What, now I have to vote for a governor too?

By Timothy Den Herder-Thomas

In the past weeks, we’ve been reminded of an important upcoming event: the mid-term elections. I recently received a mailing calling that one act on Tuesday November 7th the most important thing I can do all year. I get rather offended when I see such words.
I think I do more useful things in a year, like networking a movement to confront climate change, or helping a buddy mobilize Dupre for a new student culture, or setting up wind turbines, or trying to find an alternative to Kyoto that will bring the world on board and keep the earth from frying. There should be much more emphasis behind affirming our civic duty (aka global citizenship) in all those other much more interesting ways. No wonder students get disillusioned by voting – all that stuff that actually makes change is so under-emphasized. Democracy doesn’t work with inactive citizens. Voting is far from the most important thing you can do in a year; you have to work for a vision.
However, I think it is safe to say that the most important thing you can do in 20 minutes next Tuesday is go vote. Registration at the polls is super-easy in Minnesota; the only requirements are living in MN for 20 days, bringing ID (try Mac ID and a piece of mail addressed here or even a pre-registered friend), and being a US citizen.
Of course, other Op-Ed writers have already beat me to the punch discussing the quirks of the two-party system. We’ve heard both that you shouldn’t throw you’re vote away by voting for a third-party candidate, and that we shouldn’t submit to the entrenched system of rich, two-party politicians. I don’t think it’s useful to talk about the ineffectiveness of dominant or third parties – it’s all about the circumstances. I do agree on one thing: don’t waste your vote. Vote for a reason, with an intention, to make a change. Just make sure you achieve something.

I’m asking you to support DFL candidate Mike Hatch for Governor, but I want to make it clear why. I don’t believe in the two-party system, I think breaking free from the quid pro quo of partisan politics is key. I’m voting Green Party Jesse Mortensen for 64A because I believe in his vision for a better society, his capacity to unite people for change, and because he has a chance at winning. Our district is the most progressive in the state; we need a State Rep that will stand up for our future; who will be an undying advocate of policies that build a better society. We can make it happen in 64A – our district can lead a vision.

For Governor, we simply need someone who will thumbs-up good policy. Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, running for re-election, has shown an incredible ability to maintain popularity while quietly opposing popular policies. He has supported restrictions on immigration and low-income housing, failed to support the growing movement for health care reform, and allowed a widening achievement gap in education. In regards to my work, he has twice stalled the Renewable Electricity Standard, a policy supported by 89% of Minnesotans to make us leaders on renewable energy, while claiming to be an environmental leader with policies that primarily help agribusinesses and electrical utilities. From hesitating to support serious mercury controls to claiming that Minnesota already has 12% renewable energy – counting oil-dependent corn ethanol, ecologically and culturally damaging hydroelectric energy, and nuclear power – Pawlenty has stood in the way of Minnesotan leadership towards a sustainable future.

Right now, he is neck and neck with DFL candidate Mike Hatch. Hatch exemplifies much that is criticized about main-stream politics. He is well connected, with a long history of thinking politically: he’s unlikely to lead us to a new future. We don’t need him to. We need him to get behind policies – pushed from the grassroots – that are positive. Hatch supports reinvestment in Minnesota’s local economy, and reforms on education and health care. He has clearly voiced his support for the Renewable Electricity Standard as just a first step in the energy transition. His position papers include the key arguments for efficient technology and vehicles, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, renewable energy, and the strong local economies that would result, arguments absent at both state and federal levels. He may operate in the status quo, but he’ll allow us to make progress.

Are there candidates who could do a better job if elected? Probably yes; both the Green and Independent gubernatorial candidates have excellent policies. Unfortunately, they’re barely reaching single-digit percentages. Hatch and Pawlenty are dead even. Make your vote count.

Above all, participate in the Governor’s race, it will open or close the doors for Minnesota for the rest of your Macalester career. This is serious. I recently learned that many young voters who vote in local or national races don’t even fill out the ballot for the Governor. This race will decide Minnesota’s ability to lead an American transition – we have the energy, we have the active engagement of thousands of local leaders, we need only someone who will let it happen.

After you vote on Tuesday, come find me; we should talk about building some real winds of change. Trust me, if we get a better Governor in January, we’ve got the go-ahead to fly.