I of course don’t know what you deal with in your life, but I’m reasonably sure that whoever you are who is reading this, you’ve had to struggle with something. I’m also sure that almost everyone, whether liberal, conservative, or not sure, feels compassion for the struggles of people close to them. Most people will even empathize with complete strangers going through the same thing, that sense of, “I’ve been there too and I can relate”.
Where liberals and conservatives tend to diverge is in just how wide that area of compassion gets, how far sympathy extends to people far from us experiencing something outside our personal experience. Conservatives can dismiss liberals as bleeding hearts, but liberals are proud of those bleeding hearts, because even when we can’t personally relate to the struggles other people are going through, we at least try. That, not political philosophy, issue positions or partisanship, is why I’m a liberal.
That is what motivates me to participate in politics, or maybe I should say that’s what motivates me to want to do some good, and electoral politics decides our government. How well or poorly we’re governed is utterly decisive for much more than we’re normally aware of, at least when governed well. We’re unavoidably more aware when we’re governed poorly than when we’re clearly making progress.
While I’ve always been a news junkie since I started reading the main news section of the daily newspaper as a pre-adolescent (though I started with the comics of course, and I still read the sports section first) and I’ve voted every election since turning 18, serious activism was activated by — George W. Bush — though not with the party he would have preferred.
When my efforts to remove Bush in 2004 were clearly insufficient, I joined other distraught DFLers in shock at how Bush could be so horrid and still win, and in looking for some way to keep fighting back.
I started coming to local party meetings, volunteering for everything there was to volunteer for, eventually getting elected to party offices, eventually becoming chair of Senate District 63 for three terms. If you’ve helped with phonebanks or doorknocks over roughly the last decade, helped with fundraisers, debate watch parties, or our table at local events, there’s a good chance you saw me there. There’s even a decent possibility I recruited you.
I wish I could take credit for how DFLers consistently win here, but in this deep-blue district, winning general elections is no great trick. What was far from guaranteed, however, was that we would produce the high voter turnout needed for DFLers to win statewide, or that we have a local party that stays strong and active between campaigns so our candidates wouldn’t have to rebuild everything each election.
As it happens, while I was chair, we had one of the most active local parties in the state, and our district consistently had one of the highest turnouts in Minnesota, the state with the highest turnout, which means few places crank out the votes like SD63.
I succeeded as chair for the same reason I’ll succeed as your next state representative: because I treat everyone with the respect; because I know politics is about connections, and connections are best made person to person.
Republicans might find this next bit unexpected given that I was a DFL chair, and if were any more of a Democrat, I would be a literal donkey (stomp your hooves once if you agree), but I will go into office believing that everyone deserves representation, even if they voted for another candidate, or didn’t vote at all. I can’t promise anyone of any party that we’ll always agree, or that you’ll always like how I voted, but I’ll always try to listen, and assume a point of view I disagree with was come by honestly — yes, even if I’m fighting back thoughts like, “good grief, do you watch anything other than Fox News?”
If I’m just so interesting that you want more, click over to my personal web site.