While Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson has garnered a few well-earned guffaws (beginning with this post)for telling Minnesota Public Radio he's "not a Tea Party extremist," Bluestem thinks we understand where he's coming from.
Compared to others running under the Republican banner, the former Cargill corporate attorney is a real pussycat.
Take the MNGOP Secretary of State candidate, former state representative Dan Severson. Both his advocates and gimlet-eyed journalists have declared his bonafides. As part of his case for endorsing Severson for U.S. Senate in 2012, North Star Tea Party activist and current Minority Liberty Alliance president Walter Hudson wrote:
One thing I observed over time was that some politicians are more in tune with we among the grassroots than others. An immediate standout was Dan Severson, then a state representative from Saux Rapids. In a time when many Republicans weren’t sure what to make of the Tea Party, and just as many were not naturally inclined toward the new movement’s positions on the issues, Dan Severson sat comfortably among us as a rogue advocate of causes like judicial reform.
Minnpost's veteran journalist Doug Grow wrote in 2011:
Severson, who was Tea Party before there even was a Tea Party, promised to get government off the backs of the people.
Severson didn't score his party's endorsement for U.S. Senate, and was famously so shocked by what he called "immoral" pickups in the elections by the DFL that November that he famously declared that he'd leave the state.
Since he didn't followup on that promise, Bluestem has been reviewing just what makes the man so Tea Party (it's not just the frequent guest appearances at meetings and rallies), and begin a review of recent public statements that illustrate his agenda.
Rhetoric, as well as policy, is important for the holder of office, as Mary Kiffmeyer learned in her second term, and Severson looks to follow in her model.
How so? Since most Minnesota kids just went back after Labor Day, we'll start with our review of Severson's incendiary rhetoric about public schools.
MNGOP Where Do We Go From Here 1/30/2013
However tempted, Severson remained in Minnesota after the 2012 Republican debacle, taking part in a panel discussion sponsored by Look True North and Real Capitol View, and hosted by Mitch Berg and Jeff Johnson.
When asked what might bring young people into the party, moderate activist Sarah Janecek said beginning just before the 46 minute mark:
So how do we appeal to the young people? I think Marianne [Stebbins] just hit it on the head, and Andy [Parrish] is going to hate this too, but look at the demographic data of the wave that's coming. Younger people don't care about the social issues and younger people grow up around--look at the numbers and I don't have, I didn't bring an ipad and I'm happy to follow up by posting something on Facebook, but I think where Ron Paul really appealed to young people was on the social issues, on the fiscal issues that Marianne just described.
. . . We got--our public schools have become a machine that is socializing socialist values.
And so we have to have some pushback. I'm a big advocate of education choice. Vouchers, you know, actually giving the parent the ability to choice where their children go, and have voice in that process. That's part of it.
We have to fix our educational system because they are programming our kids, they aren't teaching them.
Here's the segment:
Fact is, Minnesota's parents have a number of choices available, though vouchers for private K-12 schools are not an option (see discussion here at the Legislative Reference Library).
We're just wondering what those "socialist values" are--and Severson's simplistic notion that values are somehow "programmed" into students. Bluestem suspects that if teachers were able to implement such measures, they'd punch up the program for high test scores.
CRF with Steve and Daria
Around the 58:30 point, Rosenblum stated that they like to "see how far" candidates will go on policy, and so asked about the U.S. Department of Education. Severson replied with the standard conservative rallying cry of abolish it, and then says (59:08 time stamp):
I'm a big voucher kind of guy. I believe the parents should have the opportunity to send their children wherever they want to go to get a voucher that says "this is where I believe my child will be best served.
I believe that creates a free market system that actually makes the educational systems have to become more customer oriented, they're going to have to serve the customer.
I'm a substitute teacher, you know I was a substitute teachers for a while and both of my parents were teachers, and its very worthy and honorable profession but I think the unons have become too strong,. they have perverted the whole process of our education system and made it more about sustaining their jobs than about educating our children. So I'm a firm beleiver in getting rid of the Department of Education.
Listen here, beginning at 58:08 for the transcript above):
One wonders if Severson understands the origins of the student debt crisis in a similar appeal to market dynamics on the part of those touted the "high tuition, high aid" model for higher education. We've seen what happens when funding follows the student. It's not pretty, especially when the funding of the individual student's future--rather than schools themselves--begins to be framed as "welfare," as has been the case with aid to college students.
Severson certainly enjoys injecting inflammatory rhetoric into statements; students are "programmed" with "socialist values" while teacher unions have "perverted" the system. The election of DFL majorities are "immoral."
Do Minnesotans want this sort of language and vision from their Secretary of State? We'll be looking at more from Severson in the coming days.
Photo: Dan Severson at the 2012 Rally the Right, in Andover, Minnesota, sponsored by the the North Metro Tea Party Patriots, according to the blogger who posted the entry at A Future Free. Photo credit: Bachmann for Congress.
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