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The Unpolished Truth: Those who are allowed to speak hold the power


Think globally, act locally.

 If you are like me, you might decide to live that to the fullest and run for a local elected office. You are tired of complaining—you are going to do something! Want to support gay marriage, ban sugar from schools, get Johnnie on the hockey team, stop global climate change, fight for world peace, or find out where your tax money is going? You can make a difference!

However, unless you’ve been groomed by some political action group or been intimately involved in volunteering for your favorite candidate, you probably don’t have a clue how to do that—or what you’re getting yourself into.

Your first step is to file an Affidavit of Candidacy with the City or School Clerk. It costs $2, but don’t worry; you can waive the filing fee if you can’t afford $2. Think about that: It doesn’t take any money to run for office. World, here I come!

Even the most tuned-out citizens have probably heard of political parties. Do you have to do something with whatever they are?

Minnesota Election law (Minn. Stat. 200, Sub. 28) was recently amended to say: “‘Nonpartisan offices’ means all judicial, county, municipal, and school district[ s].” So, you just show up and state your views and let the people decide, right?

Reality check: Duluth is one of few political districts in Minnesota where the DFL Party is involved in “non-partisan” elections. (We all know there are no Republicans in Duluth, so just ignore that party.)

If the DFL endorses you at their Duluth convention, for all practical purposes, the outcome of the election has been decided and you will be the winner.

No problem, you say, you hate that Donald Trump guy, and you are even a union member, so you will be in like flynn with the DFL, right?

Wrong. You can only participate at the DFL convention if you are elected by the DFL as a delegate. That only happens once every two years, and if you missed the recent caucuses, you have no say in who they will select.

Worried about voter ID laws limiting access to the political process? Well, that’s nothing compared to how closed political conventions run in Duluth.

At the Duluth DFL convention in June, Sally Trnka was selected as the school board candidate, without attending the convention, without showing up for endorsement committee screenings, and without attending even one school board meeting.

Of course, Trnka won the “real” election in November. The convention was just for show, and the outcome was preordained.

Another example: Two years ago at the Duluth DFL convention, Nora Sandstad was endorsed when 12 delegates from District Three showed up and gave her eight votes. Eight votes determined the outcome of a school board election—less than five percent of the DFL district’s delegates, but whether quorum rules might have been violated was never questioned.

Other sideshows unique to the Duluth DFL: Before they will endorse you, you must publicly vow that you will only support other DFL candidates, and you will likely be required to promise that you will regularly meet with the DFL behind closed doors.

So, having refused to kowtow to get the DFL endorsement, now our naïve idealist, who thought she was going to change the world, will be transformed by the Duluth DFL into the enemy.

Getting the DFL endorsement in Duluth means money rolling in and an army of party faithful armed with pitchforks (the “F” in DFL does stand for “farmer”) out to get the enemy, logging thousands of hours phone banking to defeat someone who may well agree with them on many important issues.

Then the Internet trolls come out to get a taste of the blood. Last election, the local Feminist Action Collective speared Trnka’s opponents, Harry Welty and Donna Krivogorsky, on their blog and Facebook page. Welty committed the sin of voicing an opinion, and Krivogorsky? She’s a feminist, so who knows? Apparently, the act of fighting is more important than the reason you’re fighting.

So, why does the Duluth DFL turn elections that are legally non-partisan into hyper-politicized races? Probably an innate hoarding of power, which all political entities do to some extent. If you don’t create a war, all the troops will go home.

The Pew Research Center found American levels of trust in government are at only 19 percent. In Gallup polls measuring public confidence in our institutions, political entities like Congress, have the lowest rating by far, at 12 percent.

Approval ratings of Minnesota politics are harder to come by, but the last Duluth election had a 28 percent voter turnout—28 percent!

Elections have consequences, as Barack Obama once said. But the way politics are run in Duluth also has consequences. When only 28 percent turn out for a city and school election, that is an indictment that Duluth politics are so unappealing, nasty, and predetermined, that few except those already embedded and their enablers even bother to participate.

Think globally, but act locally? You might want to think twice about that in Duluth.



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Dr. Radut Consulting