Unless we act now, our country is heading for a civil war. Our level of division — of seeing the other side as dangerous and evil rather than seeing our common, flawed humanity — must be resisted and stopped.
At age 18, my first job was managing a Republican congressional campaign against Congressman Don Fraser. The next spring, I was an intern in Republican Congressman Bill Frenzel’s Washington, D.C., office, doing a three-month research project. It was titled, “How Congress Makes Decisions.” Nice narrow topic.
This was an incredible education. As Watergate dawned, I tape-recorded interviews with about 30 people, including about half a dozen members of Congress. They were unanimous about what was most important: honesty. D.C. was a religious town back then. Many members of Congress on opposite political sides would meet in evening prayer groups and Bible study groups.
I turned in my report. Here’s the nub: “This is all a giant fight among special interests for marginally re-slicing the pie. There is no relationship between goals and programs. The whole thing should be redone.” Congressman Frenzel’s frown deepened steadily for about 10 minutes as he read it.
Next job: janitor. Union. Better hourly pay. Probably doing something useful for the first time in my life. I’ve stayed in the private sector, mostly doing accounting, business, and computer projects. Along the way, I came within a course of a political science degree at the University of Minnesota before graduating from Macalester College with a core in physics. (A Carlson MBA was added later.) I also got a Ph.D. from the “College of Hard Knocks.” We know this is the best college in the world — it has the highest tuition.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to update on my 1973 report. Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two, and I’ve come to realize that most of what America does and most of what makes America good is done outside the public realm.
In 2016, I was the top GOP legislative vote-getter in Minneapolis, outpolling Donald Trump by 3,100 votes in my state Senate district. However, to paraphrase former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — and I’ve also been saying this all along, starting just after the 2016 Republican convention — Trump is unhinged, unqualified, and unfit to be president. I support both Joe Biden for president and continued divided government. We need a Republican Senate for balance in judicial nominations. We need a Democratic House, because if Trump is re-elected it’s the best available constitutional mechanism to hold him accountable.
From the Progressive Era forward, America has seen many incredible changes. But the biggest one is this reality: We’re all constantly swimming in an environment dominated by corporations, media, and social conditioning. Millions of people work full time “pushing our buttons.” The foundation of our society is the control, management, and manipulation of human behavior. Is it any wonder we’re so divided?
We need to all start tuning out this bombardment, and we all need to start talking with each other instead — to rebuild a foundational belief in our shared humanity.
As an openly sane Republican in an election year where a kind of cult psychology has become widespread, I humbly submit that I am your best choice on the primary ballot. That’s because I can and will work with everyone, and I will lead Minnesota to guide our nation away from civil war. The primary is open to everyone. At this desperate time, I ask for everyone’s vote.
Bob Carney, Jr., is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the Aug. 11 primary. There are five Republican and five Democrat candidates for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. They were all invited by the News Tribune Opinion page to submit a commentary. Their “Candidate’s View” columns are being published this month.