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Minnesota Politics, dont'cha know?
July 5, 2009 7:05 AM   Subscribe

An NYT primer on MN politics A quick, breezy explanation for those wondering, "WTF?" about a state that has elected anyone from Bachmann to Ventura to Franken. You betcha.
posted by ShadePlant (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think the link is being wonky, requiring sign-in. Sorry. Have requested a delete.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2009


Works fine for me.
posted by Decimask at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2009


And for me
posted by IndigoJones at 7:26 AM on July 5, 2009


Common problem with the NYT; this should work for everyone.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:28 AM on July 5, 2009


Condensed version:

There are conservatives here. There are progressives here. There are independents here. Isn't Minnesota crazy?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:33 AM on July 5, 2009


As a Minnesotan/social worker/white middle class 20 something I get frustrated about politics here but I'm pleased to see that Minnesota has a high political participation rate. That worries me OTOH because if stuff here is still not perfect, how awful are things in states where people aren't engaged? Thanks for the link help, too.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:48 AM on July 5, 2009


The NY Times Link Generator claims that this is a reg-free link.
posted by Malor at 8:01 AM on July 5, 2009


There is nothing I like more than drawings of things over a state. It's even better when the drawings include the state itself!
posted by America at 8:03 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


goodnewsfortheinsane is the NY Times Link Generator?
posted by gman at 8:03 AM on July 5, 2009


*Note to self: Just because you think it's cool and worthy of discussion doesn't mean it has to go on Meta. Also, make sure the links work. Otherwise link discussions vill overtake ze thread.*
posted by ShadePlant at 8:07 AM on July 5, 2009


Not to derail, but your link is fine. I can see the story even when I'm logged out of the NYT, in both browsers.

On topic: MN is cool.
posted by maudlin at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2009


I like this link. I could never live in MN due to the whole spacesuit-needed-five-months-a-year thing, but I like it a lot during the rest of the year. It's a beautiful place, full of nicely open-minded—and at the same time pleasantly reserved—people. And plenty of impressively grand structures.

I was also charmed to find that the Goodwill I visited in St. Paul was staffed largely by Muslim women in hijab.
posted by limeonaire at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2009


Not sure why Minnesota politics is supposedly any more or less wacky than any other state's (if you want textbook wacky, take a look at any California newspaper's coverage of state politics about right now). I like David Carr's writing and all, but yeah, the statement "It is a state of deep contradictions" (to be fair, he's quoting that statement, but it could be the theme of the whole piece) is true of pretty much every state in the Union. If it's true that civic life and obligations are more valued in Minnesota than any other state, then more power to Minnesotans.
posted by blucevalo at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2009


It sounds to me that the high levels of voter participation make it difficult for any party to build a machine. In MN anything could happen because anyone who wants to vote will. In other states there are serious attempts to distract and disenfranchise the voters, leading to stronger party organizations and fewer independents. Also, since MN political organizations are have to be politically diverse one sees more viable canidates from a given party's fringe. Fun.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2009


It's even better when the drawings include the state itself!


Man, America, I've seen some shitty editorial illustration, and that there is some real shitty editoral illustration.

Fun fact, didya you know that the NYT has really, really strict deadlines about that stuff and will sometimes CALL YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT to ask if you can turn something around before print? Didya know they haven't up their pay rate for that in like 30 years? Didya know I don't do editorial illustration anymore?
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I mean, aside from Franklin looking like a drunken imp eying a sexy toadstood. That's kinda cool.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2009


I think NY is in the running for wackiest state politics right now as well.

This particular debacle even has product placement: a can of Coke
posted by kathrineg at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


No mention of the DFL? I think that's oen of the most fascinating things about MN politics - their Democratic Party (although affiliated with the national party) isn't the same as the national one! While most Dems aren't talking about labor much anymore, the DFL has it in their freaking name! God I love Minnesota.*

*I have never been to Minnesota. I have an oddly large number of friends who are Minnesota natives or veterans of Minnesota politics, and I have vicariously absorbed Minnesota love from these people.
posted by naoko at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


A factual article about the infamous Coke can (sorry for the shitty Fox link above)
posted by kathrineg at 10:03 AM on July 5, 2009


Judging from the illustration, Al Franken is, in fact, lizard people.
posted by Bromius at 10:11 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


In 2000, one term Missouri republican senator John Ashcroft was defeated by a dead democrat whose widow filled the seat. She was defeated by republican Jim Talent in 2002. In 2006 Talent was defeated by democrat Claire McCaskill.

Soooo, between 2000 and 2007 Missouri had two republicans and two democrats in one senate seat.

That's just crazy voting.
posted by wrapper at 10:39 AM on July 5, 2009


There is nothing I like more than drawings of things over a state.

That's hysterical!

This particular debacle even has product placement: a can of Coke

That's even more hysterical!
posted by painquale at 10:41 AM on July 5, 2009


Don't forget Paul Wellstone. Remember Bush I asking "who is this chickenshit?"
posted by lbergstr at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2009


If this is how Minnesota politics has to be crazy, (rather than, say Illinois politics, New Jersey politics, Louisiana politics, or Alaska politics), I'll take this crazy. As the article says, it seems to be a competent crazy (well, except for Michelle Bachman, who I have no explanation for) with less of a chance for fraud. Of the three states I've lived in (Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota), Minnesota was the one where I felt like my vote really counted for something.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2009


What other state has bumper stickers that say, "Our governor can beat up your governer?" Although, "Our governor won't disappear for a week" or "Our governor won't biff a VP run then quit" may be more topical now.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2009


I can't watch the movie Predator or old WWF clips on YouTube without thinking of Jessie Ventura as a governor.

Minnesota, you rock indeed.
posted by elder18 at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2009


Previously, previously, and previously.

Some of the features of Minnesota politics that tend to make it distinct:

--The precinct caucus system. Anybody can wander in on caucus night and be part of the process, including getting elected as a delegate to higher levels and submitting potential resolutions for the party platform. DFL and Republican rules differ somewhat, but both are pretty open.

--Same-day voter registration; no party registration. Anybody can decide to vote on election day, basically all you have to do is show residence. No Minnesota ID? Bring your electric bill. Don't have that? You can get another registered voter from the same precinct to vouch for you. It's awesome. And, it makes people of the Rove/Cheney ilk who depend on voter suppression to win elections livid with anger, which is also awesome.

--Moderate ease of ballot access for viable 3rd parties. Any political party that gets 5% or more of the vote in a federal or statewide election gets automatic ballot access in the next election. This includes obscure statewide races like State Auditor--get 6% of the vote in that race, and you don't have to collect signatures on petitions to put your presidential candidate on the ballot two years later. Ross Perot's showing helped put Jesse Ventura on the ballot, Jesse's win helped put Tim Penny on the ballot, Penny helped put Hutchinson on the ballot. The Green party also gets helped by this to a lesser extent.

--No respect for authority. A significant number of people who go to caucuses and vote are stubborn old Scandinavians who are going to make up their own mind, goshdarnit. Races for governor are especially notable for being strewn with the corpses of party-leadership-endorsed candidates (the current Gov, Pawlenty, being a major exception). Before Pawlenty we had Perpich (on the outs with DFL leaders, ran against Warren Spannaus), Arne Carlson (Republican moderate on the outs with conservatives and evangelicals), and of course Jesse.

--Grassroots organization. This happens on both sides. Easy access, high voter engagement and interest mean that warm bodies can be mobilized to support a particular candidate or point of view. This can happen on the left--consider Paul Wellstone--or on the right, as evangelicals have gotten a big voice on the Republican side.

One criticism that you hear sometimes is that "the extremes", whatever extremes those are, supposedly have a greater voice in party business than they would if the process was less open. The stereotype is that "the extremes" are turning the DFL into a party of giant puppets and granola-munching looney leftists, and the Republicans into a party of Bible-thumping theocrats. I have a strong DFL bias, so of course I think the stereotype is more true of the Republicans than the DFL: the Republicans have put Michelle Bachmann in congress, while the DFL managed to put refreshingly sane Tim Walz in congress from the previously more Republican 1st congressional district around Rochester.

Over the last 20-30 years, the Republicans have managed to extinguish almost any support they used to have in the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul proper--within the city limits of Minneapolis, Obama got 81% of the vote. The DFL is pretty solid in the center cities, increasingly strong in inner-ring suburbs, and is managing to hang onto some traditional outstate strongholds like Duluth and the Range up north. The battleground at the moment is really around non-evangelical moderate to conservative current Republicans. (Think Wade Gustafson, William H. Macy's father-in-law in "Fargo".) If the Republicans can put up some non-loony, relatively fiscal conservative, common-sense candidates, they'll hang onto that block and maintain relative parity statewide with the DFL. If the Republicans create another Bachmann or Kiffmeyer-style wacky statewide candidate, they'll drive those people away. They won't necessarily jump into the DFL fold, but with a continued Independence party presence, you could see the Republicans come in 3rd in some mid-ring suburban or southeast Minnesota races.


The DFL has its colorful characters, too: Phyllis Kahn, god love her, makes veins pop on the foreheads of people on the right-wing. (Again, I'm biased--Rep. Kahn is a colorful character that I usually agree with.)
posted by gimonca at 12:18 PM on July 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


Very interesting addition, thank you gimonca!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:10 PM on July 5, 2009


Al Franken’s secret
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Careful, friends... I know more than a few people who have gone insane trying to understand Minnesota politics. Sometimes, it's best just not to ask.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 5:52 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Same-day voter registration; no party registration.

This "party registration" thing — that isn't saying there are states where you have to actually register with a party in order to vote, is it? Wouldn't that be a complete violation of the whole private voting thing?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:32 PM on July 5, 2009


I really think it's a function of the high turnout. If other states approached 80% of their electorate voting weird things would happen there too. People talk politics here a lot, too. Many hold strange positions. And they want to convince you.

I voted for Ventura and probably would have again. He said a lot of crazy things and was occasionally embarassing but I generally liked his results.
posted by norm at 7:33 PM on July 5, 2009


five fresh fish, in many U.S. states you must be registered with a party to vote in primary elections.
posted by lalex at 8:01 PM on July 5, 2009


Well that just makes sense. I can't see how it would make any sense at all to have people who aren't even a part of the party take part in electing that party's leaders. Heck, I'd be surprised if you could get in the door without showing membership.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 PM on July 5, 2009


Some items to give you a taste of what the whole 'Farmer Labor' thing is about: background, Gov. Floyd Olson, more.

The Farmer-Labor party was founded in the 20s by people associated with the Socialist party, labor unions, farm advocates, etc. It took off during the depression; Farmer-Labor candidates often got more votes than Democratic party candidates, and several got elected to top offices, most notably Governor Floyd B. Olson. Olson was the 'star' of the party and movement, but he died relatively young of stomach cancer. In the late 30s, there were sectarian squabbles, the party lost some pull during WWII, and in 1944 they merged with the Democrats to form the DFL. The merger was facilitated by a young up-and-coming Democratic party pol named Hubert Humphrey.

More recently, you'll hear occasional appeals to DFL party faithful to live up to the 'Farmer-Labor' side of the party's history--rather than simply being Democrats with a funny name.

There's several more accounts of the Farmer-Labor party that you can google for, not linked here, many of them from very specific, sectarian Marxist points of view, some with very old, weary axes to grind. Some are interesting, but you may have to apply some ideological parallax to put them in context.
posted by gimonca at 9:20 PM on July 5, 2009


Well that just makes sense. I can't see how it would make any sense at all to have people who aren't even a part of the party take part in electing that party's leaders. Heck, I'd be surprised if you could get in the door without showing membership.

It's actually a pretty interesting debate...there are certainly advantages to party-only primaries but in many places, they nominate candidates who are horribly unsuited to competing in the general election.
posted by lalex at 9:31 PM on July 5, 2009


But that's only a problem in a two-party system. When there are many parties, the ones that can't get their act together end up becoming moot.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on July 5, 2009


When you attend a precinct caucus, your attendance presumes that you're a supporter of the party whose caucus you're attending. In theory, rules in place at the caucus level or higher levels (district conventions, etc.) allow for people who don't agree to uphold the principles of the party to be denied delegate credentials, for example. In practice, I don't recall ever having seen it be an issue, at least not on the DFL side. A single person sneaking into the other party's caucus...kind of a waste of time. You're unlikely to accomplish anything, you're going to make your own party look sneaky and bad, and you're going to lose a chance to participate in your own party's business.

In primary elections, you can't split a ticket--you can't vote in 3 Republican primary races and crossover to vote in one DFL race--but you can choose one party to vote for without declaring any party in advance. And, that party could be different in each election, nobody who runs the election is tracing your personal party affiliation. The only effect is that ticket-splitting in a primary creates a spoiled ballot that isn't counted.
posted by gimonca at 9:39 PM on July 5, 2009


But that's only a problem in a two-party system.

The primary system is open to many political parties.
posted by lalex at 9:42 PM on July 5, 2009


The Farmer-Labor party was founded in the 20s by people associated with the Socialist party, labor unions, farm advocates, etc. It took off during the depression; Farmer-Labor candidates often got more votes than Democratic party candidates, and several got elected to top offices, most notably Governor Floyd B. Olson. Olson was the 'star' of the party and movement, but he died relatively young of stomach cancer. In the late 30s, there were sectarian squabbles, the party lost some pull during WWII, and in 1944 they merged with the Democrats to form the DFL. The merger was facilitated by a young up-and-coming Democratic party pol named Hubert Humphrey.

More recently, you'll hear occasional appeals to DFL party faithful to live up to the 'Farmer-Labor' side of the party's history--rather than simply being Democrats with a funny name.


Which is why in my Future New Nation States Of The New World, Minneapolis* is the govermtnal center of the Heartland Collective, a vaguely Christian, mostly socialist worker's state that used to be friends with the more theocratic nations, but is now distancing themselves from them to work with their friends in Cascadia, Redwood, and Manahatta.

(Chicago is the cultural center, leading to many jokes and rivalry, albeit in a subdued, Lutheran fashion)
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I could never live in MN due to the whole spacesuit-needed-five-months-a-year thing

Oh, come on, it doesn't get THAT hot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:18 AM on July 6, 2009


I love my state. We are good people, passive-aggressive tendencies and all.

People are are mostly just glad the whole election thing is over; nobody liked having such a close race, but I think most are glad our system proved to be quite robust and fair.

I'm sure I'd still be burned if Franken had lost, but I was pretty resigned to that a while back and made peace with the outcome as long as our voting system was proven to work. It's mostly just a bonus that my candidate won.

(really though we all would have liked something that wasn't statistically even)
posted by EricGjerde at 6:43 PM on July 6, 2009


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