Some have chosen to frame the Tripp Emmer Facebook Photo Fiasco as a matter of underage drinking. It's not. As we pointed out in our earlier post, the more important issue is about the conduct of a paid staffer/endorser toward an incapacitated young woman.
Of course, Tripp Emmer is not a minor, nor would his actions have been subject to the anti-bullying law that his father voted against. But juxtaposing Tom Emmer's position on anti-bullying laws with this episode is illustrative.
"I'll tell you right now, bullying is a serious issue. You're talking to the parent of seven kids - Jacquie and I have seven kids - we're very, we're very aware of what happens when a child is faced with an uncomfortable situation at school or out in a public place. But tell you what, it's up to the parents, Jacquie and I, to educate our children, how they handle that situation. We're the ones who have to be the front line of defense for our children. I don't want the government doing that for us."- Rep. Tom Emmer, explaining why he won't commit to signing anti-bullying legislation, September 3, 2010 (State Fair Debate, around 28:00 mark)
How do you think he would react if the photo above was of a young man posing next to his daughter after someone had drawn penises on her arms and cheek? As you think through this, remember, this is someone's daughter. How would Emmer respond to a tearful phone call from his daughter after she had spent fruitless hours attempting to scrub away the marks of her "uncomfortable situation?" How would he act as a "front line of defense?" (Or would she even make that call?)
Could turning the scenario around change the boys-will-be-boys-wink-and-nudge routine exemplified by this "man on the street" reaction captured by John Croman at the Minnesota State Fair?
"It's just kids being kids," [fairgoer Ace Bartkowicz] said, "what can you say? Everyone's doing something they're not supposed to be doing. Who are we to cast judgment when we probably did something similar to that ourselves?"One of the staple beliefs of the libertarian right wing is that laws that affect minors cause parents to lose their authority. Rep. Emmer and former buddy and Campaign Manager Rep. Mark Buesgens' opposition to laws that restrict teen drivers provide an example of the argument. While the law is different, Buesgens' statement on Almanac clearly summarizes the principle:
"The problem . . . is it allows parents to abdicate their responsibility, and that's a slippery slope. At the end of the day, we need people to be responsible. And when you only do things because government says it's right or wrong is when we lose our own sense of moral responsibility and that's a bad direction for society to be taking."
For Emmer and his ideological brethren, the family is under assault from a nanny-state government that seeks to usurp its natural authority. In his campaign story, Emmer's family is a prop, a shining example of the blessings of liberty, and the future of a Minnesota freed from nattering nanny-state busybody liberals. You know, the same busybodies who try to prevent kids from being bullied into depression, even suicide.
It's the difference between empathy for the bully and a desire to keep the matter "in the family," and empathy and justice for the bullied. In short, it's the difference between identifying with the unmarked, and identifying with the marked-upon.
Even in the libertarian utopia of the Emmer household, where parents are responsible and not government, misconduct happens. Young adults frequently do stupid and harmful things, and part of the process of growing up is learning about the consequences of these actions. But violence and intimidation have devastating impacts on the victims, and to see actions like those depicted above as solely the purview of the family is wrong. The "man on the street" dismissal of Tripp Emmer's trophy hunting photo as "boys will be boys" and Emmer's justification for opposing anti-bullying laws spring from the same philosophy.
While Rep. Emmer practically invites people to hold his parenting responsible for the actions of his campaign staffer/endorser/son, that's not really the point. These photos and the actions depicted therein are now part of the Emmer campaign narrative of small government, family values, rugged individualism, and social darwinism/bullying, whether he likes it or not.