No one is jamming anything down anyone’s gullet

Minnesota Republicans and the persistence of an inaccurate metaphor

If a bill gets 68 votes, it passes. No jamming down throat required. Photo courtesy of Minnesota House Information Services.

I’m getting deja vu lately because I keep hearing a phrase from Minnesota Republicans that is some variation on how Democrats are “jamming” this or that thing they don’t like “down our throats.” 

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Wilmar, contrasting his own paid family and medical leave proposal to the Democrats’: “This is a really good deal. It’s not forcing something down someone’s throat.”

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington: “There’s a lot of things happening at the Capitol with the Democrats jamming things down people’s throats, but sports gambling is not going to be one of them.”  

Former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: “Minnesota Democrats jammed a liberal agenda down our throats.”

The reason I have deja vu is because President Barack Obama, who was elected convincingly twice, was also accused of jamming this or that thing down someone’s gullet. 

Trump administration propagandist Sean Spicer said Obamacare was “jammed down everybody’s throat.”

I found two references in the Denver Post from the Obama years: “It is my goal,” a conservative operative said, “to make sure that Washington doesn’t jam Obamacare down the throats of Coloradans.” Another time their editorial page got mad at Sen. Michael Bennet when he insisted on supporting Obamacare: “It seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats.”

To be sure, a Democrat or two has used this imagery. Here’s Drew Hammill, then a spokesman for then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, talking about a Republican tax bill during the Trump years and said Republicans are “going to pre-negotiate everything and then jam it down our throats.”

I’m not into policing language, but just this once, I request a new metaphor. This jamming down the throat business is a menacing image of torture. 

Also, even on its own terms, it’s wildly inaccurate. No one is forcing anything upon anyone. 

Before the election, Democrats said they were gonna do a bunch of stuff. Taxes on rich people and corporations, tax rebates and credits for the less well off. Lots of spending on education and social services. Protection of abortion rights and LGBTQ folks. Driver’s licenses for people who are undocumented. An expansive view of democracy to make sure everyone can participate, including the formerly incarcerated. Legal marijuana. Climate policies. A public health insurance option. Paid family and medical leave. 

They even gave us a preview: The House DFL, which has been in the majority since 2019, already passed much of it, but were stymied by the GOP-controlled Senate.  

Then Democrats won a free and fair election. It was a close election, but they won. And now they’re doing the stuff they promised their supporters they would do. 

They’re not jamming any objects down anyone’s esophagus, except maybe a free school lunch. 

The good thing for Republicans is that there’s another election in two years. Our system is self-correcting that way. 

Perhaps our state is going to hell in a handbasket. (Though you might wanna check the etymology of that phrase, too. The late Bill Safire posited innocent origins; Wiki speculates about something much darker, including “baskets used to catch guillotined heads in the eighteenth century.”)

In that case, the voters will choose new representatives, and a Republican majority can then enact their own policies. 

I credit Baker with recognizing a problem — the cruel and economically counterproductive failure to guarantee paid leave for people with new babies or getting healthy after an illness — and offering a solution, even if I find it insufficient. 

It’s the kind of thing that might have Minnesotans taking Republicans a little more seriously than we’ve come to expect, after years of COVID quackery, fascism flirtations and all manner of weird temper tantrums about kids’ books and kitty litter

Which we’ve all had to endure like some “Clockwork Orange” Ludovico Technique.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children