Jason Lewis is feeling victimized. Again.
The former talk radio host turned congressman from Woodbury has a sense of martyrdom professionally toned. When he sees the specter of oppression, the wise take heed.
In his latest passion play, Lewis stars as the brave congressman standing tall against the power-grubbing elite. He’s pushing a bill in Congress to force the Met Council to hold elections for its 17 members, rather than receive appointments from the governor, as they have for a half-century.
Officially, he’s engaged in gallant combat to bring democracy to the agency, which oversees things like parks, planning, transit, sewage, and affordable housing across the Greater Twin Cities Empire. Lewis doesn’t want these important tasks left to appointed bureaucrats. He’d prefer they be delegated those who specialize in efficiency, foresight, and grand works aplenty: politicians.
The victim genre requires that mighty foes be arrayed against him. This, of course, would be the pointy-head elites. They argue the council is appointed by design. It frees members from the moral gymnastics of running for office. It lets them set aside fights over fiefdoms for the greater good. It allows them to work on behalf of all residents, not just the four guys ready to buy them in bulk.
To our hero, however, that all sounds rather sinister.
“The predictable tirades from Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and, of course, the Star Tribune Editorial Board should be seen for what they are — the last gasps from an entrenched and concentrated power structure headed for the ash heap,” he wrote in the Star Tribune.
So Lewis is using his own entrenched and concentrated power structure – Congress – to push a law he cannot get passed in Minnesota, with a little help from 525 members who live beyond our borders.
Missing from this theatrical affair is one small detail: His play has nothing to do with democracy. It’s about conservatives (the non-business variety) trying to bring an “I don’t ride the train, why should anyone else?” approach to mass transit. Or as state Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) called the Southwest light rail line, a “liberal wet dream.”
It’s about the council’s talk of slimming fiscal disparities between black and white, which is totally unfair to the guys who already have the money.
“It’s not a fair playing field,” Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look told the Star Tribune. “They’re creating special classes and saying because you’re a special class you get favoritism.”
It’s about the Met Council’s attempts to spread low-income housing beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul, so we’re not recreating clusters of poverty. That means people of lesser station, darker hue, and suspicious religion moving closer to the patriots of Chanhassen and Blaine. They will not buy tickets to see this play.
Lewis’ plan isn’t to take control of the council. That’s impossible in the metro’s hard blue sea. He merely hopes to elect enough preening mutants from the outer suburbs to form a Twin Cities version of the Freedom Caucus. Mission: Obstruct, obfuscate, and otherwise render progress inert. See Congress.
Think of new members like former Burnsville Congressman John Kline, selling their office to the highest bidder. Or state Sen. Warren Limmer, whose specialty is single-handedly thwarting public sentiment.
How nice it would be to have members who hide from their constituents for six years, like Eden Prairie Congressman Erik Paulsen. Or perhaps someone who’s even afraid to meet with school children, like state Rep. Mary Franson.
The wealthy NIMBYs of south Minneapolis would no longer have to sue in vain to stop train routes. They could simply buy a decorative set of matching board members.
Best of all, we could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on self-promotion, as perfected by our very own Jason Lewis.
Yes, it will be costly. And yes, we will be hurled into dark new caverns depravity and ineptitude.