There was a time in my life when ‘politics’ was a big part of my life. I’d always been a news-junkie but a series of events led me to a much deeper involvement in the Minnesota political arena; thus my story and my evolution. While a high school teacher (sociology) in Hibbing if was approached by a man whose name I’ll keep to myself and asked if I’d be interested in running for the Minnesota Senate from this district–the filing deadline was only days away. I gave it some thought and thought ‘why not; I’d have the summer to do some campaigning and it might be fun. I’d taught here for ten years, and although not a ‘native’ Hibbingite, I knew lots of people here and had gone to Virginia JC for two years so I had some friends in the eastern part of the Range as well.
First the fun part. Many of my students (seniors who could vote) rallied to my support and their enthusiasm was contagious. We went door-to-door for months delivering brochures, making signs, doing radio spots, and newspaper ads. The kids were remarkable! Dave Seeba even created a campaign song that aired on the radio stations, Peter Bechetti made political cartoons that were very creative, we even did summer parades. Tim Gray, with Ryan Construction Company, was my financial officer, and Rick Kasner my campaign manager. They raised enough money for a legitimate effort. Now, this was in 1972 and the first year that 18-year-olds could vote and it was also the last year that party designation was not required. I ran as an Independent . . . but was quickly labeled as a Republican in a three-person primary. To the surprise of most I came in second by defeating the mayor of Virginia. So, in the general election I was facing DFL’er George Perpich of the politically successful Perpich machine. Rudy was running for Lieutenant Governor, Tony for the state Senate (east range district) and the incumbent, George.
Needless to say, I lost. But to the dismay of the Perpiches, I carried Hibbing.
Years later, while working as historian at the Iron Range Interpretative Center in Chisholm, I was nominated for the position of Commissioner of the IRRRB–an economic development authority for most of northeastern Minneosta. Al Quie, a Republican, had defeated incumbent Governor Rudy Perpich. Being familiar with the agency, the Governor selected me. It was as Commissioner that I got my first ‘taste’ of hard-ball politics. The Advisory board of twelve included one Republican. My office staff were all hired, and devoted to, the previous Democrat administrations. It was if ‘I’ shouldn’t have happened! Range politics and politicians had been hard-core Democrats for generations. This is steelworkers union country and the DFL has always been very strong.
I compromised, charmed when I could, and survived my four years. Let me say this: Al Quie was the finest, most honest and supportive man I have ever met. He was also an avowed Christian who knew my situation very well. His open commitment to the Range was incredible; making my job so much easier. To this day Quie is nationally known for his work in prison ministry.
Fast forward to the present day. The politics that I enjoyed–however partisan it was up here–has changed rather dramatically. Trump’s message on jobs and foreign steel dumping resonated with workers on the Range (Trump won in Hibbing–something no Republican Presidential candidate in memory has ever done. That aside, I don’t believe the tide has turned, but he has followed up on many of his campaign pledges. The dramatic changes that are most disturbing are on the national stage. The divisiveness runs deeper today than at any time in history. In that I am considered to be a Republican, I have lost friends on social media. I’ll probably lose some more with this blog. Being an educator I am particularly concerned with the American History that is being taught in our public schools and across the campuses of America. I love this country, knowing full well that we have made many mistakes in our past. I believe in our Constitution and the freedoms of speech, assembly, petition, religious expression, and the right to bear arms. I also believe that our government has been corrupted by special interests–the swamp is real. So is what some call the ‘Deep State’ which is the bureaucracy. Despite this, I do not think our country is racist nor sexist nor whatever other ‘ist’ that is bantered about. And, I believe that as an American, all people should respect the office of the Presidency even if they do not like the man who currently holds it. There have been several Presidents–of both parties–that I disliked . . . as well as Senators and Congress/men and women. What bothers me most is that too many people, and politicians that represent them, put their political party first . . . and America second.
Finally, I fear for our democratic republic. I used to watch, and contrast, Fox News and the network news (CNN included from time to time), and have come to the conclusion that I don’t really know the truth about what is going on in my country. So, I watch less new and read fewer papers. I much prefer to watch a mystery on TV or read a good book. Right now I’m hooked on ‘Better Call Saul’ on Netflix–just sayin’. God bless all who read this and our America . . .Amen.