Elections may be over, but be prepared for more amendments, less compromise
Wednesday, November 07, 2012 2:30 AM
My plans were to write a second column on the constitutional amendments - highlighting the marriage amendment - for last week's paper. But, I was on vacation and spending time in the great outdoors removed my mind so much from Minnesota politics that I just didn't have it in me.
It's not that I removed myself from work. With the wonders of technology, I was able to format photos, set up some regular features in our papers and even lay out some pages during my time away from free time. But I couldn't bring myself to rebound into the political world to think about issues for a column on a subject that people have heard so much more about than voter ID. So, I skipped my column completely.
Once I got back into the swing of things last week, and once again faced the onslaught of political messages, I realized that in essence, I could have gone the easy route on vacation and recycled my previous column on voter ID while changing the subject matter to marriage.
For instance, once again it had only partisan support in the Legislature, although not quite as extreme as voter ID. As expressed previously, amending the constitution shouldn't be a process used merely to get around a veto by the governor, but that appears to be the case for both amendments that you voted on Tuesday.
Also, like the voter ID push, fear and exaggeration were tactics to gain support for and against the amendment.
The reality is that gay couples in Minnesota will still be able to get married. They can travel a few miles south to Iowa for a ceremony. Minnesota just won't recognize the marriage under current law, whether or not it is ingrained in the constitution.
Most major corporations in Minnesota already recognize gay couples - married or unmarried - and provide them the same benefits as married heterosexual couples. Yet, the state doesn't provide that same benefit, or right, already provided in the majority of the private sector.
Despite all the clamor about earth-shaking changes, the outcome, which should be apparent as you read this, wouldn't change a thing. Even if it did have more consequences than merely putting current law into the constitution, would our lives really change significantly? Is life for the majority of people that different in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal?
The most objectionable aspect of this process, though, is that it is more about politics than morals.
I had alluded to that in previous columns when I wondered why we never heard an outpouring for this prior to the 2010 election, when the focus was on promises to get our fiscal house in order. Yet one of the first orders of business in 2011 was to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot while our state leaders put off budget talks, eventually causing a state shutdown and a rushed budget solution.
That speculation appears to have some validity now that former Republican aide Michael Brodkorb admitted recently that one reason the measure is on the ballot is because Republican legislators thought it would help turnout in their favor.
That's the kind of politics we expect now, from both Republicans and Democrats. It isn't about what is right, it's all about winning the next election for their "team."
It's not just constitutional amendments that are used as pawns to further a political party's ambitions. Compromise is facing the same fate.
Although I didn't spend much time in front of the television on my time away, I did catch a few commercials for candidates I knew nothing about since I was visiting a different state.
I can see why politicians don't compromise any more. Any compromise involving a tax change or adjustment to an entitlement program is used as ammunition. Ads take out of context any vote on a tax increase to hammer an incumbent. And any cut to a program reached in legislation by an incumbent is twisted into hurting you, the voter, in countless, personal ways, or even causing the demise of American civilization as we know it.
The good news for us is that the fear-mongering and exaggerated claims are over - at least until the next election cycle. The bad news is that in the next legislative session we are likely in for less compromise and more politically-motivated constitutional amendments no matter which "team" ends up with a majority.