"Love is Bigger than Government"

Why I Voted For Ventura
Jesse's Girl
by Julia Ramirez

There were four rules I lived by growing up in the Ramirez household:
1. You will never talk back to your parents.
2. You will be Catholic.
3. You will go to college.
4. You will vote for the Democratic Party.

I somehow survived the four platinum-plated regulations and managed (was forced) to live by all of them. Although much has changed since I was wet behind the ears, I still don't sass back to Felipe and Felipa; I assert my opinions. I'm still Catholic, I went to college, but politics is where I've gone astray.

Mom and Dad are die-hard Democrats and have never voted any other way. Not once. I couldn't wait to vote. I wholeheartedly believed it gave me the power to help change the world, and that I was thismuchcloser to being taken seriously. Then reality laughed in my face and out went my youthful idealism.

I've voted for the Democratic Party every election in my sixteen-year voting tenure except for twice:

In 1994 I voted for Arne Carlson, and I don't remember why I turned my head away from the Democrats at that time, but because he'd already served a fairly successful term already, I figured, "what the hell."

Then it happened for the second time in November, 1998. And again, it was the race for the Governor of Minnesota that I dissed the Demies.

Election morning I was still undecided, but I knew there was absolutely no way I wasn't going to vote (I say with pride that I've never let indifference or apathy posses me enough not to vote). So there I was at 8 a.m., Tuesday, November 5, walking into the Church of St. Luke's--my neighborhood designated "house of the vote"--a thick black marker pen in my right hand, and in my left was the wee hand of my nephew, Felipe, asking, "are you going to do it," then whispering, "Do it! Do it," as he grinned, looking at me over the wire rim of his glasses. And yes, indeed, I did it. I put pen to paper and filled in the middle of the broken arrow to cast my vote for Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST DO? I just voted for a former all-star wrestler. Good Lord.

I handed in my voting sheet--experiencing yet another unpredictable episode in my life--collected my "I voted" sticker, and walked out the door as Felipe practiced his reading: "Ex-it," "No Smo-king."

Why'd I do it? I don't know. But I do know I've had it with the high taxes in this state (as has everyone else), and there was no way I was going to vote for another tax-and-spend Democrat who's riding the coattails of his well-known father.

Mayor Coleman? I believe he's done a fair job with our beautiful and lovely city of St. Paul, and for that, I raise a glass to him. Throughout the race, I'd been learning toward Coleman but I had reservations; unfortunately, Norm recently did two dubious things:

1. He changed his political allegiance from liberal Democrat to semi-staunch Republican. I have my speculations as to why he did this: because he knew there was no way he would successfully attain the Democratic Party's nomination. Especially not when there was a Humphrey seeking the same coveted trophy.

2. He just started his second term as the mayor and immediately began his campaign for governor.

Disloyalty? Opportunism? Seems like it to me, and I should know for I'm quite familiar with the wayward practices of the snake.

Something made me go to Ventura's Web site to get more background info on his platform. There were several of his "assertions" I was in complete disagreement with, so I told myself "whomever he's chosen as his running mate will determine whom I'll vote for." When I saw Mae Schunk and read her credentials, I knew I had no other choice: 1. She's an educator, has been one forever, and education is sacred to me. Also, I thought perhaps she could persuade Jesse to change his stand on governmental "financial handouts" for college students. 2. She's a woman.

Ultimately, I'm tired of the political circus. No, I didn't vote for Jesse out of rebellion or protest; he's the quintessential non-bullshitter: very honest. No pretense whatsoever and I dig that. Big whoop he wears alligator-skin cowboy boots, a tie-dyed Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, and a bandana around his noggin. Does that mean the man can't govern? No, it means he's gravely guilty of bad social/casual dressing. Though I severely frown on the use of double negatives, I get a good laugh whenever he uses them. Also, I appreciate his sense of humor. A prospective candidate who can poke fun at himself is a person I can relate to.  

I really didn't expect Jesse to win, but he did. Jesse won. I stayed up all night having to know if he was going to maintain his thirty-seven percent lead over the other two. Felipe called me the next morning and yelled, "Nene (his nickname for me), YOU WON! You won! And I was there when you did it." I'm certain there were several tiny-tot boys who think it's cool to have some 6'4, 260-pound bald man running around this state, being in charge. Can't blame them. If I were a seven-year-old boy, I'd think it was cool, too.

I emailed my mom the day after the election to give her my condolences: George W. Bush would again be calling the shots of her beloved state of Texas (my parents recently moved back to their home territory). I figured she'd heard about Minnesota's new Governor-elect but she hadn't, so I told her. "Are the people of Minnesota snoring away? What are they thinking? What a joke. Those wrestlers are clowns." There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to inform her that her daughter had cast her vote for him.

Perhaps the choice I made wasn't a sound one. It's only a matter of time before I--and the rest of the state--find out. But I unequivocally believe if I ever run into Governor Ventura--while I'm out jogging down Summit Avenue (the Governor's mansion is only five blocks from where I live)--I'd feel very comfortable going up to him to ask, "dude, what's the deal with this ludicrous idea that there shouldn't be any government help/funding for college students? Let me tell you something." I've never before felt I'd want to "confront" any political figure. I've never felt they'd listen or care. I've never felt they were a "regular Joe." I do now. And maybe that's what I voted for.

Why I Didn't
His plans for the state ain't great
by A.A. LaBrec

"The state of the State is great," says Jesse Ventura, reflecting an overall image of Minnesota as a prosperous, safe environment with great public schools: a wonderful place to settle down and raise a family. For many of us, it still is. Yet, rattling off that list of family-friendly amenities may be more self-comfort than reality in a state where over 9,000 children will be homeless tonight.

But wait, I forgot: according to Ventura logic, shouldn't those youngsters simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps? So much for the wisdom of electing an unqualified third-party candidate.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the demolition of the two-party system. Like many of my progressive peers, I celebrate the notion of a major election being won by a third-party candidate. But not any third-party candidate! Just like most of the electorate, I'm fed up with the political status-quo. But not so fed up that I would resort to supporting a gubernatorial candidate who blames a woman who gets deserted by her child's father "for marrying a loser."

It's true that Jesse made those offensive remarks about single mothers (and the Irish and Native American treaty rights) after he was already in office, so I can't rightly claim them as the reason I didn't help elect him--although his campaign rhetoric certainly foretold his core attitudes. But ultimately, the reason I could never, ever have voted for Ventura is simple: he has the audacity to be against gun control in a country where every day, fifteen children aged 0 to 19 are killed with guns, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Easier access to guns in a country that is by far the most violent of all of the Western democracies? No amount of NRA spin-doctor jargon can change the fact that when you put some reasonable limits on who can pack heat, fewer people are going to die needless, violent deaths. As Lonnie Bristow, M.D., president of the American Medical Association put it, "Kids tell us that it's easy to buy a gun, but it's cheaper to rent one by the hour. When it is easier to get a gun in this country than it is to get a library card, we know we are heading in the wrong direction."

Yet, we do as a nation and a state have certain incredible strengths and privileges, and with those comes the responsibility of appropriate stewardship of resources. If we want to live in a safe, prosperous society, we're going to have to address the widening gap between rich and poor, and it ain't about bootstraps.  

The metro area's troubles are quite severe: the concentration of poverty in Minneapolis and the degree of income disparity between the center city and its suburbs are among the highest in the nation, according to the 1997 report, Keeping the Twin Cities Vital, published by the Metropolitan Council. The poverty rates for families living within the city of Minneapolis is more than double the comparable rates for the seven-county metro area, and there has been a nine-fold increase in homeless children in the metro area in this decade alone.

Regardless of the booming economy and low unemployment rates many of us in Minnesota are enjoying, this level of poverty among a significant number of people in our inner cities is cause for alarm. Because in tandem with poverty comes a host of other societal ills that affect all of our daily lives.

Crime is one established poverty-related concern: over the past decade, arrest rates for homicides committed by fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds have more than tripled at the national level, and Minneapolis and St. Paul are no exception to that trend. In The Juvenile Crime Challenge: Making Prevention a Priority, leading juvenile justice expert Dr. Peter W. Greenwood calls the risk factors contributing to juvenile delinquency and violence "fairly well known," and says, "Deviant behavior is too often the result of an unstable and unloving home life; alienation from social groups such as school, church, and the community; economic inequities; and cultural and racial discrimination--all crucial to building self-esteem. . . ." According to the AMA's Annual Report Card on Violence, the total number of teens is projected to increase by twenty percent over the next decade, and many criminologists expect a continuing surge in crime. Where is the governor's comprehensive plan for alleviating the growing poverty in our cities and preventing continued escalation of the juvenile crime rate?

But crime isn't the only or first outcome of keeping children in poverty. When children don't get their basic needs met, they can't learn. Last June, results of the first administration of Minnesota's Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), the statewide third- and fifth-grade tests, were released by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning: "They show that, on most of the tests, nearly forty percent of the state's public school third- and fifth-graders are already on track for successful achievement of Minnesota's new Graduation Standards . . ."

I'm well-aquainted with many of the good people who work long and hard to keep Minnesota's schools among the best in the nation, and I mean them no disrespect when I suggest that "nearly forty percent" is pretty dismal when you're talking about the total number of students in the state who are "on track" to achieve the state's graduation standards.

Of course, when you recall that sixty-six percent of the Minneapolis Public School's students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and this group is statistically more than twice as likely to fail the Minnesota eighth-grade Basic Standard's Tests in reading and math, the overall grim performance statistics are less surprising.

I realize Governor Ventura has supported budget increases for education, but without a more comprehensive plan to address poverty than his tiresome tug-on-the-bootstraps advice, budget increases alone will not make a dent in the downward spiral of achievement in the two largest public school districts in the state of Minnesota.

Unless our new governor gets wise fast and decides to take seriously the very real threats related to the growing "economic inequities" in our state, we're all going to sacrifice more than he knows.

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