Why Keith Must Win: A Letter to Progressives
From: Charles Underwood (peacecalendarvisi.com)
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2006 21:58:11 -0700 (PDT)
?Apologies to those who live outside of Congressional District 5
(Minneapolis and some suburbs).  Perhaps you might still benefit by reading
the following and calling your CD 5 friends.
Letter to Progressives:  Why Keith Ellison Must Win
Tuesday, September 12, is the big day.  On Tuesday, Democrats from CD 5 will
pick the replacement for 28-year incumbent Martin Sabo.  At this point, the
race is too close to call between frontrunners Keith Ellison, Ember
Reichgott Junge, and Mike Erlandson.
On this election eve, I want to express why I feel why this primary is so
important, why it represents far more than the political futures of just
these candidates.
First, Keith is a grassroots candidate.  The others are not.
You have seen Keith for years at community meetings and events.  He speaks
at large peace rallies, has fun at Minneapolis Gay Pride, marches for
immigrant rights, and quietly attends vigils for victims of violence.  If
you have been on the streets or at community meetings, you have seen Keith.
Keith¹s rivals have their own positive experiences, of course. Reichgott
Junge spent a number of years in the Minnesota Senate and had some
legislative success.  Erlandson has spent much of his adult life working for
Martin Sabo and has certainly picked up some knowledge of D.C. shenanigans.
These experiences have very little to do with grassroots organizing work, or
actually with any lengthy experience in actually listening to people.
How will you feel if you see grassroots candidate Keith Ellison lose the
primary to someone with better insider connections or just more money? What
could you say about the power of the people in electoral politics?
Second, Keith is the endorsed candidate. The others are not.
This race has been going on for over six months. Citizens participate in the
very inclusive endorsing system by going to caucuses and sending
representatives on to endorsing conventions. Thirteen candidates
participated in speeches, debates, and Q & A sessions in the hope of winning
the DFL endorsement. At the CD5 convention, the delegates found a candidate
that we could all support and agree on:  Keith.
What will the endorsement process mean if a well-financed rival can buy the
primary a few months later?  Who will then be willing to mobilize at the
precinct causes?  What sort of persuasion will get citizens to spend their
Saturdays at the various district conventions? Why bother, if expensive
television ads can replace the role of the citizen-activist in the party?
Third, we must beat back the power of racism and religious sectarianism.
This campaign has been a dirty, Rovian experience.  Attacks on Keith¹s race
(African-American) and religion (Muslim) have passed from Keith¹s rivals to
Republican blogs to the pages of the Star Tribune.  Keith has endured
references to being in the company of ³looming but silent black men in dark
suits.²  He has been attacked for not paying parking tickets and for a
garage that needed paint.
By lightly coding the racism, it has been possible for some voters to act on
racist assumptions without examining them.  Two race myths have been used.
The false association with the Nation of Islam has allowed some to believe
that he might be a Dangerous Black Man.  The parking tickets and missed
deadlines references allow some to believe that he might merely be an
Irresponsible Negro.
The reality, of course, is that Keith is one of the warmest and most
personable people you will ever meet, neither dangerous nor lazy.  Those who
know him best and longest speak with admiration about how he stood up to
anti-Semitism and gay-bashing, even at the height of his work with the
Million Man March or during him most passionate U of M law school days.
The question for me, however, is whether or not race and religion should be
a legitimate factor in Minnesota campaigns in 2006.  Aren¹t we beyond that?
Shouldn¹t we be having at least a few discussions about policy issues
concerning war, healthcare, civil liberties, and the environment?
Fourth, we must undermine the power of money.
Reichgott Junge has received large contributions from Republicans and
insurance industry executives (while claiming she will reform health care).
Erlandson accepts money from defense contractors and Iraq war profiteers
(while claiming to be a peace candidate). Keith gets his money from unions,
the DFL, and friends.  They all get money from law firms and lawyers.  You
can check the documents at www.fecinfo.com
Who do you want your next U.S. Representative to be answering to?
Fifth, Keith Ellison will broaden the base. The others will not.
Keith¹s win will give encouragement to Northside residents, who have been
beaten down by decades of racism, violence and neglect. Keith¹s win will
encourage electoral participation by his supporters, including Somalis and
other immigrants, the peace community, the environment community, and
progressive religious community.
Now try to imagine how Mike Erlandson and Ember Reichgott Junge could
possibly reach out to underrepresented communities.  I can¹t.  Can you?
Last, Keith Ellison is the very best candidate for all progressive issues.
Many of you have seen Keith at your meetings, or heard him talk at your
rallies.  You know where he stands.  Clearly, he will be one of the very
strongest advocates in Congress for ending the disastrous war against Iraq,
as well as standing up against any new wars that the imperialistic neocons
might be planning.  Clearly, he will advocate intelligently for education,
the environment, GLBT rights and civil liberties.  He brings to that work
inspiring words, intelligence and thoughtfulness, accurate information, and
his own charismatic charm.
Did you know that only two legislators, both Republican, passed more
legislation than Keith in the Minnesota House?  Many people would consider
that body as a hostile work environment for Democrats, but Keith worked very
well there.  He has an extremely rare combination of passionate convictions
and personal warmth, so he is able to take strong moral stands while working
with those across the aisle.  He has the strength to stand up to the Bush
agenda, yet do so with humanity, warmth, and class.
During all the smears against Keith, have you ever heard stories about any
angry outbursts or even defensiveness?  Keith doesn¹t storm out of meetings
or call his opponents names.  He takes passionate positions for justice, yet
he doesn¹t make enemies.  Consider the contrast with his rivals in the
primary. All the pretty slogans in the world won¹t get us better policy.
All the best insider connections in Washington won¹t compensate for
thin-skinned peevishness and a wounded sense of entitlement.
What we must do.
Vote on Tuesday.  If you don¹t know your polling place, go to
http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ or cal 311 for Minneapolis info. If
you¹ve moved and you¹re not registered, prove your current address by either
bringing a state ID with your new address, an old-address  state ID with a
current utility bill or cell phone bill, or go to the poll with a registered
neighbor.  (Other methods are found at www.sos.state.mn.us)
Call your friends in the Fifth Congressional District.  Remind them that
polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm, and that lines are usually short for
primaries.  Talk to them about how crucial this particular vote is.  Call
them right away, before you forget.
On Tuesday, greet friends with, ³Hi!  Did you vote yet?²  Suggest to the
coffee server or receptionist or clerk to do the same.

This is history.  Let¹s make it.

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