For the record, I’m a fan of MPR’s Bob Collins – if for no other reason than few people write about aviation issues as well as he does (and there are other reasons).
Which is not to say that I agree with him all the time. We’ve had our disagreements.
The Minority Case: And this Collins blog post is one of them; it quotes a story from Tim Pugmire about an incoming state representative John Heintzeman of Nisswa, who scored a big upset win earlier this month. Pugmire quoted Heintzeman as saying:
“People of faith need to be able to know that they can practice their faith in the way, in the tradition that their family has over many, many years, without being afraid of somehow violating the law,”
“Rural values” and “traditional values” are fairly vague terms, which are often left to the rest of us — city slickers — to figure out what they define exactly. They often are intertwined with religion or “faith,” as Heintzeman said.
And that usually leads to the obvious question: whose religion and whose faith?
For the benefit of the audience that Collins is writing to – the Volvo-with-a-reproduction-“Wellstone”-sticker driving, free-range-alpaca wearing, straight-ticket-DFL-voting Macalester alumni set that is the “must win” demographic for MPR, I’ll explain it.
It’s about Islam.
It’s so the young Somali woman working at the Midway WalMart need not worry about feeling racist, faith-ist repercussions when she politely asks an infidel like yours truly to please move the pork chops across the scanner, since her observance of her faith doesn’t allow her to handle them.
Oh, it probably also covers cases like the photographers and bakers and florists who, for religious reasons not a lot different than the young Somali, tried to beg off participating in gay weddings, even trying in some cases to refer the “customers” to gay-wedding-friendly competition, leading to test cases (since that was what the “customers” were looking for in the first place). And, yes, sometimes those concerns aren’t purely individual in scope.
It could even – hard as this may be to believe – cover religious freedom for people whose beliefs are more in line with the MPR audiences’.
Really, it’s about protecting the minority from the majority – which is supposed to be what a representative republic (as opposed to a democracy) does.
In other words – everyone’s religion and faith. Or even their complete lack of either.
Rights are rights.
Oh, there’s more to it than that. There’s a wedge to be pounded:
Pick Your Herbicide: Perhaps you’ve heard the story; a GOP district chair in Big Stone County, whose day job
is was working at a Hardware Hank, did a no-no; he said really stupid things about Muslims. Of course, this is red vegan meat for the DFL establishment – at least in part because it’s more fun for them than some other stories that wecouldbe talking about.
Collins finds a greater significance in it, though (emphasis added):
In Big Stone County, the chairman of the Republican Party is defining those values, at least for his neck of the woods.
Jack Whitley posted this yesterday on his Facebook page.
Let’s make this clear: a guy who was elected chairman of the GOP in the fifth-smallest county in Minnesota, a county with fewer registered voters than MPR has assistant producers, is “defining” “rural values”?
Would that be in the same way that Paris Hilton or Plukey Duke “define” “urban values?”
Naturally, everyone from Ken Martin to CAIR jumped on the statement…
“It’s very disturbing to see a Republican Party leader engage in outright bigotry and hate,” the Council for American-Islamic Relations said in a statement calling on Republicans to disavow Whitley’s values. “Without a clear rejection of these inaccurate and intolerant remarks, the party’s silence will appear to be agreement.”…
…““How such a violently bigoted person can hold a position of leadership in the Minnesota Republican Party is confounding and absolutely unacceptable,” DFL Chair Ken Martin said in a statement which called on Downey to demand Whitley quit his party position.
…using it to impugn all Republicans and, as Collins seems to be flirting with, the whole idea of “rural” values themselves.
Naturally (as Collins notes), MNGOP chair Keith Downey did condemn the statements. Some of Ken Martin’s oompa-loompas have wondered publicly and in the media why Downey doesn’t just fire Mr. Whitley; perhaps that’d work in the DFL, but chairs of GOP house, senate or county districts are elected by their members, and need to be removed by them (as readers of this blog have learned over the years).
But this isn’t about inside-the-GOP party mechanics:
Too-Free Association: In 2008, Barack Obama referred to Americans with “rural” values as bitter, gun-clinging Jeebus freaks. The Obama coalition relied on creating a big, sharp, thick wedge between “mainstream” America – in the stereotypes, the part that is white and mainstream-Christian and straight and usually male – and anyone else.
And the Minnesota DFL is no better; Minnesota’s political map is the results of decades of wedging city vs. suburbs, metro vs. outstate, white vs. black, and in the case of MPR, us vs. them.
And there sure could be more wedges: if the Minnesota media ever held the DFL to account for, say, Keith Ellison (who openly supports Hamas, whose charter calls for the extermination of Jews), or Phyllis Kahn (who bent party rules, and party dogma about election fraud, to the breaking point in keeping a Muslim insurgency from ousting her at her district convention) I’m sure that could create some wedges, too.
But nobody wants those wedges, apparently.
I Am Just A Caveman: I’m still trying to figure out what Mr. Heintzeman’s statement – about protecting freedom of religious conscience from majority coercion, which is a right most people support unless it transgresses Big Gay – has to do with Mr. Whitley’s outburst.
And I imagine I will be for some time.