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2018 election cycle

MN lege: Two DFL retirements, one GOP

by Dan Burns on December 11, 2017 · 0 comments

Rep. Susan Allen and Rep. Karen Clark are getting well-deserved encomiums for their stellar service. Both are in safe DFL seats, and I anticipate that there will be considerable interest among potential candidates. In fact, several jumped in immediately (see the linked article).

Rep. Abigail Whelan (R-Ramsey) will presumably be best-remembered for her get-with-Jesus speech on the House floor, last session. I don’t bash others’ religious beliefs or practices, however tempting a particular context may be. Make up your own mind.

Tough, red district, but the way things are going any Republican-held seat could be competitive, and having no hard-right incumbent will only help.


Get ready for a tsunami of groping claims

by Dan Burns on November 20, 2017 · 0 comments

I haven’t taken a side, and don’t plan to, regarding the situation with Sen. Franken. Being of a rationalist skeptic turn, for better or worse, I like to wait for everything to fall out before making up my mind.
This is from the comment thread to this DKos community diary, about the new allegation today.

– there are rumors flying around the Hill that Fox/Breitbart/Bannon are looking into stories that Gillibrand is known to playfully smack guys in the a** every once in awhile.
– Schumer is apparently being targeted by Bannon for information on some of Schumer’s rather aggressive hugs.
– Bannon/Breitbart are investigating Biden for stories of “intimate touchings”
– Fox/Bannon/Breitbart are actively investigating stories of “serial sexual harassment” within the Sanders campaign by two officials.
– etc.

And I suspect that Democrats have plenty in the works, too. Whether the above turns out to be specifically accurate or not – hopefully not – I think it highly likely that we will continue to see more and more accusations against prominent officeholders, and others, from both parties – and that it all will continue to be gleefully used to help divert attention from issues like the GOP tax plan. I suppose that it was inevitable that the #MeToo movement would be to some extent co-opted, like so many noble efforts have been for, like, forever.
I don’t know what to do about that, either.


Strib pimps its beloved Tea-Paw for governor

by Dan Burns on October 15, 2017 · 0 comments

AMES, IA - AUGUST 11:  Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty take the stage for a debate in the Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University August 11, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. This is the first Republican presidential debate in the state ahead of Saturday's all important Iowa Straw Poll.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sunday morning, in an openly, shamelessly fawning front-page article. The Strib has always loved TBag with great, powerful love.

Like a singer trying so very hard to persuade an adoring crowd that there are no more encores, the former governor’s efforts to hush all the talk about a return to politics seems a little less than completely sincere to both fans and foes. While perhaps genuinely undecided, Pawlenty has had private discussions about the prospect with donors and political supporters.
Meanwhile, talk of another run by the two-term Republican has preoccupied the state’s political insiders for months.
(Star Tribune)

That second paragraph is gross exaggeration. But, whatever.
Here is the reality of what went on in Minnesota when Tim Pawlenty was governor. The full report, accessible from the linked page, is conclusive and damning. The worst governor in the state’s history, hands down.

– Minnesota’s performance relative to the national average in terms of unemployment rates and employment growth (since 2001) has deteriorated.
– Somewhat smaller-but still significant-deterioration was observed on the three income and pay measures.
– On all three education indicators-pupil-teacher ratio, students at or above “basic” level in math and reading, and per capita state and local spending on education-Minnesota’s performance declined relative to other states.
– Minnesota’s position in terms of road miles in poor or mediocre condition fell sharply relative to the rest of the nation; the miles of roads in poor or mediocre condition in Minnesota more than doubled from 2002 to 2007.
– On the other four factors examined in this report (homeownership rates, health insurance coverage, bridge deficiency percentage, and poverty rates) there was no evidence of a statistically significant decline in Minnesota’s performance relative to other states. Nor was there evidence of improvement.
(MN 2020)

Actually, the one interesting thing in the Strib article, and I don’t know how it got past the editors, is the all-but-open admission that Minnesota’s existing crop of declared GOP gubernatorial candidates is a feeble, even miserable, bunch. It’s about a third of the way down.
If you’re late to the game here, Pawlenty, the worst kind of self-serving political hack, sometimes tried to act like some sort of conciliating “moderate” during part of his governorship. But when the Tea Party came along he sucked up to it with the worst of them. That’s where the nicknames used above come from.
Pawlenty has a gargantuan ego, one that outweighs his very mediocre intellect and abilities by an even greater ratio than is the norm for right-wing politicians. Undoubtedly he’s never gotten over the humiliating end to his presidential effort, when he got his tail kicked by Michele Bachmann – yes, Crazy Michele Bachmann – in the Iowa straw poll in 2011, which made him a national laughingstock. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he tries to erase the memory of that, next year, with a winning gubernatorial run.

Donald Trump is in the White House. Politically, any awful thing is possible, these days, no matter how unlikely it might seem out of the gate. It’s important to accept the reality of that, and deal with it accordingly. Don’t let claims that this a**hole was anything other than an atrociously wretched, failed governor go unchallenged, anywhere, if you want any advice from me.


Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania
(location of the three Yankee Pennamite Wars)
Crospey Francis Jasper, 1823-1900

As we celebrate the founding of our nation with the Declaration of Independence, in the more recent context of the challenges this nation faces in our modern era, it is worth reviewing a bit of history. The American Revolutionary War ended with the Peace of Paris, aka the Treaty of Versailles (there have been many other treaties of Versailles) in 1783.


We began and fought the War of Independence as a nation founded not by the US Constitution but by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. That perpetual Union did not last all that long, ending in 1786, when it was replaced by the current, much modified United States Constitution which went into effect in 1789. From the official web site of the US Senate:

Written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and in operation since 1789, the United States Constitution is the world’s longest surviving written charter of government. Its first three words –– “We the People” –– affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens.


The Declaration of Independence wisely anticipated this possibility of the necessity of government changing so as to better serve the people, not plutocrats, not corporations-as-people, with these words, which follow the much better recognized words of the “We the People” preamble:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Sadly few of my fellow Americans, and then mostly newly naturalized immigrant citizen, are knowledgeable about our history. When you look at the original foundation of this country, founded in bloody revolution, and then look again at what amounts to a second bloodless revolution with the replacement of the Articles with the Constitution, changing profoundly who we are today and how we became our modern nation.

There were middling better known events, like Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion, that contributed to the need to create a better, stronger, and very different founding document. Less well known but perhaps more indicative of those stresses were the Yankee Pennamite Wars, aka the Pennamite Yankee Wars, of which there were three. The wars primarily involved Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but other states involved themselves as well. The final resolution came in 1799, when the disputed Wyoming Valley became part of Pennsylvania.

Because of the vagaries of early cartography, there was a part of what is now Pennsylvania that was awarded in colonial land grant days to more than one claimant colony, subsequently involving multiple states in this series of conflicts. In brief summary, the first Pennamite ‘war’ ran from 1769-70, the second in 1774, and the final conflict, which the more limited federal government of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was inadequate to address — and the distant government of the UK which had created the problem was inadequate and impotent to do so as well.

The two important elements to take away from this relatively obscure bit of our history are the need for a strong and adequately large federal government, in part to resolve conflicts between the states and between local jurisdictions as well, in order to have a strong and functional nation. Another element is that any such federal government must exist not to serve special interests, but must exist to serve the people of this country — and corporations are not people. But the most important lesson, one that had to be relearned only a little more than a half century after the resolution to the third Yankee Pennamite War, was that we CAN resolve the challenges to this nation peacefully, without bloody revolution, without shooting our fellow Americans.

I wish all of our readers and their friends and families a happy and safe celebration of our Independence Day, and I hope this humble post will contribute to any thought you give the topic today and going forward.

If this leads you to browse a little history, I hope you consider checking out the Yankee (Connecticut) and Pennamites (Pennsylvanians) conflict that shaped who we are today.


MN-08: Some healthy DFL competition

by Dan Burns on June 12, 2017 · 0 comments

bwcaTwo DFL challenges to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) are being considered, by Sue Hakes and Leah Phifer.

Sue Hakes, who previously served as Cook County Commissioner and Mayor of Grand Marais, will test the field as Nolan considers his future.
“When I think about Minnesota’s Eighth District, I think people first,” Hakes said in a press release. “I want to fight the current administration’s budgetary goals which chip away at — or gut entirely — the very institutions that make rural life possible and the amenities that make rural America a desirable place to live”.
(Minnesota Brown)

So, as I watched politicians and pundits race to understand us after the 2016 election, I couldn’t help but laugh. If they really wanted to understand us, to help us, they would stop trying to fit us into neat little narratives. My family and friends are scattered from Isanti to International Falls. In MN CD08, we’re hard-working, opinionated, and unpredictable. If you want to understand us, I thought, start by acknowledging that no two towns, counties or people in this large district are the same. So when I began to think about my role in future of this district, I knew where I had to start.
On June 16th, 2017, I will be setting out on a 80 day listening tour, to take the pulse of our varied district. Let’s talk about what makes us so unique, what we have in common and where we can start to re-build the politics that govern us, but don’t define us. Please check out my event calendar or show me around your corner of our great district. Share your story, share your thoughts, share your recommendations for the best pasties and pastries in your town! Wherever you lie on the political spectrum, let’s talk about how we move our district into the future together.
(Around the 8th in 80 days)

Phifer’s website has nothing at this time about her policy positions. I couldn’t find Hakes’s press release online; here’s her Facebook page if you want to peruse that for indicators. I will certainly withhold judgment until I know a lot more about where these candidates’ heads are at on the issues of the day.
Except for sulfide mining, Rep. Nolan has been a strong progressive in Congress. I would need to see a very impressive candidate, starting with great, strong, downright relentless opposition to such mining in the district, to even think of voting for anyone else in a primary.


daudt(Update: On Monday, the same day that I posted the text below, the Minnesota House did produce a bonding bill plan. Which doesn’t mean that Speaker Daudt and his allies won’t wait until the last minute, again, to try to shove it through on an our-plan-or-no-plan-at-all basis.

(“Grossly inadequate” would be one way to describe the House proposal. “Shortsighted” and “small-minded” work, too. As does plain old “cheap.” Here are links to proposals from the:



To me at least, the ending of the 2016 legislative session in Minnesota was quite probably not just some display of ineptitude. I think it was House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s (R-Crown) intent all along to ram through the Republican bonding bill at the last minute, giving Democratic legislators and Gov. Dayton no choice but to go along or get no bill at all. The whole plan may well have originated with Daudt’s handlers at the American Legislative Exchange Council. And, because 2016 turned out to be such a bizarre and horrifying political year, the fact that said plan didn’t entirely work produced no backlash vs. the MN GOP.

And from what I’m seeing so far, the intent may well be to try the same thing again, only get it “right” this time.

As the session reaches the spring recess — leaving about a month left when lawmakers return — the bonding bill is one of the biggest question marks.
Last year, a bonding plan emerged in the last hours of the last day of the session. It failed to reach the governor’s desk after a volley between the House and Senate caused lawmakers to run out of time.

That article is from early April. But as of this writing the House still hasn’t produced a detailed bill.
Yet there are growing indications that Daudt is not the Minnesota Party of Trump’s undisputed golden boy that I and others have believed him to be. Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) announced a run for governor.

Dean, 51, has a soft-spoken demeanor but is widely viewed as a leader of the conservative wing of the House Republican caucus. Two years ago, he sought the post of House speaker but was defeated by Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, who’s mulling his own bid for governor.
Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman is the only other Republican to declare so far. In addition to Daudt, other Republicans considering the race include Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, GOP Party Chairman Keith Downey, 2014 Republican nominee Jeff Johnson and a handful of other state legislators, including Sen. David Osmek of Mound and Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake.
(Star Tribune)

If Daudt and his fans can’t even impress/intimidate Matt Dean enough to convince him that joining the race would just be a waste of time and effort, things are a lot iffier for him than I have realized up to now.


mngopdonorsSince few people in the general population know or care who state political party chairs are, to some extent this is just indulging my fellow politics junkies. But, hey, that’s what I’m here for.

Jennifer Carnahan, whose abandonment as a baby in South Korea led to an upbringing and business career in Minnesota, will lead the state Republican Party into a high-stakes election year…
Carnahan, 40, entered the race as something of a dark horse. She’s never held elective office or a prominent party role as her three challengers — Deputy Chairman Chris Fields, former Senate Minority Leader David Hann and Republican National Committeeman Rick Rice.
In fact, she attended her first party caucus only last year…
Her victory saw her come from behind. Fields led on the first two ballots, with Hann also in contention. As Rice failed to qualify for the second ballot and Hann faded, Carnahan’s support surged. She topped Fields when it was just the two of them on the fourth ballot.

It seems like Hann and Fields both went in with their factions (as well as probably plenty of attendees who don’t like either of them all that much), but they weren’t enough, and they ended up electing who they could. Was that Carnahan’s plan? Did she go in really believing that she had much chance? Heck if I know.
So the MN GOP basically stumbled into getting what sure looks to me like the best candidate. From an objective standpoint, Carnahan certainly seems like an impressive person. Too bad she’s so unrepresentative of the Party of Trump’s base.


Shovel-WeathervaneI’m well aware that not all rural voters went for Trump, any more than all urbanites didn’t. Nor are all city dwellers all politically knowledgeable and sophisticated, while all country folks aren’t. I shouldn’t have to note that, but such assumptions seem implicit in too much online discussion of rural issues in politics, including on the progressive left. Anyway:

The people in rural areas who voted for President Trump in droves have much at stake in his proposed budget.
Trump’s budget plan cuts a wide range of federal funding sources, including a water and sewer program that provided more than $200 million to greater Minnesota communities over the last five years.

There’s another, more in-depth article, also on MPR, from about a month ago, looking at some of what’s behind Wisconsin having gone for Trump. It’s well worth a click and read (frustrating though parts of it are), if you’re into this stuff.

Across town, Robbo Coleman leaned over the bar he tends and described a similar political about-face. He held up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped “Made in China.”
“I don’t see why we can’t make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever,” said Coleman. “Trump brought something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen before. And if it doesn’t turn out, then, hey, at least we tried.”

Uh, yeah.
A far more substantive factor in what’s been going on in rural Wisconsin is the state having turned over its governance to worthless, corrupt Tea Party extremists in 2010, and not having corrected that since. The last time a lot of people were looking at Wisconsin was 2015, because of Gov. Scott Walker’s much-hyped but short-lived presidential run. But a search for 2016 shows that it still sucks, by the standards of the Upper Midwest, especially when it comes to the sorts of small business start-ups that would be key to any real rural economic renewal.
Voters in rural Wisconsin put right-wingers in charge in 2010, and that’s the biggest reason they’re “left behind.” In Minnesota, promising policy trends from 2013-14 largely ended when Minnesota outstate voters (and urban/suburban non-voters) gave the GOP control of the MN House and, now, the Senate. And in the worst kind of irony, who did country dwellers in both states vote for, for U.S. President in 2016, looking for change for the better? It truly sucks, but there it is.

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Reframing what Trump and cronies are up to

by Dan Burns on March 10, 2017 · 1 comment

trump12I’m not George Lakoff’s #1 fan. I think there is an overemphasis in his work on “framing” in trying to explain voter behavior, at the expense of other key matters like, for example, just plain old, bad habits. But framing is important, and progressives haven’t always done it well, and this is certainly well worth passing along.

The American Majority got 2.8 million more votes in the 2016 election than the Loser President. That puts the majority in a position to change American political discourse and how Americans understand and think about politics. As a start, what is needed is a change of viewpoint.
Here is a typical example. Minority President Trump has said that he intends to get rid of 75% of government regulations. What is a “regulation”?
The term “regulation” is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, “regulations” are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public’s viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public.
Imagine our minority President saying out loud that he intends to get rid of 75% of public protections. Imagine the press reporting that. Imagine the NY Times, or even the USA Today headline: Trump to Eliminate 75% of Public Protections. Imagine the media listing, day after day, the protections to be eliminated and the harms to be faced by the public.

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Endorsing Ken Martin & Marge Hoffa for DFL Leadership

by Invenium Viam on February 23, 2017 · 0 comments

ken-margeAnd if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call ...
Go ask Alice, I think she'll know...
     White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane

In 2010, DFL losses to the GOP in the Tea Party wave at the polls that year were laid at the doorstep of then-Chair Brian Melendez and Vice (Associate) Chair Donna Cassutt.


I said at the time in a letter to the DFL-SCC that blaming the leadership for those losses was unfair, since no one predicted they were likely, or even possible, until just a few days before the election and because elections are not won or lost due to any single element: Be it party leadership at the time, how money is spent; how energized volunteers, candidates and the electorate are, etc. The outcome of an election is based on a collective of actions, events, influences and — perhaps the greatest unknown of all — the mood of the electorate. So I supported the re-election of Melendez and Cassutt. Members of the SCC felt differently, however. I respected their choice then and I respect it now.


Today, I feel the same way about the leadership of DFL Chair Ken Martin and Vice Chair Marge Hoffa. The DFL sustained losses in 2014 and 2016, to be sure, but Democrats across the country sustained losses. Pollsters, pundits, thought leaders and political leaders all misread the mood of the electorate. Subsequently, there was not a concerted effort of any kind by the vast majority of the political leadership to heal the divisions after the bitter endorsement contest between Clinton and Sanders. The feeling that Clinton was a sure winner obviated the need for fence-mending. Nor was there a studied read by the leadership on the left as to the reasons voters were supporting Trump, a phenomenon as much economic as cultural in origin. Instead, Trump’s base was generally dismissed by all the smart people with advanced degrees as “deplorables,” racists, misogynists, alt-right reactionaries, and the like. Undoubtedly, some of them were one or even all those things — but that doesn’t mean their economic and cultural anxieties don’t matter and that their votes don’t count. Except perhaps in the minds of those Moral Highgrounders among us who feel they can impose their personal litmus test of ideological purity on everyone around them, including other Democrats.


It’s human nature to look for causes outside of ourselves for our failings and upsets. It’s human nature to seek support from others in our fault-finding efforts. And it’s human nature to seek revenge on others for perceived slights and insults, some of which may even fester for many years. But regardless of whether these things are human nature, that doesn’t make them right. It takes a certain amount of maturity and character to strike the log from our own eye before pointing out the mote in our neighbor’s.


That’s my fundamental problem with the current race for DFL State Party Chair. I don’t find any real equanimity in judgment on either the broad spectrum of causes for our party’s losses — including the mood of the electorate — or why the current leadership should be exclusively held to blame for those losses. I also don’t find any real equanimity of judgment with regard to assessing the current leadership’s qualities of leadership: managerial effectiveness, record of achievement, fiduciary oversight, work ethic, etc. The message from the honorable opposition seems to be that we lost the Senate, lost more seats in the House, and lost most of those seats in the rural districts of Minnesota (which perennially feels neglected), and those losses embody an obvious indictment of the current leadership for incompetence or worse.


Well, I don’t buy it. I didn’t buy that argument in 2010 and I’m not buying it now. Besides, I’m not interested in looking to the past to deconstruct and litigate what went wrong, how it went wrong, and who’s to blame. My advice to fellow DFL’ers who are inclined to think someone has to pay for our losses — and that it ought to be Martin and Hoffa — is to chill with the whole whiney-butt sulking self-indulgence thing. I can make just as cogent an argument that those losses were due to millennials failing to show up at the polls in those elections. Why not blame them? How about this: Put your game face on and get back on the field. Or go sit on the bench. Or leave. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way — it’s your choice. But choose, please, and soon.


Is that “bullying” to say these things so bluntly? Well, forgive me. I didn’t go to Montessori School, I didn’t get a trophy for ‘participating’ in soccer, and no one — not even my sainted mother — cared a jot if my precious self-esteem might be injured by a critical remark. My soccer games as a kid were composed of as many as 20 bruisers on a side, with husky German and Polish farm boys facing tough Irish and Slavic sons of railroaders, meat-packers and miners. Our games were brutal, mostly without rules, and it was rare that a match ended without a split lip, a bloody nose, or a black eye — or even all three. No one complained and no one ever took thought of revenge for an insult or injury, or of finding a scapegoat to feed to the lions. We all knew instinctively that life was hard, adult life was harder still, and some of us were destined to fall on that long road to our Final Judgment in ways tragic and sad, in ways that taught us beyond any testament of faith that human beings were the subjects and creations of a hard and implacable God. Sorry if that offends your delicate sensibilities in upholding an ethos of genderlessness in our political discourse (itself a useful fiction for some), but I’m merely being honest about where I come from and who I am — and who I am not.


We have before us a golden opportunity to re-group, re-trench and counter-attack in this our endless struggle for peace, prosperity and justice for all. That’s what we should be doing instead of playing another round of these silly blame games. The Women’s March, the Indivisible Movement, the Immigrant’s Boycott, Black Lives Matter — all these signs and wonders indicate that there is a new spirit of activism among the shocked and confused voters across the political spectrum, which portends a new opportunity to engage the electorate in powerful and effective new ways. The salient questions for me, then, are these:


1. Who is best equipped — by temperament, by experience, by sound judgment, by effective action, by managerial strength — to lead this party to tap into those new energies and best exploit that new opportunity before us to recover from our losses and recapture the institutions of power?

2. Who is best able to heal the divides that currently exist within the party, as opposed to exploit them and aggravate them?

3. With a gubernatorial race now in the works — with many qualified and capable candidates having declared and still more likely to do so — who is best equipped by temperament, experience and judgment to manage an endorsement race with equanimity both in official conduct and in personal demeanor, a race that itself could become divisive and embittered and thereby affect the outcomes of other statewide and local races?


In my view, the clear choice is Ken Martin and Marge Hoffa. That’s how I’ll be voting on March 4. If my arguments have merit with you, I hope you’ll join me.