Over at Thug in Pastels, Javier Morillo-Alicea explores the frustration Rev. Jerry McAfee felt earlier in the election cycle over the emphasis that defeating the marriage amendment was getting from progressive organizations, seemingly at the expense of defeating the voter restriction amendment, earlier in the election cycle.
And given the explosive growth of the effort to defeat the amendment and the explosive shift in public opinion on it, he pointedly asks why McAfee hasn't asked equally pointed questions of the Catholic Church, chief sponsor among his other set of allies, those who support the marriage amendment.
The Church, after all moved from opposing the amendment, to a position of neutrality. For her part, Bluestem wants to know: why the silence on the Church's defunding of one of the Land Stewardship Project, which promotes racial justice as well as fighting voter restriction?
McAfee's initial criticism of the focus had some merit, although his conclusions about motive were on more shaky ground. Morillo-Alicea writes a strong analysis of what happened and why in All the Archbishop’s Men: Silent on Voter Restriction:
I have been in meetings with Reverend McAfee where I heard –and agreed with–his frustration with the relative lack of attention that was being paid to the Voter Restriction Amendment. I disagreed with his analysis of the why, but I could relate to the frustration many of us felt earlier this year that there was a collective failure on the part of the progressive left to take the Voter Restriction Amendment seriously. While the Reverend sought to blame “the DFL,” I thought the problem was broader. While the progressive infrastructure had, in the past two years, mobilized to keep “Right to Work” and other budget amendments from getting on the ballot, polls showing big support for Voter ID in concept were met with a collective shrug of “we can’t win that.”
Bluestem shared the frustration both men were experiencing, though not Reverend McAfee's fondness for the marriage restriction amendment.
In addition to loathing the voter restriction amendment's potential to disenfranchise poorer, older, and browner Minnesotans, as the good Reverend does, I was pretty annoyed at the potential for the measure to reduce the ability of rural cities, counties and townships to maintain and improve the infrastructure we need to prosper--and to avoid death by snowbank, to put it crudely.
Want to spend a lot of money on tackling the phantom menace of voter fraud? Maybe the back roads don't get plowed so fast in the middle of a harsh winter. Those fears will cost you--the civic death of the disenfranchised joined by an occasional frozen body silent in the snowy fields.
So I started blogging about the issue as often as I read material about it in greater Minnesota newspapers and discovered something: there was a lot of discussion of the amendment going on in those papers, though the conversation centered on the crushing cost of implementing the measure.
And that conversation got louder and louder, in news accounts and the op-ed pages as letters began to flow.
About that time, Our Vote Our Future hired a campaign director. Morillo writes:
Polls show the more Minnesotans learn about the Voter Restriction Amendment, the less they like it. And the resources have finally begun to flow. We are outspending proponents in the final week and have a broad coalition of faith, labor and community groups educating voters about this Amendment and flipping people in droves to the position that, however you feel about Voter ID, we can agree that this particular legislation was poorly written and will be expensive, and therefore we need to Send It Back to the legislature. DFL sample ballots include the Vote No on Voter Restriction position printed on it, and the party’s field operation, together with the work of TakeAction and the faith-based coalition ISAIAH, has had tens of thousands of conversations with voters. These have been at the core of the shifting poll numbers.
That last two polls released show this trend continues. The day after Morillo-Alicea blogged, Public Policy Polling released more upward motion for the Send It Back message in Obama up 8 in Minnesota, amendments may be going down:
The more interesting findings on our final Minnesota poll deal with the state's high profile amendments to ban gay marriage and require voter identification. We find both narrowly trailing. 45% of voters say they'll vote for the gay marriage ban, compared to 52% who are opposed to it. And 46% say they'll support the voter ID amendment to 51% who are opposed. Public opinion has shifted against both of these measures in the last month. In early October voters were only against the marriage ban 46/49 and they supported the voter ID question 51/43. . . .
The reason the voter ID amendment now appears to be in serious trouble is that Democrats (82%) are just as opposed to it as Republicans (82%) are supportive of it. We've found Republicans strongly supportive of the concept all year, but Democrats have moved sharply against it from 36% support in June to now just 14%. And independents have shifted over the last five months from being very much in favor (58/35) to evenly divided (49/49).
Is Reverend McAfee paying attention? Apparently not: as recently as Thursday he repeated his claim.
And that poll turns out to not be an outlier. Thought by most observers to be a more conservative poll, last night KSTP 5 released the results of its latest Survey USA polling:
Also on the ballot is a measure about voter identification. It asks: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?"
So it's a bit hollow of McAfee to continue to complain about resources not being to directed to this struggle. With the deployment of resources, there's been sea change in public opinion.
But unfortunately, it hasn't been the only change, and that's the position of McAfee's pro-marriage restriction amendment ally. Morillo-Alicea writes about how the institution funding the fight against marriage freedom has gone from opposing the voter restriction amendment to being neutral--in short, far less involved in this struggle than the DFL was went McAfee first kvetched:
So, what happened? Sources tell me the Catholic Conference position changed after a meeting they had with Dan McGrath, the one-man-show at Minnesota Majority running the effort to pass the Voter Restriction Amendment. I asked Our Vote Our Future if they had been invited to address the Catholic Conference as well. Communications Director Eric Fought had this to say:
There was a sudden shift in the position of the Minnesota Catholic Conference earlier this year, as they moved from being opposed to the Voter Restriction Amendment to ‘neutral.’ Recently, Mr. Adkins told a reporter covering the race that he offered a meeting with the bishops to a representative of our campaign in September.
No such offer was received. We most certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to address the bishops about the many costs and consequences of the Voter Restriction Amendment. There is no doubt, Minnesota Catholics will be greatly affected by this poorly written amendment.
But the church has gone even farther in this retreat. Land Stewardship Project, one of the groups in Greater Minnesota working both to empower people of color and to defeat the voter restriction amendment, has been defunded by the Diocese of Winona because of connections with groups working to defeat the marriage amendment, although LSP has no stand on the amendment.
MinnPost's David Brauer writes in Catholic guilt by association: how Minnesota marriage amendment politics hurt Land Stewardship Project that the diocese rescinded a grant that would aid the group's organizing because LSP is a member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Take Action Minnesota.
The Catholic Church has poured millions into promoting Minnesota’s marriage amendment. Add to that the $48,000 they yanked from the Land Stewardship Project.
LSP is an unlikely candidate for marriage amendment politics: the group helps new farmers and rural Latinos while opposing factory farms. Long supported by the Diocese of Winona, LSP has “not taken positions opposing Catholic teaching,” insists Associate Director Mark Schultz. “We have never taken a position on the marriage amendment or worked on it.”
That's not an idle claim. I've been spending some time out on the other side of the state, in Big Stone County, supporting efforts by CURE and LSP surrounding land use and local control, and no: the marriage amendment doesn't have a place in the work there. Many of the local people involved support the marriage amendment.
Why is LSP involved with the offending groups? Brauer writes:
[Schultz] says LSP is a member of the non-profit council “for occasional seminars — training and bookkeeping — that help make us a better-run organization. We work with TakeAction on reforming health care — a huge issue for our organization, which is primarily rural and outstate. They’ve also take a position against the voter restriction amendment, which we oppose.”
So why is Reverend McAfee standing with a group that is silent about voter restriction--and one that defunds one of the few groups working both to empower people of color in Greater Minnesota and the defeat the voter restriction amendment? Where's the outrage, sir?
This is a group that puts out action alerts like Help Get Out the Vote to Defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment. That writes in Why Restricting the Right to Vote is Bad for our Land, Farms & Rural Communities:
Recently, the Land Stewardship Project joined “Our Vote, Our Future,” a coalition of over 70 organizations working to oppose the voter restriction amendment to the state constitution that is to be put before Minnesota voters Nov. 6. Why is an organization whose mission is stewardship of the land and our communities speaking out on this issue?
There are several important reasons for taking this stand—as discussed by LSP’s State Policy Committee—which relate directly to the values and history of our organization, as well as simple common sense. . . .
But here’s the even larger point — all of us are hurt when we exclude people from the vote. We are stronger and better as a state and a nation when people have a say over the decisions that affect their lives. That’s why the U.S. Constitution and our state constitution have consistently been used to extend our rights, not to diminish them.
And as a state whose communities of color are growing, a voter restriction law that disproportionately disenfranchises people of color is unwise, unjust and anti-democratic. For the strongest and best solutions, we must all be in it together, no exceptions. We can’t afford to lose the voices of these growing segments of the population. . . .
The bottom line is this: Minnesota’s elderly, our communities of color, our students, our disabled, our poor, are not represented by the corporate lobbyists that flock to the Capitol or the big money donors that increasingly dominate our elections and are funding this push to restrict voting. To add to this problem by enacting a law that directly and adversely impacts the ability of Minnesotans from under-represented communities to vote is just wrong.
LSP is providing a living, active witness against voter restriction in Greater Minnesota. It isn't involved in marriage politics. But it has been as part of the conversation against voter restriction. Will Reverend McAfee speak up for a group that is direct and vocal about voter restriction--and one which calls out the amendment's disenfranchisement of people of color as one of the costs to Greater Minnesota? Or through his silence, condone the guilt by association politics that the Catholic Church is playing?
Photo: Squash the amendment, or squash those farmers for partnering with Take Action Minnesota? What's the deal? Butternut do it.