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A plethora of early endorsements does not endear the new Democrats to the DFL

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The ink on Rep. Tim Walz’s declaration of candidacy for governor of Minnesota was still glossy wet when the endorsements started flying.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And more often than not, they are Democrats.

Greg Laden

The 2016 presidential primary was unique in having a powerful insurgent candidate who was not a Democrat. Accusations were made that the Hillary Clinton campaign was too politically “inside.” Some of that was probably a lack of understanding of how the process works by Bernie Sanders’ newly minted political activists, but there was almost certainly some truth to it. Uncommitted delegates, usually known by the term “super delegates,” flocked to the establishment candidate, and most of the usual endorsers endorsed her as well, and endorsed her early. 

It is not known if these endorsements influenced the outcome of the primary, but it is undoubtedly true that they left a bad taste in the mouths of many. The endorsements themselves were not the problem. The problem was the rush. Candidate Sanders didn’t have a chance. Some organizations produced their endorsements much earlier than they normally do. All those newly involved activists were compelled to engage in the political system, then they became frustrated by the inside baseball, and even to this day they are not fully on board because of this sort of behavior by established Democrats.

I personally avoided supporting either candidate until I was certain one would win the primary, then I waited a bit longer, and then fully supported Clinton. And I believe she would have made a great president. But my support for Hillary does not make me blind to the justifiable attitude of many millennials as well as long time party activists who saw their preferred candidate treated poorly.

And now, I’m afraid, we are seeing inside baseball again. The ink on Rep. Tim Walz’s declaration of candidacy for governor of Minnesota was still glossy wet when the endorsements started flying. From the outside, it looks a lot like the small group in charge picked Walz as the DFL’s candidate, and all that remains is dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s.

I’ve been to a lot of activist and political meetings over the last few months, including DFL events and Indivisible events, and every single person I’ve talked to about this race has either suggested Rebecca Otto as their choice, or put her in the top two. After the first strong rumors of Walz’s declaration came around, that opinion shifted to this, paraphrasing: “I really want Otto, or maybe Coleman. But now, did you hear, Walz is in the race? It’s over.”

When asked why it is over, the answer is usually, “Well, they’ve decided, haven’t they” or words to that effect.

No, “they” have not decided. Many of us feel that a sitting DFL member of Congress should keep his or her butt right where it is, given that we need to attain a Democratic majority in the House in the next midterm. This is not a political preference but rather an existential requirement. Walz’s seat is not going to stay Democratic if he leaves. He is making a terrible and regretful mistake.

Many people are annoyed that someone could just Walz into the governor’s race and be anointed without the process actually happening, and many are afraid — truly viscerally afraid — that a Democrat would Walz away from a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at this crucial time.

One could argue that these early endorsements don’t matter. In fact, I’m pretty sure they won’t affect the caucus or primary process too much. But they damage the party and the process in other ways. These early endorsements are a signal. The insiders have decided. More important, yes, there are insiders, and they decide things. Oh, did you want to have a role in the process? No problem. Show up at the caucuses, we’ll let you know what we’ve decided.

Greg Laden is a science communicator, teacher, and political activist who blogs at Scienceblogs.com.

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Comments (53)

Too clever by half

Oh, Walz sounds like "waltz", which can be used in a pejorative sense (not once, but twice!). Give me a break. Mr. Laden sounds extremely bitter and cynical. Frankly, he also sounds scared: "Walz’s seat is not going to stay Democratic if he leaves. He is making a terrible and regretful mistake."

For those that remember all the way back to 2006, not many people gave Rep. Walz a chance to knock off a 12-year incumbent. I suspect folks like Mr. Laden were saying things like 'why put any resources into that race, Democrats can't win in rural Minnesota.' But Rep. Walz showed that focusing on solutions that bring people together instead of single-issue or wedge politics can overcome folks who blindly vote along party lines.

Maybe the reason for all the endorsements and support Rep. Walz is receiving across the state is because Minnesotans want a leader who has a history of building bridges and working with others. Maybe there really isn't a "they" boogeyman...

The hyperbole and conspiratorial innuendo in this piece is over the top.

Since we are making comparisons...

Mr Branstad,

Thanks for the comment!

This was not the point of my opinion piece, but I can tell you that I think Walz is great, and I have no problem with him running for or being the governor. He doesn't happen to be my first choice, but he's fine.

Correction: He isn't receiving endorsements from across the state so much as from the core of the party.

I will take some time later to re-read my piece and see if I can find that conspiratorial innuendo. Perhaps my point is too simple: Democratic party leaders, please hold off on the endorsements. The people the party alienated in 2016 are feeling alienated, and there is no real benefit to alienating them.

Core of the party?

So Colin Peterson, RT Rybak and David Wellstone are "the core of the party" but don't count as endorsements from across the state?

Re: conspiratorial innuendo referred to these quotes:

When asked why it is over, the answer is usually, “Well, they’ve decided, haven’t they” or words to that effect.
...
The insiders have decided. More important, yes, there are insiders, and they decide things. Oh, did you want to have a role in the process? No problem. Show up at the caucuses, we’ll let you know what we’ve decided.

Walz

I second those thoughts

Oh Yeah? Who?

Maybe I'm out of touch, but just who has endorsed Walz? Is there some secret memo I don't get?

From what I hear, given the GOP has the Senate locked up through 2020 and a good shot at retaining the House in 2018, the feeling is "Just win, baby." Everyone knows the GOP is keeping the crazy under wraps for now, if they get unified control in 2018, the gloves will come off. Collective bargaining rights, public employee unions, extreme partisan gerrymandering (the only science R's believe in), clean air, clean water, progressive income taxes, will all be under attack in short order. And it will take a generation or more to get those things back.

It is a great concern to have Walz and Nolan possibly abandoning two seats that would be very tough to hold. Keeping us from becoming a Wisconsin like Koch satellite may well be worth one of them running, but surely not both.

Which leads us to who can win in a state where Kurt Daudt has had a field day with the politics of division. And if someone thinks Otto or Coleman can succeed in that environment, wow, just wow. They hate Otto up in the Arrowhead. I'd like to see numbers on the last time (if any) a Democrat has run statewide and won while running poorly in the Arrowhead. Running evil big city liberals would be a dream for ALEC.

I say all this as a Wellstone-Sanders guy who was absolutely mystified why Dems were in such a rush to suck up to Clinton. Even guys like Mark Dayton.

Otto

Otto hurt herself badly in the Arrowhead with her vote against mining leases, but it's her taxpayer-funded lawsuit against rural counties using independent auditors that has spread that hate throughout outstate Minnesota. If Rebecca Otto is the DFL nominee, they will get crushed outstate and Minnesota will soon look like Scott Walker's Wisconsin.

I agree the DFL needs to stop making the same mistakes. But the mistake is nominating candidates that can't win outstate. Dayton bailed the DFL out by ignoring the endorsement process last time. But looking at who is running, jumping on Walz early seems extremely prudent.

And early endorsers can certainly switch. It happened for Obama in 2008. The fact it didn't happen for Sanders doesn't mean you shouldn't endorse early.

Third Base!

Frank and Pat:

Thanks for the comments.

The endorsements are a matter of record, so I didn't bother mentioning them, but they include Collin Peterson, RT Rybak, and David Wellstone.

You and Pat Terry bring up who can win (which was not my intent with this commentary, but it is a good question) and in particular who can win outstate. Terry, Otto did not ultimately hurt herself in the Arrowhead/Ironrange. Yes, the press made a big deal of her challenge to the mining companies and the wisdom on the street is that her asking for assurances from them would leave a mark. But she spends a lot more time out state than any St. Paul elected officials, and has good ties everywhere.

Otto beat Nolan in the Iron Range counties, and in Nolan's CD as well, by double digit percentage points during the last election. People I know on the Iron Range love her. She's do just fine there and in the Twin Cities both, if she was the party's nominee.

Walz would probably do well also.

I fully agree that endorsements don't necessarily make much difference to the election itself. Indeed, early endorsements may be totally irrelevant since they may be forgotten about. I make a very different point in this post, however.

Also, just to be clear, the "endorsement process" Dayton "ignored" last election and endorsements by people and organizations are unrelated things. Dayton was not endorsed by the party convention, which for Gov is done at the state convention by supermajority (without a supermajority there is no endorsement). Endorsements by organizations and people are a different kind of thing and are not on a known schedule, etc.

Wrong

Otto is absolutely loathed up north. After her vote on the mining leases, a number of DFL reps refused to support her. She got good numbers in her low-profile auditor race, but in a governor's race she will get crushed. Her ongoing fights with rural counties over auditing is hurting her even more. Nominating Otto is political suicide for the DFL.

I do understand what you mean about endorsements. My point about Dayton was to empasize how out of touch the DFL is in putting up terrible candidates. The idea that someone like Otto is even being considered as a viable candidate shows that nothing has been learned.

Pure nonsense

There is nothing new about early endorsements and certainly nothing wrong with them.

Sanders tried to make it an issue because the lack of support he received. But the reasons for that have little to do with insider politics or whatever strawman was being pushed. Clinton had a long history of raising money for and campaigning for other Democrats. Sanders doesn't. He makes a lot of nice speeches, but barely ever lifted a finger to help other Democrats win. One candidate put in the work. The other blew hot air.

Sanders also was not an outsider - he's been in congress for more than two decades. It's just that the people who work with him every day didn't think he would be a good candidate and president. They knew how badly Sanders would have been crushed in a general election. Don't mistake the whining by Sanders and his apologists for something politically meaningful.

Mostly agree

Pat, I mostly agree with your comment. Esp. the Sanders v Clinton endorsement situation, where, yes, Sanders was not, in a sense, deserving of endorsement from party people like Clinton was.

However, endorsements have in fact creeped to an earlier place in the schedule.

Also, regardless of their role or the other factors you matter, my point is distinctly different (and I thought pretty clear, but maybe not). I'll say it this way:

The DFL establishment needs to recognize that a good number of both long standing DFLers and new folks who were compelled to get involved in 2016 are mad at the party for a number of things, and one of those things is the sense that the process is controlled by insiders. Early endorsements, as well, by the way, as uncommitted delegates making endorsements instead of taking the more principled stand of being truly uncommitted (these are the so called "super delegates"), send a message to those folks: Don't bother getting too involved, we'll manage things from here. See you on election day.

It is that attitude and its costs that I'm cautioning against.

By the way, I have made this argument in private to "insiders" and many people do understand and agree with this.

Governor's Mansion > US House Seat

While I agree with the author that early endorsements are bad for the party. I would say that the DFL would much, much, much rather have the Governor's Mansion, the highest position in the state government, over a US House seat that is just 1 of 435. A DFL governor has the chance to make meaningful impact on the state of MN. A representative for MN-01 in the US House of Reps will likely have very little overall impact on the United States as a whole.

Gov vs. House

Keppen:

That is probably the calculus at work, and it may be worthy. But honestly, if the house is a seat or two away, this sort of thing is going to be looked at differently.

It would be like missing a field goal in the first quarter and losing the game by a point at the end of the fourth.

Wait why is the 1st being written off as a loss?

It was a wave year for the GOP. In a good year for the DFL it's blue. The DFL bench there isn't non-existent unless I'm missing something. Also we can flip the 2nd seeing trumps popularity and Jason's closeness to him. Maybe the 3rd seeing the recent publicity Paulsen has gotten

Correct

But the real point of this article is that the author supports someone other than Walz and is frustrated that people recognize that Walz is the best candidate and have endorsed him.

And that other someone is ...

... clearly Rebecca Otto: "every single person I’ve talked to about this race has either suggested Rebecca Otto as their choice, or put her in the top two"

A simple Google search yields this 2014 disclosure from Mr. Laden's blog (which is linked in the article's signature): "Rebecca Otto, who, full disclosure, I don’t know at all but whose husband is a friend and colleague, is the incumbent."

Mr. Laden is certainly free to support the candidate of his choice. But this article reads like sour grapes against Rep. Walz rather than an impassioned defense of Ms. Otto.

The first

Ian, I hope you are correct about the CD01.

Speaking of the 3rd, demographically, the 3rd should be more likely DFL than the first, shouldn't it? Yet we seem never to be able to manage that. This does not give me a lot of hope for CD01. I may remain worried about the 1st while I toil in the 3rd to change the usual course of history...

Pat: I'm starting to get the impression that you are a strong Walz supporter. Good for you and Tim, go for it! I wish you the best.

John, you have accurately quoted me, and I've never made a secret of my support of Otto. I was not aware that I was not allowed to have a preference.

I honestly, really have no sour grapes against Congressman Walz. You are plain and simply mistaken. I am very concerned with the lack of response by the DFL to current changes in the political situation. Since you are aware of my other political writing, you may have read: "Democrats: Do these things", near the top of recent posts on my blog, in which I discuss a half dozen complaints I have (the present one over endorsements being only one).

My purpose here, with this Community Voices piece is very literally to convey a community's voice. I have spent hours over recent weeks engaged in conversations at Indivisible meetings. A few days ago, someone who had expressed support of Otto, and who was at one of these meetings, told me, "Did you hear Walz is running?" My response was, "great, we need him in congress." She told me, "no, for governor. And everybody (this person is a DFL officer) is saying that's it, he'll be the guy. Too bad for Rebecca."

The rest of the conversation, the rest of what was being said by people that evening and in subsequent meetings, included quite a bit of concern that the DFL is not paying attention to what people are doing, acting on inside baseball logic, etc. That is the voice I'm reifying here.

I had planned initially to send that longer piece on my to MinnPost but decided instead to send a more focused piece.

And no, this article is not an impassioned defense of our state Auditor, though with your permission I will probably write such things on my blog where such things are appropriate!

Heck, I'll even endorse her. But not yet.

CD3 should

But Paulsen is also an incumbent who veils himself as a moderate. Also some of his district shares a border with CD6. The part closer to CD5 makes it 50-50. Of course Paulsen hasn't been scrutinized yet.

As far as CD1 goes, keep this in mind. Kansas CD4 swung 24 points leftward this election. I would argue Rochester is probably bluer than Wichita, and CD4 doesn't have a Mower or Freeborn. So I think with MN01 being more liberal than KS04 we could keep it. Of course we need a good candidate that will give people reason to support them.

CD2 we can win if we just absorb the Overby voters

Finally, keep in mind Amy Klobuchar at the top of the ballot will turn out DFLers seeing her popularity in the state

I completely agree

Ian, I think you've provided an optimistic analysis for an election we can be optimistic about! Hopefully...

No prob

Of course that means we can't just rely on Trump being unpopular. We have to actually do something to address apathy on the DFL side seeing how we lost 188k votes in rural MN

I'm confused

As someone who flirted with DFL membership in 2016, I am confused by both this piece and the commentary.

If, in fact, Mr. Laden has launched a stealth attack on behalf of Rebecca Otto, why has he chosen to do so on the basis of a supposed disenchantment of "new Democrats"? Otto is anything but new. She has not been particularly successful politically, either, with one term in the Minnesota House and three terms in the obscure position of state auditor. According to Wikipedia, "She is the third woman to serve as State Auditor, the first woman Democrat to be elected to the post, the first Democrat ever to be re-elected, and the first woman to be elected to a third term."

A Californian by birth, educated at a liberal college (Macalester), she may appeal to some but I expect those who only recently affiliated with the DFL will see her as much "old school" as they may Walz or Nolan.

Frankly, I don't see a single hat in the DFL ring at the moment with a good chance of taking office unless voters decide to turn out a good many GOP legislators as well. Nolan's decision to leave Congress likely is the result of his slender win in the 8th District last fall (< 1%). Walz was in the same boat. If they couldn't carry their own districts by a healthy margin, don't expect them to do any better statewide, with or without Trump in the mix.

Confusion is today's password

James,

Thanks for the comment.

You can't actually fully join, as in register as a member of, the DFL, you can just give them money and get on their mailing list, and when you show up at conventions and such, pledge that you are on board with the policies.

I would regard Rebecca Otto as an established Democrat. The first three times I met her, IIRC, were at events either run by her or the party as fundraisers, the Governor was at all but one of them, the place was packed with hard core DFLers. And, there is nothing wrong with that.

But, since you bring it up, this is interesting: Rebecca Otto was a "Super Delegate" but she never endorsed a candidate in 2017, as she felt that uncommitted delegates should remain uncommitted.

I would disagree that she hasn't been successful politically. She's been elected and re-elected as Auditor by large margins, and as noted above, is the only mainstream twin cities based DFLer who kills it on the range.

Also, in thinking about the outstate thing, I just realized that Rebecca Otto is probably the only person with any hat in any ring at this level who actually lives on a farm. That's gotta count for something!

Please stop

She does not kill it on the range. Even DFLers on the range can't stand her. They will avoid her like the plague if she's the nominee. Every day she pushes her auditing fight with rural communities she loses more votes. You could not come up with a worse possible candidate for rural Minnesota.

Absolutely correct

to say that she kills it on the range. I don't know what motivates you to say the things you are saying. Look at the data in my other comment. She does VERY well there, as evidenced by the actual votes she actually got. Those were her votes, above the other individuals on the ticket.

Considering that Otto should have been hated by many on the range because (ironically) she quite literally came to their rescue by insisting that mining companies be held accountable for assurances, and that in fact she does very well with votes, that is pretty impressive.

And there is a reason for it. She is very good at finding out ways to bring people together to work out approaches to move forward so shared values can be found, developed, and addressed.

There is quite a bit of bought and paid for style, generally partisan, vitriol against the auditor. It might be interesting to ask why that is, why the person in charge of keeping a clean ship has folks riled. Just sayin'

In any event, you can't argue with success, and votes are success.

(Not to mention her amazing primary last time. Something like 85% of the votes after being outspent 5 to 1 by a fairly popular opponent.)

"She quite literally came to their rescue"

"She quite literally came to their rescue"

"She quite literally came to their rescue"

"She quite literally came to their rescue"

I feel the need to say that multiple times because is sums up exactly why Rebecca Otto is a terrible candidate. Not only that, this sums up exactly why the Democrats have done so poorly in rural areas.

Essentially, what you are saying is that a metro area liberal came in and saved these miners from themselves. Those dumb country hicks didn't know any better, so Rebecca Otto came in and straightened them out. Pure arrogance. And electoral suicide.

And again, since then (and since your data) she has further alienated rural areas with her unethical behavior as auditor. The legislature passed a law (which Dayton signed) allowing municipalities to conduct their own, much cheaper audits instead of audits performed by her office. In response, she filed a frivolous lawsuit to stop the law, wasting taxpayer money. Then she rejected a number of audits performed by rural municipalities. I'm not an accountant so I don't know if they were bad (I am lawyer and do know her lawsuit was frivolous) but the perception is that Otto is abusing her power. She couldn't do herself more harm if she toured the Northern Minnesota wearing a sign that said "please don't vote for me."

Rybak, Peterson, the Wellstone family - they understand this. They know that Otto can't win. The day that she made that mining lease vote, a lot of people crossed her off their lists of potential future governor candidates, and were right to do so. These insiders (as if Otto isn't an insider) could wait to endorse, but the facts aren't going to change - they never were going to endorse Otto.

Yes, Rebecca Otto Will Make An Excellent Governor

I'm starting to wonder how a commentary that is not about Rebecca Otto became a hotbed of trollish anti-Otto commentary, largely supporting the Republican agenda, by about two guys. Now, I realize that at least one is a long time Walz supporter, so that sort of makes sense, though I'm not sure Congressman Walz himself, who is generally a good guy, would support this trollish and hateful behavior.

The facts (about Otto's numbers) speak for themselves. Her law suit, which I think will be decided in a couple of months, to protect the constitutional office, which will also probably, if I understand things correctly, have an impact on the kinds of Republican tactics we've seen over the last few sessions (where they were in charge) inre abuse of the omnibus system, and have other positive effects. That is going to matter. It will be interesting to see what you doods think about that when it is over.

It is very hard for me to understand the vitriol and repeated attacks I'm seeing among these two or three unique individuals without asking the question in my own head that I won't ask out loud but that I'm sure every progressive or liberal minded person reading those comments is thinking.

Lawsuit

Her lawsuit is a joke. It's a reflection on her incompetence, and she should be forced to pay back every dollar of tax money she wasted. The good news is that the dismissal of the lawsuit will torpedo her campaign for governor.

So what then?

To win votes we should allow mining companies to tear up NE Minnesota? We should do away with auditing at the state level, just privatize because rural municipalities don't want to pay the tab? At what point do you just say "the hell with it, just do whatever you like"? I get it, politics is bloodsport and all, but are there any priniciples you expect your elected officials to hold to, and how many of those do you suppose are shared with the great many more voters in the big bad metro, who are far more liberal than you. Let me guess, "its not like they have another choice" right? I think I've seen this show before...

What to do

The change in the auditor law was signed by Governor Dayton, who used to be State Auditor himself. If you don't like it, pass a new law. Instead, Otto filed a frivolous lawsuit and has wasted a bunch of taxpayer money. I don't mind that she doesn't like the law (she probably knows better than most). I object to her incompetent response and waste of tax money, and what looks like her abuse of power with the private audits. But more than that, I object to her alienating rural Minneaotans and running for governor.

If you live in NE Minnesota, you may not see mining as "tearing up" the state. I might defer to the DFL reps who lived up there who condemned Otto after that vote. But even if allowing the leases was a bad idea, you still have to compromise and accept things you don't like if you are going to win elections in a state with a diverse set of voters.

No you don't

If one sees the proposed mines as having the potential to destroy vast swaths of the Arrowhead with contaminated runoff, for potentially the next half millennia or so, one fights it tooth and nail, to the last gasp. If Rangers have hurt feelings, so be it. It's more important than them, period. I grew up in a rural area, rural folks are the last I would leave to their own devices, particularly with anything environmental you' d like to preserve.

Ok

But if that tooth and nail fight ends up giving Republicans control of the whole government, the environmental implications will be even worse.

So you'd rather be complicit

I would not. When the manure inevitably hits the fan, someone will take the blame, I'd rather it be those who deserve it. Your approach equals a loss with no gain.

Complicit

I would say the opposite is true. If you insist on purity, and lose everything as a result, that makes you complicit.

Otto's Oomph

Since Auditor and Gov candidate Rebecca Otto's out state standing has been brought up a few times, I got some data. She does, as noted, kick butt on the iron range. We all know Nolan won there, but looking at the margin of victory data for Nolan, who won his seat, and Otto winning her constitutional office, we get this by county:

Nolan:Otto by county
Aitkin -1.16% 14.19%
Carlton 11.34% 25.44%
Cook 18.12% 29.07%
Itasca 5.78% 17.08%
Koochiching 7.74% 21.04%
Lake 11.96% 24.63%
St Louis 18.43% 25.79%

On average, Nolan won by 10% in these counties, Otto 22%

For Nolan's CD08 alone, Nolan won, as pointed out, by not much: 1.4% (in a GOP sweep year). Same year, Otto won in CD08 by 12%.

So, for example, if Nolan and Otto ran against each other for governor on the Iron Range Otto would win handily.

I wonder if we can get Rebecca Otto to move to CD08 and run for Congress? There are some nice farms there!

2014?

Just to clarify, I assume you are using Nolan's numbers from 2014 and not 2016, correct?

More importantly, to compare the low profile auditor's race to one of the most hotly contested Congressional races in the entire country is like comparing apples to, uh, orange blossoms.

While the mining vote took place before the 2014 election, the county auditing controversy took place after the 2014 election, and wouldn't of course not be reflected in the 2014 results.

Tim Walz outran Rebecca Otto in the 1st

In 2014. So did Collin Peterson. Also pretty sure McCollum and Ellison outran her as well. The 3rd and 2nd were about 50-50.

Yes, it is always closet to 50-50

But you are comparing apples and oranges; see the SOS margin of victor stats on the SOS site (I have a comment here somewhere about that as well)

There really is not an honest argument to be had that Otto does not do well in both the Twin Cities Metro and out state.

Some of the other candidates would as well, though I think as much as I like some of our mayors, a Twin Cities mayor is probably doomed out state, don't you think?

I guess I don't know how one

I guess I don't know how one can say that "the insiders have spoken" when the race is filled with people who are at the highest levels of power in the party -- the current State Auditor, the popular mayor of the state's second-largest city, a former House Majority Leader -- and another rural Congressman, the current Attorney General and a former House Speaker are looking like possibilities to get in the race still.

Missing one point

I generally agree with this article and personally disdain extremely early endorsements, however I believe the main focus on this topic should be fundraising. Early endorsements are about gaining the funds that monied organizations have for the race early on. It gives you an extreme leg up in the race to get it and have the ability to out market other candidates before a primary or convention. And this practice can go terribly wrong. I've seen significant races where organizations or large donors threw what they had at the race pre endorsement and had nothing left for the candidate who won, thereby losing the seat to the gop.

In the case of the Sanders/Clinton race I think this same practice was used very purposefully to shut Sanders down, and yes that was they establishment working for the ordained.

It's not deniable that there are insiders in any political party. A handful who participated in the process and get elected as delegates have more power than the average voter, but they are intended to be representational of the voters. In reality those folks have to have the means to go through the process or a fundraising source because it's not without significant cost. So it cannot be reasonably stated that anyone can be delegates. But no organized system can exist without structure and I don't know of a fairer process, even if everything was primaries with one person one vote there has to be structure somewhere to organize candidates support.

It is the structure of our ridiculous neverending campaign seasons and their finances that ruin things. It's never6top early to announce and start campaigning.

Supporting no one at this point, here are my observations;
-an urban candidate won't carry the range
-a range candidate won't carry the urban core
-any one from greater mn who wants to carry the urban core is going to need to do significant work building bridges between rural and urban citizens because the good of the entire state is the responsibility of all of it's citizens. We need to stop behaving territorially. If its under our feet it does not make it ours. I prefer to adopt a ancient way of thought...you cannot own the land, the land owns you.

Excellent Analysis

Laurie, excellent comments.

Since I wrote this commentary a few days ago I've spent about two or three hours speaking with various DFL "insiders" who agree that there is this large number of individuals who are just now, just this year, getting involved with the process, but who are not convinced that the DFL is doing everything right.

It is a delicate balance between helping people understand that their complaints about a process are really a matter of not understanding the process, and therefore not getting why a certain thing is done, vs. the party itself being willfully cognizant that it might not be properly responding to people's desire to get involved.

What is Important? Respecting the Voters

I am disturbed by the number of comments by a select few that insist that the votes people cast in recent elections are not important, or have no meaning, because some individuals do not understand what a State Auditor is, or perhaps, seem surprised to learn that there is such a thing.

Only a small number of individuals are making this claim and it smells to me like some sort of sour grapes and should probably be ignored, but I'd still like to address it a bit further, even if it is off topic.

The fact is that Rebecca Otto has done incredibly well in statewide elections, being the candidate of choice by a larger number of individuals than most candidates ever see in those or comparable races. She won her primary challenge last year by over 80%. That is not a typo. Who wins by 80%? (especially after being outspent by hundreds of percent). Her support for that race came from all areas and demographics (it would have to, being such a strong mandate)

She lives in rural Minnesota, but very near the Metro, and has been involved in the communities in both places for a long time, impressing people, making friends, making positive changes. She got a school referendum passed in a place that never does that. Of all the candidates running, most don't have that political savvy and cross demographic appeal (probably Otto and Walz)

(If you want to see how that works, go to one of her listening sessions, if she is still having them. Challenge her. You'll walk out of the room liking her, and not just because they have donuts or cookies, though the one I went to at Plymouth Library had donuts and cookies.)

I mentioned above how well she did in Nolan's district, but that applies statewide. She gets more votes than Ellison gets in hid district, and he gets a lot of votes.

Same in Betty McCollum's district, and elsewhere in the state. Statewide Otto performed at about 6% above Dayton in 2014.

And no, please do not repeat the argument that the "auditor is obscure." That's just you who needs to learn about state government! All the candidates are on all the ballots during all the elections for all the voters to see. The auditor is not one of those judges on the back. Jeez.

If your main goal is to pick a DFLer that will win, among the current choices (including those who have not declared but might run) look for the person who has high performance numbers state wide and in the metro area. As far as I can tell, that means Rebecca Otto is the clear choice. (Having said that, I can't think of a single DFLer in the race or proposed who isn't fantastic.)

My intention in writing the commentary above was not to make this into an ad campaign for Rebecca Otto! But this strange out of the blue (or should I say out of the red?), organized-looking and rather vitriolic trolling against her, so unbecoming of a nice Minnesota conversation about politics, compels me otherwise.

By the way, just got back from the Tax March, it was a blast.

Incorrect

2014
Keith Ellison got 167000 to Ottos 160000 in MN05
Betty McCollum got 160000 to Ottos 143000

I will say I like Rebecca Otto quite a bit, and if she is the nominee (currently undecided) I will be one of the first to knock on doors.

Correct, and corrected

Ian,

Your numbers are correct as raw numbers, but the SOS calculates a "margin of victory" which allows an apples to apples comparison between candidates in different shaped units with different voter structures. A statewide office (gov, auditor, etc) can't be fairly compared to each CD or other smaller unit on raw numbers because different people are on those ballots, and other effects. This is basic electoral math.

So you have to go to the Margin of Victory numbers supplied by the Secretary of State.

Rebecca Otto beat Nolan's performance by both raw numbers and margin of victory, in his district. She beat Ellison by about 2.5% i his district, and she beat McCollum by about 0.6% in her district.

Those numbers are all close enough (as are the raw numbers) to say, simply, that Otto is a winner in the cities.

Out state, her ability to beat Nolan in both raw numbers and MOV, is an indictor that she is an outstate winner. Go to the SOS margin of victory map statewide by county for auditor. The arrowhead is all dark blue, meaning over 15% MOV. She does very well in the western counties, and here and there in the NW and Southern counties.

With all this absurd talk about how she is hated in this or that place, it really looks like she does "I hate you" level poorly in four counties, Rosseau, Otter Tail, Pipestone, and Rock. All the data show that all the Democrats are typically creamed in those four counties.

I have a feeling that if Rebecca went out and visited those counties and talked to people, she'd take that edge off easily and help with the other races considerably.

Walz and Nolan in Congress--Otto for Governor

Congressmen Tim Walz and Rick Nolan should stay in Congress. We need you there now. Congressmen, we are sending you new people here in Minnesota and across the country as we rollback Republican agenda.

Rebecca Otto will serve my City best and I know many Greater Minnesotan's who like what Otto has done for our State. Otto has encouraged the state to save money by utilizing solar and wind. Her own home utilizes solar and wind. Otto sets example by doing.

Republican legislators want to rollback work done by qualified professional auditors who understand City budgets and spending. We will all wake up some morning in the future to find this county or that city has spent our tax dollars poorly and it never gets caught by the the city or county that hired a private auditor that may not have the skills.

Otto's values are our Minnesota values!

Inside ball and the elite

I don't think there's really any question that huge number of early endorsements and super delegate votes contributed to Clinton's eventual nomination. That's exactly what they're designed do, they're a firewall against insurgent progressive candidates like Sanders. After Obama defeated that firewall in 2008 the Party strengthened it's inside game on Clinton's behalf in order to guarantee Clinton would get her turn in 2016.

The super delegate votes gave Clinton an air of invincibility that the media latched onto and wielded against sanders throughout the primary contest. It was narrative structure that gave license to dismiss and/or disparage Sanders and his supporters as a naive sideshow. Sander's did amazingly well but in the end, even after the media starting reporting the vote total with and without the SD votes the rig was too much to overcome.

Be that all as it may, here are the real problem that Mr. Laden is pointing to: First, the "inside" ball that holds too much sway in the Democratic party. The existence of that game is undeniable, and it's not a secret. The problem with that game is that it keeps picking losing candidates. Whatever else you want to say about the inside game of the Democratic party; the most important observation is that it put the weakest candidate on the top of the ticket and ended up losing to Donald Trump. It's gotten to the point where successful Democrats almost invariably win despite their Party's "inside game" rather than because of it. I say the problem with the Democrat's inside game is that all it's players are moderate republicans who see the teams mission as one of containing liberal candidates, agendas, and initiatives, but that's another story.

The other problem with the "inside" game is the funding mechanism that it establishes via endorsements. Other comments have observed that this is how campaigns are financed, and THAT'S the problem. The endorsement/funding model that Democrats rely on ties them to the elite at the expense of their constituents. In practical terms this is the mechanism by which the elite actually control the party. Again, it's not a secret, this is what people are complaining about when they speak of the "liberal elite". That liberal elite in MPLS came very close to sabotaging the SWLRT with it's facile complaints about the route and equity, and they also can take credit for the Vikings stadium that republicans have been smacking them over the head with for years now. Tying the Party to the Elite in middle of a populist resurgence is not only a dump move from an electoral perspective, but it's actually corrosive to our democracy.

Sanders's popularity wasn't just about his liberal agenda, it was also about his ability to work independently of the Party elite and it's fundraising/endorsement process. Sanders's didn't talk about the working people on the stump and then retreat into the living rooms of wealthy elite's to raise campaign funds, and people know that. This is what terrified the Party's elite and thrilled the voters. And again, I don't know if Democrats think it's a secret of some kind or what.

As far as Walz is concerned Laden appears to correct; the response I've seen in Party circles looks very much like the mentality that put Clinton on the ballot. The problem with Democrat's and their inside game is that they don't vote for the candidates they like, they vote for the candidates they THINK someone else likes. The problem with THAT is Democrats obviously have no clue, their pretense of electoral wisdom is an emperor without clothes... this is how we end up with governors like Ventura and Pawlenty, and presidents like Trump.

Whether or not Walz becomes Governor isn't going to be about his endorsement anyways, he'll need to get the votes. Whether he gets the votes depends on his campaign, his agenda, and his policies... of which I've heard absolutely nothing... much like Clinton. One of the frustrating things about Democrats in the last election cycle was that when people like me tried to explain the simple fact that you need a strong candidate to win elections, they just didn't get it. They think they can endorse anyone and then pull together and win as if the team you field is irrelevant as long as you have good cheerleaders.

I fully expect that the next Governor of MN will be a Republican unless Democrats decide to be a liberal party and adopt Sanders's a model instead of Mike Ciresi. I don't know where Walz fits into the equation.

good analysis

I worked abroad for fifteen years and in retirement live abroad for much of the year. This past fall I was one of the almost 75% of the voters in the Democrats Abroad primary who voted for Bernie Sanders. Many of us Americans abroad feel that the Democratic Party often no longer represents interests of average Americans. Also, many of the foreign people abroad with whom I associate, mainly professionals in rice research in Asia because of my work before retirement, felt that either Trump or Clinton could not be trusted and would be apt to use military force rather than diplomacy in foreign affairs.

Since the election the insiders in the Democratic Party have shown that they want to continue with the same failed policies that have cost them several hundreds of elections in the U.S. Congress and state governorships and legislatures. The election of Thomas Perez as the DNC chair, who says the party stands for fairness, opportunity, and other platitudes, without stating concrete positions, fails to inspire much confidence in the party. In a local matter in Baltimore, the Democratic mayor recently vetoed a $15 minimum wage proposal passed by the city council, after supporting it in her campaign for the mayoral position. One can go on and on about policies that Democrats have taken, which are of little or no benefit to most Americans.

If the Democratic Party is to be successful in the future, they must take firm positions in favor of the $15 minimum wage, expansion of Social Security, Medicare, affordable college, rebuilding of our infrastructure, reining in Wall Street, cutting military spending, and probably several others I have not mentioned. All of these are supported by a large majority of Americans, as shown in polling. Simply stating opposition to Trump and other Republicans will not bring success to Democrats and pull new people, mainly young voters, into the party.

I participated in the recent Democratic caucus, which was attended by several people who had backed Sanders' effort in the primary. These people feel that firm progressive positions have to be adopted on the local and state levels by the Democratic Party if they want to be successful. Talking about inclusion, communication, etc. without firm policy positions will not be enough to bring voters to the polls. Often we know much about people by whom they quote. Many establishment Democrats today quote Ronald Reagan much more than FDR. If the philosophy of the Democratic Party continues to be one that favors the elites and ignores the will of the majority, they will continue to lose elected positions nationwide

Exactly!!

"If the Democratic Party is to be successful in the future, they must take firm positions in favor of the $15 minimum wage, expansion of Social Security, Medicare, affordable college, rebuilding of our infrastructure, reining in Wall Street, cutting military spending, and probably several others I have not mentioned."

Well, that sounds like a liberal agenda, surely you're not suggesting that America's liberal party should actually pursue a liberal agenda?

I'm might be getting on some folks nerves because I keep saying this, but Democrats need to decide whether they've going to be a liberal Party or the moderate Republican party they have been for decades now. Sure, in theory they're liberal, but in practice they blame liberals for losing elections. For instance right now they're all studying rural Trump voters as if THAT'S their base and pool of potential voters in the next election cycle. Liberal's wouldn't do that, they wouldn't make that assumption. Liberals are studying Sanders's voters because they're the ones who could have put Clinton in the White House and will give Democrats victories in the next election cycle. I've seen this for decades. Every time Democrats lose they try harder to get Republican votes... that's a conservative response on a very basic level, it's a rejection of liberalism.

A lot of these people will tell you they're liberal... just not today. Today they're moderate republicans because... and then have all kinds of reasons whey the're not cutting military spending and fighting for a national health care plan, and backing $15 minimum wages, and raising taxes, and fighting for civil rights and women's rights, and racial and economic equality, etc. etc. Basically what they're saying is that they would be liberals in an alternate reality... well that's just not a liberal mentality.

How many times did you hear Democrats say they were with Sanders's on the issues "but"... Well THAT "but" is the difference between being a liberal and being something else. At the end of the day they voted for Clinton because they thought she was closer to the Republican base...they actually thought Republicans voters rejecting Trump would put them over the top. Clinton was actually counting on Republican votes. Just think about how weird that is for a few moments. And then they blame liberals for losing the election and go back and try to figure out how they could've gotten more Trump votes? How is this not bizarre?

And this isn't litmus test thing I'm talking about, it's just a basic existential observation. Look: no one who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ as a savior and son of God gets to say they're a Christen. This is like someone saying: "Well I could believe in Jesus, but just not today... so I guess that makes me a Christian". If you can only imagine being liberal in a different reality... then I don't know what you are, but you're not a liberal.

At any rate this isn't encouraging

My greatest fear is that Democrats have lost the ability to locate and nominate candidates that can win elections. This article and discussion aren't encouraging.

As usual Democrats in the Party appear to be doing what they always do as if elections are some kind of game they hope to win next time. There's absolutely no discussion of initiatives, agenda's, charisma, or any connection to any kind of vision that transcends this election cycle... and that's exactly how Democrats keep nominating candidates that lose elections. Our only hope is that Republicans will implode and some Democrats will win by default.

Otto is a case in point, Democratic "insiders" act like they're playing a game of fantasy football based on statistics. They're looking at Otto's "numbers" in rural areas as if statistics win elections. Well, Trump had statistically no chance of winning yet the guy's our President. If-and-when anyone gets a chance to vote for Otto or Walz, those votes will have nothing to do with the discussion Democrats are having right now, those votes will be for the candidate with most appealing message and vision for a future Minnesota. No one on the Iron Range is going to know much less care about Otto's percentages in the last election.

One of the most shocking personal revelations I experienced in the last election cycle is how completely clueless Democrats can be when it comes to understanding why people vote for a candidate. I wonder if Democrats are so accustomed to being in the "game" just by default that they've lost touch with how to actually play it? This is the core of the fight between the Party's establishment and liberals/progressives. We can hope that the establishment loses it's grip in time to allow the emergence of popular candidates but it's not looking good at this point.

A suggestion

You focus quite intently on the "big" contests, president, governor, etc... There are a lot of other contests for which these "popular" candidates aren't exactly popping up out the woodwork. Perhaps a good place for those of your mindset to begin would not be in decrying constantly (look we get it already) the mistakes of the past, and instead on putting like minded folks on the ballot everywhere. Look, I can't tell you about the inner working of the party on a state level, but I can tell you if you can put a viable candidate up for a state house or Senate seat, very few local units, particularly those in traditionally red areas, are going to fight you, hell considering the difficulty in getting folks to run they'd most likely welcome you with open arms. Complain about the "elites" all you like as outsiders, they really have no particular reason to listen, (see the Sanders campaign), but get yourself a core of like minded elected officials, and ears will open. It's not the whiz bang, tear it all down approach you may prefer, but unfortunately, probably the only one with a reasonable chance of success.

Easy answers to hard questions

It's really a lot of nonsense when you boil things down to terms like establishment and progressive. Just this week, Sanders (who has spent decades in congress) refused call Jon Osshoff a progressive, while granting that designation to a Nebraska candidate who once voted to force women to undergo vaginal ultrasounds. It's meaningless

In some places progressive candidates will resonate, and in some places they won't. There is no secret. There is no magic bullet.

Yes

No Party can be all things to all people. In some places Democrats will win elections while in others Republican's will get elected, that's OK, we call it democracy. But it makes no sense for Democrats be Republicans in order to win elections because that just creates one party rule under the guise of a two party system. Better to lose as a Democrat than win as a Republican pretending to be a Democrat.

Liberal Party?

As I read Paul Udstrand's posts (here and in other comment threads), it seems like the Democratic party (as we assume it is) isn't representing what a Liberal would consider themselves supporting and believing in. So the question in my mind is, will it change or do Liberals just need to pack it up and start their own party?

I think there are a lot of Americans who don't know where they fit in...for me, there is some of each party's platforms I relate to (some more than others)...and in the end, like many people this year, it felt like we maybe had to pick "the best of the worst" at the Presidential level...not exactly inspiring as we move forward into the next election cycle.

What's interesting is...has the DFL party decided to change stances and platforms to appeal to people instead of appealing to people to support their stances and platforms?

And does Democrat really equal Liberal or are there people who do find themselves in between Liberal and Republican...and is that the new Democrat?

Getting back to the article, first, it was quite refreshing to see the author replying to comments in this thread...I appreciated the dialogue, and it was nice to see how conversations progressed and even veered into a different direction.

The original points the author made make sense to me, but I think it's our nature to jump on board sometimes, especially if there is leverage or recognition to be gained (and money!)...but if the primary processes of the past are any indication, I'm not sure the average voter will even care, except for maybe the entertainment value of supporters and pundits jumping ship as we go along. I think other candidates can take some solace in the idea that what we think now may be complete different in 6 months...or in 6 weeks.

Honestly, I do think it will come down to message and ground swell support for whoever becomes the front runner in the Governor's race - it seems like there are some powerful names in the "potential" column that haven't even declared (yet) that could change things.

I appreciated the Otto discussion - and as an "out-stater" I tend to agree with Pat Terry that she might have some fences to mend if she wants to lead our whole state and not just the auditor's office...I'm not saying she can't overcome that, but fellow DFL candidates will probably remind those impacted by her choices on mining leases and private audits where she stood.

A primary is going to be very interesting...and I wonder who's going to convince me that he/she deserves my vote...I guess the good thing is...we've got a lot of time.

Packing it up...

Cathy Eriickson gets to the essential point, if the Democratic Party isn't a home for liberals, should liberals go elsewhere?

On a basic level I think Clinton's defeat tells us that this is exactly what happens when liberals and independents don't want to vote Democratic candidates... they do go elsewhere or stay at home. The numbers are clear on this, we know that Clinton lost Obama votes in the so-called "blue firewall" states, and she did even worse than Obama in the districts where Obama did poorly. The reason Democrats turn towards Republican voters for salvation is they frequently lose the liberal vote.

The Democratic Party IS the Party of the New Democrats- neo-liberals like the Clinton's actually called themselves the "New Democrats" back in the 80's, and being conservative "liberals" is exactly what that meant, THAT was the "middle way" they claimed to be triangulating. That's how we ended up without a truly liberal Party on the American political landscape.

The problem is all these "New Democrats" pretend to be liberals when it comes time to get elected, they promise liberal agendas, and then deliver Republican initiatives. Almost every major initiative Hillary Clinton ever supported from the Iraq War to Hillary Care has been at it's core a Republican initiative. Meanwhile almost every liberal agenda from Women's rights, to labor rights and racial equality has stalled or even rolled backwards since the New Democrats took over the Party. The one notable exception has been LBGT rights, but THAT progress was actually apposed by the Democratic party for decades. To the extent that there's been progress for the LBGT community it's been despite the Democratic Party more than because of it.

Here's the thing: The "New Democrats" haven't delivered the electoral success they promised, instead of becoming the dominant political force in the nation they've either lost power or gotten stuck in gridlock for decades. This tells us that the "middle ground" premise is/was garbage on a basic level. Furthermore the duplicity of decades of bait-n-switch faux liberalism have corroded trust and confidence in the Democratic Party and it's elite. Clinton's pernicious "Trust" problem was a reflection of that larger reality.

Yes, for decades liberals and progressives have understood the nature of Democratic Party and struggled for an alternative. Most of us wrote off the Democratic Party back in the 80's and have been wandering around in a wasteland of Rainbow Coalitions, Social Anarchy, or Green Party wannabe's for decades. We would vote Democrats most of the time but we always knew we were headed for a Trump presidency some day and our warnings went unheeded, whatever. We obviously had little or no success in promoting liberal agenda on our own.

Bernie Sanders was one of us. A progressive caucusing with Democrats because there was no alternative. To this day I don't know what made Sanders's think he could capture the Democratic nomination but he very nearly pulled it off and that was a huge surprise to progressives and liberals who had long ago written the Party off. We long ago saw the trend towards a Republican regime like Trump's, and we knew the Democrat's wouldn't stop it, but Bernie Sanders as a Democratic presidential nominee? Booshwa! Well not so much booshwa, Sanders's saw something we didn't and he nearly pulled it off.

So this is where we're at now. The attempt to find or create a liberal Party in a two party landscape failed, and although many of us had written off the possibility of converting the Democrats back into a liberal Party, Sander's and Ellison have shone a light of possibility where the darkness of neo-liberalism used to prevail. So let's give it a shot.

And look, I'm speaking in broad terms, the Democratic Party obviously isn't a monolithic conservative structure, there ARE liberals in there but they tend to be contained rather than embraced by the Party. Note it was Democrats that kept Obama's public option out of Obamacre at a time when Democrats rant the table. The same thing happened here in MN with Dayton, Democrats in the legislature dialed back his more aggressive liberal policy initiatives instead of passing them when they had the chance. Rank and file Democrats tend to fall in line rather than push back when the Party elite dismisses liberal initiatives.

Ellison

Keith Ellison just said Walz is going to be the nominee and governor. The man knows of which he speaks.