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.

Bachmann Accuser: Congresswoman “Hijacked by Mercenaries”

The following was submitted to Wry Wing Politics via an April 6, 2013 email written by Peter E. Waldron, the former National Faith Outreach Director for the 2012 Michele Bachmann for President campaign organization.  Dr. Waldron’s post-election allegations that Bachmann violated election finance laws are currently being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in Washington, DC.  He also says that Bachmann has asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement that he says would bar him from discussing the Bachmann campaign’s “unethical, illegal, or immoral activity.”

Dr. Waldron, who has an interesting personal history, was responding to a January 16, 2013 Wry Wing Politics post. 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

The Battle of the Bachmanniacs: Mercenaries versus Missionaries

The Star Tribune’s Kevin Diaz is covering an interesting story about an ugly battle happening inside Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign circles.  The coverage details allegations made by an evangelical leader named Peter Waldron who worked as a national field coordinator for the Bachmann-for-President staff.

Mr. Waldron is accusing Bachmann of several things, including complex and serious violations of Federal Election Commission (FEC) spending laws.  But at the visceral core of Waldron’s allegations, he is also blowing the whistle on the fact that Bachmann refused to pay Waldron and his campaign allies, at the same time she was paying a lot of money to a political consultant, Guy Short, and an Iowa Republican party official, Kent Sorenson.  This as much about the IOU as the FEC. Continue reading

A Kinda Sorta Retraction on Constitutional Amendments

A while back, a communications strategist for the Minnesota House Republicans took umbrage with my assertion that the 2012 GOP-controlled Legislature had a historically low approval rating of 17% in part because Republican legislators were:

“Wasting all their time on constitutional amendments to limit Minnesotans’ freedoms to marry and vote.”

He took exception with my use of the word “all.”  To his credit, the Umbrage Taker was wielding supportive data, which earned him extra credit in my book.  I have no reason to dispute the data, and found them interesting, so I am happy to share them to hereby clear the record:

Continue reading

How The DFL Can Avoid The “Overstep” Label on Gay Marriage

A popular post mortem for Minnesota Republicans being drummed out of office in 2012 is that “they overstepped on social issues, especially spending all their time trying to ban gay marriage, instead of focusing on the bread-and-butter issues.”

 Is the DFL Now Overstepping Too?

So, are DFLers now doing the exact same thing by pursuing legislation legalizing gay marriage?

The situations are not entirely analogous.  There are important differences between what the Republicans did on gay marriage, and what the DFL is doing: Continue reading

The Anti-Amendment Amendment Lives

A little less than a year ago, I blogged at The Same Rowdy Crowd about One Minnesota Ballot Initiative I Could Support.

In said blog, Captain Obvious pointed out that Minnesota is supposed to have a representative democracy, where we elect leaders to make decisions for us, rather than a direct democracy, where elected officials pass the decision-making buck back to the voters who elected them to make decisions.

My specific complaint was about Minnesota conservatives’ rush toward a rash of constitutional amendments as a means of bypassing the normal two-branch lawmaking process, which includes a liberal Governor in possession of a veto pen.

I then proposed, somewhat cheekily, that: Continue reading

Minnesota Republicans And That Old Egyptian River

“It’s not that Republicans have the wrong message…” – Amy Koch, GOP Former Senate Majority Leader

“As I read you some state spending cuts being considered to fix the budget deficit, please tell me which one would be most acceptable to you.

8%:  Reducing health care assistance for lower income people, the elderly and disabled
13%: Reducing aid to cities and counties
15%: Reducing aid to colleges and universities”

Star Tribune Minnesota Poll

“…it is how we are delivering the message…” – Koch

“By a whopping 2-1 margin, Minnesotans blame the Republicans who control both houses of the Legislature for Continue reading

How In the World Did Minnesota GOPers Screw Up Their Golden Opportunity?

I have a prediction, though not a particularly prescient one.  Minnesota Republicans will say they lost the election because of bad candidates.  Mitt Romney, Kurt Bills, and the Tea Party-supported freshmen legislators were all just bad candidates, they will say.

“Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan,” as John F. Kennedy observed, and in the coming days a lot of Republican candidates will be orphaned.

But for their own good, Republican leaders need to objectively ponder this question:  Bad candidates, or bad policies? Continue reading

Three Reasons For The Silence On The Campaign Trail About Vikings Stadium Subidies

In 2012, the dominant issue in the Minnesota Legislature was the debate about public subsidies for the Vikings Stadium.  No issue was more emotionally charged.  No issue was more polarizing.  No issue was more heavily covered in the news.

So just a few months later, why is this marquee legislative issue such an insignificant factor in the campaign for control of the Minnesota Legislature?  After all, based on last year’s debate, you might expect that  it would be The Issue out on the stump.

But I’m not seeing it.  The issue hasn’t been raised once in any of the many political direct mail pieces that have clogged my mailbox, or cable TV ads flooding my living room.  Moreover, I Googled “Vikings Stadium and election,” and found no stories where the mother of all legislative Issues was playing a prominent role out on the political hustings. Continue reading

Michele Bachmann and the Anatomy of a Laugh

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.

They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, the laughed at the Wright Brothers.

But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

– Carl Sagan


Brodkorb Says Gay Marriage Opponents Are Being Used As Political Pawns. Photo ID Supporters Too?

Michael Brodkorb, former top political strategist for Minnesota Republicans, recently made it perfectly clear that the Republican-proposed gay marriage ban amendment was motivated by politics, not principles.

As WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reported:

 In an interview with WCCO, Mr. Brodkorb Continue reading

Could Gay Rights Turnout Operation Sink the First Pro-Gay Marriage President in History?

In the Halloween season it’s always fun to tell far-fetched scary stories.  This one is pretty darn scary, and may not be as far-fetched as some.

What if the opponents of Minnesota’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage inadvertently helped unseat the first President in history to endorse gay marriage?

Here is how it could happen: Continue reading

Governors Glum and Glummer Team Up In Voter Restriction Ad

In an era of extreme partisan polarization, DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican former Governor Arne Carlson have teamed up in an interesting bipartisan effort to defeat the highly partisan voter restriction constitutional amendment.

While I admire the integrity of both men, let’s just say these are not two of the more perky pitchmen you’ll ever hear. Minnesota has been host to the filming of Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, and, now, Grumpiest Old Men. Continue reading

Why Minnesotans Might Re-hire the Worst Legislature in History

Most Minnesotans like their kids’ teachers, but not the overall K-12 system.

They like their doctor, but not the overall health care system.

They like the individual they can connect with personally in their immediate sphere, but have disdain for the individual’s institution.  Once we have looked someone in the eye, pressed their flesh, and heard their life stories, we form human connections that drown out our critical thinking.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in politics.  In politics, people often express emphatic disapproval for legislative bodies, yet they keep returning their own representative to that body.

And then they wonder why nothing changes in the legislative body.  What’s that old definition of insanity? Continue reading

Debate Over The Debate: Judge v. Jury Verdicts

Groucho Marx once observed “I was married by a judge.  I should have asked for a jury.”

I am having a similar reaction after browsing the coverage of last night’s final Presidential debate. Continue reading

Is Target Still Playing Kingmaker?

About 16-months ago at Minnesota-based Target Corporation’s annual meeting in Pittsburgh, an embattled Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel stressed that Target would heretofore remain neutral on the issue of gay rights, but would continue to make political donations.   A June 9, 2011 Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal headline characterized the balancing act Steinhafel was attempting:

CEO: Target will be neutral on marriage vote, will still give politically

Steinhafel’s neutrality pledge came on the heels of a customer backlash prompted by the corporation making a large political donation to anti-gay rights Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.  Remember all the news stories, boycotts, social media rants, and flash dance protests?

At the time Steinhafel made this announcement in Pittsburgh, I wondered how Target could  possibly manage to support political candidates while keeping its neutrality pledge, since virtually all candidates take positions on gay rights issues.   After all, the world community would no longer consider Switzerland neutral if it was funding a combatant.

So, what is Target doing now?  In the 2012 election, what candidates are being funded by Target, or has Target decided to stay out of politics altogether?

My drive-by Googling can’t find the answer to this question.  After all that coverage and controversy in 2010 and 2011, could it be no business or political reporter has followed up with Target?

Key To Photo ID Outcome: Continued Persuasion of Seniors, Minorities and Independents

When proponents of the photo ID constitutional amendment burst onto the scene, they identified themselves as “reformers.”  As a result, many reform-minded Minnesotans initially accepted their reform claim at face value.  In June, a poll found the proposal was backed by nearly six-out-of-ten (58%) voters.

But over the course of the summer and fall, Minnesotans began to scrutinize the “reformer” claim more closely.  Many discovered that the alleged “reformers” were trying to deceive them with what amounts to a really bad fake ID.

As the non-partisan League of Women Voters and many others have pointed out, the voting “reformers” are actually voting restricters, intentionally seeking to suppress the votes of people least likely to have photo IDs – seniors, minorities, poor people and college students.  This message is finally starting to get out.

Who is figuring it out the fastest? Non-white Minnesotans.   Though I earlier noted that 68% of non-white Minnesota voters supported the photo ID in an early June 2012 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, that number has decreased dramatically to 55% in an October PPP survey.  Clearly minority voters, whose families have endured literacy tests and scores of other procedural barriers to keep them from voting, are beginning to smell another voter suppression rat.

Seniors are catching on too.  The support of Minnesotans older than 65 years old has decreased from 55% in June to 45% in October.  This is a key development, because Minnesota has a lot of seniors, and they are more reliable voters than many other groups.

Independent voters are also getting it, though a bit less slowly.  In June, 58% of self-identified Independents supported the photo ID amendment, and this month that number had decreased a bit to 52%.

The momentum with minorities (13-point swing), seniors (10-point swing) and Independents (six-point swing) over this four-month period is encouraging news for photo ID amendment opponents.  But it is still remarkable that the support for photo ID among these groups is  relatively high, in the 45-to-55% range.
Therefore, the battleground over the next three weeks includes Independent, senior and minority voters.  If the momentum among those voting blocks continues through the next month, the “reformers’’” fake ID scam could be fully exposed by Election Day.
– Loveland
Note:  This post was also featured in the “Best of the Blogs” portion of the Politics in Minnesota Morning Report.

Was The Brodkorb Firing Just A “Palace Coup?”

Michael Brodkorb, the Republican Minnesota Senate Communications Director who was fired for having an extramarital affair with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), is in the midst of a media blitz to frame his firing as being nothing more than collateral damage from a “palace coup” on behalf of Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie).

Those darn Republican l’élite politique francophiles, always showing off their French.   To translate for the commoners:  The bard Brodkorb claims Prince David used the royal tryst as a political weapon to clear the way for him to take possession of Queen Amy’s throne.

Brodkorb’s palace coup d’état allegation is not implausible.  But beyond Brodkorb’s assertion, my guess is that there were multiple motives behind Brodkorb’s firing:

  • HR Propriety.  In the face of this news, there may have been legitimate workplace management reasons to remove Brodkorb.  For instance, corporate Human Relations (HR) Departments sometimes worry that such affairs can cloud the ability of the lovebirds to be objective in their decision making, and can create the reality or perception of favoritism that can harm operations and/or make the organization legally liable in the future.
  • Brodkorb Coup.  Brodkorb is a bare knuckle political brawler.  Because of that, many Republicans Senators that were bruised and bloodied by Mr. Brodkorb over the years may have resented his style enough to want HIM gone.  In other words, the coup may have been aimed at the Queen’s staff more than the Queen.
  • Political Damage Control.  Mr. Brodkorb is not just any staffer.  For years he has been in the center of high profile political battles, practicing his scorched Earth approach to both politics and governance.  He is Minnesota’s version of Karl Rove, except more bombastic and more fond of the limelight.  Because of Brodkorb’s fame or infamy, depending on your point of view, his involvement in the romantic rendezvous made the whole matter infinitely more newsworthy than your more run-of-the-mill staff-politician affair.  Because it was more newsworthy, it was more political damaging for Republicans.  Because it was more political damaging, it needed to be nipped in the bud.

The current Republican Senate leadership wants Minnesotans to think this was ALL about them being proper business managers doing what any by-the-book corporate HR Director would do.  But it is difficult to believe that there wasn’t also an element of Koch coup, Brodkorb coup, and political damage control involved in their decision to fire Brodkorb.

My speculation is that political damage control was the top motivation for the firing, not a burning desire to oust Senator Koch, and not workplace law propriety.  But no one can know for sure.

The other interesting thing about Brodkorb’s media tour is the timing of it.  The timing was driven by the judge in Brodkorb’s lawsuit lifting a gag order on Friday.  But a guy like  Brodkorb, who lives and breathes electoral politics, also is fully aware that he is bringing the Repubilican’s most humiliating story back to the front pages just three weeks before the Republicans have to face surly voters, who already give the GOP-controlled Legislature the lowest approval rating on record.

It may or may not be true that Hann was using the Brodkorb-Koch affair as a political weapon in a palace coup.  But it certainly is true that Mr. Brodkorb is using a potent political weapon in his current media tour.

– Loveland

Photo by Talking Points Memo (TPM)

Note:  This post was also featured as a “Best of the Blogs” in the Politics in Minnesota Morning Report, and a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin feature.

Why Civil Unions Aren’t The Solution For Minnesotans Who Believe in Equality

A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released this week finds that 46% of Minnesotans support the gay marriage ban amendment, but 74% of Minnesotans think that gays should either be able to marry or form civil unions.

The large group of Minnesotans who support gay civil unions but not gay marriage are mostly not anti-gay. In some ways, it is encouraging to know that about half of the people supporting this moronic amendment actually support extending additional rights to gay people.  It’s also very bad news for Republicans that only one quarter of Minnesotans support their position.

Still, those Minnesotans who support gay civil unions but oppose gay marriage are wrong, wrong in a way that preserves inequality.  The fallacy of their logic needs to be exposed, because these folks are the persuadable swing voters who will determine the outcome of Minnesota’s constitutional amendment election.

Those who support gay civil unions but oppose gay marriage are misguided in two fundamental ways.

“Marriage” v. “Civil Union” Differences.  Many naively believe that civil unions bestow the same rights and respect as marriage.  Wrong.  The General Accounting Office (GAO) says the government provides 1,138 benefits to married couples that are not available to others. Tax benefits. Immigration rights.  Medical decision-making advantages.  Death benefits rights.  It’s a long list of legal distinctions that impact finances and quality-of-life.

But the equality difference between marriage and civil unions goes much deeper than the 1,138 benefits.

If the government told my wife and me today that it had stripped us of our marriage status, our first concern wouldn’t be about the loss of those benefits. Our more heartfelt concern would be that we were being stripped of society’s sacred recognition of our commitment and love.

Marriage is honored and cherished in our society in a way that is absolutely unique. It is put on a pedestal.  The stigma that would come if my wife and I were banned from claiming that special relationship status is what would most make us feel most unequal and stigmatized.  That’s what gay couples face.

Marriages bestow more legal and social benefits than civil unions.  In a nation built on the notion that all are created equal, it’s just not okay to have such inequality baked into one of our society’s most revered institutions.

Semantic Slavery.  Beyond those who mistakenly believe that marriage and civil unions are legally and socially equivalent, others essentially have a language hang-up.

In their minds, heterosexuality has always been at the core of the definition of the word “marriage,” and it just feels incongruous to them to adjust the definition. The vast majority of these folks don’t seem to hate gay people, or wish inequality on them.  They just can’t seem to get their head around that semantic shift.

I understand this position, because it was the position that I was taking when I was first exposed to this issue in the 1990s. Ultimately, I realized that my reasoning was silly.

After all, dictionaries are not written in stone.  Every year, scores of definitions are added, deleted and adjusted, based on how society’s use of the language is changing.  Languages evolve as societies evolve.  Therefore, we shouldn’t be denying people something as sacred as equality based on what lexicographers say. Lexicographers take their cues from society, not vice versa.  If a democratic society declares, in the name of equality, that marriage is open to everyone, then it is, and dictionaries will adjust accordingly.  Dictionary definitions shouldn’t rule the day.  Equality should rule the day.

Unlike the 24% of Minnesotans who oppose any kind of legal recognition for gay couples, I’m convinced that many of those who oppose gay marriage but support gay civil unions are “persuadables” when it comes to the constitutional amendment.  If they aren’t written off as “homophobes” and “haters,” some of them can be convinced that separate but equal doesn’t work any better for civil unions than it did for segregated schools.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured as a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin feature.