Election 2014: Governor’s Race: Chris the Libertarian and Chris the Grassroots Party Guy

Okay, this is getting long. I am going to see if I can get through the last two in a single post. I mean, Hannah Nicollet is barely showing in the polls, but she’s at least from a party that has won statewide office at one point in the past. As far as I know, the Minnesota Libertarians and the Minnesota Grassroots Party people have never been elected to anything.

The candidates again:


Chris Holbrook

Chris is anti-tax, anti-trains, pro-pot, and pro-fireworks. (The fireworks get as much space as the government spending piece on his issues page.)

I just want to underscore that last one for city residents who might lean libertarian. Think about that one carefully. The 4th of July is annoying, but most of us can suck it up a few times a year. Chris’s take: “I believe that aerial fireworks should be sold, purchased, and used here in Minnesota at the discretion of the people, however any damage to another person’s property from careless use should carry strong penalty.” Dude. What about my right not to have explosives being shot off near my house at midnight? (This is the problem with libertarians. Your right to swing your fist doesn’t actually end just short of my nose: you need to keep your fist WELL AWAY FROM MY FACE AT ALL TIMES, actually. Your right to shoot off fireworks doesn’t start and end with you causing actual property damage; it ends when you seriously annoy your neighbors, and I know very few people who are not annoyed by fireworks.)

He was in the news in May because the Park Police arrested him for standing in a park gathering signatures for his candidacy. Dear Mayor Hodges: can you put “do something about the Minneapolis Police Department” on your agenda, please?

Chris Wright

Chris Wright’s top four issues, in order: (1) weed. (2) drugs generally. (3) energy independence, by which he means weed (“Simply stated, instead of boiling oil, let’s cook biomass carbon feedstocks like HEMP and switchgrass to produce GRASSOLINE a.k.a. bio-gasoline.”) (4) corporate personhood, which he was unable to connect to weed but probably not for lack of trying.

His issues page also mentions his agriculture policy (weed!), his economics plan (weed!) and his position on mandatory motorcycle helmets for adults (opposed).

I have to say, for those who wish to make the case that marijuana is harmless (and does not, contrary to popular belief, kill brain cells), I’m not sure the Grassroots Party really serves your purposes.

Both of these guys sound like complete doofuses to me.


3 thoughts on “Election 2014: Governor’s Race: Chris the Libertarian and Chris the Grassroots Party Guy

  1. Well. let’s see. Because you think anything to do with cannabis is automatically funny or insignificant or perhaps naughty, you don’t wish to examine the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidates on the merits of their positions–just mock them. (putting the mock in democracy–thank you, Internet.) Don’t actually listen to Chris Wright explain about biofuels; and why biomass conversion is superior to ethanol; and why hemp is suitable for the process; and note that during WW II, the US government chose southern Minnesota as ideal for hemp cultivation, building eleven hemp mills and paying farmers to grow 30,000 acres of hemp.
    The news is full of collateral damage stories from the policy of prohibition—from gang warfare in ghetto neighborhoods to the mom in western Minnesota arrested for giving medicinal cannabis oil to her son, to the 30% drop in violent crime in Colorado, and so forth. Facing the damage done by the drug war is what professional politicians won’t do—perhaps instead of snarking at these candidates you should take the time to read a book like “The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness,” by legal scholar Michelle Alexander.
    Historically, our political system is weighted toward stability by the two-party system. But that stability can degenerate into partisan gridlock or sink into corrupt complacency. When urgent reforms are needed but they are ignored by the professional politicians, then there is a role for third parties and dissenters. Why were dissenters against the Soviet police state and Gulag seen as heroes—but dissenters against our own drug totalitarianism and for-profit prison system are scorned and scoffed at?
    Look at the past legislative session. With polls showing 60-70% of Minnesotans favoring medical cannabis reform, the Governor refused to accept a limited proposal from the Legislature, instead giving Dennis Flaherty of the police union a veto power over the bill. In the end, public pressure compelled passage of a cynical political placebo, a Rube-Goldberg-type law designed to make access to the substance virtually impossible and to further criminalize the great majority of patient who could benefit. Special interest prevailing over the public good. The police practicing medicine. So who are the doofuses???
    No, the Grassroots Party hasn’t won elections in the sense of getting candidates elected. But the purpose of 3rd parties is to test-drive controversial ideas to prove to the professional politicians that they have appeal to the voters. Cannabis reform plebiscites in other states have been popular– medical cannabis outpolled Clinton in California in ’96; Bush in Montana in ’04; and Obama in Michigan in’08—beating the last three presidents in their own strongholds. In 2012, general legalization carried Colorado, a swing state, and got more votes than either Obama or Romney!
    Perhaps you didn’t expect an articulate rebuttal to your snark. You scarcely deserve it. But if you think you have qualifications and background to offer informed political advice to the world at large, then I suggest you owe the cannabis reform contingent of candidates a more respectful hearing. As for the question of corporate personhood, this pernicious legal fiction has provided the fulcrum for overturning laws that tried to diminish the corrupting influence of unregulated spending in political campaigns. Since the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party represents traditional American political values and beliefs, and bases its hopes for reform on a political system that has a level playing field, opposition to the legal fiction of corporate personhood is essential to our philosophy. Again, it’s an issue that needs to be agitated by ordinary citizens before it will be treated seriously by the politicians who either benefit from, or feel trapped into inaction by, the doctrine promulgated by the Scalia-Roberts activist court.
    The one success of the Independence Party came when Jesse Ventura, benefiting from the name recognition of his celebrity as an entertainer, challenged the two favorite sons of the established parties–Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey. He beat them both, even in the heat of an era of extreme drug-war demagoguery, by (among other things) openly campaigning for medical marijuana; comparing the drug war to the failure of alcohol prohibition (in televised debates!) and giving an interview to High Times magazine—before the votes were cast.
    To suppose that the only thing that matters in politics is “who gets elected” is simplistic and superficial. In 1964, Barry Goldwater lost in the worst popular vote landslide since 1936. But in 1984, his political and ideological heir, Ronald Reagan, triumphed in another landslide. And the cause for which Goldwater got creamed in ’64 has been politically dominant since then. Ideas matter. Even if you don’t happen to like or agree with them. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
    — Oliver Steinberg

  2. 1. I don’t make any claim to some sort of special qualification beyond a willingness to spend a lot of time googling people and typing. If you find my opinions useful, helpful, interesting, or entertaining, by all means read them. If you don’t, by all means do not read them. Anyone who wants to start a blog to write about the different political candidates and do endorsements should totally do so.

    2. I should possibly do a post about the fact that I am not pretending to be some sort of hard-core expert on much of anything here. I am not a policymaker or a mover or shaker or whatever the political equivalent of a Secret Master of Fandom is. I could, while I’m at it, talk about some of the things that have shaped my viewpoint. Here’s one of them: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. There are certain things you are exposed to a lot when you’re growing up in Madison, and people who are overly focused on marijuana is for sure one of them.

    3. While cooking dinner tonight I pondered the topics that are particularly important to me — education, health care, transit. You know what, if some guy were running on the Train Party ticket and his answer to everything worked its way back to trains, I would find him HILARIOUS. Not because I don’t support trains — I do! (I also support marijuana legalization) — but because we live in a complicated world where people running for major office need information and insight into more than just their pet issue.

    Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS (that is sincere) because in fact after years and years of being seriously marginal, YOU HAVE PUT YOUR ISSUE ON THE MAINSTREAM AGENDA and you are no longer the only people talking about marijuana legalization. Assuming things don’t go completely to hell in Colorado, you may be able to get momentum on your side….for legalization, but not for Grassroots party people, because they are never, ever, ever going to get elected to anything. The people who snicker at the Grassroots party are vastly outnumbered by the people who have never heard of it.

  3. Naomi, you were fortunate to grow up in Madison, where the legacy of selfless public service still echoes in the memories of the careers of Fighting Bob La Follette, Gaylord Nelson, Midge Miller, Mary Lou Munts, Paul Soglin, Fred Risser, Bob Kastenmeier, and others who proved what liberals and progressives could accomplish.
    Please consider that you may have missed the whole point of what the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis party and other similar entities can do, as I have explained. it’s NOT necessarily about getting elected to office, but about raising issues the professional politicians can’t or won’t deal with. This has been the historical role of such dissidents, and they shouldn’t be scorned for it.
    Yes, it’s important who does get elected. The contrast between Wisconsin and Minnesota today should emphasize that. But when the election is won, it’s still important to seek accountability.
    Johnny Bernard was elected to Congress in 1936 on the Farmer-Labor ticket, and he told his supporters, “Boys, keep an eye on me when I go to Washington. Keep me honest.”
    In his case, the caution wasn’t necessary; he never sold out. But he had the right insight!
    You are rightly skeptical about any monomaniacs who claim to have a panacea . . . but skepticism should not preclude a closer look sometime. On health care, for instance–the Democrats thought that taking the Romney model would insulate them from unfair partisan attack . . . but that was not the case, and the model is boomeranging on them, as we are seeing with MNsure; thus discrediting the whole idea of health care reform. Meanwhile, popular opinion DOES support one important health care reform–therapeutic use of cannabis. This use was discovered by trial and error by patients themselves; altho known since ancient times in folk medicine traditions. Original anecdotal accounts have been reinforced by the scientific discovery of the body’s endocannabinoid system–see the research by Mechoulam, et al.
    Flaws in our political system and deliberate lying by narcotics bureaucrats have blocked reforms which would allow doctors to use cannabis in authorized medical practice. Those reforms were blocked in courts, Congress, and administrative agencies.
    Then some of the characters you can’t bring yourself to respect took the issue to the people. THIS health reform, unlike the affordable care act, has proven its acceptance by the American people. In twelve out of fourteen states where the voters have been allowed to directly vote on the issue, medical use of cannabis has won. Against the bitter resistance of the know-nothings, this reform is making headway. And it is significant. If you know a cancer patient or MS patient or parent of a seizure-afflicted child, or a wounded veteran who benefits from using cannabis, you know it.
    Governor Dayton’s role in sabotaging the reform here in Minnesota is inexcusable and a betrayal of justice, of popular will, and of the DFL’s own pledged platform plank of many years.
    So, Cannabis is indeed a component of health care reform and not an insignificant one, considering how many expensive manufactured drugs it can supersede or supplement. But it would never have been allowed by the establishment and the impetus for the reform came literally from the political grassroots.
    What about public safety? Again, a HUGE area of government responsibility, and one which is manifestly failing. We have more extreme violence incidents, and the response of the governing class is to create a police state. Look at how they crushed the Occupy movement. Look at the Snowden revelations of NSA and CIA surveillance against all of us. Look at the enormous system of mass incarceration and the dreadful socio-economic impact it inflicts. Look at the demagoguery against immigrants. Look at Ferguson, Missouri. (etc., etc.)
    And look closer. The legal tools for intrusion, for electronic surveillance, and for disregarding the 4th Amendment were all devised in order to enforce drug prohibition. Used first against pot smokers and dealers, they were inevitably expanded to totalitarian dimensions. As Dhoruba bin Wahad describes, the militarization of domestic police forces traces directly to Nixon’s drug war initiatives. As Michelle Alexander say, “we have not ended racial caste in America, we have merely redesigned it”—as the war on drugs. And cannabis prohibition drives that policy–accounting for the decided majority of narcotics arrests and convicitons.
    So it’s not that we’re monomaniacs about the evils of prohibition–it’s that prohibition, first of liquor and for the past 80 years of other substances, has fundamentally damaged our nation and our politicians have been AFRAID to say so out loud. Someone must be a witness, and that is our role. Think about the prevalence of gun mayhem in America. Again, politicians afraid to stand up against it. By the way, census figures show that after repeal of alcohol prohibition, homicides and assaults committed with firearms declined for ten consecutive years, diminishing by 50% in that time. You can put the gangs out of business by taking the business out of the gangs.
    Isn’t this something that matters? Isn’t it possible that there is a parallel we could learn from?
    And if there is an element of monomania about other claims for benefits from cannabis, that element of enthusiasm is explainable. The herb has been demonized–falsely I think–for 80 years and to assert the converse is (if nothing else) a rhetorical response.
    Agriculture? Well, again, historical records show that the upper midwest, along with Kentucky and Missouri, used to be the nation’s Hemp Belt. We grew 30,000 acres in Minn in WW II and had eleven hemp mills running for the war effort. Jobs and revenue, and diversification (which our ag sector is sadly lacking!)
    Jobs and revenue . . . incidentally. Please, help us ask politicians why they pursue a policy that hands that revenue and those potential jobs to the murderous foreign cartels and the recklessly deadly domestic gangs?
    How about environmental concerns and global warming? We must end America’s oil addiction! Solar power and other non-pollluting sources are the cure; but to make the transition we need carbon-neutral sources (biofuels) and of the feedstocks for biomass gasification [which is better than the ethanol boondoggle!] the suggested crop is switchgrass–you’ve heard of it–but hemp is even more productive per acre, so there you have it . . . the DEA denies all permits because “hemp contains marijuana” and “it sends the wrong message.”
    I have replied at length because I think you might be a potential ally who is put off by your negative impression of the “stoner” image, the Cheech and Chong parody [akin to the Amos and Andy caricatures of African-Americans.] Reflect however that what you dislike is a phenomenon which has developed during and in spite of prohibition–in other words, yet more convincing evidence that not only prohibition doesn’t work, but it spawns or aggravates other social afflictions . . . in this case, irresponsible and self-destructive behavior. And even if you should turn out to be obdurate in your own attitudes, writing this helps me clarify how I can respond to other critics.
    It also seems to me that you might reconsider your assumptions about the electoral process—it’s not all about who wins in the sense of getting elected. Ideas also matter, and the advocates of those ideas have a useful role. The two party system tends to either gridlock or stagnation, unless new or radical notions can be heard. Yet the politicians who DO win the elections are naturally reluctant to rock the boat. That’s why third parties can help by proving that voters do accept their reforms (or in some cases, the opposite–like when George Wallace showed Nixon and Reagan how to appeal to racist whites . . . yes, third parties can be retrograde, I’ll point it out myself.)
    I hope you will notice that I am refraining here from any rancorous or hostile remarks, such as may have crept into my first answers to your posts. Thank you for taking the time to rebut my comment. I’ll check up on the other ones, for the other races you wrote about.
    Let me also distinguish the Grassroots approach from the assorted others. There are those who operate from an ideological framework–for instance, the Libertarians, the various Socialists (not in this year’s race), the Green Party (more ideologically amorphous but still offering a world-view) and the reactionaries like the Tea Party. If one accepts their premises, one is inclined to reach their conclusions. The Grassroots approach, for better or worse, is not so consistent, or rather not so rigid, ideologically. We’ve always been based politically on Jeffersonian principles and La Follette perspectives—derived from the American political tradition. We think our system is pretty good if we can get it to work as we believe it was meant to.
    Are we naive? Perhaps . . .

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