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Amy Klobuchar’s endorsement overshadowed by other DFL convention speakers’ fiery rhetoric

A supporter of Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the 2012 Minnesota DFL convention

ROCHESTER — The highlight of the DFL convention this weekend was to be the party’s endorsement of  U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

But other speakers — U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Gov. Mark Dayton, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, state Sen. Scott Dibble, among others,  — stole the show as they passionately took on Republicans and Republican legislative goals and GOP-backed constitutional amendments.

Given that Klobuchar was unopposed, her endorsement was not exactly an event of high drama Saturday.

Oh sure, there was loud rock music (Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own”) as the senator, hugging every delegate in sight, moved slowly toward the podium at the Rochester convention center. (She wrapped up with Katy Perry’s “Firework,’’ apparently a favorite of hers.)

There were some chants of “Amy, Amy, Amy.’’

And there were a couple of standing O’s for Klobuchar,  one ovation when she finally arrived at the podium, one when she finished her speech.

But the senator’s speech was two things: a little dull and very instructive.

At a convention filled with fiery rhetoric about evils Republicans want to do to the middle class, Klobuchar was typically cautious.

“Even in the wilderness of Washington, the best way to lead is to follow the North Star,” she said.

If that doesn’t stir your emotions, how about this: “My moral compass points one way, forward.”

That doesn’t do it?

Klobuchar spoke of the gridlock in D.C. and how pols are placed in two corrals.’’

“One is marked right, one marked left,”’ she said. “… I refuse to recognize that fenceline. … It’s not what’s right or what’s left. It’s what’s right and what’s wrong.”

These aren’t the sort of phrases that draw roars of approval from a passionate DFL audience. But they are the sort of phrases that have led the senator to have high approval ratings in Minnesota. In just one term, the senator also has built a substantial national base.

Even at a DFL convention, Klobuchar speaks to the middle.

That caution made her unique Saturday. Most of the speeches were filled with fire — and a little humor.

For example, there was Gov. Mark Dayton. Just two years ago, Dayton was not allowed to attend the convention in Duluth because he was bypassing the endorsement process. At the time, Dayton was furious.

Today he was treated as a hero by speaker after speaker and by delegates.

He approached the whole subject with grace and humor when he spoke.

“Thank you for letting me in this year,’’ he said as he opened his speech.

There was much laughter in the hall.

“More importantly,’’ he added, “thank you supporting me in 2010.’’

In his speech, Dayton attacked the Republican legislative majorities. Specifically, he ripped into GOP bills that he said would have undermined public education and public school teachers. He also repeated his old mantra: “tax the rich.’’ The only way to move to a fair tax system, he said, is to raise the taxes of the 2 percent of  Minnesota’s wealthiest.

To loud cheers, he said that the proposed marriage amendment and the Voter ID amendment “are demeaning, divisive, destructive and we’re going to defeat them.’’

Opposition to those amendments was a constant of this convention.

Dibble, a gay senator from Minneapolis, spoke to the marriage amendment on behalf of the organization, Minnesotans United for All Families, which has been set up to fight the amendment that would constitutionally restrict marriage to a man and a woman.

Dibble spoke of his own marriage to the man he fell in love with years ago.

Minnesota, he said, will be the 31st state in which the amendment is on the ballot.

“But we will defeat it,’’ Dibble said. “Minnesota is better than that. … Love is love, and love belongs to everyone.’’

Following Dibble’s short but strong speech, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin rose to offer two resolutions. He asked that delegates endorse the work of Minnesotans United for All Families, which opposes the marriage amendment, and Our Vote, Our Future, the organization formed to oppose the Voter ID amendment.

The two resolutions passed by acclamation.

Of course, it couldn’t be a DFL convention with at least some bows to labor.

Yes, union members were very upset by a platform item supported by the body that labor believes hurt’s copper and nickel mining in northern Minnesota. That dispute over obscure phrasing in a platform that soon will be put on a shelf and forgotten underscored the fundamental split between metro area/environmental-focused delegates and the lunch-bucket DFLers.

But the delegates seem to come back together in support of unions when Evelyn Gronke, a locked-out American Crystal Sugar worker from Crookston spoke. (That lockout began back in August.)

“The company I helped make millions locked me out,’’ said Gronke, who said she’s worked for American Crystal Sugar for 34 years.

She spoke of how executives of the company represent “the 1 percent’’ at the top of the economic heap.

“But the 99 percent in the Red River Valley are fighting back,’’ she said.

The cheers were loud and long.

And there were huge cheers for House Minority Leader Paul Thissen as well. Thissen was introduced as “the next speaker of the House.’’

He spoke of the DFL as the party  “that represents the middle class majority.’’

Then, he tossed out a challenge to the delegates, much as Bakk had hours earlier.

“Outrage isn’t enough,’’ he said. “It’s not enough to sit on your couch and shout at your TV.’’

There were big cheers.

Given the lack of drama in this convention, the lack of things to argue about, the fact that delegates remained enthusiastic on this gorgeous early-summer day might have been the one big surprise.

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Eric Larson on 06/03/2012 - 09:44 pm.


    1% 99% of the Red River Valley………..snoooze. A shout fest in an echo chamber. MPR ran the same loop over and over again all weekend.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/04/2012 - 07:17 am.


    Well, this was the DFL convention wasn’t it, not a Klobuchar pep-rally?

  3. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 06/04/2012 - 10:24 am.

    The speech with the most heat

    Brian Barnes, the DFL candidate for the 3rd Congressional seat gave the speech of his life. Every single delegate was not only clapping but standing at the end of his impassioned plea. This man is a shooting star. To hear his heat go to:

  4. Submitted by John Edwards on 06/04/2012 - 11:05 am.

    A more accurate song title for the DFL convention would have been: “We Want Someone Else to Take Care of Us.”

  5. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 06/04/2012 - 12:11 pm.

    Klobuchar was not overshadowed

    If you are talking drama, yes there was not much drama over her endorsement. But the entire floor was energized by her entrance and her endorsement — it was the highlight of the morning. There were many high points, but to say that because one candidate or cause stirred the crowd does not mean she was overshadowed. The media too often looks for the negative to extract in any situation, and to suggest that the crowd was not behind her and the place wasn’t inspired is misleading. Perhaps Mr. Grow missed the central part of the speech — a tribute to her mother who had died in 2010 — she talked about her mother, and shared how her mother (a former teacher) had dressed up as a butterfly for a unit she was teaching every year, and made it a point at the end of the day to go to a grocery store where a former student worked, one who had a disability but who brightened at seeing his former teacher in her butterfly outfit. It was an emotional moment not only for her sharing her memory but her point extending to being a party with compassion and inclusion, and not forgetting those who have touched us. It seems Mr. Grow was predisposed to be bored and mock and take her quotations out of context. I was a delegate there and did not see boredom in any faces — the entire floor stood for her speech — this happened only a few times. As far as Brian Barnes speech — he is good, but I had already heard the same speech at the caucuses so was not quite as swept away as Mr. Grow, who must not have been at the Congressional convention…

  6. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 06/04/2012 - 12:13 pm.

    Strike that

    I read the comments on Barnes, and was thinking that was part of Grow’s article. Ignore that part…

  7. Submitted by Scott Berman on 06/04/2012 - 12:24 pm.

    You have got to hear the Barnes Speech

    It’s true, Brian Barnes gave the speech of his life! He spoke with so much fire and passion that it inspired goosebumps. You have got to hear it:

  8. Submitted by Eddie H-J on 06/04/2012 - 05:52 pm.

    McCollum and Ellison

    Speaking of American Crystal Sugar’s lockout: Rep Ellison and Rep McCollum have both taken $5000 from the company’s PAC this election cycle–not exactly supportive of locked out workers.

  9. Submitted by David Frenkel on 06/04/2012 - 11:47 pm.


    Klubuchar has tasted the power and success of being a US Senator wants the career for life which is why she wants to stay in the political middle and not stir up anything controversial.
    She works for Minnesota but not necessarily what is good for the country which is a major problem in the US Congress.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2012 - 07:48 am.

    Working for MN is a problem?

    See, this is the biggest miracle the Republicans have ever pulled off, convincing people to vote against their own best interests, after obscuring those interests. Your representative is supposed to go to congress and represent their constituents, this is not a problem, it’s our form of government. The only “pledge” that’s supposed to matter is the oath of office, yet we have people sending representatives to congress with pledges they’ve made to unelected sociopaths that ignore the interests of actual constituents. Then these people claim to be the champions of “local” control. The only “problem” with Klobuchar is she does a good job of representing MN? Uh huh.

  11. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/05/2012 - 02:22 pm.

    It’s important

    “Given the lack of drama in this convention, the lack of things to argue about, the fact that delegates remained enthusiastic on this gorgeous early-summer day might have been the one big surprise.”

    Why should that surprise you? Many feel that we are at a crossroad and there is a very real chance that this election is not only important, but winnable (on some level). One of the tools that the Republican party uses to defeat Democrats is a psychological warfare tactic–crush morale. Thus, it’s important for those leaning left to get behind their ideals and ideas and be enthusiastic about it. The enthusiasm you saw at the convention wasn’t for the exciting speeches, some of them were not all that exciting, but for the content and knowing that there is a very real chance of slowing, or even turning away, the march toward a liberal’s nightmare in this state, and indeed, the entire country.

    If nothing else, the beautiful day was a reminder of the need to protect those beautiful days for our children and grandchildren, and to promise an economically, environmentally, and socially bright future for them.

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