I was in a Hunter S. Thompson novel as I passed the dark, neon-lit bowling alley of Moundsview’s Mermaid Entertainment and Event Center, entering the hornet’s nest of Republicans. Out of curiosity and a birthday challenge to myself on Nov. 12, I attended the 6th Congressional District Republican Candidate Forum. What I heard that day (when they were among their own kind) was far more frightening than any factless, fearmongering rhetoric these Republicans could spew in any attempt to gain support among the general public.
Minnesota Sen. Michele Bachmann (Dist. 52), MN Rep. Jim Knoblach (Dist. 15A), MN Rep. Phil Krinkie (Dist. 53A) and Jay Esmay, all are vying to fill the U.S. House seat that will be left vacant as incumbent Congressman Mark Kennedy seeks the Republican endorsement in his bid for outgoing U.S. Senator Mark Dayton’s seat.
The midday forum was hosted by the Senate District 51 Republicans, sponsored by the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota, and moderated by Dr. King Banaian, an economics department chair at St. Cloud State University and co-host of a Northern Alliance radio show.
The four candidates, all anti-abortion, pro-Iraq war and pro-Federal Marriage Amendment (anti-gay marriage), believe border security and illegal immigrants are two of the biggest problems facing our country. And as I suffered through discussions on social security reform, the North Star rail corridor, and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), I found that sources and figures supporting their statements were lacking or contradictory.
The candidates, sounding like the half-human, half-machine Borg population on Star Trek, emphasized innumerable times the need for immigrants and various cultures in the USA to “assimilate.” Bachmann compared the “huge problem” of illegal immigrants to the riots in France. She said the “guest worker program in France has been a complete and dismal failure. That has led to the violence and unrest. So many of the Muslim immigrants that have come in [to France] were part of the guest worker program. A ‘guest’ is another word for saying ‘permanent.’ Minnesota is one of the 10 top states in the nation now as a destination point for illegal immigration. This is a problem we’re going to have to look at as a civil rights issue, and also national security.”
Knoblach proposed getting all illegal immigrants with criminal records out of the country. “We need to figure out what to do with those who are not criminals, who came here for a better opportunity, but broke the law in doing it.” He added, “There are some professions where we don’t have skilled people. We need to reform the immigration system so we can take in people willing to pay taxes, and do good jobs when those are available.” Sounds like cheap menial labor to me.
Esmay said the “12 million” illegal immigrants are the enemy within our borders. He said “Think of this as a military campaign. Would you worry about shoring up your borders to keep the enemy out? Or would you deal with the 12 million enemies you have within your borders? First we need to address the people within our borders.”
The candidates were asked: “Given the recent rioting in France that is the result of a subculture that has not assimilated, what would you do to ensure that a similar situation does not take place in America?”
Knoblach said, “If you’re going to come to this land, English is the language we do business in. I don’t think we want to get ourselves into a situation like Canada has with two languages—that just sets you up for a separatist society where people are talking about seceding.”
Michele Bachmann doesn’t seem to understand that, in Paris, the suburbs rather than the inner city are the impoverished areas, as Paris residents confirm. She also apparently attributes cultural demise to multiculturalism. Bachmann said, “Only in France could you have suburban youth rioting because welfare benefits are not enough. And that’s what they’re telling us now is happening there. (laughs). Only in France could that happen. What we’re seeing now are the fruits of leftism. The suburbanites, the kids that are watching cable TV. Did you know that? That a lot of the high rises where the kids who are doing the rioting live, they have cable TV! They’re watching Al Jazeera and they’re being prompted to go ahead and start these riots in France. There’s a movement afoot that’s occurring, and part of that is this whole philosophical idea of multicultural diversity. Which at base sounds wonderful. Let’s appreciate everyone’s cultures. Guess what? Not all cultures are equal. And what we’re seeing is a violence occurring by those who are coming into France, that had a beautiful culture. The French culture is diminished. It’s going away. Due to the immigrant population in France they’re losing the Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim faction. They are not assimilating. America is a great nation, with great values. We’re an equal opportunity for all. It’s because we all came here and we came together as one. Multicultural diversity says, “out of one, many.” With tribalism, we will not long be ‘one nation under god.’ ”
The candidates were dismayed about the recent withdrawal from a House budget bill of a provision to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Esmay stated, “In one 2,000-acre plot of land, estimated, there’s enough oil to match 30 years of oil supply from Saudi Arabia.” He didn’t state his source nor could I locate any to substantiate his claim.
I did find a report issued by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) saying even at peak production, the United States would still have to import 66 percent of its oil, only a 4 percent decrease of the expected 70 percent by 2025 if the refuge’s oil remained off the market.
In addition, drilling could be an international human rights issue. The drilling would violate U.S. obligations guaranteeing the rights of indigenous people to health, subsistence, religion and culture. The coastal plain in Alaska’s far northeast is sacred ground to the Gwich’in tribe and oil development would damage the coastal plain, home and birthing ground to the Porcupine caribou herd which the Gwich’in depend upon.
I was dismayed by the myopic vision of these candidates regarding alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power. Instead, Bachmann said the biggest problem revolving around U.S. dependence on foreign oil is our “lack of refining. We need more refineries.” Her proposal for alternative energy? “We have another source of energy however. We have limited [the use of] nuclear energy for years and years and years, despite its safety and its effectiveness that’s been proven.” Again, I ask, by whom? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission? The military-industrial complex?
Not mentioned at all were hybrid cars and ethanol as ways of significantly reducing our reliance on foreign fuel.
Hearing the views of the 6th District Congressional candidates was a galling enterprise. It was also an eye-opening day, confirming my worst fears and leaving me certain that my candidate was not in that room. ||