BY SHAWN DAYE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The first political candidate I ever firmly supported was Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election season. He spoke utter truth and converted it to power. His message resonated with me and other young people alike, creating a political shift that invigorated me.
In due time, however, big money and corruption prospered, and Bernie crumbled; he did not receive the Democratic endorsement. His presidential aspirations may have been beaten and killed, but his progressive legacy lives on to this day. Progressives around the country are now running for political office with the core values of social, economic, environmental and racial justice.
In hopes of changing the current political climate, we must shift our focus to the 2017 election. Yes, one year after the orange menace was elected as leader of the free world, we are heading back to the polls, but this one is quite different; this time, we are using our voices for local politics. These elections are arguably more important than any other level of government. Local politics are our first line of government when it comes to education, the environment, policing, healthcare, transit, immigration and housing.
Local politics is within a hand’s reach and is accessible to everyday people, everyday students and everyday families. People like you and me. Unfortunately, only a handful of Minneapolis residents vote for who runs their city. The 2013 Mayoral race was won with only 38,870 votes. In a city of 421,498 residents, the current Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, only represents the interest of less than 10% of Minneapolis citizens. Over 90% of Minneapolis residents are currently unaccounted for. To put this into context, if all of the residential college students from the University of Minnesota and Augsburg voted, we would have enough votes to elect any Mayoral candidate ourselves. Voter turnout for students in Minneapolis was just about 7% in 2013. Candidates are aware of this and will gladly ignore students and spend their time campaigning in areas of high voter turnout.
At Augsburg, many students are extremely ideological when it comes to their dissent of Trump and his cronies yet are far too out of touch with what’s happening locally. As I talk to my classmates and peers, I don’t see an ignorance or neglect of local politics; I see an eager appetite that has yet to be nourished.
Augsburg is surrounded by a community. Our own neighbors are lacking fundamental resources. Right outside of our very campus, we have seen firsthand the problems of homelessness. It can be hard to shell out a few dollars to the panhandler on our way home, but what we can do is elect genuine people into local office who will secure necessary resources and solve problems by digging into the root of our community’s systemic issues (drug addiction, lack of access to mental health facilities, education and affordable housing options).
When I arrived on campus this semester, I sorted through the list of Minneapolis Mayoral candidates for 2017. Only one of those candidates stuck out from the bunch: Ray Dehn, a true progressive with a vision of eliminating systemic inequities in the city of Minneapolis. Unlike other candidates, Dehn understands his privilege as a white man and genuinely cares about his neighbors and the people he seeks to represent. While other candidates spend their time fundraising with the elite, Ray has made real and genuine relationships with real and genuine people in Minneapolis. Whether it be a protest or a community vigil, Dehn shows up and listens.
Dehn is the only candidate that comes to Augsburg to engage with our students. Young people are tired of big money politicians pandering to their wealthy rich donors. Dehn is being outspent 10-1 by his big money opponents Jacob Frey and Tom Hoch. Dehn is firm in his values and has the vision and heart that this community needs. In these dark political times, Ray Dehn is an example of public service, compassion and hope for our community; Ray Dehn is getting my vote this November.
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 13, 2017, Edition of The Echo.