Local: What Are The Top Legislative Priorities For the St. Croix Valley?
Well, if you believe Representative Mike Charron of Woodbury, the top legislative priorities in the St. Croix Valley are gay marriage and whether to buy new stadiums with your tax dollars.
"Things like stadiums and gay marriage," Charron said. "Let's just put it to a vote and move on."
This kind of took me by surprise; Charron didn’t indicate that either of these issues were legislative priorities for him in his campaign literature—even though both issues were hotly debated back then, too. In fact, so far as I can recall he made no mention at all of these issues in his campaign materials—his line was that if he was elected he was going to make Minnesota government work better.
But that was before Charron actually was elected and before the state government ground to a shutdown less than a year later.
To the uninformed, Charron’s Gazette quote may sound like a call to avoid the stalemate and unprecedented collapse we saw during last year’s legislative session.
In fact it’s a call for a repeat of last year’s sorry performance. Because what freshman legislator Charron is really announcing is that for him, Bachmann’s anti-gay marriage bill is now one of his top priorities—prior to, and thus more important than any other legislative issue that directly affects people in his own district. Ditto on the public funding of the stadiums; it seems that that’s more important to him now than anything going on in his district. (I can understand why Charron wants the stadium funding thing settled quickly. He would like voters to forget as soon as possible that he already cast a vote to raise ordinary folks’ sales taxes to fund new stadiums for jillionaire team owners. He was also on the Committee that voted to block any public referendum on the issue of a sales tax to fund the stadiums.)
Anyway-- Charron’s DFL opposites in the House will correctly understand his statement as meaning the following: Fellas—why all this squabbling, why all this partisanship, why the deadlock and the shutdown—we can move on, we can come to an understanding, it’s easy: all you have to do is cave in and do exactly what we want—or else we do what we did last year and stop the legislature cold again.
But isn’t the DFL also responsible for the deadlock? Obviously not. Because no one would be happier than DFL politicians if the GOP agreed to take the most controversial issues off the table. You see, standing up against a bigoted majority for the rights of gay citizens isn’t exactly a big “vote winner” for the DFL. Catering to the bigoted majority is more a GOP thing, these days. It’s the GOP that depends on keeping the “no gay marriage” issue alive, not the DFL.
But the GOP’s problem is that they simply don’t have the Senate votes to ram the “no gay marriage” thing down the DFL’s throat (so to speak.) For Republicans, the political reality is “we just haven’t got enough votes in the legislature to oppress the gays as much we’d like to.” Still--rather than go to work on other important legislation that the parties might agree on, GOP reps like Charron will announce that the “hot button issues” of “no gay marriage” and public funding of stadiums must be voted on--first.
Why? Why won’t someone like Charron accept the existing political situation and announce that local education, prison construction, and Highway 5 traffic fatality issues are now his FIRST priorities? Well, because he is afraid of alienating the anti-gay religious bigots, who are now apparently running the Minnesota GOP. Without their votes and support Republicans like Charron can’t be re-elected. If he tells his anti-gay constituents that he’s going to vote to put gay marriage on the backburner, his political career is essentially over--his anti-gay constituency will tag him as a “soft on gays” sellout and end his career for him.
So that’s why we see him in the Gazette, talking reasonably out of one side of his mouth about “moving on” with the business of the session--and at the same time talking unreasonably out of the other side of his mouth about how we should put “gay marriage” and “stadiums” to a vote first. He’s announcing, whether he means to or not, that he’s now an out-of-the-closet Bachmannite—embracing a priority that is dear to the hearts of bigots in his district, one that is practically certain to lead to another gridlock session.
In truth, the real priorities for Charron and Dean and LeClair are their political careers. They will not jeopardize those careers by demanding that local education, prison space, and decreasing the number of our local traffic fatalities take priority this session.
Actually, I sympathize with these local Republican statesmen. Yeah, it’s a tough situation you guys are in, trapped between your duty as legislators and your fear of the small but organized and powerful collection of bigots that put you in office. But the sympathy I have for you is the same sort of sympathy that I have for a worm on a hook. Because you’re a lot like worms, right? You act like worms when you have a chance to stand up to bigots, you’re making these worm noises for the bigots, you hang out with and vote with other bigot-pleasing worms in the legislature—and if you act like a worm, there’s a fair to middling chance that you’re going to end up on a hook, right?