By Jeff Fecke • 10/27/08 • … Paulsen couldn’t be bothered to stand up against racism and homophobia. He couldn’t be bothered to agree that Lindner’s statements, however protected by the first amendment, were still outrageous.
Remember State Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran? Sure you do! He’s the insane former state representative whose political career imploded when he said, well, this:
Charming fellow. To be fair, this wasn’t the only bit of insanity Lindner espoused. He skipped a joint session of the legislature because the Dalai Lama was addressing it, saying, “As a Christian, I am offended that we would have the Dalai Lama come and speak to a joint meeting of our Minnesota Legislature. He claims to be a god-king, a leader of the Buddha religion, which historically has been considered a cult because of its anti-Biblical teachings concerning the one true Holy God, Creator of Heaven and earth and His Son, Jesus Christ.” When DFL State Rep. Michael Paymar, a practicing Jew, objected to the fact that invocations in the House had become sectarian under the GOP leadership, Lindner had said, “You know, we’re told there’s one God and one mediator between God and man. That man is Jesus Christ. And most of us here are Christians. And we shouldn’t be left not able to pray in the name of our God….And if you don’t like it, you may have to like it-Or just don’t come. I don’t come sometimes for some prayers here….We have that privilege, and you need to exercise it. But don’t impose your irreligious left views on me.” Because asking that invocations in a state body be nonsectarian was, evidently, too much to ask.
And of course, there was the letter Lindner’s lawyer sent to Rep. Neva Walker-Black. The problem with that was that there was no Neva Walker-Black in the legislature. There was and is a Rep. Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis, the first African-American woman ever elected to the Minnesota State Legislature. She had never been named Black, and had never been married to anyone named Black — indeed, no real explanation was ever offered as to why the letter was addressed to Walker-Black, though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.
Lindner’s pattern of behavior was embarrassing to the state GOP, and arguably tanked the Republican effort to strip sexual orientation out as a protected class from the state human rights law. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., condemned his statements. And an ethics violation was filed against him, seeking to strip him of his chairmanship of a subcommittee.
He kept his post, though. The House GOP, citing Lindner’s right to freedom of speech, defended him. The second guy in that video is someone you probably recognize — then-State House Majority Leader Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie. Paulsen, who’s now House Minority Leader, has been running a racially tinged campaign against Ashwin Madia for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Paulsen defended Lindner at the time, suggesting Lindner had been “misquoted” in newspaper accounts, despite the fact that the quotes were taken direct from his remarks on the floor of the House. Paulsen voted against bringing a discussion on sanctions to the floor, and the GOP caucus, under the leadership of Paulsen and then-Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, took no action against Lindner.
It was left to Lindner’s constituents to deal with him, and to the credit of the GOP in District 32A, they did, denying Lindner the party’s endorsement. Lindner ran as an independent, and pulled just 20 percent of the vote in the very conservative district. Ultimately, the local GOP was more responsive to Lindner than his caucus was.
Now, some will suggest that Lindner merely said some dumb things, that he didn’t deserve punishment from the House. But like Trent Lott on the national level, his statements made him unfit to serve as a leader in the House. The GOP caucus, under Paulsen, would later strip members of leadership positions for the grave sin of voting against their partisans on a transportation bill; certainly, saying that The Pink Swastika was legitimate and slagging on African-Americans would seem no less grave a crime.
But Paulsen couldn’t be bothered to stand up against racism and homophobia. He couldn’t be bothered to agree that Lindner’s statements, however protected by the first amendment, were still outrageous. It’s not surprising he’s been willing to use racist dog-whistles against Madia. Paulsen’s obviously not bothered by hate. It’s up to the 3rd District, I suppose, to decide how they feel about it.