Note to the reader: This is a really long letter.  I know that the probability of a letter being read goes down the longer the thing is.  However, I feel strongly about this issue And I hope that Ms. Miller would see that the evidence supporting the assertion that the Right is responsible for the bitterness and gridlock in Washington is overwhelming.  You are excused from reading the whole thing. 

3506 Sunrise Drive West
Minnetonka, MN 55345
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April 14, 2010

Ms. Kerri Miller Minnesota Public Radio
480 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

Dear Kerri Miller:

Governor Arne Carlson got it right when he chided the media for being so obsessed with balance that they would describe the faction that said that 2 + 2 = 5 with the same apparent indifference as they would the faction that asserted that 2 + 2 = 4.  He was unhappy that the media have long ago shucked their responsibility to think about what they presented before presenting it.  You were guilty of that on the Midmorning Show you did about the vitriol that now disables so many governing processes.  I didn’t hear the whole show, but every caller, every interviewee, and you acted as if this were a bout of bad weather that both side suffered from and both sides contributed to.  That is simply a misrepresentation of the facts.

Conservatives are responsible for the current vitriol that has clogged up the government, which, given their generalized loathing of government, lines up neatly with their agenda.  There simply is no equivalent on the progressive side of Fox News or Pat Robertson’s 700 Club.  During Hurricane Katrina, a Fox broadcaster showed a colorized satellite picture of the storm.  He said that because it looked like a fetus he had proved that God was punishing New Orleans because the city was full of abortionist and homosexuals.  You might lose your job for saying something so moronic.  And you remember what Pat Robertson had to say about the cause of the September 11 attacks.  Can you imagine Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters, or Bob Schieffer ever saying that without blushing or bursting out laughing? Fox published an image of Bill Clinton in the crosshairs of a rifle.  What effect do you suppose that had on the discussions across the nation?   Fox is entertainment and polarizing, sensational stories sell much better than news or analysis. 

That they should produce what they do under the title of “Fair and Balanced” tells you something about their integrity.  Nor is there anything like “hate radio” for progressive audiences. Let’s see: which do you suppose is more divisive, “hate radio” or All things Considered?  The difference between Rush Limbaugh and Nina Totenberg is not just quality or standards.  Nor is it about the conflict between making money and reporting the news.  There is a fundamental character difference.  Bill Clinton has been called Slick Willie, but his dishonesty was very different than that of Tricky Dick Nixon.  He lied about blow jobs.  Dick Nixon obstructed justice and supervised breaking and entry.  One of many of Reagan’s crimes was about giving money to death squads throughout Central America after Congress had made that illegal.  Reagan supervised illegal transfers of funds from illegal sales of weapons to Iran.  George W. Bush’s lies, too numerous to count, got us into a war.  Kissinger’s lies were an attempt to conceal an illegal bombing campaign of Cambodia and to conceal the Christmas Eve carpet bombing of urban Hanoi.  Conservative dishonesty precipitates constitutional crises frequently and gets people killed.  Lots of people killed.  There is no equivalent for progressive’s side for Karl Rove or Chuck Colson.  Rove’s thugs did push polling in South Carolina, in which his phone callers asked people if their opinion of John McCain would change if they knew that he had had a child with a black prostitute.  Do you think you would ever see, say, Hillary Clinton do that to Barack Obama?  Or even Gerald Ford do that to Ronald Reagan?  The Republicans warned Georgians that the Democrats wanted to ban the Bible.  Chuck Colson had 500 pizza’s delivered to the George McGovern headquarters.  Emanuel Rahm is a tough guy and I am sure that he has done his share of lying, but I don’t expect him to go to jail like Colson, Erlichman, and Haldeman did.  Or Abramoff and Scooter Libby. 

Media people usually act as if both sides are guilty of vicious attack and emotion-only commercials. Not so. Count the negative campaign ads.  More than 70% of the negative ads in the 2004 campaign were Republican.  Seen anything like the Swift boat commercials against George W. Bush?  Nope.  Who used attacking wolves in their late season ads?  The Republicans.  Who asserted the “there is a bear in the woods” and then said he was sick of the Democrats campaigning on fear?  Reagan.  In 1988, who had the Willie Horton ads, ads intended to use race to scare people?  Remember Nixon’s Southern Strategy?  He knew that they were never going to get many black votes so he wrote them off completely, counting on his sheriffs in the South to keep blacks disenfranchised.  He pandered to state’s rights people.  He exploited divisive issues like gun control, abortion, gay rights, and religion to motivate his base, primarily in the south.  Lyndon Johnson told Bill Moyers that “We have lost the south for a generation” by signing the Voting Rights Bill into law.  He did the right thing even though he knew it would cost his party numerous presidencies.  Nixon got into office in the fifties charging that his opponent was “pink right down to her underwear.”  Do we have to guess what Joseph McCarthy’s politics were?  I don’t. 

Agnew called progressive “nattering nabobs of negativism.”  Ever hear Hubert Humphrey be so offensive when he was a vice president?  Nope.  Who publicized the divisive phrases “the evil empire” and “the axis of evil?”  How about finding the equivalent of Pat Buchanan saying during the Contra program that you were either with Reagan or you were with the communists? 

And you wonder where vitriol and divisiveness comes from? 

Have you reviewed Supreme Court nominees lately?  Nixon was so upset that the Senate rejected his nomination of a segregationist, Haynesworth, that he nominated Carswell.  Professor Henry Abraham wrote about Carswell, “he was an act of vengeance, one intended to teach the Senate a lesson and downgrade the Court.”  Later a Republican supporter of the blatantly racist Carswell claimed that “mediocre people are entitled to a little representation” on the court.  Carswell, anti-gay, of course, was later busted for propositioning a vice squad policeman.  Will we ever see Justices Earl Warren or David Souter or Anthony Kennedy get arrested for propositioning homosexual sex in a public place from a vice squad member?  It just won’t ever happen.  Progressives have never nominated members of the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, or sexual predators the way the conservatives have. 

Antonin Scalia has said that the state is “the sword of God.” He said that the more Christian a nation is, the less squeamish it is about capital punishment.  These are divisive, violent, and aggressive attitudes.  Does a president who seeks consensus on an appointment nominate someone like Robert Bork or Harriet Miers?

Consider the theology of the two sides. Evangelicals have a clear boundary between the saved and the damned.  The popular series of Left Behind books provides millions with images of the removal of the chosen from the earth so that the rest of us will be tortured.  Conservative theologians divide: you’re saved or not.  Are you in or you are out?  They even know how many will be saved.  144,000 will be raptured away and six billion will be swept away into the burning lake where they deserve to be.  The most progressive theology lately is liberation theology, one of whose leaders, Oscar Romero, was assassinated at the altar by, you guessed it, conservative death squads.  Liberation nuns have been massacred by conservative death squads too. Progressives say that there are a great many approaches to godliness. They seek ecumenicalism and reconciliation.  Conservatives are more likely to believe in the devil, another great divider.  Conservatives reference the Ten Commandments – clear cut rules; do this, not that – where progressives reference Christ’s instructions to love your neighbor.  Conservatives have excluded Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists from the pulpit. 

Now it’s gays, lesbians, and women. One easy definition of conservatism is that orientation that needs enemies, be they gays, communists, anarchists, socialists, “pointy-headed intellectuals,” the media elites, Jews, Harlem Democrats, Hollywood liberals, “effete snobs,” terrorists, or atheists. Any enemy will do.

And who gets violent when they don’t get their way? Do progressives kill doctors or blow up federal buildings?  No. With one exception (Lincoln Rockwell), every successful assassination attempt has been on progressives: JFK, RFK, MLK, Moscone, Milk, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Orlando Letelier, John Lennon, and Alan Berg.  George Wallace wasn’t progressive, but he was populist.  I think Lincoln could be considered a progressive in his day, too.  We don’t know who murdered Madalyn Murray, but we know that she wasn’t religious orthodox.  A great many people think that Wellstone was murdered. 

Across the world, conservatives exert control with murder and torture.  What were the politics of the (conservative sponsored) death squads in Central America in the Reagan years? Is it people who are interested in the expansion of women’s rights in Iran who patrol the streets in gangs searching for men with shaved beards or women not wearing burkas?  No.  What were the politics of Mussolini’s brown shirts or Hitler’s black shirts and SS guards?  Conservative.  Violent actions of conservatives, be they lynchings, Kristallnacht, or burning witches in Salem?  Conservative.  Thieu, Stroessner, Marcos, Pinochet, Amin, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco.  Unfortunately the list of violent conservative leaders goes on indefinitely. 

Who refuses to support an international agreement to prohibit the use of children as soldiers?  Conservatives.  The prohibition of the use of landmines?  Conservatives.  Restrictions on the free distribution of assault rifles?  Conservatives.  And even the restrictions on “cop-killer bullets” and plastic guns that can’t be detected by airport security devises?  Conservatives.  They reserve the right to be violent.  They are the first to go to violent solutions and the last to give them up in the face of failure.  True, there have been some acts of violence by progressives, the Molly Macquires, for example, but they have been attempts by labor to seek enfranchisement. They wanted a place in the American economy.  They wanted to be included.

The conservative agenda is to exclude. As mentioned, they are anti-union. Who successfully turned back the ERA, an attempt by women to be included?  Conservatives.  Who opposed the expansion of civil rights?  Conservatives.  Who seeks to exclude and disenfranchise gays and lesbians by denying marriage rights and participation in jobs and the military?  Conservatives.  The progressive issues are all about inclusion: health care, education, civil rights, affirmative action, criminal rights, and the environment. (The environment issue, I agree, is a little bit of a stretch, but conservatives support special interests like the coal industry and the progressives seek to salvage or improve the environment for everybody.)

Who supports torture and capital punishment, the ultimate exclusions?  Always conservatives.  Who are the most vigorous supporters of wars, another absolute we-versus-them framing?  Surprise, surprise.  It’s the conservatives.  Who has been caught using foul and therefore divisive language in Congress?  Cheney and Wilson, both conservatives.  Both impeachments in our history, which polarized the nation, have been politically motivated attempts by radical conservatives to bash a moderate president.  Are there any equivalents on the progressive side of divisive people like Douglas Macarthur, Joseph McCarthy, Tom Delay, Oliver North, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, William F. Buckley, and Michele Bachman?  Would you consider the rhetoric of Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone, John Lindsay, William Fulbright, or George McGovern to be ill-considered, uninformed, inflammatory, provocative, or intentionally divisive?  I wouldn’t.

There can be no doubt of the source of vitriol in this country. I have written you in the past to praise you. I am a fan of yours, but I hope in the future you will place a higher priority on truth than the appearance of balance.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Chris Sullivan

3506 Sunrise Drive West
Minnetonka MN 55345

December 13, 2011

Kerri Miller
MPR Member/Listener Services
45 East Seventh Street
Saint Paul, MN USA 55101

Dear Ms. Miller:

Me again.

This is my next attempt to persuade you that describing politics as a spectrum from left to right is a horrible misrepresentation of what is happening in this country.  People talk about the ugly partisan gridlock as if progressives and conservatives are equally responsible, or in this case, irresponsible.  They aren’t.  We have partisan gridlock now because conservatives are intent upon radical change.

Case in point: there is a nation-wide effort by conservatives to suppress votes.  They learned how effective, and important, reducing the number of people – actually it’s not the number, it’s who – voting in elections by seeing how Jeb Bush handed Florida’s electoral votes to his brother in 2000.  Jeb, in collusion with the secretary of state, scrubbed the election rolls, paying special attention to black voters.  Presto! Twenty-five electoral votes and the White House for brother George.

Conservatives say that requiring a state photo id to vote insures the integrity of elections, but guess who is least likely to have that id.  Students, old people, blacks, poor people, all traditional constituents of parties concerned about social justice, which means not the Republican party.  Don’t doubt for a moment that the motivation is political.  The law in Texas accepts a National Rifle Association id as an alternative, but not a student id.  Maybe you have seen the story of the partially paralyzed old woman in Wisconsin prohibited from voting by Scott Walker’s attempt to suppress democracy?  She has voted in every election since 1948, but she won’t be able to in 2012 because her birth certificate, written in 1927, has her name misspelled.

Can you imagine Mark Dayton ever doing anything like that?  The difference between conservatives and progressive today is not just variations in degree as in favoring greater or lesser government participation in the economy.  Today progressives, as always, say democracy is important and support policies that promote full democracy.  Conservatives say they support democracy but their policies don’t.  They want to break down the wall separating church and state.  They try to insert religion into science classrooms.  They concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands.  They are defunding schools.  And now they are suppressing votes.

The media’s role in a democracy is to report the facts to support meaningful discussion of our options.  It fails when wishing to appear unbiased trumps journalistic pursuit of the truth.  Please know that I am on your case because I think you are the most intelligent and high integrity person I know at MPR.

Thanks for your time.

Chris Sullivan