Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past (Gov. Starkey edition)

America's Future Past
In the future! Minnesota Governor Carson Starkey (R) sits down with us for a conversation about the future – future, his immediate plans, and his commitment to the electoral “grift machine” cash-in of taking advantage of powerless and impoverished white people by getting them all worked up about impoverished black and brown people. 

St. Paul, MN — Earlier this week for our 4th of July special we sat down with Carson Starkey, who was elected Governor of Minnesota a few years back as a Republican. The following is a run-down of our conversation.

Troy

In retrospect Mr. Governor, you’re the perfect candidate GOP candidate in Minnesota, moving margins on the range which had been trending, that’s your home town, move margins in St. Paul where you live, which has long been an opportunity to trend GOP, as AgreeingLoudly.com cited back in 2015 through 2017, so it all makes sense.

Governor Starkey

Most of the lobbyist meetings focus on criminalizing contraception and making (edited for content)…. punishable by death.

Troy

The standard former President Pence platform?

Governor Starkey

Exactly. And it helped that I stumped for him in ’24 and ’28. I also campaigned on the promise that I would spend most of my first term reducing unemployment (editorial note: unemployment is 9.7% in Minnesota, which is better than 37 states in the country). I feel like I’m going to have to hold a press conference to disavow that promise. Small government priorities seem to hold different meanings for voters compared to lobbyists.

Troy

I would argue the GOP is not, nor has it ever been a small government political party.

Governor Starkey

Your reluctance to play the game is why you’re a failure.

Troy

Admittedly the full page ad I took out in the Strib to stop your election, which I’m surprised they published since robot Koch bros. bought the paper in 2025, did nothing to stop your election. The 2030 Starkey coalition is on record for being the most bizarre electoral coalition in political history perhaps. Ranging from working class Springsteen fans, to hippy lefties who know you personally, the chamber crowd, then of course your impressive out-state showing where your flannel wearing literature really took off. And I’m not talking about a picture where you’re wearing flannel, I’m talking about the lit itself. All flannel. Impressive. Almost as good as the American flag lit. Your opponents never stood a chance.

Starkey for Guvnah
Carson Starkey (R-MN) won with 43% of the vote, thanks to impressive showings upstate and a declining national Democratic Party, which has begun to have negative effects on the last competent state party, the DFL, which continues to see defections.

Governor Starkey

Which is not to suggest that I’m invincible. Minnesota will never be Kansas. I can’t run astronomical deficits and bankrupt the University of Minnesota (editorial note: the U of MN system is the last public universities left in the state of Minnesota ever since MnSCU leaders converted all their facilities to automation and robotics factories, a key contributing factor to rising unemployment in the state). After all, tax rebates for millionaires have to come from somewhere.

Troy

How do you plan to balance the budget next year?

Governor Starkey

Mostly tax hikes on people making less than $50,000 per year. And fees. Fees for everything.

Troy

Isn’t that going to cause more social problems though? Not to mention anger your political base? Who prefer small government? Raising taxes — isn’t that heresy?

Governor Starkey 

Possibly, but everyone from Duluth to East Grand Forks will be busy talking about the Hmong/Somali deportation force. And tax hikes on people that can’t make large campaign contributions are acceptable as long as people with the last name Swenson know that people of color in Minneapolis are suffering more than they are.

Troy

That’s incredibly sad and depressing. But I’m not one to argue with “very serious people.” Now on a personal note — how does it feel to be a very serious and very smart person now?

Governor Starkey

More comfortable. Food is certainly better.

Troy

Surely the spread in the National Review (“America’s Manliest Governor”) with the trademark beard had to be a thrill. Your (mostly) former hippy friends are hoping you’ll pull a 180 and start endorsing progressive legislation… is that in the cards or am I in denial?

Governor Starkey

That’s contingent on the right mix of think tank and lobbying jobs available for friends and relatives. Slightly more people having health insurance doesn’t pay well. At least not for most donors.

Troy

Opposition to President FDR Jr., the first non-Republican President since 2017 (44) seemed to propel you into office in the midterms of ’30 but Jr. is gearing up for re-election and you’ll have to stand on your record in ’34. The pressure is on. Any small previews of your re-election message?

Governor Starkey 

More of what has been successful. Blame urban areas for imaginary problems. Create widespread pain so that any small improvement seems dramatic. Voter suppression for people of color. With five minor liberal candidates splitting the 20-plus percent from the Democratic candidate’s total, I’ll win with 35 percent of the vote like Jessie Venture did.

Troy

Some in the press, myself included, are taken aback by how transparent you are about the inside game — any comments about that?

Governor Starkey

Americans respect strength. They respond to tone and facial expressions. If I promised to burn down the Mayo Clinic to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists with a broad smile, 70% of Minnesotans would support the move.

Troy

Is it your goal to make Minnesota more like the politics of its neighbors?

Governor Starkey

I’m indifferent about national trends or party goals broadly. My primary goal is to get paid. With enough success in my political career, the next ten generations of Starkeys will never work a day. Which is the only true American success story that matters.

Troy

So ambitions for higher office then? The GOP bench is certainly still deep while the Dems are still being led by Pelosi, Schumer, DWS, etc. creating more and more defections. You can give up the game — you guys are all friends right? And American “progressivism” or “liberalism” as quoted by elites is in fact a shadow operation paid for by the chamber?

Governor Starkey

To a certain extent. We agree that personal financial success is paramount. They’re not as successful.

Troy

And this is why the grassroots have caught onto it… although as you said, the vote has often split 4/5 ways in many areas between the liberal progressives, the progressive liberals, the real progressives, and the progress-progressives.

Governor Starkey

I’d like to run for president. Winning would be a colorful story. But the endgame is giving speeches in Aspen for a million dollars per engagement.

Troy

But isn’t the object of politics to improve society? Solve societal problems? Improve the lives of people?

Governor Starkey

If you think that politics is about solving problems or helping people, I have an infrastructure bill to sell you that consists entirely of privatization schemes and tax subsidies. Visiting professorships, hotels with your name on them in gold lettering, and accumulating wealth are the goals of politics.

Troy

I guess I’m just naive still, and “not a very serious person” as Forbes pointed out in ’22. Did you read my new book which claimed U.S. politics and political leaders were now indistinguishable from organized crime?

Governor Starkey

I did. It was as good as any book not promoted by AM talk radio personalities can be. Maybe you can market it as a textbook. They have real money to throw around.

Troy

But how does your overall viewpoint square with the declining overall results? The big picture? How does 1.2 percent growth and an economy that hasn’t worked for most people for decades help anything?

Governor Starkey

“Good for most people” is contrary to how America overall prospers. As long as we lead the world in total incarceration and billionaires that own sports franchises, we are succeeding as a society. Wages are an outdated measure of prosperity.

Troy

1.2 percent growth compared to peak years? Passed by China in overall GDP a decade ago… you’re running out of excuses Governor.

At this point in the interview Troy was rushed out of the room by Gov. Starkey aides, he has subsequently been audited by the state, and accused of nonprofit embezzlement.

“The tyranny that Athens imposed on others it ultimately imposed on itself.” 

 

 

 

 

All Hands on Deck at The People’s Summit

The People's Summit
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke and then posed for this photograph with the over 5,000 leaders, organizers, activists, and followers at the 2017 People’s Summit in Chicago.

You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — Thomas Frank at the 2017 People’s Summit

Chicago, IL — This past weekend Jered Weber and I attended the 2nd annual People’s Summit. The first one in 2016, was held shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), went from a little known and self-described democratic socialist to the brink of the Democratic Party nomination. Taking on Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, who had nearly every endorsement from Democratic elected officials and party leaders, as well as the support of corporate America, Sanders received 46% of the primary vote.

Assembling a coalition of millennials who had previously helped put then-Senator Obama over the top in the 2008 presidential primary and general election, progressives, independents, and populists, Sanders shocked the country, especially the donor and billionaire class by proving that in the Age of Citizens United, there was another way forward. There was another way to run a viable national campaign without having to offer fealty to the Super PACS, corporate lobbyists, and special interests holding the country back in the 20th century.

And what was remarkable to so many who flocked to the campaign, new and old, of all different generations and backgrounds, was that it was the ideas and message that mattered. It was the positivity of the campaign and its focus on the issues, and it was the remarkable consistency and authenticity of the candidate throughout the years.

Sanders repeatedly explained that when the people come together in common effort, they win. It was never about him, it was about a “future to believe in.” And we now know it was never about him because the campaign never ended, because ultimately, it was more of a movement than a campaign to begin with.

And that is where the People’s Summit comes in.

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The People’s Summit is first and foremost, an Ideas Summit.

Not just ideas for the future of the country, but also ideas on how to fundamentally improve and outright save our democracy. Those critical of the People’s Summit only needed to give these ideas attention at the Center for American Progress and perhaps they would not have to get mad that not everyone is falling in line and “uniting.” Before moving on to an analogy for what to think about the People’s Summit, let me just say that no matter which route one prefers to moving this country forward, there is no need to come together on the issues, on party unity, or anything other than basic civility and decency because we still have three years to go. In other words–see you in 2020.

Bubbles need to be pierced, and introspection and national conversations must continue en masse.

Now onto how to think about the People’s Summit in terms of what it means for the future.

Each year movement conservatism (or what passes as that these days) has its annual ideas conference called the Conservative Political Action Conference, put on by the American Conservative Union. Think of it as a “State of the Movement” address to conservatives from all across the country. Upcoming elected officials and advocates often get heavily promoted and featured at the conference. In addition to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and others, CPAC gathers all of the various grassroots conservative groups and organizations from around the country. Not being included almost serves as a statement that one is not “conservative” enough or not a “true conservative.”

CPAC operates very much like an ideas and state of the movement arm of the major American political party on the right–the Republican Party.

In 2003, recognizing the power think tanks, ideas conferences and so forth had in propelling the conservative movement to electoral victories through its political arm–the Republican Party, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which is both a think tank and has an annual conference. There is no mystery that the annual CAP conference and its ideas are heavily attached to the Democratic Party. But while the Democratic Party was slow to jump on the think tank bandwagon and invest heavily in the think tank model in comparison to the GOP, its adoption of that model and investment in it represent the final shunning of its historical roots as the FDR “party of the people.” Consider this, CAP founder Podesta was national Chair of the Clinton campaign, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and later counselor to President Barack Obama, made several versions of this sentiment throughout the 2016 election cycle:

For every working class voter we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.

That’s the thing with the establishment or corporate Dems. I’m not much of an ideologue, I have a governing and leadership philosophy yes, but at the end of the day I have a healthy respect for facts. A respect that is lacking in so many political leaders and those who cover and follow our nation’s politics today. I’m fine with compromising. All democracies and constitutional systems require it. However, what incentive do people who do not like to compromise their belief systems have to follow a strategy that not only is not their views in key areas, but also does not and has not won? I submit these simple truths about where the party stands in terms of electoral strategy:

And I direct these six points of logic to the failed Podesta mentality from above and a similar mentality echoed by (permanent) Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which stated that “for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2-3 moderate Republican voters.”

  1. There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
  2. The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
  3. The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
  4. Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
  5. Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
  6. You can’t build a party of the people if you have contempt for the people. You have to talk directly to the people about the issues, all the people.

Please note that when I say the working class I always mean that anyone who has to work for a living to keep existing. Many choose to work for a living and that is great, but their livelihood does not necessarily depend on it, and they likely have multiple streams of passive income.

Speaking of passive income, George Soros, a major funder of CAP and constant boogeyman that the right wing media likes to use to discredit policy agenda and goals, is not too different from the Koch brothers or any other member of the billionaire class engaged in electoral politics in the Citizens United age if one does not personally agree with George Soros. And that is the problem.

Neither party is seriously committed to taking on big, unaccountable, but organized money in politics.

If you are super-rich in America, or anyone really who can sit on their hands making millions in passive income revenue streams, and if your preferred party (whether Dems or GOP) does not win, you always have the other major party to protect your interests for the most part, with only a few exceptions.

It’s the same model. Controlled by the donor class, and dependent on the labor of others to keep itself in power both politically and economically.

And this is where the People’s Summit comes in. Ideas and voices, organizers and activists, leaders and followers that were shunned or not invited to CAP.

I would argue the People’s Summit is an ideas conference, that allows for networking, learning, and updating on the “state of the movement”, similar to CPAC. As of now, it is without a political party attached to it, but I have no doubt, shall a viable third party arise in the next few years, it will be called the People’s Party and it will have started and spear-headed by the 5,000 or so people that have attended the Summit, and those that followed along online, etc.

The central organizing goal of the movement, like the Republican Party, the last third party to replace a major party before in the 1850’s with slavery, is the biggest moral issue of our time — economic inequality and the forces that continue to make it worse, organized big money in politics and legalized bribery and corruption.

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A Future Beyond Party Labels and Endless Partisan and Media Sensationalism. A Future that is not just Resistance, but Beyond Resistance

In the weeks to come, this website will be recommitting itself to trying to churn out regular content the best we can. Apologies if we miss the mark on that front, as we all have busy lives in addition to written commentary, podcasting, etc.

This weekend the third season of the Agreeing Loudly podcast will be on just one topic and prompt: the Third Party option.

In addition, I’m hoping to finish up three articles in a “state of” series on the nation, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.

Bernie Poll
While we will never know for sure if “Bernie Would Have Won” — what we do know is that he is easily the most popular politician in America. And while there are loud voices among those 20% of self-identified Democrats that do not like him, especially in the media, corporate America, and on the Twitter-verse, the facts are that the “BernieBro” or lack of diversity myths do not hold up to scrutiny.

If this coalition translated to the electoral college, which I understand is a big leap of logic this far out, but bear with me here, if that DID happen, you would not just see a Sanders victory over the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time (candidate Trump) but you could possibly see the first genuine popular vote AND electoral college landslide since 1988 (and to a lesser extent 2008).

 

My Constructive Criticism of the Summit.

First of all, folks at the summit of all stripes were amazingly self-reflective of what could have gone better not just for the movement, but also for the 2016 Sanders campaign for President.

My two points for potential improvements to next years Summit.

  1. Get a vets or foreign policy-focused speaker to talk about and call for a national “Peace and Security” movement. There are massive levels of economic implications to our #ForeverWar policy that tie into the larger issues presented by the movement. The social and economic costs in caring for our veterans and veterans issues have been some of the best policy work that Senator Sanders has done, so it only makes sense to feature this going forward.
  2. Reach out to Republicans concerned with the direction of their party, big money in politics, and the growing, unsustainable levels of economic inequality. Perhaps this one will be more controversial, but if we’re truly to talk to everyone, we have to mean it. And we see evidence every day, not so much amongst Republican political leaders but we do see it amongst the rank and file and they are growing uncomfortable with the Trump-led GOP. The GOP is dominated by the interests of the donor and billionaire class even more so than the Democrats most years, and disillusioned Republicans becoming former Republicans would be a key feature of any future coalition, especially in current red to light-red states.

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The participants were divided on the question of a Third Party movement, but were engaged, passionate, and committed to the future no matter what — it’s an “All Hands on Deck” strategy for saving democracy for all and creating a 21st century economy that works for the many and not just the few. 

Division is nothing new in this political age. Like the rest of the country, there was a split in views at the Summit. Progressives and populists committed to taking on the corporate state are divided on how best to achieve the desired results of taking on big money in politics and tackling the moral issue of our time–the highest levels of economic inequality in a century. 

My unscientific observations of the sentiments is that the People’s Summit activists, organizers, leaders, and followers prefer starting a vital third party movement in this country. This is a sentiment I agree with more and more each day. However, for the time being, reforming the Democratic Party by taking it over seems to be the immediate goal and interest. A goal that has seen mixed results, winning some small battles early on, but losing the more high-profile battles like the DNC Chair election, California Democratic Party Chair election, etc. What is clear though is the ideas and message is winning over public opinion in America at-large. Significant portions of the speech last Saturday highlighted that.

And what is vitally true, is that we have now reached a 1955 William F. Buckley moment for progressives that this website had called for in 2015 and 2016 throughout the Presidential campaign as all of us ranted and raved about how badly the Democratic Party was going to bottom out in the coming years.

Progressives and populists have finally come to terms with the failure of the current model of the Democratic Party, and from this day forward–everyone knows that change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to the Democratic Party. And the more and more party leadership grasps onto and protects their hold on power, even in the name of electoral viability (which is a ridiculous reason when you’ve lost nearly every election), the more and more power the movement, independent of any party control–will be. One way or another, the neoliberal and professional class consensus is over. And thank God for that.

I do not say these things lightly. After all, I am a member of the professional class in this country, but I also think that the younger cohorts of the professional class (Gen X and millennials, those under 45 or so) have far more in common (because of issues with student debt, broader acceptance of diversity, etc.) with the concerns of the working class (now more diverse than at any time in American history) than the concerns of the professional class consensus, whose obsession with incrementalism, education and innovation as a key to mitigating inequality (when in reality, it’s rationalizing it), and insistence that all problems can be solved from Harvard or Yale yard, Wall Street or Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or by lawyers or financial service professionals, etc.

If the leadership of the party would rather go down on the Titanic, so long as they have a first class seat, then so be it. The overriding focus of the People’s Summit was not to re-litigate the 2016 election, but to move beyond just merely resisting what the Trump administration is doing, because guess what? That only goes so far, both in practical day-to-day terms and in electoral terms.

Folks, the only way out of this is to win elections, and to win elections you need a party willing to adopt a better message. A message capable of capturing a large majority of the nation and turning out and inspiring more voters than at any other point in modern U.S. history, because there are significant obstacles in gerrymandering and voter suppression to overcome.

The ideas and message of the folks who attended the People’s Summit were not welcome at the CAP conference this year, so we took them to our own conference, in the same state where the last successful third party movement in America took off from, Illinois.

The Republican Party was founded as an abolitionist party to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country. Similarly, if neither major party takes seriously the issue of big money in politics and the fact that we are in a 2nd Gilded Age, then it is highly likely that the movement makes a clean break. But as of now, in practical terms, the prevailing consensus was that there is not enough time for 2018, and undecided about 2020.

One of the conference speakers Thomas Frank (writer, historian, and co-founder of the Baffler), put it best at the end of his most recent book “Listen, Liberal!” which was written almost as if he already knew the 2016 electoral result, even though it was published in the summer.

Direct solutions are off the table for the moment… Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to a build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.

What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity–to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility, after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest–once that smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.