A great story in the Mankato Free Press today.
Former Sen. Dean Barkley says there’s political change coming. And if things go the way he thinks they will, that change won’t look like a donkey or an elephant.
At a small gathering of Independence Party supporters at the Happy Chef Restaurant Saturday Barkley, who served as senator for two months when Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash — said he senses something in the air similar to that of 1998, when Minnesotans elected a professional wrestler as governor.
Neither the Republicans (elephants) or Democrats (donkeys) offer voters the kind of special-interest-free accountability that he offers, and he says the people he talks to are ready to kick both major parties to the curb.
“People are angry. People are upset,” he said. “This is probably the worst governance our country has ever seen.”
Barkley’s stock appears to be rising. In two recent non-partisan polls he’s gotten closer each time to 20 percent. And he’s quick to remind people there is a large group of undecided voters, and that he offers them an alternative to the status quo.
The latest financial crisis, Barkley said, shows how abysmal our current lawmakers are — from both sides of the two-party aisle.
He said financial experts had been predicting the mortgage fallout for years, but few in Washington took it seriously.
“Democrats looked the other way because they wanted everyone to own a house whether they could afford it or not,” he said. “And Republicans looked the other way because they wanted all their Wall Street buddies to get rich.
“I love this country, but I can’t stand what the two-party system has done to it,” he said.
Saturday morning’s talk — involving both Barkley and Greg Mikkelson, Independence Party candidate for the Congress — was open to the public but included mostly party members.
One of Barkley’s principles is that he won’t accept money from special interest groups. He equates the special interest method of giving money in exchange for a candidate’s favorable vote on particular issues to bribery.
He’s OK with lobbyists. After all, he used to be one. But when there’s money exchanged, it’s no longer clean.
Last week, he got his first check from a special interest: $500 from Concerned Citizens for Rochester.
“I sent it back,” he said.
Mikkelson also had something to say about the nation’s finances.
“This national debt is a terrible legacy to be passing on to our children,” Mikkelson said.
But Mikkelson differed with Barkley on the $700 billion bail out recently passed in Washington.
Barkley said he’d have voted for it. Mikkelson said he wouldn’t vote for a bill that solves the problem by giving money to Wall Street corporations.
“I can’t really find anybody that’s for the bail out,” Mikkelson said.
Tim Penny arrived midway through the two-hour event and spoke on Barkley’s behalf. He recalled Independence Party’s infancy, long before the party had ever heard of Jesse Ventura, Barkley was the lone champion and lone candidate.
It was because of Barkley’s early success that the party was able to get enough momentum to become an established third party, Penny said.
“He is the father of our party like no one else,” Penny said.
There’s an anger in the air, Penny said. And he thinks it might just be ripe enough for the Independence Party to shock the world again.
Said Penny, “People are going to say ‘Enough is enough.’”