What Democracy Looks Like.

PRENOTE: Tomorrow night on Twin Cities PBS, Channel 2, 8 p.m CDT., part 3, last segment of “Living With Hitler”.  I have watched the first two segments, and this is really excellent.  Everyone should absorb the hard learnings of the results of the Third Reich.


Last Thursday I attended a public meeting reporting on the results of the 2023 Minnesota Legislature.  The host was our local state Senator.  The two page summary handout is here: Minnesota Legislation 2023.

I attend these kinds of gatherings frequently.  This one was particularly interesting, there were many kids there, and Moms reporting, and art from work done by prisoners as rehab therapy.  A group which appeared to be Chinese American featured a spell-binding performance by a lion, given life by two young people.  Note the little girl in foreground of the picture.  She was with the program!

June 8, 2023 Hong De Lion Dance group performs.  

If you’re Minnesotan, you know the general drift.  This year the legislature, house and senate, and governor, were Democrat – an unusual occurrence here.  The elected Democrats – I am an active Democrat – decided to stick together and pass one of the most positive and progressive legislative programs ever.

A message today from MN Gov. Tim Walz says it well:

Yesterday I was asked whether there would be a Republican backlash to the historic progress we made this legislative session. Here’s why I said I wasn’t worried:

Everything we accomplished this year was grounded in a very Midwestern value: Mind your own dang business. 

While GOP-led states were passing abortion bans, banning books, and bullying the LGBTQ+ community, we took action to protect the freedoms and rights of all Minnesotans. 

We codified abortion rights into state law, banned the harmful practice of conversion “therapy,” made Minnesota a refuge for gender-affirming care, and more.

The bottom line? In Minnesota, we don’t demonize our neighbors. We welcome everyone in, and we celebrate our diversity.”

Minnesota is characterized as a high tax state.  I hear almost no complaining about that.  In 1927, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said memorably “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”, and that is very true.  Taxes, effectively used, pays dividends for everyone.

This is more truthful than an alternative view I once heard in person from a guy very upset with taxation generally.  He slapped his rear-end, the side with his wallet, and angrily exclaimed in a loud voice: “I want MY money, in MY pocket, RIGHT HERE”.  This was at a meeting, and he was in my small group.  A young ally of his, at the same table, apparently was thinking about this declaration, and said he liked to do off-trail bicycling, and they were spending tax money to build a local trail, of which he approved, for his personal benefit.  The trail didn’t impose on non-users.  It was a winner in all ways.

So much for getting rid of community, which is what society is, after all.  Community is Sharing.

Personally, we are fortunate to pay taxes.  This year our state and federal came to about 19% of income; about one-third of this was to state.  This has been fairly typical over recent history, hardly confiscatory.

A detailed review of all of the legislation passed this year would likely reveal things I personally would wonder about.  No matter.  They were important to other groups of citizens in other communities.  This is what society is. We all know this from personal experience.

The last few years we have been afflicted by destructive political relationships in this country.  There seems no justification for a society where one-half plus one seeks to win, the rest are losers.

There was a day when political differences like this could be complementary, not adversarial.  Most of our history as a society has dealt with issues in competition, rather than enemies in combat.  The ideal goal is resolution, not domination.  Best we relearn the skills we already have.

After the meeting on Thursday, I decided to look up government in Minnesota by ideology.  Here it is: Minnesota governance by ideology, 1901-present.  It is very interesting.  In numbers, Minnesotans have been divided by ideology, but most often we’ve worked things out cooperatively.  It has been 10 years since the Democrats last had the majority in all three branches; to the best of my knowledge, the Republicans had that advantage often in the earlier 1900s.  But there have been many years of divided government, currently often not constructively.

In one sense or another, all of us have elements of “conservative” and “liberal” in our makeup.  The difference, these days, is that one ideology tends to focus on the individual exercise of raw power; the other tends to more orient to the community at large.  Just my opinion.

POSTNOTE: I learned that I had one personal success in this session.  It took 17 years, but an idea I presented in 2006 – a very simple idea – finally was enacted this session.  In the fall of 2006, I noticed that on the application for drivers license, a kid was automatically registered for the Draft regardless of age.  Right below, on the same form, the same kid could register to vote. Both were effective at age 18, but for the Draft was automatically registered.  I asked, why not apply the same rule to both?  The simple idea was killed every year, but this year it passed.  Hooray!

POSTNOTE June 13: This mornings e-mail brought a Heather Cox Richardson “Letters from an American” well worth your time.  It is here.  Heather’s writing is well worth the small cost to subscribe.

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