MN GOP, DFL Disgrace Themselves, the State, and 38,000 of Its Most Vulnerable Citizens

  • We once were a state that works; now we’re a cheap imitation of a third-rate banana republic.
  • For those of us (the majority) who believe that state government’s primary purpose is to take care of it’s people, and that there’s something wrong deep in the psyche of a person who doesn’t, it’s time to change course.

David Culver, Evergreene Digest

In what can only be described as one of the singular most disgraceful performances by a legislative body in this state’s history, the MN House, in direct opposition to the majority of the state’s citizens, failed to override the governor’s veto of a health care program that serves 38,000 of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. I sat there in the House gallery watching the proceedings and thought for most of the ‘debate’ I was in the backroom of a rural or north woods bar, not in the capital! I wished that they had airsickness bags in the seats. It was that disgusting.

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If the legislative accomplishments of an earlier era made us a “state that works,” this legislative failure reduces us to nothing more than a pitiful imitation of a third rate banana republic, right up there with other states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Truly, we are to be looked down on and pitied, not looked up to and emulated. It is a sad day for Minnesota!

And there is blame enough for both parties.

It is self-evident that every legislative Republican is amoral, sadistic, fiscally irresponsible, power drunk, deceitful, ignorant, belligerent, uncooperative, and cowardly; they see their caucus’ purpose as one of ‘just say no,’ obfuscation, deceit, delay, and denial.

How else can you describe them after they failed to morally rise to the occasion and provide health care for our most vulnerable citizens? How else can you describe them after they rejected a proposal that was superior to, and more fiscally responsible, than the one they were backing? How else can you describe them after they rejected nine previous months of honestly and sincerely entering into negotiations with the DFL on this issue? How else can you describe them after they failed to make any constructive proposals of their own? How else can you describe them after hearing them lie about how the faith community is being duped by liberal propaganda and using veterans to further their own agenda? How else can you describe them knowing that they had sworn an oath to the state, not the Republican Party or their special interest corporate contributors, and, lacking intestinal fortitude, they violated that oath, putting partisan politics and loyalty to campaign contributors ahead of the welfare of all Minnesotans?

But, as I said, there’s blame enough to go all the way around the legislature, and the DFL doesn’t come out of this smelling like a rose either! Their cowardly defense of the override proposal and other progressive policies hides their own ineptitude as a political party and exposes a willingness to obfuscate and deny. I even imagine some of them are secretly grateful the GOP gave them cover to hide their own desire to terminate GAMC, lest they embarrass their corporate and special interest campaign contributors.

Not once did I hear a DFLer call out their opposition to the override. Not once did I hear a DFLer challenge the GOP lies, deceit, obfuscation, ignorance, hypocrisy, and politics over principle. Not once did I hear a DFLer come to the defense of their supporters in the faith community. Not once. And if silence is assent, the DFL can be painted with the same negative brush as the GOP!

That the DFL found itself in no position to adequately defend the override proposal is self-evident. To paraphrase Jim Hightower, they’ve ditched the Red Wing boot bunch and thrown in with the wing-tip crowd, going all wobbly on the whole concept of why Minnesota needs a DFL party. The present day DFL party is not the party of my grandfather, the party created by Floyd B. Olson, or the party of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy, or even Paul Wellstone. It’s a GOP Lite fundraising juggernaut.

All the Tweety Bird-like DFL has been able to do in recent memory is complain about the big, bad puddy-tat governor and his party, all the while enabling him to beat up on ‘em! John Van Hecke, Minnesota 2020 Fellow, in an article “The Minnesota Legislature’s Hegel Problem,” argues that State DFL legislative leaders seem determined not to express a contrasting vision (to Pawlenty’s unrelenting ‘no new taxes’ mantra), focusing instead on procedural strategy.”  And they even failed the procedural battle at last session’s end! Senate Finance Chairman Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said, “while Pawlenty has proven to be a stubborn and wily adversary, ‘we (DFL) allowed this to happen.’”(“DFLers call Pawlenty ‘stubborn’ on his cuts” Star Tribune | MN).

For those of us (the majority) who believe that state government’s primary purpose is to take care of it’s people and that there’s something wrong deep in the psyche of a person that drives them to act as if it isn’t, it’s time to change course. Insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And it is clearly insane to think that either party can or will act on the progressive agenda. And it is just as insane to think that strategies we’re now using can continue to be appropriate and effective to advance that agenda.

I suggest progressive and faith based leadership rethink a couple of things.

First, we must be willing to walk away from the DFL. “Clearly,” writes Chris Hedges in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the left has lost its nerve and its direction.”
He argues that, “If the left wants to regain influence in (Minnesota’s) political life, it must be willing to walk away from the (DFL) … and back progressive, third-party (officials) until the (DFL) feels enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we (continue to be) slaves.”

Secondly, the times call for non-violent civil disobedience as the only appropriate, effective response. To paraphrase King, wisdom born of experience has shown us that talking doesn’t change things; writing letters to the editor doesn’t change things; e-mailing legislators, visiting them, calling them doesn’t change things; party involvement doesn’t change things; marching, demonstrating, vigiling doesn’t change things; publishing doesn’t change things. It is time to go back to the lessons of Gandhi and King, screw our fears to the hitching post, rip a page or two from their biographies, and hit the streets. 

In other words, it’s time to stop rearranging the lawn chairs on the Titanic and think we’ve accomplished something. That lack of appropriate effort only disgraces us as activists and fails those whom we profess to speak for and serve.

To right the disgrace and failure of yesterday we must continue to be engaged in the struggle, but only with appropriate, not demonstrably ineffective, strategies. Now is the moment. This very day there is salvation. Who will speak if we don’t?