Pardon The Inconvenience, But Recount Isn’t Horner’s Fault

For those who witnessed the 2000 presidential election, recounts are a painful walk down memory lane.

Here we go again.

Democrat Mark Dayton leads Republican Tom Emmer by just about 9,000 votes in the Minnesota gubernatorial election, soit appears the race will be decided by automatic recount. State election rules require an automatic recount for any election decided by less than 0.5 percent of the overall vote. Dayton’s lead is just about 0.43 percent.

In 2008, Minnesota endured a recount between two senatorial candidates — Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman — who sparred for eight months while the votes were tallied and the results were taken to court. Franken eventually won but the lengthy process was an embarrassment and left Minnesota underrepresented in the U.S. Senate.

This time around, the candidate I voted for, Independent Tom Horner, is catching a fair amount of heat for siphoning votes from Dayton, à la Ralph Nader-from-Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. There may be a sliver of validity to the argument. If I hadn’t voted Horner, I certainly would’ve voted Dayton. But voting isn’t about convenience or expediency and I didn’t have to choose between Horner or Dayton. I wasn’t about to spurn the candidate I truly wanted to appease Dayton supporters or quicken the vote counting.

Here’s some of the Horner vitriol I’m seeing on Twitter:

  • “Oh goody. Another MN recount. Thanks, Tom Horner! asshole”
  • “Holyfreakincrap the Minnesota Gov. race has entered recount territory. NOOOOO! Damn u Tom Horner. Independence party sucks. Pick a side!”
  • “Frickin 3rd parties!!! From Ross Perot to Tom Horner to Tim Olson & everyone in between, self-serving 3rd parties steal votes from Repubs”
  • “Right now I HATE Tom Horner, well meaning peep as he may be.”

So much for favoring the emergence of a third party, because, as one of the above tweets put it, moderate voters should just “pick a side.”

I say kudos to Tom Horner. Though he pulled just 12 percent of the vote (compared to about 44 percent for both Dayton and Emmer), he commanded respect through nearly 30 debates and represented the Independence Party of Minnesota with class and integrity. I believe Horner’s campaign paired with the feckless back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats will boost membership and interest in his party over the next few years.

Who knows how long Recount 2010(-2011?) will last. No matter what, though, don’t let impatience turn to blame. Horner had every right to run, as did the four other third-party candidates whose combined 24,000 votes kept Dayton and Emmer within the automatic recount margin.

That’s democracy, folks, and it aint’ always a drive-thru. Even if you voted Dayton or Emmer, you should celebrate the fact there were other options on the ballot. One of the two will still win. If you believe in your candidate and your candidate is worth a damn, it shouldn’t matter if there’s two, three, 15 or 100 names on the ballot. If your candidate loses, that’s really no one’s fault but their own.

Newspaper Endorsements No Longer Matter. Or Do They?

History has given us a plenty of reason to question the newspaper industry's clairvoyance.

I served as editor-in-chief of my college newspaper during the 2005-06 school year. The following year, my successor decided he’d had enough after the fall term, so I was brought back for the Spring 2007 semester. I spent some 18 months as the editor of a newspaper and not once was my paper forced to make a political endorsement.

Not that any newspaper really is. Still, it’s a strange tradition that carries on; the editorial board, hardly representative of any newsroom’s entire staff, gathers to decide which candidate their newspaper supports. It’s a process happening now and in the coming weeks in Minnesota. In fact, many of the state’s biggest publications have already endorsed Independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner.

I love everything about newspapers, even though I’m a Twitter-checking, iPad-toting, RSS Feed-reading information consumer. I started reading the Argus Leader (of Sioux Falls, SD) when I was around six years old. The Argus is notoriously conservative, as is most of South Dakota. If newspapers are influential, how is it someone who became a daily reader at such a young age would go on to become a big, stupid liberal like myself?

Because I didn’t care about the political leanings of the Argus Leader’s editorial board. I suspect very few people did or do. For all the good a newspaper provides a community, I think readers maintain an intellectual detachment, a blanket of skepticism and a take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt resolve. Endorsements aren’t influential. Endorsements are fodder for political ads and debates. The Duluth News Tribune will not persuade my vote this year. Will it persuade yours?

A few years ago, Froma Harrop penned a rather snide commentary for Rasmussen Reports, roundly supporting newspaper endorsements. Harrop argued — with a fair amount of evidence — that newspaper endorsements are most effective when they support candidates outside their perceived political affiliation. For example, when the staunchly conservative Chicago Tribune endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, it was a big deal. Readers took notice. Readers were (probably) influenced.

“For newspapers, there’s something gratifying about these studies and surveys and even the arrows shot their way by bloggers and cable partisans,” Harrop wrote. “Go ahead and ‘diss’ the print journalists as pterodactyls of the ‘Mainstream Media’ … People still get hopped up over what they think.”

Apparently, he’s partially right, because here’s another blogger shooting arrows at the construct.

This year, selecting from the three Minnesota gubernatorial candidates is like choosing from an in-flight menu — go with whatever seems most palatable. I’m voting Horner and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the newspaper endorsements. I’m happy he’s garnered the support of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Duluth News Tribune, the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, the Bemidji Pioneer and, seemingly, the Mankato Free Press, but that has nothing to do with my vote.

Do newspaper endorsements still matter? That all depends on how impressionable a voter is, I guess. Personally, I refuse to be influenced politically by something that prints comic strips, crossword puzzles and horoscopes.

Minnesota Elections Do Little to Impress

Minnesota gubernatorial candidates (from left) Democrat Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer and Independent Tom Horner.

I’ve discovered moving from outside the state midway through an election year breeds ignorance. And willful ignorance at that.

This could also be part of my 2008 election hangover. I, like so many young Americans (see: Idealistic), voted for President Barack Obama as if he was a surefire, no-brainer solution to every last problem in our country. I drank the Kool-Aid. All of it. Hope. Yes w can. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Man, I was on board.

I still support President Obama. I’m still a Democrat, I guess. It’s just … this election cycle hasn’t roused my interest and there’s probably more to it than the fact I didn’t arrive in Minnesota until July. Despite having every opportunity to get informed on the candidates in each respective race, I just … haven’t.

For instance, the three Minnesota gubernatorial candidates — Republican Tom Emmer, Democrat Mark Dayton and Independent Tom Horner — have squared off in 20 debates as of last weekend, yet I haven’t had the patience to sit through a single one of’em. I was at the Minnesota State Fair when they took the stage. I tried to listen in, but the crowd was so restless, I felt like I was at a Maury Povich taping. (“Tom Emmer — you are not the father!”)

In the 6th district race for the House of Representatives, somehow-incumbent Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) has been entrenched  in battle with Minnesota State Senator Tarryl Clark. I didn’t know that the first few months, because I thought Clark was running against some dude named Jim:

The clock is winding down for me, young Minnesota voter, to get informed because every vote counts and if I don’t vote, I can’t complain and not voting is plainly un-American and if I’m not with voting, I’m with the terrorists and I pay Minnesota taxes so shouldn’t I take interested in who decides where those taxes are going because, honestly, yes we can. Yes we can? Hope.

If I take interest in the election, it won’t go beyond the city council, the school board or the state senate. Those are the pivotal elections that get lost in the muck of gubernatorial and congressional elections. Those elections take more work to understand. While Bachmann’s off waxing hysteria on FOX News or Dayton, Emmer and Horner spar over a Minnesota Vikings stadium plan, it’s the local leaders who see neighborhoods in peril, schools in limbo and public works in flux. They’re the ones who can call attention to areas in need.