Where is the vision of ‘progress’ from Minnesota progressives?

Can someone please tell me what Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken and the DFL Legislature plan to do with another term in office? Because I have no earthly idea.

I know what they have done in the past, and it’s impressive — an improved economy, health care system, and fiscal outlook.

But progressives are also supposed to lead the way forward.  The dictionary says a “progressive” is “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.”

Where is the “new” part?  Where is the “advocating” part?

It’s entirely possible that I’m not paying close enough attention, because this campaign season is putting me to sleep.  But I can’t discern where these top DFLers propose to take Minnesota.

  • ACHIEVEMENT GAP PROGRESS? For instance, the education achievement gap is a morally shameful and economically perilous problem. What specific solutions does the DFL offer that are sufficiently bold to at least narrow that persistent gap?
  • CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRESS? Climate change is the most urgent problem of our times, and Minnesota remains hopelessly addicted to dirty coal-fired power plants and cars dependent on environmentally destructive fracked petroleum. I know the DFL supports more renewables and less fossil fuels, but how exactly are they going to realign financial incentives to make that more of a reality, and not just rhetoric.
  • COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY PROGRESS? College is increasingly important for earning a good living, and increasingly out-of-reach for middle- and lower-income families. What progressive ideas does the DFL offer to address this important challenge?
  • RETRAINING PROGRESS? Many unemployed and underemployed workers lack the career skills to thrive in a fast-changing economy. While increasing the minimum wage and funding job-creating bonding projects are great steps, what specific education and training help does the DFL offer to help those workers adjust to our economy’s new normal?

Does the DFL have a “secret plan” for more progress on any of these issues, like the secret plan President Nixon promised to end the Vietman War? If so, why is it secret? I just finished watching the PBS televention series about the Roosevelts, and I was reminded that Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor reaped political rewards by fearlessly advocating for bold solutions to society’s toughest problems.

Again, Minnesota DFLers have earned reelection. They have a strong record of paying back schools, implementing reforms that have a record 95% of Minnesotans with health insurance, improving tax fairness, increasing the minimum wage, passing marriage equality, funding job-creating infrastructure improvements, delivering all-day kindergarten, and balancing the budget on-time, in a fiscally responsible way. That’s very impressive work, at a time when extreme Tea Party-backed Republicans have offered only mindless obstructionism.

But we live in an impatient “what have you done for me lately” world. To prevent an electoral setback a few weeks from now, DFLers need to fire up their progressive base enough to get them to vote at higher rates than they typically do in non-presidential year elections. And in terms of a bold new progressive way forward, Minnesota DFLers haven’t offered much to fire them up.

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/08/2014 - 01:50 pm.

    I’ll take Climate Change for 20…

    “Climate change is the most urgent problem of our times, and Minnesota remains hopelessly addicted to dirty coal-fired power plants and cars dependent on environmentally destructive fracked petroleum. I know the DFL supports more renewables and less fossil fuels, but how exactly are they going to realign financial incentives to make that more of a reality, and not just rhetoric.”

    Agree with you on your first point, Joe. As to MN being “hopelessly addicted to dirty-coal fired power plants,” that less than half true, because for the first time in decades, less than half of our electricity is generated by burning coal. In fact, in only 10 years, we have cut the amount of coal consumed in MN power plants by 30 percent. (credit Dayton and Pawlenty for that)

    We also have one of the strongest renewable energy laws in the nation (again, signed by Pawlenty), and it’s working. Our carbon emission have been cut, the lights stay on, and our rates remain fairly low. Per capita, Minnesotans use more renewable energy than any other state.

    The vast majority of the petroleum we use in a cars, buses, trucks and airplanes in MN does NOT come to us as a result of fracking. It comes (via pipeline) from the Tar Sands region of Alberta, Canada. That’s also very carbon-intensive and environmentally damaging, but it’s not fracked.

    In my job, I have seen Republicans, Democrats and even Jesse Ventura support cleaner-burning, Minnesota made biofuels like E85 and biodiesel. I’ve seen average Minnesotans buy millions of gallons of biofuels every year, switch to plug-in cars, take the bus, LTE or bike, etc.

    If Minnesotans continue to push for cleaner, more renewable fuels and power, our elected leaders will catch up with us, sooner or later.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/08/2014 - 11:39 pm.


      If Dayton is committed to the environment the first thing he should do is cut ethanol mandates and subsudies. Corn Ethanol is far worse for the environment than anything out of the tar sands.

  2. Submitted by Joe Loveland on 10/08/2014 - 02:39 pm.

    Half empty

    Thanks for the comment, Robert. As always, you make good points amigo. However…

    Nearly half of our energy coming from coal-fired plants represents both 1) progress from past policy and 2) a big ass lingering problem that progressive leader simply can’t be complacent about.

    As for the frack point you make: We’re producing record amounts of fracked oil and are still extremely addicted to petro-powered cars. Though MN cars may not be using much fracked-derived fuel (?), I don’t know that matters so much. Both assertions are true and both create big environmental problems. And since the piece addresses Senator Franklin as well, I’d like to MN progressives in Congress to address problems that also fall outside of MN.

    It’s true, solutions have been offered, and have created incremental gains. You’re right to give bipartisan credit where it is due for the incremental gains. Still, my point is that the problems are far from solved and progressive leaders shouldn’t be content with resting on those laurels. They should lead us towards where we need to be.

    Progressives like FDR didn’t create Social Security for some fraction of the retirees and unemployed and then call it quits. He fought for the big bold policy change, and it was very difficult to achieve. That’s my point here. Just because we’ve made incremental progress, as current progressives have, doesn’t mean we should declare victory and stop advocating for more progress.

  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/09/2014 - 07:03 am.

    Half full

    No doubt that we can’t be complacent about coal. But I thought it was worth noting the progress we’ve made in a relatively short period of time. We’re on track to do even better, and we need to.

    Because Minnesota has no oil wells, there isn’t much Dayton and the Legislature can do regarding oil from fracking. Franken, maybe, but he’s just one vote in 100. A lot of North Dakota oil passes through MN, but our refineries mostly use Canadian oil. Of course, there are alternatives to oil.

    For the past 12 years or so, I’ve been pitching alternatives to traditional petroleum fuels. Ethanol. biodiesel, electric, CNG, propane, you name it, I’ve pitched it. Progress has come slow, and we’ve had some setbacks, but I have seen Minnesota steadily move in the right direction.

    In FDR’s day, coal was king in America, and in Minnesota. It heated our homes, businesses and schools. It generated our electricity, moved our trains and ships. Today, the only thing coal is used for is generating electricity, and more and more, it’s losing that job, too. Once we stop using coal to keep the lights on, we’ll never use it again. It’s just to dirty and dangerous a fuel.

    Perhaps the day will come for leaders who have bold visions and big ideas. In the meanwhile, I’m going to soldier on toward cleaner air, cleaner fuels and greater energy self-reliance. It took a national crisis to give FDR his mandate, lets hope we don’t need something similar to get some action now.

    In about a month, you and I will have a chance to do something about that. See you at the polls, Minnesota.

  4. Submitted by Joe Loveland on 10/08/2014 - 04:19 pm.

    A more familiar analogy

    Or, to cite another analogy that goes to Robert’s past triumphs on the public health front:

    I know you rightfully pressed leaders to proactively lead us toward statewide secondhand smoke protections. After passing ordinance to protect a portion of MN (Mpls, Bloomington and St. Paul as I recall), you didn’t sit back and rest on your laurels.

  5. Submitted by Amy Farland on 10/10/2014 - 08:06 am.

    why i hate the term progressive

    exactly. Liberals like Paul Wellstone never hesitated to tell voters where they wanted to take Minnesota and the US. They were fearless and proud. But then we lost statesmen. Who were replaced by timid politicians who replace the term ‘liberals’ with ‘progressives’ … can anyone tell me what ‘progressive’ means? Surely they are not referring to the Progressive Party of a hundred years ago? Because if they are, they do not deserve the name.

    Sorry, I remain a Proud Paul Wellstone Liberal.

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