Laura Yuen
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My younger son, so tormented by a conscience that belies his five years, asked me: "Did I just tell you to shut up?"

I looked at him quizzically. "No..."

"Did I call you 'Stupid Mommy' ?"

"No ... "

"Oh," he responded. "Well, I was thinking that."

Transparency is such a gift. In my kindergartner, his built-in truth serum offers me a window to his most primal urges and ongoing moral conflict.

Transparency abounds this election season. Minnesota voters have been gifted with a kind of clarity that we once deemed implausible because politicians typically are too savvy or too well coached.

This gift has arrived in the form of Matt Birk, who tells us exactly who he is, every time he opens his mouth.

The former Minnesota Viking and candidate for lieutenant governor has already informed us that abortion rights advocates like to play "the rape card," that his wife is irritated by his jokes about female drivers, and that American culture promotes abortion by "telling women they should look a certain way, they should have careers."

This trifecta of bizarre-o comments about women and our rights, made this summer on the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, was far from a surprise. He is the running mate of Scott Jensen, who in March told MPR News he would "try to ban abortion" as governor. (Jensen has since shifted his stance to allow exceptions — and now proclaims in his TV ad that the procedure is constitutionally protected in Minnesota.)

Suburban women could be a key voting bloc this election, as my colleague Briana Bierschbach recently reported. As a woman of the suburbs, I will tell you: We are diverse. We are legion. We think for ourselves. Birk and Jensen have had weeks after winning the Republican primary to re-center their message and find common ground with swing voters, including women in the suburbs.

But they are not speaking to me. They are making my skin crawl.

Sorry, you don't get my vote when you promise to defund our kids' public schools, one of the few places we've found community and connection during a pandemic. Nope.

You don't get my vote when you compare abortion to slavery.

You don't get my vote when you liken COVID-19 mask mandates to the rising totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

To Birk's credit, he's alienating not just women.

Last week on Twitter, he went after Michael Brodkorb, a prominent political pundit. Brodkorb's offense? He was doing his job — commenting on Jensen and Birk's prospects of winning in November after a recent poll found DFL incumbents Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan up by double digits.

But because Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican party, described the Jensen/Birk ticket as a "disaster," Birk decided to get personal. Way personal.

"Michael," Birk tweeted, addressing Brodkorb directly. "Never heard of you so I looked you up. Google says your expertise is in adulterous affairs and driving while drunk — nothing about politics. Might want to sit this one out bud." (Brodkorb was fired from his job in 2011 as a state Senate aide after it was revealed he was having an inappropriate relationship with his boss. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to a DWI and has since spoken out against drunken driving.)

Belittling, vengeful, smug, petty, polarizing. As much as Birk wants to stir up culture wars in Minnesota, the culture of arrogance and cruelty he projects on social media is exhausting to the voters who think character still matters in their elected leaders.

Has he not considered developing thicker skin, or at the very least, how to mute people on Twitter?

Maybe the only thing I've seen Birk be evasive about during the campaign is whether he's changed his views on same-sex marriage since writing a Star Tribune op-ed 10 years ago opposing it. WCCO Radio host Jason DeRusha asked him about it in an interview at the State Fair. This could have been a fat, juicy softball that Birk could have answered easily. Instead, this is how he responded, in part:

"Not one person has come up and asked me about that," he told DeRusha, one of many times Birk would bristle at what he apparently considered a novel question. "You are the first one. Congratulations."

"Does that make it a dumb question?" DeRusha asked.

"No, it doesn't make it a dumb question," Birk responded. "Here, I'm going to give you a prize. I'm going to give you this 'Walz Failed' backpack I've got."

"I just want to know your answer, you don't have to be sarcastic about it," DeRusha said. "What's your answer, are you in favor or against?"

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It doesn't matter."

Birk went on to say that gay marriage, like abortion, isn't on the ballot this year. But I'm sure that even he would agree that his and Jensen's values are. And it's hard to focus on the important issues they'd rather steer us to — gas prices, public safety and the economy — when we know where Birk stands on us, our bodies and our right to marry who we love.

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them," is a quote often attributed to Maya Angelou. But many people forget the last three words of her lesson: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

The first time.

Matt Birk is showing us who he is, time and time and time again.