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Putnam: The character of our politics – SC Times

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When I first considered running for office, many of the people I care about offered their own version of “Why would you want to do something like that?” But my daughter Eliza, who was 13 at the time, said it best: “But Dad, then you’ll have to talk to people, and people suck.” 

She meant politicians. 

Eliza and my friends clearly thought politics was a place for questionable characters. Countering Eliza’s cynicism was a big part of why I ran for office that first time. After being involved in local politics for a couple years, it pains me, but low expectations for politicians are sometimes justified.      

We’ve all heard people lament how our politics have gotten too personal. In some ways I agree, but in others I think we haven’t gotten personal enough. 

I believe politics are about character — but not just expecting a politician not to indulge conflicts of interest or demanding that they keep their word, although clearly we should expect as much. It’s also more than personality. While many folks consider who they’d like to have a beer with before they vote, that’s not the only issue that matters. Character is bigger than professional ethics or likeability.

I believe character is about who we are and who we want to be. Character isn’t about a moment, an individual decision; it’s about the patterns of behavior that define us as individuals or as groups. 

You know my character from how I behave when you’ve been around me. We know our character when we recognize it in our neighbors. Some patterns of choices are better than others. Some are aspirational. Sometimes we make choices that reflect concern for the best of us, the best for us, the best from us.  Character is not about one day, but is reflected in the choices we make every day. 

Recently, questions about the character of our politics and the characters in our politics have taken on a new urgency. Rep. John Thompson was stopped for not having a license plate on the front of his car. According to reports, during the traffic stop, Thompson first made sure to mention that he was an elected official, and then he provided the officer a Wisconsin driver’s license that had been renewed the same month that he was elected to the Minnesota legislature. 

In the aftermath of this traffic stop, as reporters tried to ascertain his legal residence, they discovered repeated allegations that Thompson had committed domestic violence.    

I don’t know Thompson personally, and I haven’t really worked with him in the legislature. He’s in the House, I’m in the Senate. That doesn’t really matter, though. I still find his pattern of alleged behavior to be abhorrent. It’s not good enough for an elected official. He does not deserve to serve.     

This issue is not about a particular ideology or politics. It’s about an individual accused of repeated moments of unacceptable behavior, habits that come together to demonstrate character that simply isn’t good enough. We need to expect more from our politics.

This doesn’t mean that we should expect our politicians to be exactly like us, to have exactly the same values we have on every issue or never to make mistakes. But I do believe we need to hold them to a higher standard. Public service is about service. That’s the foundation, and it should be assumed that those who run for elected office have hearts of servants and habits of them too.

Next time you write to an elected official, don’t be surprised when they write you back. Demand it. If they answer you with talking points, tell them that’s not good enough and they need to think for themselves just like you do. If you have high expectations and they fail to meet them, well, then it’s your turn. Run for office.  

Of course voting is important too. I’m not a big fan of participation trophies, in sports or in politics. Voting for or against someone just because of their party identification is setting the bar way too low. Our character is constituted in the decisions we make. We need to have higher expectations when we make those decisions. It’s not good enough to say someone else doesn’t do this work well. We all need to do it better.

Politicians needn’t be role models. Parents are best at that job. But we do need people in office who can be trusted, who show up and put work into listening, who finish what they start, who recognize the dignity of all people not just because that’s what’s useful, but because that’s who we want to be.

— Sen. Aric Putnam, a Democrat, represents Minnesota Senate District 14. His column is published monthly. 

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Pandemic politics fuel long-shot Republican challenges to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott – NBC News

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has $55 million banked for his re-election campaign, a 73 percent approval rating among Republicans, and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

And, thanks to restrictive abortion and voting bills Abbott has signed in recent months, Texas has become an epicenter of the national conservative causes that rally the GOP base.

None of that, though, has stopped a crop of critics — including Allen West, a former Florida congressman with a right-wing following who briefly served as the Texas GOP chairman — from announcing plans to challenge Abbott in next year’s primary.

Sept. 7, 202102:11

Their complaint isn’t so much that Abbott is not a conservative. It’s that he’s not the hard-line conservative they believe that Texans crave — particularly when compared with some Republican peers and their hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

“He’s not Ron DeSantis, and he’s not Kristi Noem,” one veteran of Texas GOP politics said, referencing the governors of Florida and South Dakota who’ve upped their national profiles by resisting extended lockdowns, mask and vaccine mandates and other restrictions to limit the spread of Covid.

Pandemic politics are likely to play out in GOP gubernatorial primaries elsewhere, most notably in Ohio, where Republican Gov. Mike DeWine already has two challengers on his right who disapprove of the cautious approach he took early in the crisis. In Texas, West is one of at least four Republicans who are already campaigning against Abbott. Also in the race are Don Huffines, a businessman and former state senator from the Dallas area who has endorsements from former Trump aide Katrina Pierson and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Chad Prather, a conservative comedian and commentator for BlazeTV; and Paul Belew, a criminal defense attorney running with a television-inspired “Better Call Paul” slogan.

Abbott’s allies are unfazed by the early moves against him. The governor won primaries in 2014 and 2018 with more than 90 percent of the vote and comfortably won his first two terms. In a huge state with expensive media markets, he has a cash advantage that even the independently wealthy Huffines, who already has loaned his campaign $5 million, is unlikely to match.

“They don’t have any money, they don’t have any fundraising ability,” said John Wittman, Abbott’s former communications director who now runs a public affairs firm in Austin. “They are all fighting over the same 10 to 12 percent of Republican primary voters.”

Dave Carney, Abbott’s political strategist, said he takes nothing for granted but is “not worried at all” about challenges from the right.

“We’re really focused on the general election,” he added. “The primary is a great opportunity for us to do a dress rehearsal.”

Aug. 17, 202104:28

Abbott’s rivals could be a nuisance nevertheless in his bid for a third term. They repeatedly hammer him for business closures and mask mandates during the early months of the pandemic. And they don’t give him credit for being among the first governors to ease off such orders, using strikingly similar rhetoric to dismiss his decisions as an affront to liberty.

Said West: “I mean, you can’t give back something that you really had no right to take.”

Said Huffines: “That would be like thanking a thief for bringing some of your stolen goods back.”

Said Prather: “When you play arsonist and firefighter, the hypocrisy bleeds through pretty fast.”

Abbott was careful not to call public health measures he took in April 2020 a “stay-at-home order,” though he subsequently clarified in a video message that he was requiring “all Texans to stay at home except to provide essential services or do essential things like going to the grocery store.” He began reopening, with limitations, in May 2020 only to pause those efforts the next month because of a surge in coronavirus cases. A mask mandate quickly followed and stayed in place until March this year, when Abbott fully reopened the state.

Even so, using the pandemic as a wedge against Abbott, who last month tested positive for Covid, is not a slam-dunk primary message. More than two-thirds of Republican voters approved of his response to the crisis when surveyed in an August poll by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Other critics, particularly Democrats, have argued his pandemic response has been too lax, pointing in particular to his July order barring mask and vaccine mandates in the state despite the highly-contagious delta variant surge.

As of Thursday, confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas were up 11 percent over the last two weeks. Deaths were up 38 percent.

The primary challengers have other grievances.

West, Huffines and Prather all accused Abbott of not doing enough to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, even after the governor pledged to deploy more state police and free up state funds to continue building a border wall.

Huffines wishes Abbott would have called for what he termed as a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election — a calling card for right-wing candidates eager to please Trump. (The former president won the state of Texas.)

Prather mockingly calls Abbott a “campaign conservative” who is all talk, no action.

“The media gives him a lot of credit because he uses a lot of conservative rhetoric,” Prather said. “But there’s a difference between saying and doing. And, you know, Ron DeSantis does. Kristi Noem does. And Greg Abbott, a politician who lives off his polls, is good at saying.”

Several experienced Texas GOP operatives downplayed these ideological differences.

“Allen West has a history of pandering to the never-happy crowd,” said Chad Wilbanks, a former executive director of the state party who supports Abbott’s re-election. “Then you have … Don Huffines, who’s also pandering to the never-happy crowd.”

“You know, you’re never going to make everybody happy,” he added, in defense of Abbott. “And a leader who tries to make everybody happy is not very successful.”

The presence of several anti-Abbott candidates could split whatever anti-Abbott vote exists. Huffines and Prather see strength in numbers, predicting that a crowded field could keep Abbott below 50 percent in a primary and trigger a one-on-one runoff in which anti-Abbott voters can consolidate around one candidate. (“I’m not doing the wolf pack thing,” West, who dismissed such a strategy, said.)

The problem with that thinking is in the poll numbers. Abbott’s 73 percent job approval rating within his party, as measured by last month’s Texas Politics Project survey, has fallen 8 points over the last year, but it’s still high enough to leave little room for a successful primary challenger.

“They’re presuming that 5 or 10 percent of the electorate that may wish our governor was more conservative,” is a path to victory, said Matt Mackowiak, who chairs the Travis County GOP in Austin and personally supports Abbott. “But that defies third-grade math.”

There’s also the Trump factor. The former president endorsed Abbott in early June, then joined him at the border to raise alarm about immigration. Huffines believes Trump’s endorsement, like others that have gone wrong, including one earlier this year in a special Texas congressional election, is a mistake.

“The president has supported a lot of losers, and this is just going to be another one in that column,” Huffines said. “And it’s sad — for Trump, it’s going to be sad.”

Prather suggested Trump could change his mind “as this thing really heats up.”

That won’t happen, a senior political adviser to Trump said.

“President Trump has always respected Gov. Abbott and maintained a strong relationship. He was always inclined to support his re-election, but it was Abbott’s leadership on securing the border that sealed the deal,” the adviser said. “Trump loves Texas and loves fighters — Abbott is definitely a fighter for Texas.”

As for Democrats, they so far lack a well-known challenger, with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who lost a close race against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 before launching an unsuccessful presidential campaign, a top recruiting target.

“If Abbott were weak,” Mackowiak said, “we’d have a Democratic candidate for governor already.”

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Writ Large: Who says Canadian politics are dull? – iPolitics.ca

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Good morning, iPolitics readers.

Monday’s the big day. Our Elxnometer continues to keep us on the edge of our seat, and a whole lot more can shift over the weekend as Canadians waiting for election day to cast their ballots hem and haw and peruse party platforms in a bid to make an informed decision.

iPolitics’ Janet Silver and Kady O’Malley were joined by the Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles and Alex Ballingall on the No Talking Points podcast to dissect the final days of the campaign. Give it a listen.

Here’s the latest:


Elxnometer



Our barometer keeps track of which party seems likely to win — and whether it’s on track to secure a coveted majority. Check in during the campaign as the winds shift, and follow @elxnometre on Twitter.

Today’s takeaways

  • Thursday was a very active day across the country, producing a few interesting developments.
  • The Conservatives are back up in this very close and perpetually back-and-forth race to the finish — they are definitely closing the gap in the seat counts.
  • We’re seeing a lot of movement in ATLANTIC CANADA. On a bad night for the Liberals, the Conservatives moved ahead in as many as eight seats, making important gains particularly in New Brunswick. A lot of these seats are close and could still shift either way, but clearly the strong Liberal grip on on the region is slipping.
  • In QUEBEC, the Bloc Québécois’ surge has stalled. The momentum swing that threatened a few ministers and several incumbent Liberals will probably not pan out. Still, a lot of damage has already been done, and many of the seats the Bloc stole from the Liberals in 2019 will stay pale blue.
  • In Trois-Rivières, one of the hottest races in la belle province, it looks like the Conservatives may pull out a close one. The same goes for Beauport—Limoilou, which the Tories also appear poised to swipe from the Bloc.
  • In ONTARIO, we are seeing a small surge for the NDP, who are close to taking three Liberal seats: Hamilton, Nickel Belt and Thunder Bay.
  • The Liberal lead in Ontario is down to four per cent and the party stands to lose seven seats from 2019, five of them to the NDP.
  • The Liberals have rebounded somewhat in the PRAIRIES, where they are on track to claim five seats in Winnipeg. They are still leading in Edmonton Centre and Calgary Skyview, though both ridings are too close to call.
  • Jason Kenney’s COVID-19 announcements yesterday have upset a lot of people in ALBERTA. Time will tell what impact it will have.
  • The NDP and Conservatives are tied at 29 per cent in BRITISH COLUMBIA, with the Liberals at 22 per cent. That leaves the NDP and the Conservatives to fight over a bunch of close ridings, while the Liberals hope they can keep the 11 seats they won in 2019.
  • In a race that is growing noticeably tighter every day this week, it looks like the People’s Party’s purple wave may just help the Liberals secure re-election. Nobody is opening up a clear lead this late in the campaign, which is a bit unusual. But that will make these last days extremely interesting. Every seat will count.
  • That much sought-after Liberal majority now seems like a distant memory, leaving many Canadians wondering why we are going through this. Who says that Canadian politics are dull!?

How is the election affecting Canadians’ trust in government? Check out the latest instalment of The Governance Monitor.


Hustle in the hustings

It’s Day 34 of campaigning. Do you know where your party leaders are?

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh starts his day in Quebec with a morning announcement at the University of Sherbrooke before jetting off to Nova Scotia, where he’ll make a 2:30 p.m. stop at the Futures Cafe in Sackville and a 3:30 p.m. meet-up with supporters by the Halifax Common pavilion.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet will drop by the power plant in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès this morning to make an announcement on Muskrat Falls and GST. This afternoon, he’ll chat with the press at the Davie shipyard in Lévis.

You’ll find Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole at London’s Bellamere Winery and Event Centre this afternoon. He’ll attend an event with supporters in St. Catharines at 7:30 p.m.

Also in Ontario is Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He’s in Windsor, Ont. this morning to make an announcement.

Finally, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is holding a rally this evening in Strathmore, Alberta.

Details of Green Party Leader Annamie Paul‘s scheduled haven’t been confirmed.

ICYMI from iPolitics


Ridings in the spotlight

Running in Trois-Rivières, Bloc Québécois candidate René Villemure (left) and Conservative candidate Yves Lévesque participate in a debate on Sept. 9, 2021. (Twitter/@PDepatie)

TROIS—RIVIÈRES (Quebec)

Who’s running?

  • Martin Francoeur (Liberal)
  • Andrew Holman (Green)
  • Jean Landry (PPC)
  • Yves Lévesque (CPC)
  • Adis Simidzija (NDP)
  • René Villemure (BQ)

What’s the buzz?

Several of Quebec’s 78 seats are in play as we count down to election day. One seat we’ll continue watching like a hawk this weekend is Trois-Rivières on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River.

According to Mainstreet Research’s latest polling from the riding, the Conservatives would win the riding with 34 per cent of the vote from decided and leaning voters if the election were held today. Another 31 per cent would pick the Bloc, and 30 per cent would favour the Liberals.

Louise Charbonneau won the seat for the Bloc with 28.48 per cent of the vote in 2019, but she announced in June she wouldn’t seek re-election, leaving Trois-Rivières up for grabs. The Tories are running Yves Lévesque, who served as mayor of Trois-Rivières from 2001 until his retirement for medical reasons in 2018. He also ran for the CPC in 2019, finishing in third place, 2000 seats behind Charbonneau.

The riding has been held predominantly by the Bloc over the past 30 years, save for an eight-year orange streak from 2011 to 2019.

Janet Silver has more on this red hot riding.


THÉRÈSE—DE BLAINVILLE (Quebec)

Who’s running?

  • Vincent Aubé (PPC)
  • Ramez Ayoub (Liberal)
  • Marc Bissonnette (CPC)
  • Louise Chabot (BQ) — incumbent
  • Simon Paré-Poupart (Green)
  • Julienne Soumaoro (NDP)

What’s the buzz?

Another of Quebec’s tight races is playing out in Thérèse—De Blainville, where Bloc Québécois incumbent Louise Chabot is hoping to hold her seat. Her top opponent is Liberal candidate Ramez Ayoub, who represented the riding north of Laval from its establishment in 2015 until Chabot’s win in 2019.

Polling conducted in the riding by Mainstreet Research on Sept. 13 suggests that 41 per cent of decided and leaning voters would re-elect Chabot if an election were held that day. 39 per cent would vote for Ayoub and the Conservative candidate would come in a distant third, with 11 per cent of the vote.

The tables are turned when all voters are factored in. In that scenario, the Liberals would win the riding with 37 per cent of the vote, with the Bloc hot on their heels with 36 per cent. The Conservatives would remain in third place with 11 per cent.

Check out our election dashboard for the latest from ridings across the country.


iPredict

Thursday’s iPredict Results

The majority of Writ Large readers would disagree with Liberal candidate and hype man Dominic LeBlanc about his party’s chances of snagging a majority government. Responding to Thursday’s iPredict poll, 59 per cent of you said “heck no” the Liberal’s don’t have a shot at a majority, while 26 per cent said it could “maybe” happen and 12 per cent share LeBlanc’s confidence in Team Trudeau. We’ll know soon enough whose prediction comes to pass.

App user? Access the iPredict poll in your browser.


Want to get Writ Large right in your inbox during the election? Sign up here.

Thanks for reading. You can reach iPolitics’ briefs team at [email protected].

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Canada's elections: How the climate crisis is reshaping politics – Open Democracy

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Singh’s NDP has one of the boldest climate policies of the major parties. The party platform includes reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stresses that it “will put workers front and centre of their climate action plan”, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Avi Lewis, the longtime documentary filmmaker and climate activist running as the NDP candidate for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country district, told openDemocracy that “there is no party on Earth that is currently addressing the climate movement in the way it needs to be”. For Lewis, the climate emergency isn’t just a climate emergency, “it’s also a housing emergency, transit emergency, inequality emergency”.

However, Lewis decided to run as an NDP nominee because he “sees a sense of urgency in the platform”. “All these emergencies are linked,” he says, “but so are the solutions.”

According to Maggie Chao, campaign director at Leadnow, an independent progressive campaigning organisation, the parties are “moving in the right direction” and recognise that “climate change is a pressing issue”. However, Chao insisted that “we’re nowhere on the scale and pace we need to be”.

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