Sovietizing Our Youth




Vetoes and Other Failed Legislation


“It’s not the government’s responsibility when there’s been failed parenting.


As a Minnesota legislator I successfully passed legislation, but some unsuccessful efforts make for good stories.  Arne Carlson twice vetoed bills that both the House and the Senate thought would be good things to do – or at least innocuous enough not to vote against.


My Tow Company Bill


In 1994 a constituent asked me to intercede to try to get his nursing uniform out of the trunk of his car that had been towed.  The towing company was demanding he pay all the towing charges before they’d let him on their lot to retrieve his possessions.  He understood not getting his car back until after he settled up, but I thought he made a good argument that to get the money to pay them he had to work, and his employer wouldn’t let him work sans uniform, so come on!  Keep the car but let him get his uniform!


“No way,” they said, pointing to a state law that allows the vehicle and all its contents to be kept as a bailment.


“Well,” I said back to them, “we’ll see if that’s going to stay the law or not,” and proceeded to draft a bill that deleted the clause allowing them to retain the personal property, but the bill let them keep the car until paid.  Although my constituent borrowed some money, got his car back, and returned to work, I kept the bill moving through the legislative process thinking the next guy in a similar situation would be thankful.


There was no opposition to the bill.  It cleared all committees with nary a word spoken against it.  Even made the “Consent Calendar” where we vote on non-controversial bills.  Passed both the House and the Senate and went to the Governor’s desk for his signature.   Next morning I arrived at the Capitol at my usual hour and the entire Capitol area was ringed 360 degrees in every direction the eye could see by tow trucks with all their lights flashing.  This couldn’t be about my non-controversial bill, could it?


It was, and the Governor had already vetoed it.  Just like that without even consulting me.  Just to get the damn tow trucks to go away.  So don’t leave things in your car if you’re going to be towed.  I’ve often wondered if Arne was friends with that tow company guy and the tow companies had just laid in wait to show me who was boss, or whether they only became aware of the bill at the last minute.


Tomorrow:  My Bill to Let 16 Year-Olds Participate in Politics


My Bill to Let 16 Year-Olds Participate in Politics


The tow company bill, not a big deal; but it’s hard to forgive Arne vetoing a bill that was of, by and for the kids.  Getting young people excited about life, about politics, about how much fun it all can be, has been a big part of my life, as reflected in these stories.  So when a group of teenagers asked me to sponsor a bill that would allow 16 year-olds to vote, I immediately said good idea.


Allowing 16 year-olds the vote was, however, not a new idea.  Rep. Phyllis Kahn had been trying to get it passed for years – with no luck.  So we hit upon a middle ground that might garner legislative support:  Allow 16 year-olds to participate in the precinct caucus and party convention process, but keep the voting age at 18.  In Minnesota political parties convene neighborhood caucuses in February/March to start building the party platform and elect delegates who later meet in convention to endorse candidates for office, but state law limits participation to those eligible to vote in November.  Just change that one part, but not the whole thing.


The group of students who came to me with the idea then got a hands-on education in the political process.  They got students all over the state to visit legislators and get promises of support.  They testified in committee hearings about how schools could incorporate the caucus/convention process into the curriculum, how this would lead to more students caring about issues, how it might result in 18-25 year-olds no longer being the least likely to turn out on election day, and over-all make for a better democracy.  They thoroughly rebutted the argument that they didn’t know enough about the issues to be informed participants.   They were in the galley when the votes were taken.  And they got their bill passed.


But we didn’t give enough thought to whether the Governor liked the idea or not, and Arne’s veto took us all by surprise.  Once again there was no veto message.  If I had to guess at a reason I’d say it’s just a Republican thing to believe in voter suppression.


Tomorrow:  Sovietizing Our Youth





Sovietizing Our Youth

In his book The Good Fight former Vice-President and United States Senator Walter Mondale provides an insightful analysis of the change in our country’s political dynamics between 1960 and 2000.  It’s great reading and I recommend it for any up and coming political types.

I came of political age during the late 60s and early 70s, a period Mondale refers to as “the high tide of liberalism.”   It was a time when we as Americans believed in creating opportunity for all and the value of the whole community pulling together.   By the time I was passing legislation in the 80s and 90s that was no longer true; instead an anti-government dogma had set in; there was no longer “a war on poverty” or any dreams of a great society.  To get something passed you had to appeal to conservatives that any investment in people would pay-off handsomely in reduced government spending.

IWW Songbook

IWW Songbook – A Different (and better) Politics

Mondale points to President Nixon’s vetoing Mondale’s “Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971” as the beginning of the “cultural wars,” whereby ultra-conservative right wingers were able to re-define left-wing liberalism as being against “family values” – the launching of the Jerry Falwell-Jimmy Swaggart-Pat Robertson religious right as a political movement.

By 1971 already one of three mothers with toddlers was in the work place and Mondale’s bill would have established a national network of locally managed pre-school child developmental centers, with nutritional services and medical care, for all working families, not just families in poverty.  The bill passed both the House and the Senate with large bi-partisan majorities and was sent to President Nixon to sign into law.  But Pat Buchanan was Nixon’s speechwriter and saw an opportunity to rally cultural conservatives who still thought a woman’s place was in the home. Nixon’s veto message accused Mondale of trying to “Sovietize” America’s youth.

Tomorrow:  Sovietizing Our Youth 2.0



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