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No. passage of marriage equality in France hasn’t been entirely smooth:

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in a series of protests against the bill, surprising many in a country that is predominantly Catholic but known for its liberal views.
The opposition turned increasingly nasty as the final vote approached.
Some politicians received personal threats, a handful of demonstrations ended in violence amid claims of infiltration by extreme-right activists, and there was even a scuffle in parliament as the debate concluded in the small hours of Friday.
The Socialist speaker of the lower house, Claude Bartolone, on Monday received an envelope containing ammunition powder and a threatening letter demanding he delay Tuesday’s vote.

Before overgeneralizing, it looks like non-violent street protests were joined by violent people who, as is always a risk in non-violent demonstrations, grab the attention and tarnish everyone else. Very few people create incidents in the National Assembly gallery, send threatening letters to politicians, or physically assault people they think are gay. One thing that’s clear though is that conservatives are not ready for this change. In a way this isn’t a surprise since since discomfort with change is a marker of conservatism. There is serious risk of blowback from marriage equality, even violent blowback, and the political risk of a fractured right using this issue to reorganize, as the French right has done. Does that mean we should delay until conservatives are comfortable with it? No, for a few simple reasons.


Another fine mess the GOP has gotten us into

by Eric Ferguson on January 21, 2013 · 3 comments

That title refers to the messes the MNGOP majorities left behind for DFL legislators, though I don’t mean to compare the MNGOP to Laurel and Hardy by paraphrasing Hardy’s favorite expression. That would be unfair. Laurel and Hardy were funny on purpose.

There is something of a meta-mess going on, unfortunately. Some skittish DFL legislators are listening to the framing of the Republicans and the press and adopting a word they should just get out of their vocabularies, “overreach”. Looking at a mess and working on a way to fix it is not “overreach” — especially when you ran your campaign on fixing it and the voters agreed.
Overreach is when you do what the Republicans did. They ran in 2010 telling voters angry about high unemployment and their underwater mortgages that they would fix it, and then they worked on anything but. Well, not anything, some specific things, but not what they ran on. They were sent to address the mortgage crisis and lack of jobs, and instead they tried to restrict voting rights, put marriage discrimination in the constitution, and for good measure imposed a government shutdown to force the governor to sign off on a bunch of lousy legislation. Now that’s overreach.

Fixing the budget mess — that’s what you ran on, not overreach. DFL legislators, you rightly campaigned on what a sham it was for the Republicans to claim they balanced the budget when they cashed in the tobacco endowment, shifted school financing to make the public schools into involuntary lenders, and drove up such taxes as they could blame on local governments. Caution will not fix these things.

I wouldn’t suggest that mere tweaks and tepidity would accomplish nothing, for indeed they will. They will give you the chance to start on non-political careers after the next election. Right before embarking on your new careers, you’ll have the pleasure of running a campaign on a slogan like, “Re-elect me because I went to the legislature and thought about doing what I said I would do, and I might even have done it as long as there was no political risk involved.”

Actually, the skittish caucus is talking about taking a huge risk, though they may not have realized that’s what they’re saying.
Care to take a risk of throwing away the governor’s office after just one term? Then by all means, ignore that Gov. Dayton said, “Tax the rich” at every stump speech and debate and managed to win. It was a narrow win to be sure, but keeping in mind that the IP candidate also called for tax increases, that’s a big majority that voted for a candidate promising to raise taxes. This should tell you two things. One, voting to raise taxes is not risky and two, your refusal to raise taxes means Gov. Dayton will have to run for reelection next — next year — looking weak from being unable to get a DFL legislature to support what got him elected. If the governor looks weak and gets taken down, what will that do to your own prospects? What will you do in 2015 after losing the governor’s mansion and a bunch of seats? I don’t know either, but I’m pretty sure it won’t have much to do with legislating.

Yet this pointless risk of defying a DFL governor seems to be what the skittish caucus is thinking about:

Dayton’s proposal to tax high earners has run up against some political and practical realities. First, President Obama recently pushed Congress to raise the federal income tax rate for high earners, potentially limiting how much more Dayton could raise and not overburden the wealthy. Some DFLers have cooled to steep income tax increases on high earners, saying they don’t want to make it harder for the state’s leading companies to recruit top talent.

Legislative leaders now say it would be difficult to get $1 billion in new income tax money from high earners, about half of what Dayton sought two years ago.

“There’s some room, but there are some limitations,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. “We need to be careful with it. It is not an unlimited pool of [m]oney.”

Well, mathematically, that’s true, since no pool of money is unlimited, but overburden the wealthy — are the Senate Majority Leader and the writer of the article kidding? Is that a bad attempt to feign innumeracy? The federal rates just went back up to where they were in the 1990’s for the richest people, and they made bags and bags of money then. We had tax cuts in Minnesota too, remember? You know, those stupid things that kicked off over a decade of perpetual budget crises? Not only did the wealthiest get most of the income gains during that time, but since the financial crisis of 2008, they’ve gotten almost every gain. So Majority Leader, if you can’t be bold, then be mathematical: this pool of money that’s not unlimited is nonetheless massive. We simply refuse to use it. Moreover, there is simply no way to end the annual budget crisis in our state without raising taxes at the top. That’s not even about fixing the unfairness of our state and local tax burdens being heaviest at the bottom. It’s just math.

So if some skittish legislators can’t get motivated by opportunity knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell, tossing pebbles at your window and threatening to trample your flower bed if you don’t open the door, then be motivated by the fear of what happens when you toss away the only means of fixing the budget because some rich person somewhere who would never vote for you anyway might get mildly ticked. Speaking as one of those grassroots DFLers who is going to have to try to drag you over the finish line next year, that’s a bad risk to take.

So far we’re just thinking about the budget in general. If you really want to fix education funding, you’re not going to do it with some technical fixes to funding formulas. There isn’t enough money. Period. Making tweaks to the distribution of inadequate funding is going to leave our schools pretty where they are, hard up for funds. If the schools on Labor Day 2014 are in the same position as the schools on Labor Day 2012, the Republicans will spend the campaign season at the voters’ doors making sure they know bupkis got fixed. You can’t take that chance, which means you need to act boldly. You could run for reelection explaining how you resolved the Republicans’ chronic underfunding of schools to put them on a sound financial footing, or you could leave taxes right where they are, and have fun explaining next election why you did pretty much nothing.

And that just the fiscal messes. Let’s think about some other messes they left, and the accompanying opportunities. Yes, we’re thinking about marriage equality (though not only marriage equality — more on that later). Non-metro legislators are mostly representing districts where the marriage ban won. This has legislators worried about bringing up the issue for fear of losing heir seats. Not only me, but others in the liberal blogosphere and DFL grassroots have been trying to explain to DFL legislators not just the opportunity in front of them to get the ban repealed while our opponents are back on heir heels, and when there is a lot of time for voters to move on to other issues before the 2014 elections, but that failing to act will entail a huge price in the loss of support and enthusiasm from people who worked hard to beat the amendment and put the DFL in the majority. A lot of these are people who hadn’t volunteered for a campaign for a long time if ever, and young voters who are still developing their voting habits. Failing to move, and we’re far enough into the session that there is no excuse for further delay, risks harming DFL electoral prospects for a long time. Young voters, and people of all ages who come out infrequently but did this time, will learn that even with a clear win, their candidates won’t move.

But I ask legislators to think about this in terms other than relative risks (though to be clear, it’s still the case that inaction is much riskier than action). Think very long term. Yes, people in more conservative districts aren’t ready for gays to get married, or really, equality in general. Yet think back a bit — they weren’t ready for black people to vote either. They weren’t ready for women to be paid the same as men. They weren’t ready for Jews to buy what houses they want despite restrictive covenants. They didn’t get ready until after equality under the law became real. There were, at the time these laws were passed, legislators who opposed these laws because their constituents just weren’t ready for other people to have rights.

So I ask current legislators, when you think back on the legislators who voted against civil rights in their time, what do you think of them now? Does the claim that their constituents weren’t ready ring hollow? So when it comes time to vote on the civil rights issues of today, what do you think future legislators will think of you for refusing to do the right thing? Is a slightly improved chance of winning one more election really worth how you’ll be thought of in decades to come?

Now the “more on that later” part, because circumstances have handed the DFL other opportunities. The photo ID debate revealed that not only is voter fraud remarkably rare, but what there is is almost all former felons voting or registered before their rights are restored. Few cases can be prosecuted because the former felons involved were unaware their rights weren’t restored yet. There’s a chance to end all real voter fraud, to reenfranchise every former felon whose rights haven’t yet been restored, and maybe above all, reenfranchise those who rights have been restored, but from mistaken assumption or uncertainty, refuse to vote just to avoid going back to jail for it. Set a clear standard that works for other states: when you’re out of jail, you can vote. Simple.

I know I’ve written essentially those same words before, more than once I’m pretty sure, but another opportunity has presented itself since the election. The fact is the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary has changed many people’s attitudes towards gun regulation. Maybe having some gun laws isn’t so terrible after all. I’m aware that unlike raising upper income taxes, fixing school financing, marriage equality, and voting rights, gun regulation wasn’t an election. Quite true. However, the public has finally become ready to think about the carnage we inflict on ourselves with crazy gun laws. States can do much on their own to prohibit large capacity magazines. They can develop better record keeping on people suffering dangerous mental illnesses, people seeking to buy guns and ammunition, and above all put those records together. We could put taxes on guns and ammunition to deter impulse purchases (plus every time a Democrat gets elected, the revenue will just flow in!). Even if federal agencies are prohibited by the gun lobby’s laws from keeping records, developing databases, or doing research, the same does not apply to the state. Something we know for sure: people too dangerous to own guns are having little trouble getting them legally. We also learned after seeing the last election’s results that the dreaded NRA isn’t nearly so powerful as politicians have been scared into believing. So the opportunity is here to stop letting fools like Tony Cornish set gun policy.

Just remember: lukewarm water doesn’t clean many messes. Ignoring opportunity is the biggest risk of all.


DFL legislators do indeed have a mandate

by Eric Ferguson on January 8, 2013 · 5 comments

The first session of the new legislature with DFL majorities opens tomorrow. Anyone following the coverage and commentary sees the media and DFL legislators fretting about being accused of overreach if they do what they were elected to do. My choice of the word “fretting” might imply I don’t take those concerns seriously, and, well, that’s mostly right. Too many have it in their heads that the reason the GOP majorities were so short-lived was that they overreached. “Overreached” implies that the voters liked the GOP agenda, but just wanted a bit less of it. However, the GOP agenda was pretty thoroughly rejected — there’s no other way to read it when it lasts just two years and the voters could have blamed the DFL governor, but chose instead to give him a friendly legislature. That message wasn’t, “You overreached.” It was, “Please go away.”

Yes DFL legislators, you have a mandate to do certain things, and failure to do what you were elected to do is far riskier to your majority than success.

What exactly is in your mandate?
Let’s think back to 2010. Gov. Dayton became governor in defiance of the red wave while running on the most non-Republican theme possible, taxing rich people. He repeated this in every debate and stump speech. I have difficulty believing anybody voted for him without knowing this was what he planned. He can’t be blamed for being unable to get a tax increase through the Republican legislature, but now there’s no excuse. Remember legislators that the governor is up for reelection next year, and he’ll look ineffective if he can’t get an upper income tax increase when his party has both houses. Do you really want to put the governorship at such risk? Do you want to take the chance that the gravity of a governor going down might pull legislators down too?

Try to remember the old saying, “good policy is good politics”. The state’s tax burden is heaviest at the bottom and lightest at the top. The school shift has to be repaid even if nothing is accomplished more broadly in fixing school funding. Turning the tobacco endowment into tobacco bonds was not only foolish, but one time only. There will be no avoiding massive budget cuts targeting the state’s vulnerable people without raising taxes at the top. So doing what the governor got elected saying he would do good policy isn’t merely good politics and good policy, it’s math.

Speaking of school funding, if there is one issue lots of legislators ran on, it’s the damage the MNGOP did to the finances of our public schools. It’s a big project, and probably can’t get done just this session, but will need next session too. That’s fine. This is a popular issue. Getting it finished next year is conveniently closer to election day. Again, good policy is good politics.

Of course, if the base has to push DFL legislators to get school financing fixed, we have huge problems. It looks like the one thing where we won’t have to persuade DFL legislators they have a mandate. It’s not like what looks like the scariest issue, marriage equality. At least it seems this is what legislators find scariest.

Yet there is clear mandate and opportunity here. Don’t conflate the marriage and photo ID amendments. The photo ID amendment was about putting the policy into the constitution, but the marriage debate was about the core issue itself. And we won. Yes I know, the vast majority of counties voted for the amendment, but we don’t count counties. We count people. Now it’s time to make more people count equally under the law. If you’re scared of blowback, repeal the marriage ban early. There are almost two years before election day. If you’re worried about being attacked for working on this instead of the budget, then repeal it right away before you get deep into the budget. We all know there’s only so much you can do on the budget until February at the earliest.

I make a request too of supporters of marriage equality. Tell nervous legislators that you will make a commitment to show up for their phonebanks and doorknocks during the next campaign if they will do the right thing. The anti-amendment group, Minnesotans United for All Families, hasn’t folded up. Tell them you’ll help them help legislators who vote to repeal the ban. Tell your own legislators. Tell the caucus leaders. Tell the skittish-sounding legislators. If, however, your plan is to vote, and … well, that’s all, then you’re not helping.

Regarding the other amendment victory, the voters’ opposition to photo ID for voting is less clear. Though most of the debate was about how lousy an idea photo ID is in policy terms, there’s no question some voters objected to putting it in the constitution, but might have been open to a statute. Now that there’s a DFL majority, there’s a chance to put the issue to bed. During the debate in the legislature last session, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie offered the Republicans support for electronic poll books, which avoid the disenfranchisement problem by putting the burden of supplying a photo on the state instead of the voter. Obviously for Republicans, disenfranchisement is a feature rather than a bug, but nonetheless, the electronic poll books could work politically by not only avoiding disenfranchisement, but by assuaging the concerns of people who think photos are foolproof security. Everyone but the tiny minority at Minnesota Majority will be happy. In terms of cost, some local election officials endorsed the electronic poll books on the grounds they would save money in terms of clerical work.

That’s just photo ID. There was a broader discussion of voting rights and election procedures that opened up an opportunity to deal with the only thing resembling real election fraud, illegal voting and registering by former felons whose rights weren’t yet restored. These are an infinitesimal percentage of all votes, but almost 100% of the illegal votes. So clear it up with a straightforward standard used by some other states: if you’re out of jail, you can vote. Simple to understand, simple to enforce. Moreover, though the number of illegal votes is tiny, we have no idea how many legitimate voters stay away because they think a felony record means they can never vote again — a common misunderstanding most canvassers have likely run into — or they just aren’t clear on when they can vote and don’t want to risk going back to jail. Simplifying the standard would not only end all known voter fraud, but would expand voting rights.

When should they vote? How about voting early, and letting us non-felons vote early too? It works in other states. The only substantive argument I’ve heard against it is the difficult situation caused when Paul Wellstone died right before the election, after a lot of absentee voters had already voted. We should have found something better than an ad hoc fix to it anyway, and maybe making early voting work will force us to find a solution. It’s probably not the last time a candidate will die after absentee or early ballots have already come in. Might was well just figure it out. Absentee voting has been increasing as voters use it like early voting, so early voting doesn’t actually create a problem.

strike while the iron is hotNow think about how long you get to keep this DFL legislature with a DFL governor. Two years. Yes, fear of losing that is what’s driving some of you besides concern for your own seats, but really, the governorship and House could be lost in the next election. You know for sure you can do what you were elected to do only for the next two years. That’s regardless of which risks you choose to take. You know how angry some Republicans are about the things they didn’t get done when they had the chance? Don’t let that happen to you. Strike while the iron is hot.

So DFL legislators, imagine that you and the governor can run for reelection in 2014 by saying:
We balanced the budget by making the richest pay their fair share instead of creating more hardship for the most vulnerable;
We fixed school funding to avoid accounting shifts and making the schools involuntary lenders to the state, let the schools predict their funding, and keep the burden on the state so all our children get an equal chance at a good education;
We stopped the state from deciding when two consenting adults can get married, and made all married people equal under the law;
We ended the only real fraud in our elections, expanded voting rights, and improved election procedures.

Sounds like a winner to me.


Video: Why VOTE NO won for marriage

by JeffStrate on December 28, 2012 · 0 comments

Professor of Religion David Booth (St. Olaf College) provides perspective on the defeat of the proposed MN Constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a legal relationship only between a woman and a man.

This 20 minute video is an extended version of Dr. Booth’s discussion on the current edition of Democratic Visions.  Dr. Booth originally commented on the failure of the proposed marriage amendment in the November 26th edition of MinnPost in an article entitled: “What happened here? Three observations about Minnesota’s marriage vote.”   I produce and edit Democratic Visions with the help of other volunteers through DFL Senate District 48.  

Here is the link –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…


Marriage equality: 2014 is cold iron

by Eric Ferguson on December 1, 2012 · 2 comments

blacksmith hammering hot ironh/t Bluestem Prairie

Regarding moving on marriage equality in the 2013 legislative session, New State Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk was recently quoted saying, “We are getting some calls from some real liberal constituencies on the gay marriage issue and repealing the language in statute.” Probably Sen. Bakk is hearing from DFL senators elected from districts where the marriage ban amendment was supported and they’re nervous, but still, the implication that “some real liberal constituencies” are just another special interest rather misses something. I have to admit, I wonder if Bakk is fully aware that “some real liberal constituencies” are the reason he is now in the majority, full stop. It was these “some real liberal constituencies” who did the doorknocking that’s the life’s blood of legislative campaigns. They’re the people who provided the funding. There were a bunch of people who traveled to other districts where the races were close, and often still made time to help at home and help with the amendment campaigns too. And they won the election for the DFL caucuses, so yes, their issues get high priority.

Lest this be dismissed as just the hard-core base making demands, let’s make sure our newly elected legislators are aware the voters didn’t just think the DFL candidates were nice people, and they didn’t pluck parties out of a hat. The campaign was about specific issues for which there is now a mandate, and marriage equality is clearly one of them after defeating that noxious amendment. There is a mandate for voting rights after defeating that other noxious amendment. The linked West Central Tribune article paraphrased Rep. Paul Marquart, saying, “[Marquart] will be chairman of the Education Finance Committee and he plans to at least begin a major overhaul of how education is funded in Minnesota. The work could take more than one year.” If there is a clear mandate on any issue, it’s fixing school finance. Repaying the school funding shifts needs to be figured out this session. Overhauling funding is a big project so it’s fine if it takes a year, so long as it takes a year rather than waits a year.
Another consideration: remember 2010? I don’t mean just the awful “what the __ were the voters thinking about?” part, but the governor part. Mark Dayton ran his campaign mostly on “tax the rich”, and successfully defied the red wave (whereas the legislators who ducked the issue, well, how did that work out?). That’s a mandate. That reminder is for the legislators hinting they don’t want to take that up or it might be kind of risky, you know, and um, no, I don’t know. When you run on something, and win, you’re supposed to do that. From a purely electoral point of view, I wish to point out three things to legislators reluctant to take up the items they got elected on. First, if you’re thinking doing nothing is the way to keep your majorities, that brings into question the point of getting the majorities, and a great way to lose them is to become vulnerable to charges of doing nothing and breaking campaign promises. Second, in 2014, you’re the president’s party in a midterm election, so your odds of winning aren’t great anyway, so quit thinking nothing will change if you just do nothing  risky. Third, Gov. Dayton is also up for reelection, and this one-party control will be very brief if he loses. If he can’t get the DFL majority to move on his priorities, what do you think that will do to his reelection? Two big issues he ran on were tax fairness and marriage equality. Ignore these for whatever reason, and you leave him hanging out there by himself.

The elections results don’t just mean winning, they mean the issues are fresh in mind NOW, and there are campaign organizations with lists of donors and volunteers NOW. Strike while the iron is hot, which gets to the title of this post. In the 2014 session, the iron will be cold. I suggest anyone who doesn’t get that expression finds some cold iron and hammers on it. They’ll figure it out quickly.

Those of us who care about these issues can’t just threaten to sit out the next election or look for better candidates. We need to make it clear to legislators, especially those in districts where they worry forging ahead on their party’s agenda will endanger their seats, they we have their backs. If they do the right thing, there will be volunteers showing up for the 2014 doorknocks, even when that sometimes requires helping in a district that isn’t ours. A promise of help after doing the right thing might be more powerful than threats to withhold help after doing the wrong thing.

A word about “overreach”. “Overreach” doesn’t mean doing what you ran on. It means going beyond what you ran on and pushing through what the voters don’t want. The GOP overreached in 2010 not by pushing marriage bans and photo ID and right to freeload and curtailing pay equity. They overreached by doing those things after running on something else, specifically on the economy, and then doing anything besides working on the economy. The DFL this year ran on education, tax fairness, marriage equality, and voting rights, so guess what election day 2014 will be like if there’s no movement on those? What if there’s still gridlock, with the DFL being unable to blame the GOP at all? That’s going to be one sullen election night party.

Fortunately, it does seem, from obviously limited information at this point, that education will get due attention. For the rest however, the iron is cooling while the GOP is picking themselves up off the floor. And please no complaints that “some real liberal constituencies” expect things to get done day one. None of us real liberal types are under the misapprehension that anything passes day one, and anyone who says otherwise is engaging in hyperbole. However, getting committee hearings going on these items week one, is that so unreasonable?


Move right away on marriage equality

by Eric Ferguson on November 13, 2012 · 0 comments

Add mine to the voices in the liberal base saying move right away on marriage equality. I used marriage as an example when I said yesterday that we’ve won nothing in the 2012 election but an opportunity but that’s all it was, an example of the opportunities in front us where we haven’t actually racked up a win yet. I’m focusing now on this specific issue. Now is the time.

I’m not insensible to the case for going slow. A bunch of DFL legislators won districts where the amendment passed. Legislators campaigned on restoring school funding and completing a budget without gridlock and government shutdowns, and this is the budget session. A bunch of worthy or even needed projects got left out of the bonding bills because the GOP can’t comprehend that bonding isn’t the same as spending the money now, that interest rates are at record lows, unemployment is high, and the work has to get done sometime (I guess I just summarized the case for bonding, and yes, we should do that too).

So I get it that there are competing priorities and clearer mandates. I’m aware too that the US Supreme Court might rule in California’s Proposition 8 case and throw out marriage discrimination altogether, or the Congress might change federal law to effectively establish legal equality. I have great doubts Congress is ready to do that, but OK, I admit the possibility.

However, I’m not giving credence to the argument the voters were against gay marriage but just didn’t want the ban in the constitution. That conflates the two amendments. Keeping it out of the constitution even if you’re for it was a core argument against photo ID, but I see no evidence that argument had an impact against the marriage amendment, or even that it was much used. The debate on the marriage amendment was about the issue itself, and the pro-equality anti-discrimination side won at the polls. Yes, it was for the first time ever, but simultaneous with three other states and consistent with what polls have shown for years about changing attitudes.

Maybe support for marriage equality or gay rights in general will continue to rise, but maybe not, or maybe not steadily, we don’t know that — but we do know support is high now. I also know that if you have a chance the put a policy objective into law when public support is at a high point, you do it. You’re almost surely a fool not to.
I understand that it’s still smart to look at the risks and benefits before deciding the time is propitious, so OK, let’s look at some benefits, or at least mitigations of risks, like the concerns of DFL legislators from districts that passed the amendment. Understandable, but it goes two ways, meaning a bunch of Republicans represent districts where the amendment lost. Maybe that’s not much comfort to individual legislators, but on a party level, counting the number of legislators in this position, it’s actually a touch worse for Republicans than DFLers.

I also understand that the budget is the main agenda item and has to come first. It will look really bad if a DFL legislature and DFL governor can’t get it done. Got it. However, I also know it takes time to put the budget together. So don’t try to vote on marriage at the  same time as the budget. Do it right away and be done with it.

I’m not so sure about the argument being offered that if we do this quickly, it will be forgotten by election day 2014. I’ll buy that about 2016 when the Senate faces reelection, but I’m not so sure about the House. I hardly expect the pro-amendment side to just go away. They must be discouraged, but they have backers with scads of money, and I take conservatives at their word that stopping gay marriage is a top issue for them. I would guess they’ll target pro-marriage legislators, however, I would also guess Minnesotans United For All Families (MN United, the umbrella group opposing the amendment) isn’t going away either. So there is a movement to give those willing to end discrimination right now some wind at their backs. In fact, probably the only thing that could break up the pro-marriage movement now is to have DFL legislators refuse to take up the issue when the environment is so favorable.

And if they do refuse to take it up? That’s not exactly risk-free. Like I said in that post yesterday about demographics being opportunity rather than destiny, the groups leaning Democratic aren’t obligated to vote that way perpetually. We know LGBT voters have a strong blue lean, but if the Democrats aren’t going to protect their rights either, even if it’s out of fear of swing voters rather than dislike of gays, they have no reason to keep voting for Democrats. Same for younger voters, among whom even the straights favor gay rights. They just won a huge victory in marriage winning at the ballot box in four states and even an Iowa Supreme Court justice surviving a retention election. Young voters don’t have money, but they had decent voter turnout and a lot of volunteer time, and DFL legislators really want to tell them they get …. nothing? Do you want them to make voting DFL a habit or don’t you? No, young voters don’t care solely about this one issue, and even LGBT voters don’t care solely about this one issue … but they do care about it. Ironically, by putting that amendment on the ballot and forcing this long campaign over marriage, Republicans created a great opportunity for the DFL to win over people who will be voting for a long time to come. Such voters discovered they’re now the majority, that they can win, and which party is on their side. For crying out loud, don’t blow it.

I would also point out to reluctant legislators that the DFL governor we were so happy to have at long last faces his own reelection in two years. Mark Dayton ran mostly on an upper income tax increase, but he also ran on gay marriage. I don’t expect him to publicly contradict DFL legislative leaders, but I have a feeling that in private, he said something like, “Don’t leave me hanging out here.” If the marriage ban is repealed, Dayton can run on a fulfilled promise. If it isn’t, he’s running on a broken promise, even though it was outside his control. He can’t sign it if the legislature won’t pass it. DFL legislators, do you want Dayton to be reelected, or not? Then give him what he ran on.

One more consideration. Let’s suppose the argument that marriage equality will be a non-issue in 2014 if it’s passed now is right — but it doesn’t get passed. Think the pressure will go away? The demands to get this done will only get more urgent. If you’re afraid of ticking off swing voters with a vote nearly two years before election day, how about a vote in the 2014 session, does that seem less scary? Yet the calls to pass it will get more insistent, and those calls will come as you’re seeking donations and volunteers.

So maybe the main point to make to nervous DFL legislators is that the risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action.

Sometimes though, despite all the analysis we do, issues aren’t that complicated and decisions come down to one thing: “What’s the right thing to do? Do that.” This is one of those times.

Click here to sign a petition to DFL legislative leaders asking that this be a high priority for them.


OK, the election is over. We got to bask in a pretty good result for a few days, but now it’s time to get back to work. All that we really won was… no really, I mean it. What we really won hey, come on. We’ve got to.. You know, it’s been almost a week.

Oh fine, but just one more time:

OK, got it out of your systems? Good. What I was trying to say was we didn’t win anything on election night but an opportunity. We didn’t win a policy fight, just a chance to win a policy fight. We didn’t expand anyone’s rights, but just played successful defense of rights. I’m not saying it wasn’t a big deal to beat those noxious amendments. It was a big stop. Since our president likes to use sports metaphors, I guess I can say that we made a successful goal line stand with the ball starting on the goal line, which is a huge bit of defense, but it just stops a score. It doesn’t score points for us. Even the Democratic-favoring demographic trends that seem to causing the dinosaurification of the GOP are really just an opportunity, not a certainty. That stuff about demographics being destiny — I don’t buy it.
I’m not denying the demographic trends favoring Democrats. I’m fully aware non-whites are growing as a portion of the population and voting heavily Democratic. Whites are just a few decades from becoming a plurality. Republicans won 60% of the white vote and it wasn’t enough. Obama’s 39% of the white vote is probably a floor as well as being enough to eke out a win. Young voters have been Democratic by a large margin for several elections now, and the oldest of the young voters should be hitting early middle age soon, with a likely increase in their frequency of voting. The Christian majority is shrinking, non-Christians are heavily Democratic, especially non-religious people (the so-called “nones”), which are 20% and growing the fastest.

So why shouldn’t we assume we’ll never lose again?

Voters who vote for the same party their first several elections tend to stick with that party, and many of the blueish demographic groups are in their first few elections, both young voters and new citizens. So their blueishness isn’t set yet. They need to be secured, and Republicans might be smart enough to figure out they should try to win them over instead of attacking them. I doubt that too, and I sure don’t expect it in the next week, but once they get “51% of Americans our stupid people who want to take our stuff and destroy our values” out of their system, maybe. So we don’t have these groups yet, just a chance to win them over and make their liberal tendencies a habit. In fact, as DFLers engage in the debate that has already broken out about whether the legislature should move on marriage equality right away, or later, or at all, one argument for moving right away is young voters are heavily for it. Swing voters might not be ready, but they’re always going to swing. We can gain a permanent advantage among current young voters by moving on their agenda, even if some swing voters swing away one election as a result — assuming it’s even true this issue will cause temporary political damage.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting young voters are the only group to worry about. They’re an example. Nor do I suggest they care only about marriage equality. That’s just an example too. The point is we don’t have these groups in the habit of voting Democratic yet, but merely a much better chance than the Republicans have, provided we consciously move to secure their support and don’t assume the Republicans will keep pushing them our way. Even if the Republicans can’t win a majority among them, they might increase their minority, and by holding a big majority of whites, that’s enough to win.

Not to take a tangent into details, but it seems worth pointing out that when I was a young voter, my age group tended to vote Republican — and they still do. So they’re not ours forever regardless of what we do. We have to earn their support, and there is always a new group of new voters to be won over.

But that’s just considering demographics. In terms of policy, as current politics changes, there are short term opportunities. Ironically, by putting those amendments on the Minnesota ballot, the Republicans offered us the opportunity to make immediate gains in both gay rights and voting rights. We knew that support for marriage equality, and gay rights in general, was growing, but by putting the anti-marriage amendment on the ballot, Republicans allowed us to discover that the pro-gay rights side seems to have reached a majority. There’s a chance to put progress into legislation, if we do it now.

Likewise, the photo ID proponents have shown us something. The tiny bit of real fraud turns out to be illegal registering and voting by former felons whose rights haven’t yet been restored. Most cases of illegal voting get dropped for lack of proof the former felon knew they couldn’t vote. At least among those whose cases were dismissed, clearly the current rules aren’t clear. That also begs the question of how much it goes the other way, former felons whose rights have been restored stay away from the polls because they’re unsure and don’t want to risk it, or mistakenly feel sure they can’t vote.

Those are intended as examples of policy opportunities, which is why I’m not getting deeply into details. Just showing the point that the election results, and our current circumstances, give us a chance to move on policy matters and on confirming the demographic advantages. Forgive me non-sports fans for continuing the sports metaphors, but we haven’t won the game or scored points yet. We’ve merely won a chance to go on offense. Unfortunately, the tendency of winners is to think they’ve won it all and get complacent, while losers tend to get energized.

I will go off on one tangent though. Just like the Republicans, if they can get past ideological rigidity, might cut into our majorities with growing groups, why can’t we speed along the dinosaurification of the GOP by cutting into the white vote? Since we know Republicans have to build up their majority of the white vote in case they can’t increase their minority of the non-white vote, if we can win more white voters away, we put Republicans are a huge disadvantage (and it might behoove us to figure out why the national white vote dropped from 2008. Likewise if we can cut into their majority of male voters and older voters and Christian voters. Not that I have the immediate answer to doing just that, but as a matter of political strategy, I like going after Republican-leaning groups over waiting for our demographic advantages to just show up and carry us.


Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has one surprising result

by Eric Ferguson on September 25, 2012 · 1 comment

life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness --- amendedThe Star Tribune published results of its Minnesota Poll Sunday on the anti-marriage amendment and the voter restriction amendment, and Monday on the presidential race. Mostly they confirmed what other polls have found, but there is one piece of substantial news. They found support for the voter restriction amendment is way down to 52%. Opposition is up to 44%, and 4% were undecided.

h/t Tony Petrangelo who points out two substantial caveats on calling dropping support a trend. One is the last time they polled on restricting voting rights was May last year, when the question was just a bill, not a constitutional amendment. Also, the Star Tribune changed pollsters, so even if everything else was the same, that makes comparisons difficult.

My own response was to dismiss it because it shows the amendment passing by a much narrower amount than prior polls, plus my normal skepticism about believing what I want to be true, evidence aside. My skepticism on this result weakened, however, considering the marriage and presidential results.
I noticed that the marriage result is about where the other polls are, showing a tiny lead for the pro-amendment side. It found the same age divide, with younger voters being strong against the amendment. It also showed what we’ve seen consistently on polls about marriage equality, that civil unions would pass easily and maybe even win a majority of Republicans, but the word “marriage” is a big hang up for a substantial number of people, enough to explain why civil unions would pass easily but marriage struggles. The poll didn’t ask whether those supporting one but not the other understand that religion aside, looking just at legality, civil unions and marriages just aren’t the same.

Likewise, the presidential result, 48-40 for Obama looks like other polls. Combining that with the decrease in support shown by other polls, my skepticism is fading and I’m finding it plausible the voter restriction amendment could be beaten. Not likely yet, but possible, and the improvement is welcome.

The poll discovered the drop in support has been almost entirely among Democrats. Early on, discouragingly for those of us who already familiar with the issue when the legislature took it up last year, even most DFLers supported it. Now DFL support is down to 22%, even a touch lower than the marriage amendment’s support at 24%. They found DFLers support Obama 93%, and this suggests where the sweet spot may be for beating these amendments.

Roughly 10% of DFLers plan to vote for Obama, but also for the amendments. These are presumably the most persuadable voters we have. Just getting all DFLers planning to vote for Obama to also oppose the amendments ought to be enough to let us beat the marriage amendment. It’s not enough to beat the voter restriction amendment, but it gets it in range. We’ll still have to persuade either some Republicans or some independents.

There’s also an obvious place to start persuading Obama supporters. Point out that though the president hasn’t said anything specifically on Minnesota’s amendments, he has consistently opposed photo ID and other restrictions on voting rights, and he endorsed marriage equality. That might make a voter open to the arguments on the specific amendments, and the odds are we’re talking to people who don’t know much about the issues, and probably much of what they know is wrong.

One last point on assuming people know the basics. I had a conversation recently where I was asked if leaving the amendments blank would count as “yes” votes. This person had heard this from another amendment opponent, an audience member at a forum who was interested enough to attend but yet had this bit wrong. It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered someone wrong or unsure on something very basic, even someone I’d assumed would be informed. So just to not make that assumption, a non-vote on a constitutional amendment counts as a “no”. It requires a majority of all people who vote at all. Since it takes just a simple majority of each house of the legislature to put an amendment on the ballot, this is the only thing we have in the way of a supermajority requirement for changing the constitution.

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Video of block party for marriage equality

by Eric Ferguson on August 31, 2012 · 1 comment

This is video of the speakers at the SD63 Block Party for Marriage Equality on August 30th, which was a combination pro-marriage block party, fundraiser to help us help defeat the constitutional amendments, and wedding anniversary for our State Senator Patricia Torres Ray and her husband Jack. Speakers included elected officials Patricia Torres Ray, Jean Wagenius, Jim Davnie, Scott Dibble, Carla Bates, Carol Becker, Alberto Montserrate,  Chris Eaton, Phyllis Kahn, Diane Loeffler, Linda Higgins, John Marty, Betsy Hodges, and James Llanas. It was attended by a roughly estimated 200 people.

Sorry about the shakiness. A cell phone and a bum shoulder are not the best combination.

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MN United finds three clergymen and a bar

by Eric Ferguson on August 16, 2012 · 0 comments

h/t MinnPost

Minnesotans United for All Families, often colloquially referred to as MN United, has an ad with a funny way (ha-ha funny) of countering religious appeals to supporting the anti-marriage amendment. How much money they have to put it on TV, I don’t know. So sharing it to help it go viral can only be good.