On Friday, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) appeared at a press conference to discuss what had been a big week in a big month in a big year for the state of Minnesota—all in just about the worst way possible.
Gazelka touched on some of the learning he said he’d done over the past few days in order to better address a hurting state. He’d met with “black pastors” and the MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction - Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) of Minneapolis.
Through this outreach and his own wildly creative soul-searching, Gazelka had somehow found the real victims here, the people whose pain remained unadressed. Addressing his thoughts to Gov. Tim Walz, whom the Senate leader faulted for not calling in the Nation Guard sooner, Gazelka said:
“Can somebody apologize to the people of Minnesota for not protecting the people of Minnesota?Where’s the apology to the moms out in the suburbs scared to death about what’s happening all around them and seeing the glowing fire in Minneapolis-St. Paul?”
Here’s that part of the speech.
Quite a few moms apparently heard Gazelka’s plea on their behalf. That same day, dozens piped up on Twitter. They all had different things to say and different reasons for saying them, but one sentiment was pretty consistent: Gazelka could take his whining on their behalf and shove it.
They didn’t need an apology, they tweeted, most using the hashtag “#iamasuburbanmom.” They needed “meaningful legislation to address systemic racism and police brutality.” They needed “action.” They needed “change.”
They are more afraid of violence or death at the hands of police officers than protesters. If they were “angry,” they were acting on that emotion by stuffing their “minivans” with groceries from Cub Foods to drop off in neighborhoods experiencing unrest.
“I’ll be out here in the burbs teaching my kid not to be a racist,” one tweeted.
@paulgazelka I am a mom out in the suburbs. I am not scared. I am mad as hell that another Black man was killed by police in MN. Focus your energy on fixing the system that allowed that to happen. I'll be out here in the burbs teaching my kid not to be a racist. #IAmASuburbanMom— Amber Bathke (@aquarelle99) June 5, 2020
Some accused Gazelka of “dog-whistling,” quietly pandering to the baser instincts of his audience. And a few were resentful of the fact that the dogs in this scenario would be them.
#IAmASuburbanMom.— Melisa López Franzen (@MelisaFranzen) June 6, 2020
This is a classic fear-mongering, dog-whistle move straight out of the Trump playbook, and it’s a craven attempt to turn us against one another.
I won’t be used as a political prop. Period. https://t.co/7aeOLJMRaK
Some of those suburban moms happened to be Gazelka’s fellow legislators, and they weren’t exactly pleased, either.
#IAmASuburbanMom and I invite @paulgazelka to join @Cmarianirosa, @renamoran & me to change MN law to hold police accountable and dismantle systemic racism. MN's @DFLPOCIcaucus is leading the way. https://t.co/iC5cMyau23— Melissa Hortman (@melissahortman) June 6, 2020
Gazelka says that comment was simply a case of one soundbite being blown out of proportion.
“It’s an election year, and it was taken out of context,” he says. He emphasized the work he’d been doing reaching out to Black and brown Twin Cities residents throughout this process, and “listening.”
He is right about one thing: Suburban moms have proven to be a powerful voting bloc in recent years, one that has shown increased disenchantment with the Republican party between 2016 and 2018, especially over issues like gun control. In many of these mom-led groups, Gazelka has already become a prime candidate for replacement, as plan after plan to reduce gun violence sputtered and died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
During his press conference, Gazelka assured the audience change was coming regarding law enforcement and policing the police, but not to expect it within the “next week.”