OPINION | With Republicans in the Heart of the Beast

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I saw the Emmer for Governor signs as I walked up Eighteenth Avenue to the south edge of the park, three, or maybe five of them, leaning against a picnic table.  Nearby stood a guy in a hockey jersey with Emmer in three-inch letters.  Atop the table a woman in a pink Emmer t-shirt surveyed the scene with all the sobriety of General Robert E. Lee before Pickett’s charge. 

Campaign signs were no surprise. Each year the free speech section of the May Day parade assembles in Cedar Avenue Park in Minneapolis. It’s one square block of people who are delighted to be called liberal.

I couldn’t see any mention of political party in any of the Emmer paraphernalia.  The signs had white letters against a background of blue-state blue.  Nonetheless, I was pretty sure the Minnesota GOP had endorsed the fellow just a few days back, and that the candidate had promised an Arizona-style immigration policy.

I admire those who test the boundaries of their welcome.  I admire many kinds of chutzpah.  Proudly supporting a tea-partier type in the midst of this rainbow rabble marching through the Phillips neighborhood –  most certainly a brown town – that was a form of ballsy, which begged for further inquiry.

“What do you already know about Tom Emmer?” asked the woman atop the picnic table, eyeing my flaming red wig with some uncertainty.  The hockey jersey guy, spying my notepad and pen, asked if I was a reporter.  He said he might have heard of the Daily Planet and they were up for an interview.

He’s Tom.  She’s Kathy. Their last name is Coulter – no relation to conservative pundit Ann Coulter, but they seemed pleased at the suggestion.

Kathy was serious and engaging as she explained to me why Tom Emmer ought to be the next Governor.  We can no longer afford a political solution for every human ill. People have to be responsible for their own security.  Get out of people’s way.  Emmer would take back the state.  Tom is likeable and has seven children.

“The contrast with the Democrat will be riveting,” Kathy said.  Looking out over the people getting ready for the parade, lifting her eyebrows, “riveting,” she repeated with a low rolling “r.”

I sat down on top of the table with Kathy and we watched the park fill up with chattering activists.  In their red shirts that read Margaret for Governor, the supporters of DFL-endorsed Anderson-Kelliher seemed numerous as tulips.

How does a Republican take back the state from another Republican?  If we can’t afford to help people here and now, how can we afford wars everywhere?  And, if a large family recommends for political leadership, then by rights we ought to proclaim 19 Kids & Counting dad, Jim Duggar, President of the United States and be done with it.

That’s stuff I could have said, but didn’t say.

Instead, I asked Kathy, “Do you feel welcome here?”

“Now that’s an interesting question,” Kathy said. “I’ve been a Republican living in South Minneapolis since 1973. Let’s just say I’m used to it.”  Kathy nods toward the girls in tulip red, “I saw a young Margaret volunteer, and I said to her, I said, ‘Let the games begin!'” The eager light in Kathy’s eyes makes me feel a little sorry for the Kelliher kid she’d buttonholed.

“Anyway, welcome,” I said.  “Happy May Day!”

“Yeah, thanks for talking to us,” said Tim brushing off his palm on his hockey jersey, and shaking my hand. “I like your wig.”

Later, as the Emmer people swung around the corner onto Bloomington Avenue, marching on the heels of the food shelf group, so close it was hard to tell who was with whom, a cheer went up that might have been for the food shelf folks, or the drum corps that came after, but for a moment, at least, they all got caught up in it. Big cheer.

It was probably best they didn’t know on May Day what Tom Emmer stands for, and though it would be good to clear that up before election day, it was kind of nice to watch Kathy and Tim, smile and wave, right-wingers having a ball at the lefty parade.

Keep it sane. Keep it civil. That should serve us all. 

 

CORRECTION 5/7/2010  He’s Tom.  She’s Kathy.