The devil is in the details

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On December 14, the Minnesota conservative movement reared its naked, ugly, Voldemortian head, giving us a clear, unfettered glimpse of the right-wing agenda. It’s not a pretty sight, but don’t turn away. Progressives need to understand this perspective in order to counter it.

A new right-wing advocacy organization, Minnesota Majority, is running AM radio spots in which its executive director, former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, attacks Democrats for supporting “socialistic” universal health care, likening it to a “welfare program.”

Socialistic? Wow. I didn’t think anybody trotted out that tired bit of red-baiting anymore. Perhaps they’re nostalgic for the late Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, the Writers’ Blacklist and the WWI-era Minnesota Public Safety Commission’s loyalty tests.

Although I had a vague sense of the conservative activists behind “Minnesota Majority” — for convenience’s sake, let’s call them “Minnie Maj” — I hadn’t visited their website or read their screeds.

I have now. Where to start?

Minnie Maj writer Dave Racer attributes Sweden’s and Japan’s lower infant mortality rates to racial purity. He writes, “Black women, for a variety of reasons, are more prone to underweight babies than are Caucasian and Asian women. It is not surprising that Sweden has a lower infant mortality rate, or that Japan has a longer life expectancy than the United States does. They are nearly racially pure; we are not.”

Confronted with this racist bilge, Kiffmeyer defends it. The St. Paul Pioneer Press quoted her as saying that health care and racial purity must be understood in context, that the phrase is simply descriptive. “That’s a genetic term … It does matter when you are doing medical studies.”

Race is a social construct, not a scientific one. I’m surprised that Kiffmeyer, a trained nurse, didn’t make that distinction. Defending a racist perspective under the guise of scientific inquiry is a little like saying that reading “Mein Kampf” in the original German makes it less objectionable.

Since the Pioneer Press’s article and subsequent uproar, Minnie Maj has updated Racer’s original article, eliminating the “racially pure” phrase. They don’t disavow the idea, though.

While this is fine for progressive outrage, don’t miss the forest for the trees. The Minnesota conservative movement is sticking to its plan — advocating and advancing a social agenda that distracts people from the issues that really matter: education, health care, transportation and economic development.

It’s right there in Minnie Maj’s “About Us” section: “Our country is in the midst of a fierce civil war between those who cherish our nation’s traditional values and those who want to radically remake America into a secular progressive country.” Their issues are health care, illegal immigration, homosexual marriage, comprehensive sex education and embryonic stem cell research.

Minnesota 2020 was founded to challenge and counter this sentiment. We believe in a public policy future based on collaboration, consensus and common cause rather than one drawn from division, disharmony and disunity. In Minnesota Majority, we see very clearly what we’re up against.

We’re not fighting a civil war. We’re not radically remaking anything. We’re focused on building a secure future through strong public schools, affordable health care, more efficient and sustainable transportation and real economic development. If we should apologize for anything, it’s for not making the best possible case for that future right now.

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