Tim Penny Offers Advice for Voters (and Republicans)

QUERY : Did Norm Coleman, Dennis Frederickson. Steve Dille and Paul Koering wear a White hat, Black hat or the Wrong hat ?

That question forms the basis of the advice offered by former First District Minnesota Congressman Tim Penny …

Rule # 9 : Avoid Those Candidates With Partisan Tendencies

As with most of our society, civility has become harder and harder to find in national politics. It’s illogical to think a government can function without it. Think about your drive to work each day, or about standing in line at the grocery store or walking down a crowded street. Aren’t all of these encounters improved by a dose of common decency ?

The same is true of politics. It’s common sense. Politics is about ht fusing of different priorities into a coherent whole. The legislative process depends on people who can disagree without being disagreeable. It’s no easier for a lawmaker to sympathize with a legislative opponent who’s just attacked him than it is for you to sympathize with the guy who has just stepped in front of you at the checkout counter.

Let me explain what I mean about partisanship. I don’t mean to suggest that you should shy away from people who strongly disagree with their political opponent. Definite opinions strongly held are a tonic for political debate. By themselves, they cause no problems and contribute immensely to the public’s understanding of the issues at hand.

What I’m talking about is the “my party right or wrong” approach to politics. You find in lawmakers who vote with their party or President 90 percent or 100 percent of the time. This reflects a monochromatic view of political life : my party wears white hats, and your party wears black hats; we’re heroes, and you’re the villains. Lawmakers blinded by partisanship cannot see that compromise lubricates the legislative machinery. Knee-jerk partisanship gums the gears.

The real damage wrought by this mentality is not found in what Congress does but in what it doesn’t do. Many members of Congress dismiss new proposals simply because they’ve come from someone in the opposing party. As a result, new ideas shrivel before they are given a chance to take root. While partisanship pleases the party hierarchy, it rarely paves the way for a melding of the best ideas Congress can muster. Frequently, it leads to ideological standoffs where both parties assail the other’s ideas while the problem they are supposedly addressing festers. Steer clear of partisan candidates. They tend to be blame-layers and problem-makers. That’s not what we need in Congress.

From the book
Common Cents : A Retiring Six-term Congressman Reveals How Congress Really Works – and What We Must Do To Fix It.

by Timothy J. Penny and Major Garrett

Penny’s advice is fifteen years old, but probably more relevant today.

Interestingly, Penny’s radio program on Friday featured retired Senator Dave Durenberger (R-MN) for a discussion on the recently enacted healthcare legislation. Durenberger and Penny talked about their old legislative days together representing Minnesota and their failed efforts to expand healthcare coverage for children. That failure was blamed on the Republican’s desire to derail President Clinton’s efforts for healthcare reform. Eventually, The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was enacted in 1997 by a Republican Congress and Democratic President Clinton with Gil Gutknecht (R-MN-01) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN-03) being part of the Republican Majority that got its passage. This legislation would never have passed without Republican support.

Durenburger and Penny then spoke of the trillion dollars that got added to the national debt … no, not from the recently enacted reform legislation, but instead of when Congress enacted Medicare Advantage as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Medicare Advantage truly gave the advantage to the insurance industry in the form of subsidies … growing the debt. The legislation was approved during the Bush presidency with John Kline (R-MN-02) and Mark Kennedy (R-MN-06) being critical votes for its passage while Gil Gutknecht voted against the proposal.

The assessment from Durenberger was that the recently enacted legislation had the basis in old Republican proposals which should have been embraced by Republicans but it was politics that got in the way … the desire to make healthcare reform Obama’s Waterloo. Durenberger went on to say that the biggest impediment might be Republicans being pushed by partisans to offer legal challenges.

For an independent voter, this was the message that needed to be said … frank and honest … it’s time to take off the Hats.

During Penny’s second segment, his guest was Minnesota State Senator Paul Koering, (R-12). Koering informed the audience that although he had won multiple endorsements from the Republican Party dating back to 1996, this year the Republicans endorsed someone else. Koering plans to compete in the primary, “It doesn’t appear there’s room for independent thinkers in the Republican Party. We used to call ourselves Independent-Republicans – that’s what I am.

As an independent voter, I am concerned about the rejection of moderate voices in the Republican Party. Norm Coleman’s defeat was as much due to his vote in support of TARP as the successful Throw Coleman Under the Bus campaign.

TARP was a bi-partisan resolution … heck, Democrat Tim Walz and Republican Michelle Bachmann opposed it while Republican John Kline supported it. While opinions vary as to whom was right, it proved that Congress could work together with President Bush to address a crisis.

Sadly, President Obama has not benefited from that “America First” attitude. Instead, it’s been “my party wears white hats, and your party wears black hats; we’re heroes, and you’re the villains.”

As such Roll Call votes have followed party line too often, so voters need to heed attention to who is reaching out to the other side. From the First District, Tim Walz stands out. Representative Walz has promoted alternative energy projects including joining the Bipartisan Energy Working Group which was dominated by Republicans including prominent party leaders Reps. Dan Burton (IN), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Rob Bishop (UT), and Tim Murphy (PA). The current legislation pending is HR 2227, the American Independence and Clean Energy Act of 2009.

However, while energy is always a concern and a hot political issue, the healthcare reform has been the central issue. Representative Walz recognized that there was constituent concerns and mis-information and suggested to John Kline (R-MN-02) that they hold joint forums in both their districts. A logical suggestion considering that citizens ranging from Fairmont in Representative Walz’s First District or Faribault in Mr. Kline’s Second District are just as likely to end up at the Mayo Clinic. Sadly, Mr. Kline rejected this idea. Unabated, Representative Walz held a forum … with Senator Dave Durenberger as moderator … Representative Walz does not wear a White hat, nor a Black hat, he wears the Peoples hat … that’s who he represents.

Just as at the Federal level where Hats can dominate, so it happens at the Minnesota state level.
For example, Governor Pawlenty, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers (32-B), Senate Republican leader Dave Senjem (29) and others held “Jobs Growth Summits” before the legislative session … these were Chamber of Commerce events and no DFL legislators were invited.

Conversely, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-60A) created a 36 member bi-partisan Minnesota House Jobs Task Force as a prelude to the legislative session.

On Thursday, Governor Pawlenty signed the signed into law the Minnesota Jobs Stimulus Bill, … H.F.No. 2695 which consisted of a diverse array of tax incentives to stimulate job growth in Minnesota. The bill is estimated to create between 12,000 and 20,000 jobs across the state. The House of Representatives passed the legislation 112-20 (notable in their dissent were candidates for Minnesota Governor Tom Emmer (R-19-B) and Marty Seifert (R-21-A) as well as Randy Demmer (R-29-A), a candidate for Congress to represent the First District ( as well as other prominent legislators Bruce Anderson (R-19-A),Mike Buesgens (R-35-B), Tony Cornish (R-24-B), Greg Davids (R-31-B), Rod Hamilton (R-22-B) and Joyce Peppin (R-32-A). There was wide spread acknowledgment of the significant leadership that led to this bill’s passage by Senators Tom Bakk (DFL-6) and Jim Metzen (DFL-39), Representative Ann Lenczewski (DFL-40-B), Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller (DFL-59).

As voters begin to assess candidates for the next election, Avoid those candidates that put Party or Ideology First and not Minnesota.

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