FIrst I want to state that I am very pleased with the outstanding victories here in MN and across the nation. This was an Historic Victory, we won the State and National House, we won the State and National Senate, and we all should be proud for the work we did to ensure this very needed course correction.
We still have problems though. If government were an orchard and politicians the farmers, people like Tim Pawlenty and George W. Bush are the types of orchard farmers that do not understand how to prune their trees in a way that yields a healthy crop, they have actually given up on proper conservation and don't believe we need healthy trees at all, and have embraced the ideology that the only way to prune a tree is by its roots, and if that means the trees die, who cares - they only get in the way of the strip mall that they want to put there anyway. Our infrastructure, our cities, and our health will continue to be under attack from them and their administrations, but now we can fight back and try our best to keep our values front and center so we can continue to fight for the common good, and keep our trees well pruned and bearing a healthy bounty for all the people of Minnesota, and hopefully all the people of the United States.
There is going to be a great deal of talk about the Governor's race and why exactly Mike Hatch was unable to capitalize on this year's democratic momentum. We all will have our takes, and it is doubtful we all will agree, but for my own take I want to start with the core of the problem as I see it.
The depth of potential gubernatorial candidates that claim the DFL label is very shallow. I don't know if this is a structural problem of the party, or a general disconnection between party activists and what it takes to win a statewide Gubernatorial race. I did not feel going through the entire DFL Convention process this year that we ever had a strong candidate that could lead a large coalition through the general election. Why don't we have good administrative candidates? Why was the pool so shallow?
The one thing I do know though is, the DFL as an organized party has its act together. The new GOTV efforts with all the bells and whistles, like the one the GOP bragged about for years, the DFL quietly implemented and successfully used to ensure the victory of the State House, the State Senate, ALL the constitutional offices, and of course, Amy Klobuchar. So, the question is, Why not Hatch? It sure was not the DFL's fault, they did the quiet and deliberative work for months and deserve the credit for engaging the base and building the wave that swept the state. It was an honor to volunteer my time for them.
I could simply leave all the blame with Mike Hatch for his defeat, and he does have the primary fault, it was his campaign - he ran it in his way, by his rules, and was completely insulated from any outside advise. It was a bold and controversial strategy, that almost worked, but I fully believe if he would have simply allowed himself to be more open to the grassroots and netroots energy that swept the rest of the DFL ticket into office, we would have had a different result. He was uncompromising in his strategy, and unwilling to hire a full staff that could satisfy some of the needs of a campaign of that breadth and unwilling to embrace new technologies. It was a difficult balancing act. Hatch was able to compete on the media market, something that has been out of reach for previous DFL candidates, and we cannot discount that factor, and something that none of the other DFL hopefuls would have been able to achieve. But in the end Hatch lost this race, the primary fault is his. Coming closer than any DFL challenge in years is small comfort.
Then there is the Hutchinson factor. Up until the final week the Hutchinson vote was equally split (according to many different sources) between the GOP and the DFL. But in the final days more liberals moved away from Hatch and moved towards Hutchinson (for many reasons). This very small minority of people undoubtedly disproportionally helped elect Pawlenty and have as much to blame for the future repercussions of his policies as Hatch or Hutchinson himself. They voted against their own professed values out of some self-righteous and naive idea of “voting their conscience.” I lay my most damning fault for these people, for Peter Hutchinson and the Independence Party. They obviously have the right to vote however they wish, but most likely will not directly take any responsibility for their misguided actions. They never fully understood how dangerous Pawlenty is to our state and handed him the few points that gave him the keys to his second term. No matter how much discomfort it was for some to fill in the bubble for Hatch, he would have been much better than the only alternative - Tim Pawlenty.
The Independence Party is nothing but an election year gimmick, and are being undeniably used by the GOP to help them win tight statewide races. They have legitimate frustration with a faulty electoral system but deflect their anger away from the real problem and think that running token candidates will build some sort of movement away from the two party system. It is abundantly clear that they failed. 93% of Minnesotans voted for one of the two major parties, and proved without a doubt that under our current electoral system third parties have no attraction. They have two choices now, to either continue their level of work from now until the next election cycle and build their base, or switch their focus and work to enact Instant Runoff Voting which could fix the problem with the electoral system they are so bugged by (and for which I happen to agree with them). I have no faith that they will work to build their base, nor do I see many of them interested in actually addressing the real problems they face. They have failed to do this over the last few cycles, and I see no hints that they are going to give any of this a go. If they don't do one of these two things, they will continue to hand elections to those who help fund their campaigns but oppose their values most.
Basically there is a great deal of blame to go around. Hatch failed to reach out to the base that was riding a wave, and ran a very insulated campaign, he missed the energy and was too paranoid to reach out to it. The DFL needs to broaden its range of potential gubernatorial candidates, third parties need to realize where their anger originates and focus on real solutions that fix problems, not cause them, and when it comes to races like this all the people on the left side of the spectrum in MN need to get off their high horses and realize that their vote is a strategic tool not some sort of emotional expression of their own frustration, and that to have your values at the table is better then voting them down the toilet.
Congratulations to Amy Klobuchar, Mark Ritchie, Rebecca Otto, Lori Swanson and their amazing staffs and to the State House and State Senate majorities. We are all proud of you and honored to have you representing the state.
Now, despite Hatch losing, we have the opportunity to Govern with our values, and we need fight the fight with the respect that was never offered us. If we believe in justice and honor, we need to walk the walk and I have every faith that the new DFL and Democratic majorities will do just that, despite the very strong policy differences we have with the Governor and President. It is time to bring Minnesota and the Nation back together and put the “United” back into the States of America.