Parry’s comments drew a stern rebuke from Dayton, who’d taken the high road for most of his term.
“In this era of gutter politics, something like that — especially, somebody who probably thinks he’s losing an election in six days is going to reach for anything he can and try to make an issue out of it and blow it up and see if he can get an advantage with it,” Dayton said. “To me it says a lot more about him than it does about me.”
Parry ultimately lost to former state Rep. Allen Quist in the primary, but as Peterson’s joke and Emmer’s videos demonstrate, it wasn’t because of Republican outrage at his statement. The Republican Party of Minnesota has taken Dayton’s illness and turned it into a punchline at best, and a danger at worst.
“I don’t think people talk that way about people they respect.”
Will Morgan, Peterson’s opponent in November, criticized her for mocking Dayton’s illness.
“I think making jokes about mental illness is unacceptable for public figures,” Morgan said. “As a teacher I know there are likely hundreds of students in the families Ms. Peterson serves as a school board member who deal with the challenges of mental health issues every day. I think they deserve better than to be a politician’s punchline.”
Morgan worried that the continuing personal attacks will continue to erode the relationship between parties.
“I don’t think people talk that way about people they respect,” Morgan said. “Just like any workplace, when the attacks get personal, it becomes much more difficult to accomplish anything together.”
The Peterson campaign did not respond to a request for comment on her statement, and that is perhaps unsurprising. Parry’s statement was hammered when it came to light in August by moderates and liberals, and even by a few politically savvy conservatives. Nevertheless, Republicans continue to attack Dayton’s illness when speaking to fellow travelers. Mitch Berg of Shot In The Dark attacked Dayton just last week, complaining about the lack of coverage of Dayton’s “history of alcohol abuse and treatment, of mental illness and concomitant prescriptions for various psychotropic medication [sic].”
An Attack on the Depressed
The stigma of mental illness still runs deep in our society. Too many still view mental illness not as a medical condition, but as a moral failing.
When Republicans attack Dayton for being “unbalanced,” “crazy,” and “scary,” they also attack all those who suffer from mental illness, and yet manage to live productive, stable lives. We have a long way to go in perfecting treatment of mental illness, but we have come a long way, and most people who suffer from depression can live healthy, happy lives with proper treatment. Similarly, millions of Americans have gone through recovery, including former President George W. Bush. It is not easy, obviously, but we have rightly decided that people who beat addiction deserve to be able to build their lives free of opprobrium.
The attacks on Dayton do not simply minimize his office, nor do they only harm his reputation. They are a slap in the face to anyone who starts their day with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, to anyone who goes to a therapist, to anyone who is dealing with a mental illness. Unfortunately, in their zeal to take Dayton down however they can, Minnesota Republicans have done a great deal to make things worse for hundreds of thousands of their constituents. It will be interesting to see how their constituents respond.
Watch the Videos
Tom Emmer’s “Crazy Dayton Eyes” video:
Roz Peterson at the GOP district convention:
Image Credit: Office of Gov. Mark Dayton
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