Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Talking About Ideas Or Crushing Them...

Is apparently all the same to the Star Tribune editorial board. Last Friday we noted the story of a couple of College Republicans being manhandled at the Minnesota State Fair by union goons wearing t-shirts that read "Laborers For Kerry". We predicted that the Strib's stable of columnists who normally would be all over such crushing of dissent would not deign to cover this particular example. And they did not. But today the Strib editorial board did weigh in with a piece titled Bad and dumb/Political news to grimace at:

The Minnesota standard of spirited but nonviolent political disagreement was violated during John Kerry's visit to the State Fair Thursday, when three or four men, at least one wearing a "Laborers for Kerry" shirt, roughed up two College Republicans from the University of St. Thomas. The students were wearing costumes that resembled giant foam "flip-flop" sandals. One man was caught on camera elbowing a student in the head. An observer said he saw pushing, hip-checking and bumping that went on for 10 or 15 minutes.

State Republican chairman Ron Eibensteiner asked state AFL-CIO president Ray Waldron for an apology. That should come from the perpetrators themselves -- and Waldron and other leading DFLers should publicly condemn this dangerous conduct. The scuffle at the fair could easily have become a melee causing serious injury, and turning peaceable people off to politics.

Kerry supporters have plenty of ammunition for a war of words with Bush backers. Those at the fair, and outside the convention hall this week in New York, should recognize that if they resort to fists instead, they'll lose.

We heartily applaud the Strib's condemnation of this event, even if it wasn't quite as adamant as we would have preferred. They seem to be more worried that the "scuffle" could have injured bystanders and left people with a bad taste in their mouths about politics, instead of focusing on the despicable nature of the assault itself. But no matter. If this would have been all that the editorial concerned itself with, it would have been quite appropriate. But this was not the case.

In fact the ugly incident at The Fair was the third and last item that the Strib editorial came down on. First and foremost in the sites of their criticism was the Stalin/Hitler/Tojo/Jenjis Khan/Mussolini of our times; David Strom from the Taxpayers League of Minnesota:

Proving that it lacks appreciation for both state culture and history, the Minnesota Taxpayers League is asking State Fair-goers to sign a petition supporting renaming Olson Memorial Highway for the late President Ronald Reagan. The group would also tear down statues of Depression-era Gov. Floyd B. Olson at the Capitol and on his namesake highway, which runs through the north Minneapolis neighborhood in which Olson grew up.

The League condemns Olson, a Farmer-Laborite, as a "socialist," and on issues such as utility ownership, the label fits. But Olson was also a patron saint of the shared asset that Minnesotans prize most -- quality public education. His promotion of a new tax -- a state income tax -- dedicated to paying for schools helped lift this state out of the depths of the Depression. Rather than taking Minnesota down "the failed path of socialism," as the League's David Strom said, Olson put this state on a path toward prosperity that pays huge dividends to this day.

Surely Reagan can be remembered without denying Olson the honor he deserves.

Now you may not agree with the Taxpayer League's idea to change the name of the highway. But it is an idea they feel should be debated in the public forum. They haven't forced anyone to accept their idea; they have done nothing illegal or untoward to promote it. They just brought it up. And isn't that what freedom of speech and democracy are really all about?

You have an idea about something you think would be good for the town/city/state/country that you live in. Using the proper public channels, you seek to convince others of the worthiness of your cause have your idea implemented. It's called politics. Since it's a petition drive, you could call it grass roots politics.

If the Strib editorial board disagrees with Strom's proposal (and they haven't met one yet that they haven't) they could pen an editorial explaining why they oppose it. But to lump the Taxpayer League's drive to change the name of a highway in with a couple of Union thugs using violence to intimidate their political opponents and branding them collectively as "bad and dumb politics" is outrageous. Outrageous, but not unexpected.

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