Say no to recalling Gov. Newsom — for the sake of democracy

I have voted, just mailed my ballot, in. an absolutely ridiculous election, the California recall whose goal is to recall, unseat, fire Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

The election on September 14, comes a year before the regular elections when Newsom is expected to seek re-election. Why not wait until then? Well, California’s Republicans, only 24 percent of all registered voters, did not want to wait for an almost certain defeat next year and a repeat of Newsom’s overwhelming victory from 2020, so they forced the recall vote by gathering the required 1,5 million signatures, only 12 percent of the 22 million voters here, to trigger the recall, at a cost to the state’s tax payers of around $275 million.

“It is hard to conceive of a more cynical plan from extreme conservatives trying to control Sacramento, or a scheme more damaging to the premises on which democracy stands,” wrote Nathan Heller in the New Yorker recently. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/09/06/californias-recall-is-a-blow-to-democratic-change

I voted no to the recall, of course, and I chose not to vote for any of the 46 candidates for governor, who hope to replace Newsom should he not receive a majority of the vote. Those 46 are mostly Republicans, with no political experience, never having held elective office. They are a bunch of political amateurs, in other words, hoping to lead America’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy. All it took for them to run was signatures from 65 registered voters and a filing fee of $4,195. That means, basically, that anyone can run. And, it seems, they do. 

In the polls with around 27 percent support, they are led by Larry Elder, a Black, libertarian radio talk show host, without political experience, supported by white supremacists. There is Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic decathlete and now transgender TV reality star, and there is Kevin Faulconer, former mayor of San Diego and the only politically experienced in the field. But he voted for Trump in 2020, so he was out, too, in my book. But, should Newsom fail to win a majority of the vote and be recalled, one of these Republicans will be elected governor, even after, say, winning only 25 or 30 percent of the vote – a truly frightening scenario.

Direct democracy, including removing officials from office, is a reform from the Progressive era over one hundred years ago that became part of the California constitution.  Since then, 179 recall attempts have been made but only one governor has actually been recalled, in 2003, when Democrat Gray Davis was recalled and Republican actor and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor. Crazy, right! 

This election is beneath California and its 40 million citizens, a “farce”, as Ezra Klein called it recently in the New York Times, but it demands voter participation to defeat the recall. It also demands serious reforms, which did not occur after the 2003 recall, if it is to be taken seriously, such as requiring many more signatures to trigger a recall as well as financial malfeasance or criminality on the part of the official. It should not be possible to circumvent regular elections just because you don’t like a guy. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/08/opinion/california-gavin-newsom-recall.html?searchResultPosition=22

Gavin Newsom has generally done a good job as governor during some very difficult years, and he still has some important things on his plate: Covid is still here; fires up north are still burning; we have a serious drought; real estate is unaffordable and homelessness is truly a gigantic problem. So, I say, let Newsom continue to run California, at least until next year when his four-year term ends, and then you will get your say. That’s what elections and democracy are all about. 

So vote, and vote no!

Walter Mondale, of Minnesota’s Scandinavian political legacy, is dead

With Walter F. Mondale’s death last Monday in Minneapolis, one of the few remaining of Minnesota’s great generation of Scandinavian politicians, is gone.

Starting in 1892, when the Norwegian immigrant Knute Nelson was elected governor, Minnesota’s Scandinavian immigrant generations came to shape, even dominate, the state’s politics for decades. Since that year and up to 1999, all but five of Minnesota’s twenty-six governors have been of Scandinavian/Nordic descent, the last one being Swedish Arne Carlson, 1991-99, who told me, during the research for my book, Scandinavians in the State House – How Nordic Immigrants Shaped Minnesota Politics, that we are probably seeing the end of the line of Scandinavian governors in Minnesota. “There is no new Scandinavian generation here,” he said. But Minnesota’s unique Scandinavia political legacy lives on, as University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs once told me: “It’s like a fork in the road, and Minnesota has taken the Scandinavian way, and even though the Scandinavians are not running the state, we are on the road that the Scandinavians have put us on.” 

Two of those Minnesota Scandinavians were Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, both descendants of Norwegian immigrants, who became not only US senators but US vice presidents and both, eventually, the Democratic Party’s candidates for President, in 1968 and 1984, respectively. As vice president in the Jimmy Carter administration 1976-80, Mondale paved the way for the new, modern vice presidency, and as presidential candidate, he chose the first woman, New York’s Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate. 

I first met Mondale, whose family and name came from the little village of Mundal in Norway,  in 1984, barnstorming through the Midwest as he sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, a nomination that he would ultimately win only to be thoroughly defeated by Ronald Reagan in November that year, winning only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.  It was a humiliating defeat, but defeat never slowed Mondale down. He did not “crawl under a desk or complain about his losses,” as Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar writes in a New York Times op-ed today. He continued “the good fight” as his autobiography was called, until the end, at 93, still active and still respected, even beloved, and not only in Minnesota.  And I know, Klobuchar also writes, that “Mondale (who died the day before the jury found former police office Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd) was with us rooting for justice.” 

Almost a year earlier, in an op-ed in Minneapolis Star-Tribune in June 2020, Mondale had written that had “watched with horror” Floyd’s death but “felt pride as so many Minnesotans peacefully took to the streets demanding justice.” America, he wrote, “remains scarred by unacceptable disparities,” concluding:

“Each generation is tasked with the hard work of serving in the great fight for justice. Our neighbors who took to the streets over the past few weeks have joined a great cause. I thank them.” 

I can’t claim to have known Walter Mondale, or “Fritz” as he was called, well. During the presidential election campaign of 1984, with his campaign plane full of journalists, there was no opportunity for one-on-one conversations, but I met him again a couple of years ago in connection with my Minnesota book project, interviewed him at length, saw a bit of him socially, and was always struck with how friendly and unpretentious he was.  

When former Minnesota governor, Wendell Anderson, grandson of Swedish immigrants, died in 2016, many hundreds came to his memorial service at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, among them Walter Mondale and his old friend, Warren Spannaus, former state attorney general. At the service, decorated in Sweden’s blue and yellow colors, the prominent mingled with the less prominent in typical low-key Minnesota fashion. Mondale and Spannaus lingered and chatted, and as the two political war horses walked out of the church by themselves in the afternoon heat, Mondale took off his jacket and swung it over one shoulder. They crossed the busy street with the help of two traffic cops and walked slowly up the block as cars buzzed by. At the corner, a woman, waiting for a bus, greeted the two before they turned into a side street where they had parked, apparently unable to find parking in the church parking lot. They climbed into an old car and Spannaus drove off, with the former vice president of the United States as passenger in the front seat.

Growing up in a little town in southern Minnesota, by the border to Iowa, Mondale told me that the one thing his parents stressed was the belief in learning and education. “There was no excuse for ignorance.” But, he continued, they never put this to us as Norwegian values, and Mondale never visited Scandinavia until late in life, as vice president, when, stepping off the plane, he breathed deeply and said, “It smells like Minnesota.” He told me that the huge presence of Scandinavians in Minnesota “has had a big effect on the fundamental direction of our state,” and that legacy “is not a thing of the past but it has merged with our values in Minnesota.” 

I had set out to tell that story in my Minnesota book, and I was so surprised, and pleased, of course, hearing from Mondale shortly after it was published in 2017: 

“Dear Klas:  I just finished reading your wonderful new book, Scandinavians in the State House, and I loved it. It hits exactly the right spot and it fills up and describes in detail a lot of elements that we miss here close to home. I loved the chapter on the Finns. Well, I love them all. It’s an example of the depth of your scholarship.”

I asked Mondale if I could publicize his note and he graciously agreed. Today, it’s framed and hangs proudly on the wall in my home in Los Angeles, California.  Thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you, Fritz.

A day of hope and relief

Yesterday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris was a joyful day of renewed hope for America and a day of relief, that this four-year long nightmare under Donald Trump is over and that, finally, we will have a national strategy to combat the Covid pandemic which has now killed over 400,000 Americans.

It was a day of hope and relief for this nation but also personally, as my wife and I drove out to Cal State University in Northridge, in the flat, enormous San Fernando Valley that is part of Los Angeles, to get vaccinated against Covid. It took about half an hour and we never left our car. We still have another shot in a few weeks, but we are on our way, relieved and with renewed hope that everyday life in America will improve, not only for us but for everyone.

So while yesterday was a day of hope and relief, it was also a day of joy. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech hit just the right notes for this divided, suffering, and confused nation. What has happened to America? That has been a common question these few past years with the chaos, the meanness, the lies, the ignorance emanating from the White House. As the pandemic swept over the country, the lack of leadership became more and more evident. No one was at the helm, because the man in the White House not only did not want to do anything, but he did not know what to do. That’s the danger of having a political amateur run a country.

The contrast, as Joe Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th President, could not be more stark. It was a seasoned, trusted, measured politician who took over, who urged unity and promised professional leadership. Here was also a man with a good heart that further reassured the country and gave it new hope just hours after his predecessor slipped out of Washington, DC almost unnoticed, still refusing to concede and refusing to be part of the ceremonial traditions on the steps of the Capitol. Yes, Trump broke all historical traditions by his absence, but no one seemed to miss him and maybe everyone was better for it. His presence would have been a distraction at the glorious event that took place yesterday in front of a pandemic-empty National Mall.

Instead, Biden and Harris got to have it all to themselves and they clearly cherished the moment. Biden’s speech, 21 minutes long, was superb, hitting all the right notes — the best inaugural speech he has ever heard, said Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Biden talked about unity, about lies and the importance truth, and about democracy, which we have learned once more, he said, that it is “precious.” And although democracy prevailed this time, referring to the Trump years and to the storming of the Capitol just two weeks ago, we have also learned that it is “fragile.”

It was a speech that America needed at this time, as one writer put it in today’s Los Angeles Times, and so, the start of the Biden Administration is full of promise and hope that he and the country will be able to erase the stain of the Trump years and steer America onto a better path. It won’t be easy, although the Democrats now control the White House as well as both branches of Congress. The resistance from the Republicans to change will be fierce, as Trump and Trumpism still control the party. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, but right now it’s unlikely that Biden and the Democrats will have any easy victories although so much is needed to be done.

We hope for the best, for America’s sake

And so, I have voted, early, with just a couple of people in line at the town hall in my little hometown, blue all the way, as if my life depended on it.

And, in a way it does, as, tomorrow, we will hope for the best but prepare for the worst, to paraphrase the Boston Globe editorial today, with Trump refusing to respect the election result and guaranteeing a peaceful transition of power, should he lose, which he seems to be doing, which he MUST do, for America’s sake, for the future of democracy in this country.

The divisions in this country are stark, starker than I can ever remember, maybe even starker than during other crises in modern America such as the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, to mention a few. America has had crooks (Richard Nixon) as presidents before Trump, but never a president who so openly disregards the rules of American democracy. It’s a dangerous time in America, whose citizens openly worry about possible post-election violence, with the president’s right-wing supporters heeding his call for resistance to an election result he might not like.

The unprecedented worry about post-election violence follows an election campaign where the Republican party has done everything to discourage and suppress voting. Nothing has made me sadder and more worried about America and its democracy than how difficult it has become for many people to vote. All over the country, legal battles are being fought about the right to vote. New York Times asks today in its main editorial what is behind this Republican strategy, which “has become a central pillar of the GOP platform.” The answer is simple: “When more people vote, Republicans lose.”  

More than 90 million Americans have already voted as the corona virus rages around the country with over one thousand deaths every day. But, ironically, the pandemic has also made it easier to vote, by mail and early in-person. Maybe we will see record-breaking voter participation this year? And maybe this will lead to the election reforms so urgently needed? 

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Trump was lucky in 2016, losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes but winning narrowly in three key states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, by a total of 70,000 votes out of more than 13 million votes and thereby winning the all-important Electoral College. Can Trump be so lucky again? I doubt it. 

All the polls favor Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, like they did with Hillary Clinton in 2016, but more so this year. But because the same polls misled the voters in 2016 by undercounting the white, non-college votes, the present pollsters are met with a high degree of skepticism, and all blue voters are nervous, very nervous, although it’s highly likely that the pollsters have learned the lesson from 2016 and are more accurate than four years ago. That would favor Biden/Harris. 

Let’s hope so, let’s hope so… 

So, Trump, what are you running on?

So, Donald J. Trump, what are you going to run on in November?

  • On over 20 million unemployed Americans — more than at any time since the Great Depression in the 1930s?
  • On the 1.284 million coronavirus cases in the United States with almost 80,000 deaths, or 28 percent of the 272,000 who have died around the world?
  • On the fact that, globally, the death rate is 34 per one million, while the death rate in America is 232 per one million?
  • On your chaotic, actually non-existing national coronavirus strategy, with little testing and tracing and with every state fending for itself?
  • On a dysfunctional national health care system, which has failed the country as it was needed the most, and as you still continued to end Obamacare?
  • On your growing isolation in the world in the middle of a global pandemic, as you stopped funding WHO, the World Health Organization, and declined to participate in a world-wide vaccine donor conference?
  • On the forlorn voices and heart-breaking stories of all Americans, as seen through the 21 victims in today’s New York Times, who now discover that America is brutal country, without a safety net, and where those who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance and even their home, and lose hope?
  • On his impeachment?

In 2016, Trump ran on MAGA, “Make America great again,” and he won, barely. He was, I have argued, incredibly lucky to do so. He lost the popular vote but captured three key states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – by a total of only 68,000 votes, enough to win the Electoral College and capture the presidency. To win in November, he needs to be lucky again but with a now highly motivated Democratic Party, he also needs to find new voters, beyond his faithful base. But he has shown no inclination, and no ability, to do so. The coronavirus has shown him at his worst, a clueless non-leader, and, now, polls show that seniors around the country have soured on him. In RealClear Politics poll averages, Trump trails Joe Biden nationally by 4.4 percentage points and in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and even in Florida, Trump’s new home state.

This time, Donald J. Trump does not have much to run on — it’s hard to run on fear,  scandals, incompetence, crisis, but, most of all, on chaos. It’s hard to run when 57.6 percent of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track and when only 35 percent think the country is heading in the right direction.

Still, it’s going to be a hard-fought election. But, as former Republican Peter Wehner wrote in The Atlantic, the coronavirus will likely be when everything changed and when Americans saw “the con man behind the curtain.” Instead of uniting America during this pandemic, Trump has divided the country even more. But under Trump, as George Packer wrote, also in The Atlantic, about America as a failed state, nothing will change, when change, fundamental change, is so urgently needed.

That’s why November is so important and why it can’t come soon enough. We need to end this nightmare.

With dizzying speed, Joe Biden races to the front

Events in the American presidential election campaign are overtaking each other with dizzying speed. What was conventional wisdom just a week ago – before the South Carolina primary on February 29 – has after Super Tuesday been completely trashed.

Almost counted out, Joe Biden is now in the lead. The front runner, Bernie Sanders, stumbled badly, and the field got thinner, a lot thinner — out is Tom Steyer; out is Pete Buttigieg; out is Amy Klobuchar; and out is Michael Bloomberg.

Only Elizabeth Warren remains, but her days are clearly numbered. After a series of third and even worse finishes, she did not even manage yesterday to win her home state, Massachusetts, coming in third after Biden 33 percent, Sanders 26, Warren 21, and Bloomberg 11. In my hometown, Great Barrington, in the western part of the state, with a population of a little over seven thousand, Sanders won with 691 votes, followed by Biden 606, Warren 515, and Bloomberg 180.

Biden surprised all evening as the results came in, from east to west, and ended up winning ten of the fourteen states. His huge victory in Virginia stunned observers and set the tone for the evening. And what followed surprised even more, when, in the North, he captured Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Maine. And his victory in Texas was truly mind-boggling – no one saw that coming. His support, just like in South Carolina, among the African American voters, continued to be solid, 60 to 70 percent. But he also made big inroads among white suburban voters, who, in many places, went to the polls in larger numbers than 2016 and even than 2008, when Barack Obama captured the presidency. That bodes well for November.

Sanders, on the other hand, failed to expand his support, and, writes professor Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia, “it’s clearer than ever now that at least some of his support in 2016 was simply a function of being the alternative to Hillary Clinton. Matched up with Biden more directly now, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to match his 2016 achievements.” Momentum is now with Biden. Still, Sabato adds, the race for the Democratic party’s presidential nominee might change again. “Certainly, Biden is going to be under renewed scrutiny, and his campaign performances have been shaky at best.”

The consequences of Biden’s weaknesses, when the Democrats do not have “an awesome” candidate, as Tom Friedman writes in today’s New York Times. the party needs to have an “awesome coalition.”  “That means a party that is united as much as possible – from left to center to right – so it can bolster the nominee against what will be a vicious, united and well-funded Trump/GOP campaign.”

Right now, that unity does not exist, although it took a big step forward with Biden’s former rivals, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Bloomberg, with his billions, all endorsing Biden and, thereby, the moderate wing of the party against Sanders’ left-wing progressivism, his “democratic socialism.” Biden, should he win the nomination, needs Sanders and his young supporters to win in November. On the day after Super Tuesday, Sanders showed no indications that he is ready to play ball, at least not yet.  And, so, the race goes on, to the next Tuesday and maybe the Tuesdays after that, all the way to June and then the convention in Milwaukee in July. For the Democrats that is a dark scenario indeed.

 

An utterly depressing week with the Democrats facing strong head winds

It was not a quiet week in Washington, or in America, last week. Far from it.

Rather, it was a news-filled, momentous, and utterly depressing week, as Donald Trump, impeached by the Democrats in the House of Representatives, was acquitted by the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, which voted with one exception to acquit the president as the  Democratic minority unanimously supported impeachment.

The acquittal came after a trial that was has more of a non-trial, a sham and a shame. The lead impeachment manager for the House, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California, described the whole scene as “descending into constitutional madness” as he outlined the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Only Mitt Romney, Senator from Utah and the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, voted to impeach Trump. Now, I am no fan of Romney, but here he showed himself to be a true profile in courage.  For Trump, however, he became an immediate target and Don Trump Jr. demanded Romney’s expulsion from the Republican Party.

That Trump tolerates no opposition or dissent in the ranks has been made crystal clear many times, not the least in his lie-filled State of the Union speech to Congress at the start of the week. Compromise and reconciliation were nowhere to be found and there was was no attempt to expand his support beyond his faithful Trumpsters.

His ire against Romney was quickly followed by the firing of two members of his administration, both of whom had testified against him during the impeachment proceedings.   The firings of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and national security adviser Alexander Vindman created a wave of comparisons with the so-called Saturday night massacre during the Watergate scandal. Obviously, Trump had learned nothing from his impeachment and acquittal. He was not going to change, he was not going to say he was sorry, he was not backing down, and Maine Senator Susan Collins was quickly proven wrong, and then ridiculed by the Democrats, for naively expressing her hope, as she voted to acquit Trump, that he had now learned his lesson.

As if this was not bad enough for the Democrats and their presidential candidates, the first stop during their long primary election road, the Iowa caucuses, could not have gone worse. No clear victor in much lower turnout than hoped for and expected, a turnout, which is so vital for the Democrats to have any chance for victory against Trump in November.  Then, they were unable to count the votes. Total fiasco. Scandal. And, of course, Trump and the Republicans immediately took advantage of this – how can they (Democrats) claim to run the country when they can’t even count their votes. In the end, after almost a week, the results showed that Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg ran even at the top, followed by Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar not far behind.

On Tuesday, they battled again, this time in New Hampshire, but the wind is blowing hard in their faces. All momentum, right now, is with Trump.

Still, for many present and former Republicans the road ahead is clear. For Jennifer Rubin,conservative columnist in the Washington Post, the election means voting for the Democratic nominee, whoever he/she will be, because a second Trump term would be “disastrous.” As she recently wrote, “almost four years ago, I checked out of the Republican Party, recognizing that the moral rot, intellectual dishonesty and authoritarian tendencies that led to embrace President Trump were a threat to our democracy. Events since then have proved my initial assessment horribly accurate.”

Republicans, she continued, have transformed themselves in an “authoritarian cult,” and the Republican-led Senate under Mitch McConnell has become a “lawless, amoral and destructive,” where “fairness, truth and the Constitution are subordinate to the exercise of raw power and the population of the judiciary with unqualified and partisan judges.”

Rubin is not alone among former Republican columnists at leading American newspapers, such as David Brooks, Michael Gerson, and George Will. For Washington Post’s Gerson, the November election will be “a referendum on the moral and ethical standards we apply to our political life. Will corruption, cruelty and coverups be excused and encouraged? Or will the boundaries of integrity, honesty and public spirit be redrawn?“  For Gerson, Congress “has largely failed to defend the democratic virtues essential to self-government. American voters had better do better.”

And, so, the American voters will have to do what the U.S. Senate failed to do and issue their verdict on a corrupt president by denying him another four years in the White House. I still think they will, but, then, I still have hope in America, although it has turned very dark.

 

“An excellent book,” writes Danish professor about my Minnesota book — nice!

“All in all, Bergman has written an excellent book that any layman or scholar with an interest in Minnesota’s Nordic past will enjoy reading,” concludes Danish professor Jørn Brøndal in his review of my book about Minnesota’s Scandinavian political legacy.

The review was published in the latest issue of the Norwegian-American Historical Association’s journal Norwegian-American Studies (https://www.naha.stolaf.edu).

Klas Bergman, Scandinavians in the State House: How Nordic Immigrants Shaped Minnesota Politics (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2017). 6×9 inches, 20 b&w photos, index. viii + 310 pp. ISBN 9781681340302. $19.95

By Jørn Brøndal

In this interesting book, Klas Bergman explores how Nordic immigrants and their American-born progeny helped shape Minnesota’s political culture all the way from the 1850s to the present. During those years thousands of Nordics participated in Minnesota politics, several of them reaching high positions of power, including twenty-one governorships from 1893 to 1999.

The book offers short, incisive biographies of an impressive array of Minnesota’s Nordic politicians. As one might expect, ample room is made for exploring such towering figures as U.S. senator Knute Nelson (dates in office 1895–1923), Governors John B. Lind (1899–1901), Floyd B. Olson (1931–1936), and Wendell R. Anderson (1971–1976), as well as vice presidents and later Democratic presidential nominees Hubert H. Humphrey (1965–1969) and Walter F. Mondale (1977–1981). More controversial leaders are also examined. The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety under Governor Joseph A. A. Burnquist (1915–1921) put civil liberties under massive pressure during World War I. Also, Burnquist’s fight in the 1918 Republican primary against Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. turned ugly. Governors Hjalmar Petersen (1936–1937) and Harold Stassen (1939–1943) each employed red-baiting and anti-Semitism in their election bids.

Two dimensions of Bergman’s study stand out. First, he demonstrates the historical importance of an amazing array of left-leaning grassroots activists, including such Swedish-American radicals as Walfrid Engdahl, Walter Malte Frank, and Carl Skoglund, each of whom left Sweden in the wake of the General Strike of 1909, only to resume their labor activism in Minnesota. Whereas Engdahl and Frank ended up joining the Farmer-Labor Party, Skoglund was a central leader of the landmark Minneapolis Teamsters’ Strike of 1934, later emerging as a Trotskyist and serving time in jail. Minnesota’s Nordic radicals, however, also included many Finns of the Iron Range whose reception in Minnesota was negative, to the point of one draft resister being lynched during World War I. The Finns, it turns out, were more politicized and radicalized than any other group, and when the American version of the Communist Party was founded in the early 1920s, more than forty percent of its members were Finns. During Joseph Stalin’s Great Terror, many Minnesota Finns made the disastrous decision of migrating to Soviet Karelia.

The second dimension of Bergman’s book that stands out is his comprehensive coverage of the various political currents coursing through Minnesota from the territorial days to the present. Here, the Scandinavians, especially the Norwegians and Swedes, played a central role. They did so first as staunch Republicans but from the end of the nineteenth century also as Populists and then as activists within the Progressive movement and its radical offshoot, the Nonpartisan League, in the early twentieth century. During the 1930s many of them joined the Farmer-Labor Party, “the most successful third party in American history” (150), and from 1944 the liberal Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), while also contributing to keeping the postwar GOP moderate and reform-minded. Generally prudent, pragmatic, and progressive—and oftentimes informed by a secularized version of Lutheranism—the Scandinavians of Minnesota helped build a result- and reform-oriented political culture.

From the turn of the millennium, to be sure, the traditionally progressive state GOP took a conservative turn. In that sense, Bergman suggests, even as the DFL “stayed true to its Scandinavian roots . . . the Republican Party became ever less Scandinavian” (194). Nevertheless, as Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota suggests, notwithstanding the recent waning of Scandinavian-American political leadership, “we are on the road that the Scandinavians have put us on” (252).

Based on an impressive amount of historical literature and primary sources, including oral history interviews and the author’s own talks with Minnesota leaders and grassroots, Bergman’s account is transnational in scope, focusing not only on Minnesota but also on Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and Icelandic history. The book is skewed somewhat toward the Swedes, for instance, in its rather surprising coverage of the contemporary Somali presence both in Minneapolis’s Sixth Ward—an old Scandinavian stronghold—and in Sweden. Minor quibbles involve the book’s unclear distinction between the meaning of “liberal” and “progressive” and the use of “Scandinavian” and “Nordic” interchangeably. Of course, any analysis of Scandinavian influences on Minnesota’s political culture will have to include impressionistic elements, as Bergman’s book indeed does. To be pedantic, Danish-American George A. Nelson was not elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1899 but only years later (190). As a journalist rather than a historian, Bergman loyally quotes many historians while rarely challenging their accounts.

All in all, Bergman has written an excellent book that any layman or scholar with an interest in Minnesota’s Nordic past will enjoy reading.

Jørn Brøndal is professor of American studies at the University of Southern Denmark. He specializes in U.S. ethnic, racial, and political history.

–end.

One is gone, but we still need many fewer Democratic candidates

Democratic California congressman Eric Swalwell never had a chance, so his decision this week to end his presidential dreams was not a surprise. What was a surprise, and what should be lauded, was the fact that he did not drag this out, that he decided quickly and after only one debate that this was, indeed, a dream and that he should continue his political career by being re-elected to Congress next year, which he will certainly be.

So, one is gone, but the Democrats still need fewer not more presidential candidates, and California billionaire Tom Steyer should be strenuously discouraged as he enters the field. No, we don’t need another candidate and we don’t need another billionaire…

Instead, more in the present crowd of Democratic hopefuls, should follow Swalwell’s good example, particularly the two political novices, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang. For me, solid political experience is so important in someone running for President, and they both totally lack it. But also others, many with slim such experience and with campaigns seemingly going nowhere, should seriously consider leaving, and soon: John Delaney, Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio, Seth Moulton, and Steve Bullock. The two Coloradoans, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, and Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, could also be included in this group, even though Inslee’s emphasis on climate change and the environment should be lauded and should be a central part of the Democratic Party’s platform. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, whose campaign has generated weak support, could also be part of this group.

“The sooner the nonviable candidates leave, the sooner voters can size up the competitive contenders and the sooner the party can begin serious debate about what the candidates are actually proposing,” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote recently. I totally agree.

While I am at it, I also want make a pitch for party membership when running for President in the Democratic primaries. Bernie Sanders is not a member, so…But maybe this will sort out itself eventually, as Sanders’ star power from 2016 is fading, although he is presently in second place with a polling average of 18.6 percent during the first six months of this year, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. However, he is far behind Joe Biden at 31.6 percent and not much ahead of Kamala Harris at 14.6, Elizabeth Warren at 11.9, and Pete Buttigieg at 11.4 percent. The rest are in single digits and many have less than one percent support.

As I wrote after the first two Democratic debates, none of the candidates has my vote. Not yet. Undoubtedly, and eventually, one of them will, as I will never vote for Donald Trump. Defeating him is not only the main goal in next year’s elections but the only goal. So I am eagerly looking forward to the two debates in Detroit at the end of July, and that, by then, we are left with a handful of serious Democratic candidates to challenge Donald Trump.

After two debates, none of them has my vote

Twenty Democratic hopefuls, on two nights, recently tried to show the record large television audience that they were presidential material, that they could lead the United States of America.

They all failed. None of them secured my future vote. Who, of them, can beat Trump? That’s the goal. That’s the only goal. No other matters. But, at this point, I am not sure.

Instead, I asked, why they were even there on the stage? And why this spectacle a year and a half before next year’s November elections? The length of this campaign is ridiculous and so are many of the candidates, these Presidential “wannabes,” as the veteran Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King recently wrote, who are wasting our time. This election “is no time for start-ups.” Indeed!

Two women won the first and then the second debate. Elizabeth Warren must be admired for her energy and intellectual power and for the fact that she has presented proposal after proposal to solve America’s problem. I agree with her. But can she beat Trump? Kamala Harris won the second debate, based on her attack on Joe Biden, but did she go too far and will it come back and haunt her? Joe Biden bombed. Bernie Sanders’s message was old and tiresome. Pete Buttigieg was eloquent, but a mayor of South Bend, Indiana just won’t do.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar and the two Texans, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro, all have some political experience. But why are they running? And who are the rest, Williamson, Yang, Gabbard, Stalwell, Ryan, etc? Why do they think they think can run the largest and most important country in the world with little or no political experience? Should there be no limit to a person’s ego? Why don’t they run for governor, or the senate, or the House, or for some local office.

This is ridiculous. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: amateurs – stay away from politics. Look at Donald Trump – enough said!

Still, more debates will take place, possibly with some even more unknown and unproven presidential hopefuls. This can’t be the way to choose the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States. The primary system is broken, and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen blames the Democratic Party, which has “opted for increased chaos,” as he wrote in a recent column and concluded:

“For too many candidates, running for the nomination is a no-cost exercise in brand enhancement. It’s ridiculous that almost anyone can be a celebrity . . . or run for president. There ought to be a difference.”

The only hopeful result of the two debates was the record breaking television audience, fifteen and eighteen million viewers, respectively. That points to, hopefully, a large, maybe record breaking, voter turnout next year, which is needed to beat Trump.