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Harold Hamilton has an interesting read in this week’s commentary. Each Friday, Hamilton provides a weekly commentary on what’s happening politically in Minnesota. This week’s commentary is about Minnesota’s political alignment.

In the commentary, Hamilton wrote “The first glimmers of realignment began in the 1980s as the DFL became an abortion-on-demand party, causing many lifelong Democrats to migrate to the GOP because of deep seated beliefs regarding the sanctity of life. Next came gun control, as Democrats in the urban core became avowed enemies of law-abiding gun owners. The latest split on social issues has occurred in recent times over the gay marriage issue.”

In his abridged version of Minnesota’s transformation, Hamilton continued, saying “After Minnesota Democrats (and a handful of Republicans) legalized gay marriage in 2013, many rural Democrats lost their legislative seats in the 2014 election. The GOP held these seats in 2016, despite claims by the DFL that the seats were merely “rented.” If those seats are rentals, they are surely long-term leases. After the schism caused by social issues, the DFL suffered a catastrophic breakdown of their coalition over economic the economic issues that have become preeminent in recent elections. Strident DFL objections to mining, pipelines and oil extraction have proven to be the final straw for legions of erstwhile rural DFL voters.”

I’ve written extensively that the DFL has turned into the urban party that’s out-of-touch with rural Minnesota. If the truth is told, the DFL isn’t pro-farmer or pro-labor. They’re pro-hardline environmentalists and pro-government unions. Every 2 years, they make a pitch for the Iron Range but they’re losing their grip on that.

Ken Martin is the state DFL state party chair. When I did a search of YouTube’s videos with Martin in them over the past month, it came back with nothing. That’s understandable since the DFL doesn’t have a message and Martin’s DFL has been on a sustained losing streak. If I was in Chairman Martin’s situation, I’d hide, too.

If the DFL keeps urbanizing, they’ll soon be Minnesota’s minority party for a generation. That’s the trajectory they’re on.

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In this article, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said “That sense of inevitability led to complacency, which led to our defeat in 2016. We need to not get too in front of this election and do the hard work that we need to do. We can never assume that we are ahead.” That’s the wrong analysis. In fact, looking at the election results for the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate, lots of DFL incumbents got defeated by substantial margins.

Chairman Martin is kidding himself if he thinks that complacency cost the DFL their majority in the Minnesota Senate. Then-Senate Tax Committee Chair Rod Skoe lost by 5,200+ votes. Lyle Koenen lost by 5,700+ votes. Those aren’t examples of DFL complacency. They’re proof that the DFL was utterly rejected by Minnesotans and that the DFL was rejected pretty much statewide.

I understand that the DFL chair has to put the best spin on things but there’s a limit to that. The truth is that the DFL brand is toxic beyond the Twin Cities, Duluth and the Arrowhead. It isn’t that the DFL got complacent in 2016. It’s that the people rejected the DFL’s agenda.

It’s time for the DFL to stop acting like they hate the blue collar workers that the mines employed. It’s time for the DFL to stop letting the environmentalists get everything they want while ignoring the blue collar miners.

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This article highlights the fact that money isn’t everything in politics. According to statistics reported by Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Board, “party groups and political action committees supporting DFL candidates outspent their Republican opponents in 2016, according to end-of-year finance statements that were due Tuesday with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board from every candidate, party and committee. Despite totals that far exceed recent elections and sometimes massive imbalances in spending, both seats went to Republicans on election night.”

In fact, the article said “Outside groups spent more than $588,000 in 2016 to support Jensen or bash Jasinski through TV, radio, print and online advertising and other support. The Minnesota DFL Central Committee alone spent $330,000 on pro-Jensen advertisements and another $105,000 against Jasinski. Despite such heavy spending, Jasinski won the vote 59 percent to Jensen’s 41 percent. Of course, Jasinski was not without his own third-party support. The Minnesota Action Network PAC and Freedom Club State PAC together spent almost $23,000 in his support and $128,400 against Jensen. Even so, the combined $150,700 spent on his behalf was barely a quarter of what was spent by Jensen supporters.”

This is proof that terrible candidates with a terrible message don’t automatically win. Apparently, that principle applies equally to national and local races. Hillary had tons of money and lost to President Trump. The point is that Democrats don’t have an appealing message. They have an organization that’s shrinking and some wealthy donors but that’s it. That’s as true in Minnesota as it is nationally.

Not far behind Senate District 24 in independent expenditures was House District 24B, in which Republican Rep. Brian Daniels faced a rematch with former Rep. Patti Fritz, both of Faribault, whom he had defeated two years before. On Election Day, he retained his seat by a margin of 58 percent to 41 percent.

Then there’s this:

All told, independent expenditures from Fritz allies came to almost $388,000, with another $299,000 spent on behalf of Daniels. Combined, the district drew about $687,000, a 916 percent increase from two years before.

Republicans and the DFL found a way to compromise this week. Republicans accepted Gov. Dayton’s plan to provide premium relief for people buying health insurance on the individual market but made too much to qualify for federal premium support. Gov. Dayton accepted the Republicans’ reforms. In the end, neither side got everything they wanted, which was anticipated, but everyone got something that they wanted.

Shortly after the House passed the conference committee report by a vote of 108-19, Republicans issued a statement, saying that their bill allowed “for-profit HMOs to operate in Minnesota (like most states) which will increase options for consumers, modifying stop loss coverage to make it easier for more small businesses to offer affordable insurance to their employees, providing greater transparency for proposed insurance premium changes by requiring earlier disclosure of proposed rates, allowing Agricultural Cooperatives to offer group health insurance to their members so farmers and their families can get better access to care and more affordable coverage, ensuring Minnesota employees can benefit from the recently passed federal 21st Century Cures Act which allows employers to make pre-tax contributions toward employee health insurance costs, network adequacy reform that will assist in ensuring more options for residents in rural Minnesota while prohibiting surprise billing to protect consumers from previously undisclosed costs.”

The Senate voted 46-19 in favor of the bill.

DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin issued this statement:

Today, we saw compromise prevail. After working with Gov. Dayton, the House and Senate passed a bipartisan solution to the current health insurance premium crisis. Although the bill is nowhere near perfect, this compromise helps Minnesotans now and keeps the door open for Minnesotans’ input on further health care reforms in the future.

Minnesotans could have seen relief 3 months ago but Republicans in the legislature wanted to get something out of the deal for themselves. Instead of working to get more to help Minnesota’s families, they showed their true colors and prioritized big corporations and big profits.

While I am pleased that our legislature was able to pass this relief that so many Minnesotans are counting on, I hope that for the rest of the legislative session, Republicans remember that Minnesotans are expecting their legislature to work for them, not against them.

Earlier this week, Gov. Dayton proposed a ‘reform’ that would inflict single-payer health care on Minnesotans. That bill is all but officially dead despite Martin’s statement that this compromise “keeps the door open for Minnesotans’ input on further health care reforms in the future.”

As for Martin’s whining statement that “Minnesotans could have seen relief 3 months ago but Republicans in the legislature wanted to get something out of the deal for themselves”, the truth is that Gov. Dayton insisted that the bill not include any reforms. Gov. Dayton insisted that it just provide premium relief. Republicans insisted that there be substantive reforms because, without them, they’d be right back here next year with another bailout.

Today’s bill is a first step in a session-long effort to address the problems created by Obamacare and MNsure,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “As the first month of session comes to a close, Republican majorities have shown an ability to get things done for Minnesotans and to work productively with the governor.”

Gov. Dayton will sign the bill.

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In this article, DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin says that “Democrats will focus more on policy as they try to hold Lewis to just one term. ‘It certainly will be a huge target for national Democrats and, of course, for us here at the DFL. It’s still on paper a 50-50 district.'”

That’s a point of contention. Technically speaking, CD-2 should be a 50-50 district in normal times, it isn’t a 50-50 district operationally because the Democratic Party has gone nuts. The DFL isn’t a centrist party anymore. They’ve abandoned blue collar workers and farmers. They’ve gravitated toward top-down-government-knows-best policies like Obamacare. They’re trying to kill the fossil fuel industry. Angie Craig raised lots of money. She ran an aggressive campaign. What happened is that she wasn’t a good fit for the district.

In CD-2, the DFL’s standard-bearer, Angie Craig, promised to expand Obamacare. As a result, she lost after leading going into the final month.

Once Rep. Lewis starts voting for welcome reforms and the results start coming in, he’ll be in a stronger position for re-election. Now that Lewis has gotten sworn in, he’s rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. There’s no reason to think he won’t represent the district well.

That should make Ken Martin plenty sad.

It isn’t a secret that Hillary Clinton made a mistake by not campaigning in Wisconsin. People of all political persuasions have criticized her. IMO, those criticisms are justified … to a point. Let’s first stipulate that Hillary campaigning there would’ve helped. The question remaining is how much it would’ve helped. After spending this past weekend in the hospital thinking about that question, I’m not certain it would’ve put her over the top.

Here’s why I think that: Hillary outspent Trump by a wide margin but still lost by a wide margin. It isn’t that Hillary’s message didn’t get out. It’s that Hillary’s message got out and voters utterly rejected it. It’s that some voters simply were tired of the Clintons so they rejected her. It’s that Hillary tried cozying up to the construction unions while pandering to the environmental activists.

My theory is that it’s impossible to satisfy both constituencies. It’s like trying to date 2 jealous one-man women and not hiding that fact. The simple truth is that construction workers and environmental activists fit together like oil and water.

I know that because I’ve watched Ken Martin, Rick Nolan and the DFL try walking that tightrope the past few years. While Nolan has survived, barely, the DFL has suffered, losing the House and Senate in the last 2 elections.

Democrats, whether we’re talking nationally or here in Minnesota, face some difficult questions. They shouldn’t assume that they can successfully court both constituencies. They’ll have to pick and choose.

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Now that Resolution 54 has been defeated and labor leaders are experiencing a mini-Kumbaya moment, it’s time to examine what the Iron Range won yesterday. I’ll return to that in a bit but it’s important to set this up properly.

Rick Nolan apparently gave a speech that set the mood for the vote, saying “Nobody loves the environment more than the Rangers. I don’t want to see the party take a stance against mining or agriculture or manufacturing.”

What’s important to notice about Saturday, though, is that that was a show vote. In yesterday’s setting, Democrats from rural Minnesota had a voice. All parts of the state had a voice. That dynamic changes dramatically in January. Does anyone seriously think that the Sierra Club will suddenly stop demagoguing “sulfide mining”? Will the MCEA stop filing lawsuits aimed at killing PolyMet? Will Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission stop meddling in pipeline construction projects?

The answer to each of those questions is an emphatic ‘NO!’

Most importantly, it isn’t likely that Gov. Dayton’s administration will grant PolyMet the permits it needs so PolyMet can start growing the Iron Range’s economy. The final analysis of Saturday’s vote is this: while Environmental Caucus Chair Veda Kanitz and her supporters claim to have extended an olive branch to the Iron Range yesterday, it isn’t likely that environmental activist organizations like the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, MCEA and Conservation Minnesota will suddenly start fighting fair.

These organizations aren’t mainstream organizations. They’ve got an anti-mining, anti-fossil fuel agenda. It’s worth noting that the DFL, as a political party, still supports shifting to renewable energy. Renewable energy won’t sustain mining operations.

Notice whose names are missing in this paragraph:

While tabling the resolution gained momentum, an impassioned Congressman Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby, roused the crowd in the auditorium with a plea to truly unite by not taking a stance against the issue. Nolan was speaking on behalf of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and Congressman Tim Walz.

Missing from that paragraph are Mark Dayton and Tina Flint-Smith. Their silence is deafening.

The Iron Range won a minor skirmish yesterday. The thrill of that victory will soon fade. Organizations like the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, MCEA and Conservation Minnesota are in this for the long haul. Celebrate now because the battle is just starting.

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Resolution 54, which is an amendment offered to the DFL state party platform, has already had a significant impact on the DFL. In 2016, the DFL sent the signal to outstate Minnesota that they cared most about the urban and suburban parts of the state. While most people who voted for Donald Trump and GOP legislative candidates never heard of Resolution 54, it wasn’t a secret to trades unions like the pipefitters and carpenters that the DFL was anti-pipeline and anti-mining.

From a political impact perspective, Resolution 54 will likely be seen, if it passes, as the final proof that the environmental activists run the DFL. It’s apparent that DFL State Party Chairman Ken Martin understands that. DFL Chairman Martin understands that because he’s “tasked with winning the DFL elections, which means maintaining support in rural areas while keeping funds from far-left and deep-pocketed Twin Cities donors flowing into races.”

Let’s be clear about this. The rift between the miners and the environmental activists is significant but it isn’t the only point of separation between the environmental activists and other parts of the DFL. Resolution 54 is the high profile disagreement but it isn’t the only point of disagreement. Chairman Martin must know that.

The environmental activists that dominate the metro DFL oppose pipeline construction, too. They’re hostile towards logging and farming, too. It’s important for the outstate DFL to remember that the metro DFL gave them the high health insurance premiums of the ACA, too.

The DFL passed the MNsure legislation in 2013. The DFL has opposed PolyMet for a decade. They opposed the Sandpiper Pipeline for 5 years. Thanks to Gov. Dayton’s obstructionism and the Public Utilities Commission’s meddling in the Sandpiper Pipeline project, that pipeline won’t get built. Instead, the Dakota Access Pipeline will be built.

Until the DFL tells the environmental activists that they don’t run the DFL, the DFL’s base will continue crumbling. That’s the real impact of the environmental activist wing of the DFL and Resolution 54.

The article describes DFL Chairman Martin as “a supporter of labor.” Chairman Martin then said “the DFL needs to agree to disagree on mining.” That didn’t sit well with miners:

That’s where Range DFLers disagree, saying they want the chair to take a stronger stance against the environmental caucus. The party taking a position against the livelihood of a region has become personal and too critical to compromise on.

Chairman Martin is playing a weak hand poorly. Then again, he’s in a difficult position. (I’d call it a no-win situation.)

Regardless of today’s vote, the DFL is in a difficult position for 2018 and beyond.

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When I wrote this post, titled The DFL’s blue collar civil war, I focused my attention on tomorrow morning’s DFL State Central meeting and something titled Resolution 54. The language for Resolution 54 states “Oppose sulfide ore mining, which is significantly different from taconite mining, poses unacceptable environmental risks, threatens multiple watersheds (Lake Superior, BWCA/VNP, Mississippi) and should not be allowed in the sulfur-bearing rock of Minnesota.”

Harold Hamilton’s Friday commentary focused on those subjects, too. Hamilton wrote “The Watchdog has spoken with a number of DFL opinion leaders from greater Minnesota who have noted that the passage of this resolution means their permanent split from the DFL.”

The next paragraph after that commentary contained an update, which said “The Watchdog has learned that there will be a motion to ‘table’ the resolution until 2018. So what. Kicking the can down the road won’t paper over this schism. DFL candidates are already announcing for governor. You can bet that various DFL constituencies will be working hard to pin down the candidates regarding mining. There will be no place to hide.”

A loyal reader of LFR said that it’s unlikely that the motion to table Resolution 54 will pass. Further, this supporter of LFR thinks it likely that Resolution 54 will pass, though that isn’t guaranteed. Another loyal supporter of LFR sent me this Twitter picture:


I don’t know if these things are tied together or if they’re entirely random. Either situation is possible at this point. What’s certain is that tomorrow morning’s meeting has the potential for blowing up in the DFL’s face. The other thing that’s certain is that DFL State Party Chair Martin can’t be blamed if he’s drinking Maalox by the bottle tonight.

According to Mr. Hamilton, if tomorrow morning’s DFL meeting blows up, Republicans will have gotten a fantastic opportunity if they play it right:

On the Republican side, leadership must grasp the opportunity, which means making some tough choices. It’s easy to support mining and pipelines. It’s easy to support guns. But it isn’t as easy to support other issues like prevailing wage laws.

Internal polling from some construction trade union showed that over 50% of their membership voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans down ticket. Maintaining those numbers will be very, very difficult if the GOP pushes for prevailing wage repeal bills, for example. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, members of the skilled construction trades see prevailing wage laws as a protection against low-cost, low-skill (sometimes illegal) labor undercutting Minnesota’s high-skill higher-cost model.

In short, when you tell a man or woman who has put in many thousands of hours to learn and perfect a trade that they should make less money in order to be on par with crews of unskilled, illegal workers from Alabama and Mississippi, it’s not a winning message. Telling rural Minnesota that blue collar people in their communities make too much money is about as popular as telling them that mining should be illegal.

Here’s hoping that Republicans a) get this opportunity and b) make the most of this opportunity.

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John Gunyou’s op-ed should get the DFL’s attention. The question is whether the DFL will hear it or whether they’ll pretend it wasn’t written. With delegates to this weekend’s DFL Central Committee meeting set to debate (or table?) Resolution 54, it’s time that the DFL made a decision.

Gunyou lays it out perfectly, saying “Accordingly, the third step to recovery is to begin rebuilding the Democratic base. You’re pretty much starting from scratch, because there no longer is a DFL — only a D. The F’s have been voting Republican for years. And while union and party bosses might remain joined at the hip, you are hanging onto actual L workers by a thread. If you have any doubts about that hard truth, stop preaching to the choir on social media, and read ‘Hillbilly Elegy.'”

Gunyou continues, saying “The urbane Democratic elite abandoned the traditional base of the party, and that has cost you dearly. Perhaps for years to come. To regain viability, the D(FL) needs to re-establish its traditional coalition.”

It’s time the DFL admitted it’s at a crossroads. Environmental activists don’t fit with blue collar workers like miners or pipeline construction workers. For the DFL, it’s pick-or-choose time. Ken Martin worked hard to prevent this moment from arriving but it’s arriving. It’s most likely arriving this weekend.

If the DFL doesn’t defeat Resolution 54 with authority, miners and pipefitters should feel like the DFL left them. To know what that feels like, pipefitters and miners need only look to the Standing Rock Sioux eco-terrorist attacks. That’s what the future of the DFL looks like. Here’s another possibility:

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