The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Letter to my Congressman

February 1, 2005

TO: Congressman Sabo

FROM: Mr. Ryan Simatic

RE: 109th Congress


Congressman Sabo,
Allow me to point out a few things that may seem to be the obvious, but, with all due respect, may be the trees obscuring the forest. It is now the 109th Congress and as I’m sure you’re well aware, you are in the Democratic minority. Whilst your peers will be occupied pointing out the negative impact of Republican policy initiatives, it would behoove you to also point out what the Republicans are not doing as well. Allow me to expound.

As I’m sure you are aware, incumbents rarely lose, and you occupy a seat in a democratic stronghold that you have held continuously since 1978; indeed, your percentage of votes has not dropped below 62% since your initial election to congress, and your last Republican challenger garnered only 26% of the vote in 2004. Considering the prior statements, I would recommend that you use your relatively secure seat to harshly criticize the Republican agenda, whenever possible, in public, drawing specifics links to its lack of positive impact in your district and the state of Minnesota on the whole, while emphasizing your social agenda as tolerant and all welcoming in a true Christian fashion, and your economic agenda as prudent, prosperous, and fair. Your security will allow you to be harsh in your criticisms and paint a picture in which your views and your party are the obvious choice. You have been a career Democratic politician since you were 22 years old. It’s time to take some risks. Allow me to suggest five things.

Firstly, although the Republican majority likes to portray themselves as the party that rails against “big government,” they often support an agenda that interferes with people’s personal choice and civil liberties. Is this the way that “freedom” is exercised? It is obviously not, and you need to remind voters of your tolerant Lutheran upbringing and voting record against such invasive legislation. In the 107th Congress you voted against “Faith-Based Charities,” against banning homosexuals from the Boy Scouts, and against curtailing abortion rights. The ACLU rates your performance at 93 out of 100. Set an example, arguing that Minnesota wants complete freedom, positive freedom, and won’t stand for government intervention in our bedrooms.

Secondly, while you may be a member of the party of “big government,” it would be politically advantageous to further publicize your wish for “liberal decentralization,” that is, an agenda of compassionate liberal social causes that are dealt with at the local level and only aided by the federal government during extraneous circumstances. As a liberal that loves compassionate programs that strengthen our community, but hates paying for farm subsidies in Alabama, this theme resonates loudly with me and I’m sure it would resonate even louder with moderates and left-leaning Republicans that resist anything “big government.” I believe this should be more common in the Democratic Party and perhaps forming a group of likeminded representatives similar to your “Friends of Norway” organization would be in order.

Thirdly, as a member on the House Appropriations Committee and Transportation Subcommittee, you were instrumental in funding the Hiawatha Light Rail Line currently serving Minneapolis and Bloomington. Point out that such projects garner little support from Republicans, but are beloved by your constituents as well as those people who enjoy the line as residents outside of the 5th district, not to mention the tourists that generate tax revenues along the cross-district line. All policy proposals regarding mass transit should be fairly safe given the huge success of the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis which comprises over half of your 615,000 constituents. Be sure to note that you spoke side-by-side with Gov. Tim Pawlenty on the opening day of the line in a display of bipartisan community. Projects such as the Hiawatha Line and the new Federal Courthouse (which you also spearheaded) play big in the 5th district because its intense urbanization (100%) allows the public to experience the positive power of government firsthand through interaction with these projects. Furthermore, this plays to the large influx of African immigrants (a sevenfold increase in the last decade) that has come to Minneapolis who have not yet lined up along the ideological fault lines of partisan politics. Do whatever you can to enlarge the light rail system and bring large-scale government projects to the urban core. This is your bread and butter as a member of the Appropriations Committee and Transportation Subcommittee; use it to your advantage and propose some example-setting legislation for transportation reform in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Fourthly, support Howard Dean for the party chair. In an article published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, you were sited as not pushing for any particular candidate. Support Dean as he is a liberal Dem who will be tempered by electoral politics when necessary; this is far better for the party than a chair that is too moderate and will not push for the leftist party base represented in your district when the opportunities arise. Republicans hate Dean because (amongst other things) they're threatened by his mobilization of the liberal base; that's good.

Lastly, in a brilliant maneuver that appeals to all Americans, you proposed a bill legalizing same-day voter registration in all states. Anyone attempting to block this bill will come off as attempting to stop people from voting (Republican Senator Jonathon Courtney has already done so). You can point to the success that this policy has had in Minnesota in bringing new people and young people into the political process; participation in the American experiment is something all politicians should champion. Give this bill a good deal of your political effort, and any other bill like it.

I know that confrontational politics are probably not your strong suit and such politics may catapult you into the national media spotlight; however, these are dark times for liberal and it is time that push back and show the American people that the party of Social Security and the New Deal still can make America and the rest of the world a better place for everyone, not just an elite few. Follow these five suggestions and hopefully they will push congressional politics into the right directions for years to come.

Kindest Regards,

Ryan Simatic
5th District of Minnesota

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