by Dennis Dalman
When some people hear of a new social group dubbed “Drinking Liberally,” they probably think it must be comprised of chronic alcoholics sick-and-tired of their AA meetings.
Not so. Oh sure, Drinking Liberally members quaff a few brews when they meet, but mostly they share ideas, talk, debate and have a good all-round time while remaining open-minded.
The group, founded by Rex and Diane Tucker of St. Joseph, meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month at the American Legion Club in St. Joseph. Rex, an attorney, is the chief public defender for the 7th Judicial District; Diane is manager of the Vacuum and Sewing Center in St. Cloud.
Drinking Liberally group members are definitely left-leaning progressives in their political views-and proud of it. But they don’t get together to rant or attack conservatives. In fact, they insist on being nonpartisan in spirit and intent-open-minded in practice.
“We have an interest in politics,” Rex Tucker said. “The name ‘Drinking Liberally’ is meant to be a fun name. We like to discuss issues, such as what is going on in the Minnesota Legislature and the impact of redistricting.”
“Drinking Liberally” is also an homage to the American Founding Fathers, who were known to visit beer parlors frequently during recesses during the heated debates that went on in the formation of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Tucker said there are many liberal discussion groups based on an original group called “Living Liberally,” which was started in 2003 in New York City by an attorney and a man from then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York senatorial office.
“They felt the conservatives were getting a free pass in the media so they started their group to discuss progressive causes,” Tucker said. “There are many other groups now with fun names like Eating Liberally and Screening Liberally.”
Tucker said he has friends of all political persuasions. Born in Iowa, he comes from a family whose members are about a 50-50 split between liberal and conservative.
“I can respect Republicans, especially when they stand up for the U.S. Constitution,” Tucker said. “But the trouble is Democrats and Republicans used to find some common ground. Now it’s an all-or-nothing attitude. They started putting labels on things.”
Tucker worked in the health-care system for many years, at three hospitals.
“I think there needs to be a single-payer (health-care) system,” he said. “And I have trouble with Obama’s health-care plan because he took the individual-mandate part from the conservative Heritage Foundation, thinking the Republicans would approve the plan. But, instead, the Republicans wanted nothing to do with it just because Obama proposed it.”
The American health-care system, Tucker said, is neither the best in the world nor the most efficient.
“The system is great if you have money,” he said. “We are not on a level playing field compared to the rest of the world when it comes to health care. It’s terribly expensive. When I worked in the field, in the 1980s, the rate of inflation in health care was about 12 percent every year, and it was 1 to 3 percent in the rest of the economy. The government would cut reimbursement costs, and they would be passed on to other payers.”
Most nations in the world have some version of a one-payer system under which everyone is covered.
Tucker has many more issues to discuss, like the other Drinking Liberally members.
“We have reasonable discussions, and our goal is to pass on factual information,” he said. “That way, we can find the answers. We all need to find common ground. We have no common ground anymore, which is not like the country I grew up in. There is no fundraising in our group, and we are not partisan.”
Anyone is welcome to stop in for group discussions or just to listen-6 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month at the American Legion Club in St. Joseph.