advises Minnesotans  that he is in possession of scientific evidence indicating that “Minnesotans are not anti-government.” Continue reading