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Dean Phillips wants to lead the Democratic challenge to Erik Paulsen. But what kind of Democrat is he?

Dean Phillips
Dean Phillips

If you wanted to formulate in a lab an ideal candidate for political office, you could do worse than Dean Phillips.

The 48-year-old — who announced on Tuesday his bid for Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District seat — is a scion of an established Minnesota business and philanthropic family, and is himself an Ivy League-educated entrepreneur who launched a successful ice cream brand. He’s affable, relatively polished, and cautious, likely to be a solid presence on the campaign trail.

Phillips is taking on a difficult task, however: defeating Rep. Erik Paulsen, the five-term incumbent GOP congressman. For years, Democrats have tried to take down Paulsen, arguing he’s too conservative for this moderate west metro district and unsuccessfully linking him to Donald Trump.

In election years both good and bad for Republicans, Paulsen — a prolific fundraiser — has persevered, barely breaking a sweat.

But the upcoming 2018 midterm elections will be the first referendum on Trump’s unified Republican government, and many observers believe it could be a historically bad one for the GOP.

In Phillips, Minnesota Democrats believe they’ve found the guy to take advantage of that opportunity, and unseat Paulsen once and for all. But despite his strengths, Phillips is a true political novice with no traditional political experience. Does he have what it takes to win over DFL activists and take down Paulsen?

Getting into the race

Phillips’ pedigree could be more of an asset in the 3rd District than perhaps anywhere else in the state. Encompassing the western suburbs of Minneapolis, the district is the most affluent in Minnesota, and it’s home to many of Minnesota’s most successful companies and their employees.

Phillips can speak the language of business, and he comes by it honestly: he headed his family’s company, Phillips Distilling Company, which is known for producing schnapps, vodka, and whiskey. In 2003, Phillips was part of a group that started a gelato company, Talenti, whose pricey frozen treats became wildly popular among high-end consumers.

Unilever, the world’s biggest ice cream company, acquired Talenti in 2014 for an undisclosed amount. (Talenti’s sales that year were reportedly $120 million.) Since then, Phillips has run Penny’s Coffee, a cafe in Minneapolis, where he’s touted paying employees a $15 minimum wage.

DFL insiders say this isn’t the first time Phillips has been encouraged to run for office — but it’s the first time he’s agreed to do it.

Phillips’ official announcement of his bid on Tuesday morning, which had been telegraphed for days, was low-key: he sent out a press release — headed by a slick new campaign logo — and launched a website. He becomes the third Democrat to enter the race to challenge Paulsen, joining Brian Santa Maria, a comedy writer, and Alicia Donahue, an activist.

Phillips is the most high-profile and well-resourced Democrat to jump in, however. In an interview with MinnPost, Phillips discussed why it is that he is running for this seat, and why he’s running for it now.

“It wasn’t something I had imagined doing until the recent election,” Phillips said. “It concerned me, and over the last number of months and weeks that concern has only grown, and when Erik Paulsen took the health care vote, that really ended my time on the bench and on the sidelines, and I decided I needed to stand up and participate.”

Phillips said that CD3 voters are smart and recognize that Paulsen is not Trump. “However, recent weeks and months have made it clear he votes along with Donald Trump,” he said. “That’s a truth, not an opinion.”

He added that people send representatives who will act as checks and balances on power to Washington in times of need — “it’s certainly a time of need,” he quickly added.

‘I’m not a typical Democrat’

But in what ways would Phillips check — or not check — the Republicans who are in power in Washington?

Right now, the Democratic Party base is fired up, and it’s desperate for progressive warriors to do battle with Trump and the congressional GOP. Grassroots backlash has been particularly severe in CD3, with activists putting pressure on Paulsen for his vote on the GOP health care bill.

In Phillips, though Democrats aren’t getting a firebreather, but a pro-business centrist. Phillips bristles at political labels, and he declined to talk about where he falls on the spectrum of the Democratic Party. He did say, however, “I’m fiscally responsible, and I’m socially inclusive, and I’m independent… I’m not a typical Democrat.”

Phillips said he has voted for Republicans in the past; two politicians he said he admires are Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Rep. Jim Ramstad, the Republican who held the 3rd district seat for two decades, and is Paulsen’s former boss.

Rep. Erik Paulsen
MinnPost file photo by Craig Lassig
Rep. Erik Paulsen

Without a voting record or much of a public record, it’s difficult to discern exactly where Phillips stands on certain issues.  

He declined to elaborate in detail some of his policy positions: “At this stage, day one of my candidacy, I feel so strongly about listening and better understanding rather than throwing stones,” he said. “I certainly do have some ideas and opinions, and I’ll wait to share those until I do a better job understanding how [CD3 voters] feel.”

Phillips did share his thoughts on some issues, however. On health care, the issue that sparked his run for office, he called the GOP replacement of Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, “abhorrent,” and stressed that Congress should focus on reforming Obamacare, not dismantling it.

He declined to say whether he was in favor of single-payer health care, now a mainstream idea within the Democratic Party. “Right now, health care is not a constitutional right,” Phillips said. “But with that said, I believe it to be a moral right.”

On taxes, Phillips said he believes “everyone pays plenty in taxes” and that he wants to provide value on those taxes. “I do not think our tax dollars are always used efficiently and effectively.”

On corporate tax rates, Phillips declined to comment on a specific plan — such as Trump’s proposal to reduce the statutory corporate rates to 15 percent down from 35 percent — but added that, as an entrepreneur, he has observed that “jobs are created when demand increases… Jobs are not created when taxes are reduced.”

Republicans attack Phillips early

Without an established political record, Phillips has the luxury of formulating more fleshed-out positions on policy as he goes along.

Some Democrats see that as an advantage, recalling how Paulsen and his allies used the legislative record of his 2016 opponent, former state Sen. Terri Bonoff, as an effective weapon against her.

One DFLer called Phillips a “clean slate,” and not in a bad way. That clean slate can be a double-edged sword, however: as a relative unknown, if Phillips does not define himself first, his well-funded GOP rivals will.

Those in Minnesota’s 8th District might remember another candidate — wealthy, political outsider, long hair — who got defined early, and negatively, by his opponent, and had a hard time recovering from that.

Paulsen’s allies in the National Republican Congressional Committee have wasted no time, publicly attacking Phillips hours after his announcement with claims he is a flip-flopper, based on a lack of clarity from Phillips as to whether he’d self-fund his congressional bid. (Ultimately, Phillips said he will not accept contributions from PACs or lobbyists, but will make up for that stream of cash with his own money if necessary.)

Phillips is well-connected in corporate and donor circles. In the past, he has hardly been reluctant to pull out his checkbook to support political causes and candidates for office: federal records show over $320,000 in political contributions in Phillips’ name over the last 15 years.

He has donated to DFL party organizations and politicians, including Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Walz, and a group of failed challengers for seats in various Minnesota congressional districts.

Phillips was a top bundler for Barack Obama in 2012, and donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in 2008 and 2016. He stepped up his giving recently, donating to a slate of Democratic challengers for U.S. Senate seats in 2016, and giving over $30,000 to the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm that cycle.

‘A lot of listening’

Broadly, Democratic insiders feel like Phillips could be their strongest challenger to Paulsen yet. But that was said about Bonoff last year, too, and there exists a wariness over falling into a similar trap.

Like Bonoff, Phillips has a moderate profile, but his early jump into the race could open up room for a candidate to run to his left — indeed, there’s talk that someone might do just that. A challenge for Phillips will be firing up progressive activists without alienating the moderate CD3 electorate, should he advance to the general election.

Democrats like how the electoral environment looks for them now, but the general election — and a potential primary — are over a year away. For now, Phillips plans to spend the upcoming weeks introducing himself to CD3 voters.

“I understand and recognize and appreciate the anger that exists on both ends of the spectrum, disenfranchisement, anger about the direction of the country,” he says. “I plan to do a lot of listening and a lot of meeting.”

He is confident that approach — combined with the concerns springing from the Trump administration — will encourage a big showing on election day.

“One great blessing of this presidency,” he says, “is that people are paying attention, standing up, and engaging and are caring in a way they have not done in the past… People are going to get out and vote this time.”

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Comments (60)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/17/2017 - 09:22 am.

    The problem in the last election…

    Was a hugely bungled Democratic campaign initiative. For one thing, having Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket was a huge liability. In addition to that, MN Democrats seemed to adopt the Clinton campaign strategy of denying voters anything to vote for and assuming that people would turn out to vote “against” Trump. Linking Paulson to Trump was bound to fail under those circumstances and some tried to warn Democrats.

    Defeating Paulson won’t be about running a “centrist” it will be about running candidate that gives voters alternatives they want to vote for. If Democrats give the 3rd a “centrist”, they’ll likely lose again because obviously voters there think they already have a centrist, so why switch out a Republican centrist for a Democrat centrist? If you give voters who think they already have a “moderate” another “moderate” to vote for, they’ll just stay with the moderate they’ve got. You can try to paint Paulson as an extremist, and in many ways he is, but apparently he knows how to defeat that challenge so you need a different strategy and candidate.

    • Submitted by Brian Santa Maria on 05/17/2017 - 11:19 am.

      A Different Candidate

      Excellent points:

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 05/17/2017 - 03:10 pm.

      I see your point

      But this may well be the beginning of the biggest implosion of a president in history. This clown makes Calvin Coolidge look bright.

    • Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 05/18/2017 - 09:56 am.


      Clinton was a “huge liability”? Such a strange comment given that she won the district. And if you (incorrectly) think that Clinton was a liability, what do you think Trump is? And not only has Paulsen voted consistently with Trump and his cohorts since the elections, but as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, he voted against requiring Trump to release his tax returns and has been a vocal proponent of the ill-conceived AHCA version 1, as well as the latest iteration, which is on life support in the Senate.

      If you were paying attention, CD3 voters are now seeing that Paulsen is no centrist at all. His voting record makes that crystal clear.

      Phillips is an opponent who is the anti-Paulsen, not that he just talks about how wring-headed Paulsen is, but he is and does what Paulsen isn’t and doesn’t do. He’s a successful businessman. Paulsen is a career politician. Among “centrists,” which is preferred?

      Phillips won’t take PAC money. PAC money fuels Paulsen’s campaigns. Among “centrists,” which is preferred?

      Phillips will be taking his campaign out to the District and listening to both blue and red constituents, including the use of town hall meetings. Paulsen is afraid of the public and hasn’t held a town hall meeting in 6 years, despite his lying about having done so. Among “centrists,” which is preferred?

      Phillips is a major advocate of campaign-finance reform, something that would kill Paulsen’s ability to raise money. Among “centrists,” which is preferred?

      Paulsen is in the pockets of big Pharma, the Koch Brothers, the NRA, the health insurance industry, and just about any special-interest group that wants to give him money. Both his campaign financial reports and his voting record provide evidence not only of receiving the money, but voting to protect his benefactors’ interests. Phillips has strong connection and great respect in the business community, but he will be beholden to no one. Among “centrists,” which is preferred?

      Paulsen has never been up against an opponent like Phillips, nor has he been in as weak a position as he is now. It’s not going to go well for him.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 11:17 am.

        Clinton was obviously a bigger liability than Trump

        Clinton lost. And yes, her historically low popularity and trustworthiness combined with her complete lack of any compelling campaign message or agenda were a huge liability.

        You can’t ride on the coat tails of an unpopular candidate, and you can’t get behind a campaign that has no message or clear agenda. As bad as Trump was, he had a clear message and agenda that Republican voters and candidates were able to get behind.

        There’s nothing hypothetical about this. Clinton NEVER produced a compelling message or agenda beyond simply being Hillary Clinton and expecting that people would voter for just to see Hillary be Hillary in the White House, this is a documented historical fact. Her campaign eventually just gave up even trying to produce a clear message.

        The Democrats basically put their most unpopular candidate in history on the ballot and dared people to not vote for her. This was probably the most spectacular political fail in US history. Trump didn’t win because he was unbeatable, he won because Democrats handed American voters the one candidate they had that could actually lose to him.

        I can see that a lot of people who obviously didn’t vote for Paulsen are convinced that people won’t vote for Paulsen again, but didn’t you think that in the LAST election? Weren’t you the guys who couldn’t imagine Clinton losing? Whatever.

        I don’t know if Phillips can beat Paulsen or not. What I do know is that he won’t beat Paulsen if he relies on the same convoluted logic that’s been losing to Paulsen so far. Part of setting that convoluted logic aside is simply recognizing the realities of last fiasco.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/18/2017 - 01:30 pm.


          Clinton was not a great candidate, and maybe the Democrats are to blame for chasing others out. But when the rubber hit the road, the only alternative was Bernie Sanders, who would have lost about 48 states and taken down dozens of Democratic senators and congressmen as well. No candidate with as much baggage and dishonesty as Sanders should have ever been nominated. Which is why he lost by millions of votes, even with voter-suppressing caucus states padding his numbers.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 02:14 pm.

            Sander would have won

            You’re basically claiming that Trump was unbeatable, that’s absurd. Sanders is now one of if not the most popular politician in the country. And I shouldn’t have to point out that the fact that just because Democrats didn’t put him on the ballot doesn’t prove that they knew who was electable, on the contrary, Democrats were obviously hugely mistaken.

            Look, people like me saw Clinton losing, and knew she could lose. Why would we now defer judgement to those never saw this coming? If you didn’t see Clinton losing, what makes you think you know whether or not Sanders would have lost? What makes your judgement better than mine? I’m speaking generally not personally.

  2. Submitted by Brian Santa Maria on 05/17/2017 - 11:11 am.

    The Comedy Writer

    I appreciate the call out, Sam, truly. And I am a comedy writer. For Comedy Central, IFC, CBS and yes… The Onion. The most widely read satire in the world. Sounds a lot the resume of another Minnesota politician I know.

    And that comedy led to branding and ad-writing. Which led to awards and director roles. I’ve pushed revenue for hundreds of brands in all sorts of markets. Surely that’s at least as legitimate as selling fancy ice cream, no?

    Can’t wait to rep the prairie populist ideals of our district on a larger stage: we’re a district about healthcare for all, smarter taxes, empowering moms and human decency. And our Congressman and President now don’t represent that.

    Good luck to Dean and Alicia.


  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/17/2017 - 09:52 am.


    I think what we as Democrats want to know is whether Phillips will be the kind of Democrat who will vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house.

    As a practical matter, of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, very few of them matter individually. If Phillips or any other Democrat can win in the third district, there isn’t much more that matters. Once in Washington, he would be just another, very junior congressman who nobody cares very much at all. Apart from the all important organizational vote he would cast.

    • Submitted by John Webster on 05/17/2017 - 10:35 am.

      Voting for Leader

      You make an excellent point: the most important vote for any member of the House is for the leadership. Our Congressional elections are far too much about individuals bogusly running as free agents, as personalities. The reality is that all House members these days vote their party line 90+% of the time in our now ideologically pure parties. I think that’s great, and in keeping with what would be a vastly superior structure of government, i.e. the British parliamentary system, where the majority party can implement its policies and then be held clearly accountable for the results – no accusations of obstructionism, no gridlock.

      If elected – doubtful – Mr. Phillips will just be another liberal who will be indistinguishable from the most left-wing wing Democrats except on a few symbolic issues. Like Amy Klobuchar, he’ll pose as a moderate, but he’ll never vote the conservative side on any important issue. As this article implies, he tries to obscure his liberalism with centrist sounding platitudes in order to be more electable in the moderately conservative third district. His best hope for election is for Trump to keep acting like an incompetent, mendacious fool.

      • Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 05/18/2017 - 07:52 am.

        Thanks for nothing

        I appreciate your putting out there that you don’t know what you’re talking about. The idea that Phillips is anything like Klobuchar is absurd on the face of it if you knew anything about Phillips. If anyone is obscuring anything, it’s Paulsen pretending to be a moderate when his voting record shows just the opposite. Unfortunately for him (and fortunate for his constituents) the GOP’s extremism has forced hi to come out of the closet, which will lead to his downfall.

      • Submitted by Hugh Gitlin on 05/18/2017 - 09:40 am.

        The exact opposite of Paulsen

        He poses as a moderate, but does not vote for anything but the conservative side. Even on social issues.

  4. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 05/17/2017 - 10:22 am.

    Phillips is already being defined

    Agree with Paul on the choices given for Democrats was poor plus a poor overall strategy. Hillary was pulling money from everywhere and, like the Democrat leadership, is that they dictate what the electorate wanted rather than listen. Phillips is already doomed to his big money ties to Democrats that many in the electorate don’t like about politics. He is going to get hammered even more on that.
    It’s nice to hear that he is going to listen on issues before making decisions. But how soon until DNC Chair Perez and Vice Chair Ellison make Phillips fall in line as they have been demanding publicly in their continued efforts to move the Dems more and more ultra progressive. Phillips then will become just another garden variety limousine liberal.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/17/2017 - 11:44 am.

      Ellison and Sanders are not limousine librerals

      Well, if there’s a progressive wing in the Democratic party that can push someone like Phillips into a more liberal and progressive position, THAT’S a good thing. Again, if Democrats run a moderate, they’ll lose because A). Moderates have no ideas or agendas that will solve problems. And: B). As I said voters in the 3rd already think they have a moderate, so why switch out one moderate for another?

      The battle in the Democratic Party right now is between liberals (i.e. moderate republicans like Clinton) and liberal liberals, or even progressives like Sanders and Ellison. Sanders is the only candidate in the election that didn’t fund his campaign with big money, and his model stands for others. Any Democrat that conforms to THAT model won’t be a garden variety limousine liberal.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/18/2017 - 09:37 am.

        Ellison no, Sanders yes

        Bernie Sanders is the very definition of a limousine liberal. A Socialist with three houses, who wanted the DNC to charter him a private plane, but who won’t even release his tax returns. There are a lot of hypocrites in politics, but its hard to find a bigger hypocrite than Sanders.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 10:56 am.

          False claims regarding Sanders

          Mr. Terry, your claims regarding Sanders are based on false reports primarily generated by the Clinton Camp during the primary challenge. Sanders did release his tax returns, and the report about Sanders’s “third house” was grossly misleading according Snopes and man other investigations.

          There were a plethora of other bogus “exposes” that flowed out of Clintonia at the time but those dishonest and ill informed attacks on Sanders are best left in the past. Best not to remind us of the ugliness, corruption, and dishonesty that informed the Democratic mission to shut out their most popular and trusted candidate.

          And by the way, you do realize that both of Clinton’s homes are each worth more than all “three” of Sanders’s homes combined right? So I don’t where you’re going with that in the first place.

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/18/2017 - 11:20 am.


            Sorry, but the only one making a false claim about the tax returns was Sanders himself. Like Donald Trump, Sanders only released a small portion of his tax returns, but at least Trump didn’t lie about making a full disclosure like Sanders did.


            I didn’t claim Sanders spent his donations on the third house, although I can’t blame people for thinking that given his failure to disclose his tax returns. Rather, I just pointed out the hypocrisy of an avowed socialist owning 3 houses, including a $600,000 lake home. I don’t have a problem with people owning expensive houses (although owning 3 is kind of excessive) – the problem is Sanders’ hypocrisy.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 12:12 pm.

              Not wrong

              I’m not going to draw this out but Sanders DID release his tax returns, and they were as boring as he said they’d be. Yeah, a lot of media at the time had a hate-on for Sanders, and the Whapo article you point to is a good example of that. But your article was published on the 5th of April, on the 15Th of April he released the full returns and as he’d always said, there’s not much there:


              There was never any “there” there to this story.

              As for “hypocrisy”, you can see it wherever you like, it’s a free country.

              • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/18/2017 - 01:27 pm.


                My linked article contains an update which provides the same information as your link – that Sanders released more of his 2014 return. We are relying on the same factual information.

                Sanders, however, did not provide prior years or 2015, but for a slippery, dishonest politician like Sanders, that somehow counts as releasing. Sanders is like Trump in releasing a small amount of information, and then calling anyone who points out his lies a liar themselves. There may be some other “there,” but the clear “there” here is Sanders’ blatant dishonesty and lack of transparency.

                Bernie Sanders represents everything that is wrong with politics today.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 01:41 pm.

                  Sanders didn’t run for President in 2014.

                  How many other people who didn’t run for President in 2014 didn’t release their tax returns? In the meantime As a member of Congress Sanders has been filing a variety financial disclosures as required for years. These complaints about Sanders are rather like the Democrat’s version of Benghazi… there’s just no “there” there.

                  In the meantime, seriously, when it comes to a lack of disclosures and hypocrisy, I would recommend that Clinton supporters NOT go there… it doesn’t end well by comparison.

  5. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 05/17/2017 - 11:51 am.

    Redistricting was kind to Paulsen in 2012

    By giving Paulsen a chunk of Carver County instead of inner-ring suburbs, it’s going to take a Democratic wave level of nationwide victory AND a good candidate to sweep him out of CD3 the way it stands today. The DFL has for too long assumed that the district was “moderate” when in fact it tilts right. CD2 was (and continues to be) the district that Democrats should have the best chance of flipping.

  6. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 05/17/2017 - 11:52 am.

    Give the guy a break

    As a DFL activist, I have no interest in pedantic opinions of past performances. On the other hand, I am most interested in a thought leader who defines his own agenda. This may be the guy. I am energized, desperate and listening.

    • Submitted by Brian Santa Maria on 05/17/2017 - 12:32 pm.

      Love your passion.

      Would also love to earn your vote. Check out my growing page and issue concerns. You don’t have to wait for a candidate to decide what they think. I’m ready to talk right now. #LetsDoSomething

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/17/2017 - 11:56 am.

    See, this is how Democrats lose

    The problem with Democratic Party “activists” is that they’ve gotten to the point where they just don’t seem to be able to think clearly about politics and elections.

    Looking at some comments here it’s obvious that Democrats still have a tendency to be too clever by half.

    Look: You want liberal candidates because you have a liberal party that’s supposed to represent a liberal agenda. The whole point of winning elections with liberal candidates is that if you win enough of them, you have the political power to pursue liberal agendas. You want to win house seats because although there are many of them, the more you win the more power you have in the house, i.e. if you don’t “win”, you cannot be a majority.

    But no, we’re told the whole point of electing a Democrat in the 3rd district is so you can have another vote for Nancy Pelosi? When you organize your campaigns around reasoning like that… you lose. Nevertheless, this is how Democrats tend to think, and this is then the problem with letting Democrats choose candidates. This kind of convoluted reasoning put Clinton at the top of the ticket and gave us fizzling campaigns all over the State. You would think losing to Trump would shake people out of their complacency but comfort zones are powerful draws even if they lose elections.

    • Submitted by Brian Santa Maria on 05/17/2017 - 12:33 pm.

      I feel you.

      Really, I do.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/17/2017 - 10:23 pm.

      Is it ok to ask

      That whatever candidate is chosen, they be at least competent politcally. I know you’re of the opinion that the platform sells itself, but it would sure be nice to have an actual progressive that the opponents will not be able to simply dismiss as a crackpot, confident in a lack of political savvy, or will, to successfully push back. A proactive salesperson, not always on the defensive. Not to mention the rather high likelihood that “outsiders” may find the headwinds significantly more strong in light of the most prominent political “outsider’s” woeful performance thus far. Not saying such a knee jerk reaction is right or fair, just likely.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 11:42 am.

        I don’t disagree with you but…

        In my lifetime I’ve seen complacent Democrats put one losing candidate after another on the ballot because they worry about who the opposition is going to vote for rather than who supporters will vote for. Republican’s dismiss EVERY Democrat as a crackpot, so avoiding that charge is an incoherent criteria.

        There’s also this weird reverse double standard Democrats revert to wherein Republican charges of “crackpottery” are somehow devastating for Democrats while one REAL crackpot after another gets elected under the Republican banner. When Republican crackpots are more “electable” than Democrats you need to question your criteria and stop worrying about who’s being called a crackpot.

        Sure, you want political competence, but Republican attacks aren’t the problem, the problem is a Democratic party that keeps liberals and progressive off the ballot. The problem isn’t Republicans that think Sanders is a crackpot, the problem was Democrats who thought Sanders was a crackpot. What THAT tells us is that Democrats aren’t a liberal party. A liberal party wouldn’t dismiss Medicare for All, living wages, and affordable tuition, as “crackpot” schemes.

        I don’t know where Phillips fits in to all this but if Democrats don’t get liberal and step away from this “centrist” comfort zone of theirs it doesn’t matter. Even if Democrats win in the next election cycle they’ll just be kicking the can down the road because they won’t have won because they actually won, they will have won because Republicans lost. You can’t take credit for someone else’s self destruction.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/18/2017 - 10:08 pm.

          I would agree

          But for the fact that part of the problem with the “crackpot” label (no matter from whom it is leveled) is what seems to me to be a glaring deficiency in counter messaging from those so attacked. Had Bernie been able to persuade those “less than liberal” democrats to his cause, to assure them he wasn’t what they thought, we probably wouldn’t be discussing this. He didn’t, imho Bernie has always been an activist first and a politician second, this played well with simillarly minded sorts, and those looking for an avenue to voice what they felt were their overlooked (which was true) perspectives. Basically his message was gonna resonate with folks who already were feeling it. Obviously message is important, but there needs to be at least a modicum of a personal sell job on the candidate. I always supported Bernie for his message, but worried about HIM as the messenger. Right or wrong, politics in this day and age are personality fests and Bernie never spent much time molding his beyond the “firebrand railing away on the issues”. Refreshing and welcome to the likes of you and me, but potentially off putting to less politically astute voter, left, right or otherwise. Unfortunately, we NEED those votes. Your welcome to disagree, but we liberals fail to address our own blind spot, that the “rightness” and logic of our policy is so self evident and inevitable that it overcomes any need to field candidates talented at the “game” of politics. Especially as we simultaneously lament that people are voting for these exact sorts of folks from the other side, against their own interests. If we continue to do so, we WILL keep losing, both to cons and less liberal Democrats, particularly in areas where we don’t have demographic advantage. Please understand, this is not a call to moderate, to become more conservative. Its simply a challenge to ourselves to play to win, and take the necessary steps to ensure whatever candidates we can put forth possess the necessary skill to succeed.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2017 - 10:19 am.

            I agree

            The problem using your own criteria here you clearly choose the one candidate who could and did lose the election to Donald Trump. You say you want credible politician that can get votes but you choose to put the most distrusted and disliked, untalented, and uncredible candidate you had on the ballot… and then she lost. By your own criteria your critique of Sanders is garbage.

            You think Clinton had personal sell? You think Clinton had credibility? You think Clinton had a message? You understand your problem right? You put Clinton at the top of your ticket and now your lecturing us about electability? I’ve seen this for decades and it’s just pretentiousness masquerading as political acumen. You lose and then pretend to be experts on winning.

            The “blind” spot among Democrats is the rejection of liberalism under the pretense knowing how other people will vote. If Democrats knew what turned voters off, if they knew who people will vote for, they wouldn’t lose elections to the likes of George W. Bush, Donald Trump, or even Tim Pawlenty. And they wouldn’t have put Hillary Clinton at the top of their ticket in the first place. I’m sorry but this is all obvious.

            I don’t know why I have to keep pointing this out but: The fact that Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton does not prove that Clinton was more electable than Sanders. Obviously your (i.e. Democrats) “expertise” on who is or isn’t electable is… not so much. Clinton lost. And Clinton didn’t just lose, she lost to the biggest crackpot candidate in American History. Don’t try to pretend that Trump was undefeatable just because he defeated Clinton.

            I mean you understand that Clinton’s defeat more than likely actually indicates that those Democrats who thought Clinton was more electable than Sanders were wrong. Just because there were more wrong Democrats than correct Democrats doesn’t mean the Democrats who got it wrong… were right. You guys keep circling back to the fact that Sanders lost the primary as if that proves you were right… but Trump won so it’s kind of weird. The most parsimonious explanation is simply that Democrats got wrong when they choose Clinton over Sanders. And I still don’t know why people who thought Clinton was undefeatable continue to think that their judgement is better than that of those who knew Clinton could lose? And this isn’t hindsight, we warned you at the time.

            If we really want to talk about blind spots, we need to discuss the elite pretentiousness reflected in the mentality of Democrats.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/19/2017 - 10:58 am.

              Except I voted for Bernie

              It doesn’t matter who was wrong or right, Hillary WAS a bad candidate, but Bernie didn’t beat her. Lament all you like the lack of liberalism, the fact of the matter is that you need to gain the support of at least some of them to win. That’s the skill I’m talking about, the ability to advance the progressive agenda, while still having the personal ability to bring along those who may not be in ideological lockstep with your every position. Something like a Bill Clinton in reverse so to speak.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2017 - 03:19 pm.


                Again, I agree. I think the difference between us may be that I see the Democratic Party and a neo-liberal elite that actively suppresses progressive and liberal candidates, whereas you seem to assume a level playing field. I’m not demanding lock steps but I am challenging the elite structure. Part of making candidates like Sanders viable is making it possible for them to get nominated. Having a good candidate isn’t enough when you’re seeking the nomination from a party that refuses to nominate good candidates. You have to challenge the mentality that keeps good candidates off the ballot.

                You seem to assume the Democratic party is an all encompassing arbiter of political viability, but I remind you, they lost. Failing to get that nomination doesn’t mean you couldn’t get the votes, it just means you couldn’t get the nomination. You seem to willing to acknowledge the fact that Clinton was a bad candidate, but are you willing to ask why a bad candidate got the Democratic nomination? Again, the fact that Clinton got the nomination doesn’t prove she was the better candidate, it just proves the Democrats selected a bad candidate. You can’t assume that Sanders wouldn’t have won the general election (i.e. got the votes) just because he didn’t the Democratic nomination.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/19/2017 - 05:07 pm.

                  We’re close

                  But I think you assign more power to the DNC than exists. Bernie could have won the primary, its not as if the party would have folded. Obama did exactly that, 8 years prior. A talented progressive can be nominated, they just need to play to win, a strategy I feel certain strains of progressives struggle with.

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2017 - 10:12 am.

                    Facts undermine your postition

                    We know that Sanders faced obstacles Obama did not. We know that the Clinton’s and their supporters were enraged by their loss to Obama and set about erecting barriers within the process that would make future challenges more difficult. We know that the Clinton’s were vindictive and punished those who they thought had betrayed them in 08, and threatened to punish similar betrayals in 16. We also know that Party officials issued similar threats to those who might support Sanders and in some cases actually took action. These are documented facts, not conspiracy theory. This explains the rock solid Super Delegate advantage and anti-Sanders media coverage, among other things.

                    Given the circumstances and years of preparation Clinton actually defeated Sanders by a surprisingly narrow margin and suffered a number of stunning upsets. This was a red flag for those of us who wanted to keep Trump out of the White House, but Democrats had their blinders firmly secured and just kept dismissing an ever growing plethora of fatal liabilities associated the Clinton.

                    And finally, you keep drifting away form the central point, which is that the Democratic Party has been for decades functioning as a firewall against liberal and progressive candidates and agendas. Obama campaigned as a liberal, and he may be more liberal than Clinton, but Sanders is clearly and significantly to the left of Obama. For instance Obamacare is Clintoncare, Medicare for All is single payer. This isn’t really about Sanders, Sanders just illustrates the point that Democrats suppress liberal agendas and candidates, no progressive candidate could have gotten the Democratic nomination no matter how good or electable they were. That’s a systemic feature of the Party that has to change. That’s what this conversation is about. It’s not about re-fighting the Clinton-Sanders primary, it’s about making possible that the Democratic Party will be able to nominate electable candidates in the future.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/20/2017 - 04:28 pm.

                      I was there in 2008 Paul

                      Trust me, at least in this state, Obama was perceieved as a liberal. He was Bernie before Bernie was Bernie, at least in greater public perception. He also was and is a better politician than either Clinton, Sanders, Biden, or any other candidate we trotted out in 2016. You have the benefit of hindsight to determine your view of his liberalism, but in 2008 that didn’t exist. I’ll ask you historical question, how often has economic liberalism been truly ascendant? Twice? If you include LBJ I guess, but he certainly wasn’t your classical idea of it. That leaves exactly once, during the Great Depression. Don’t you want to have a crack at power more than once a generation?

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/21/2017 - 11:18 am.

                      I was there as well Matt,

                      And I’ve been voting for presidents since 1980, this is not hindsight, progressives like myself were critiquing Obama’s liberalism during his nomination battle against Clinton, just because you weren’t part of that conversation doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

                      As for your question, I’m not clear exactly what you’re asking? It looks to me like you don’t believe in “economic liberalism”, which is fine, but it underscores my point that Democrats aren’t liberals. How can claim to be liberal if you oppose liberal economic policies? If you don’t think liberal economic policies have been historically successful (and I’m not going to get into that debate here), than that’s just another way of saying you don’t believe in liberal economic policies, which means your not a liberal. Which is fine but that confirms my critique that the Democratic Party is not a liberal Party.

                      The point is that since Democrats abandoned liberal economic policies they’ve LOST power, not gained it. So yeah, I’d like have a crack at power, what’s your point? I mean if you were winning elections you might have a point, but Donald Trump is our president and the Republican is the dominant political Party in the nation, and we got there by following your lead, not mine. (speaking figuratively, i.e. the neo-liberal lead rather than the progressive lead).

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2017 - 10:05 pm.

                      I DO believe in economic liberalism

                      But I also believe in the historical record. Explain to me how the hypothetical economical liberal you’d like to nominate differs from those we’ve seen demolished in the past. What attributes differentiate this person from McCarthy, Mondale, Dukakis, Carter(barely in the category, but still). Tell me how the next Wellstone becomes anything more than a bit player on the national scene. I get what your view is, but you need to have something more than a field of dreamsesque “run the liberals and the voters will come” as your electoral strategem. We HAVE run liberals, they tend to lose, not because liberalism is wrong, or because too many Democrats aren’t liberal enough to embrace them. They lose because, for whatever reason, liberals make for lousy politicians. That’s the whole point of what I’ve been arguing with you about, not some high level discussion on merits or lack thereof of liberalism as a worldview. You CANNOT win on merit of argument alone, it might gall you to your core, but its just fact. You mentioned in another comment how you hate that politics is treated as a game, with only the current outcome given any significance. Of course it is, its a banal popularity contest writ large, with the fate of a nation at stake. You cannot possibly believe, that any significant number of people, spend even a fraction of the amount time folks like you and I do parsing through the various layers of policy positioning and budgetary data to come to an informed decision on the legislation that might alter their lives. Most folks couldn’t even give you the process of law making if questioned. Your measage is lost on them. The barest fraction of the most activist folks on both sides are the ones that drive the discussion, here and everywhere else. You like to to speak about drilling down on the issues, that if you parse a question to its core, people really agree with the liberal view of the world. That’s great, but you’re the only one doing the drilling. In order to win we have to find liberals willing to “play the game” we all find so distateful, to be more than just a conduit for the all important “policy” that we want to see enacted. THEY need to be the focus, bringing the policy along for the ride. Its what enabled Clinton and Obama, for all their lack of liberalism to get liberals to empower them. That is the “blind spot” I mention, the belief we can stay above the fray, on some illusory “high road” while the rabble mucks about below, playing some “game” that is beneath our high minded ambition. FDR knew that, LBJ knew that, hell, the Kennedys for all their elitiist trappings, knew that. Its time we remember.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2017 - 01:28 pm.


                      Yes, you win elections with good candidates that connect with voters, not just good arguments. That’s why putting Clinton on the ballot was such a huge mistake, she couldn’t connect with voters. Again, I agree with what your saying for the most part, you just keep twisting it to fit your rationale rather than following it through to it’s logical conclusion. If we follow your reasoning to it’s logical conclusion we get Sanders on the ballot instead of Clinton.

                      Liberalism isn’t about drilling into esoteric issues. Liberalism is about connecting with people on basic issues. Health care, education, jobs, living wages, transportation… these aren’t obscure liberal issues, these are basic bread and butter priorities for most Americans. The blind spot is thinking that Clinton was better at connecting on these issues than Sanders. The blind spot is Democrats running away from these issues that connect with voters rather than running ON issues that connect with voters.

                      Finally let’s just step back and look at the historical record. When Democrats were liberal, and supported liberal economics between what? 1930 and 1968? They won 6 out 7 presidential contests and held power for 30 out of 34 years. During that period they passed several major pieces of landmark legislation most of which stand largely intact to this day. In the 70’s the “New Democrats” took power and switched form liberal economics to neo-liberal economics and they won 3 out of 7 presidential contests and only really took power for two years during the Obama administration. A look at the legacies of Carter, Clinton, and Obama reveals a thin shadow when compared to those of FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and LBJ. During the neo-liberal years even when Democrats won they lost because they weren’t able to move any major liberal legislation or public policy initiatives, but rather settled for Republican-light policies. Obama was the most successful of the three and even his legacy lay mostly in shreds after a matter of months. The Liberal Democratic Party won elections and did great things. Our current Democratic Party put Donald Trump in the White House. I think the future direction is clear, the only question is whether or not Democrats will follow it.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/22/2017 - 05:04 pm.


                      Not sure where you get that I was some big Clinton supporter but I’ll leave it at this. I’ll even use a local example. We had a Senate primary back in 2008, Franken v Pallmeyer. What I fear is that progressives seem hellbent on backing the Pallmeyers of the world, who had a great message, but was a lousy politician, at the expense of the Frankens, who while very liberal, still didn’t pass the purity test for some. Franken has obviously gone on to become what he has, while I haven’t heard from Mr. Pallmeyer in 8 years. Pick winners first. You have to. Picking on policy might get you lucky occasionally, like Wellstone, but if you pick losers every time, you’re gonna lose.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2017 - 08:41 am.

                      Correct but…

                      Progressives and liberals turned out for Franken and put him over the top. Again, you assume that liberals and progressives are the ones who don’t know who’s electable. My point is that you’re afraid of the wrong people, you should be afraid of the people who put Clinton on the ballot, but instead your afraid of the people who wanted to put Sanders on the ballot. You assume progressives and liberals have no common sense, that’s YOUR failing. (again, not you personally but Democrats in general).

                      Yes, you need decent candidates to win elections, but you’re pretending that a mundane observation is a brilliant insight available only to “moderate” Democrats. You’re still left with the problem of producing and selecting decent candidates. I’m saying Democrats have a basic systemic problem, you’re saying they don’t have a problem; yes? That’s the blind spot I’m worried about, it’s a blind spot the Democrats have been stuck with for decades, and the nation is suffering because of it.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/23/2017 - 10:56 am.

                      I’m saying we ALL

                      Have a problem in selecting candidates. Liberals in picking policy over person, and moderates in picking folks that Liberals won’t support. I think YOUR issue is in believing Liberals can win on our own, without finding someone who can bring the moderate “non liberals” by force of will. There just isn’t enough of us willing to show up consistently. Solve that problem. I’m not convinced that just running more liberal is gonna draw out that many more apathetics to the polls. A strong, charismatic candidate could. A third party isn’t viable, so we’d better figure out a way to work together soon, or it’ll be a moot point anyway.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2017 - 02:10 pm.

                      Force of will?

                      No one said anything about force of will. I’m talking about persuasion, my point is that liberal agendas are more persuasive and appealing than moderate agendas, or conservative agendas. THAT’S why the Liberal Democratic Party of FDR etc. was so much more successful than moderate Democratic Party that took control in the 80s.

                      You’re creating false dichotomies. We don’t choose policy over persons or visa versa, we choose effective candidates that promote good policy. You’re assuming moderates won’t vote for liberal policies, that’s a facile assumption, and it’s not an assumption a liberal would make, it’s an assumption a Republican would make. You also seem to be assuming that liberals are minority, which is another Republican assumption. Neither of these assumptions have a basis in fact. Democrats have been running moderate candidates for decades, that’s how Trump ended up in the Oval Office.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/23/2017 - 04:34 pm.

                      If you think FDR and LBJ

                      Were about “persuasion”, that’s just an inaccurate reading of history. As to your assumption vis a vis moderates, if they were keen on liberal policy, they would be liberals, not moderates. But this then belies your belief, (and that of too many liberals) that EVERYONE is liberal, those that aren’t simply haven’t seen the proper information yet. This would apply to minority status as well, please don’t fall into the same trap the conservatives do, claiming numbers that simply don’t reflect the voting record. Polls aren’t an accurate representation of each individual’s whole ideology, drilled down into or not.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2017 - 10:06 pm.


                      How did FDR win all those elections if he didn’t persuade people to vote for him and his policies? People aren’t locked into ideological silos, they support policies and agenda they agree with, regardless of origin.

                      You’re assumptions regarding liberals and moderates don’t seem to be based on any reliable observations or historical records, but rather your own antipathy towards liberalism. One way or another you keep circling back to your claim that liberals can’t win elections because moderates won’t vote for them, this a facile claim on many levels. It’s simply a fact that liberals have won elections, obviously someone votes for them, and it stands to reason that some of those voters are moderates.

                      The problem the Democratic party has had, is that a significant number of rank and file Democrats and party leaders share this basic antipathy towards liberals and liberalism, the belief that liberals can’t win elections. Democrats need to get past this if they want to win election and keep people like Donald Trump out of office. My fear is that if the sight of Trump sitting in the oval office can’t shake these Democrats out of their complacency, nothing can.

              • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/20/2017 - 10:16 am.

                I can’t let this go by without refuting it:

                Hillary Clinton was NOT a bad candidate. She won the popular vote by about three million; no one who “lost” the election has ever had such a vote advantage over the “winner” in our history.

                No one running for President in 2016 was even remotely as qualified as Clinton for the job. And she had a deep team of policy experts, which meant that she and they had detailed plans to work with Congress to improve Obamacare and address many inequities in our system, on all kinds of issues. She had support ih Congress. Bernie Sanders has no policy depth (I have long been acquainted with leftist rhetoric, and that’s what Bernnie has), and he has no Congressional allies; he would not have been able to move the machine.

                And we know how awful Donald Trump is. He is unfit for the office he holds.

                What happened? The Clinton CAMPAIGN made mistakes. The numbers crunchers and young strategists made a bad calculation about the audience to address, where to go, etc. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s agree that the Trump campaign’s characterization of the “[w]itch” cannot be allowed to be the last word on Hillary Clinton.

                There are a lot of people in the U.S. who are still not ready to be led by a strong and capable woman. That was a big factor in the election, and especially in the campaign revisionism we’re seeing from men who call themselves Democrats or progressives and try to pretend that Bernie Sanders was a better candidate than Hillary Clinton. Please. She was head and shoulders above the candidae crowd in 2016, and most voters recognized that, and that no candidate is the Platonic Ideal Candidate

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/21/2017 - 11:53 am.


                  The idea that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was run by a bunch of novices is simply preposterous and factually incorrect. And even if novice campaign leadership were Hillary’s problem, that Clinton would let a bunch of novices run her campaign would indicate a severe lack of good judgement. How can you claim that someone who make such fatal campaign decisions was the most qualified and experienced candidate? In fact Clinton had spent years preparing for this campaign and had the Party’s most powerful and experienced leadership behind her.

                  The inability to reconcile Clinton’s incompetent campaign with her claims of superior competence was one of her greatest liabilities. By July supporters were reduced to promising that she’d be a better president than she was a candidate, and that obviously didn’t sell.

                  Sexism is obviously a obstacle for women, but Clinton’s gender didn’t defeat her. We know that American’s are more than willing to vote for a woman president, because they did. I remind you, she got 3 million more votes than Trump. The problem was the candidate, and the campaign, not the gender. It’s important to make that distinction because the lesson learned is very different. If we blame Clinton’s gender for her loss, we conclude that putting a strong woman on the ballot was the mistake. If we recognize that putting Hillary Clinton of the ballot was the mistake, we are free to put another strong woman on the ballot in future. I’d like to see more strong women on the ballot, and I think American’s will vote for them. American’s just didn’t want to vote Hillary Clinton, but we knew that well in advance because every single poll revealed a deep antipathy towards Clinton.

                  Finally, let me clear: My critique of Hillary Clinton and her campaign have absolutely nothing to do with anything Trump or Republicans say about Clinton. My perspective is one of a liberal progressive with 40 years of experience dealing with a neo-liberal Democrats and Clintonian politics. My thing has nothing to do with Hillary Hate, it’s a political critique.

    • Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 05/18/2017 - 08:08 am.

      Spot on

      Excellent analysis, but a few too many incorrect assumptions. First, I’m not sure who you mean when you say “Democrats.” Are you talking about the voting population that aligns with that ideology or the party? There’s a huge difference these days, and while Phillips might not be warmly embraced by the latter, he will be by the former once they get to know him and what he stands for.

      Part of the difference between the two was illustrated by the ill-founded suggestion that voting for Pelosi is the single most important vote for a Democrat Rep can make. These single-issue litmus tests are the hallmark of some DFL loyalists and are one of the reasons why they have a tough time winning. They are nonsensically divisive.

      Phillips will be appealing to both sides of the middle, which is where the battleground is. He’s a well-respected businessman (as opposed to career politician like Paulsen) and philanthropist who defies the stereotype that the GOP is already trying to use for him.

      It’s amusing to read the dire predictions of him from people who know little about him. You don’t succeed in business as he has by being stupid, you don’t win the respect of the business community by not building alliances and making connections, and you don’t earn his reputation as a philanthropist by being a “limousine liberal.”

      There’s a long ways to go until the 2018 elections, and the more that people get to know Phillips, the more appealing he will be, and the more they realize who Paulsen is and what he has done, the more appealing Phillips will be.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 01:33 pm.

        Speaking for myself

        When I talk about Democrats I’m talking mostly about the Party, not those like myself, who like to align with the party.

        I have to disagree with you’re suggestion that the “middle” is where the battleground is. I think that assumes level of polarization that doesn’t really exist. I know I’m an odd man out on this but I really don’t see a population that’s polarized down the middle. If you drill down into even the most supposedly divisive issues, such as abortion, you will find a clear majority to the left. A very very very small percentage of American’s for instance support the idea of criminalizing all abortions from the moment of conception, which is the Republican agenda. Likewise, a clear majority of American’s disapprove of most of Trump’s initiatives, are getting alarmed by voter suppression initiatives, etc. It can take a while but once Americans get educated they swing against the Republicans. You can see that with Climate change and vaccines for instance.

        So the battleground isn’t on a political spectrum of some kind, I think it’s a reaction against the elite. People don’t want a left for right government, or anything in the middle, they want a FUNCTIONING government that represents them rather than the elite. The “middle” isn’t the answer because that’s a status quo. The “right” is completely out of touch with reality and has taken magical thinking about as far as anyone could. So that leaves the left, and that’s where electable candidates are going to be found, because that’s where the really popular and workable solutions are currently found (such as universal health care, living wages, etc.).

        The more I see of this polarization narrative the more disconnected from reality it seems to be. It looks like a narrative that actually services the status quo by manufacturing a excuse for a stagnation. Oddly enough it seems to service the liberal elite more so than radical conservatives. With Democrats for instance it’s like a an excuse to say: “Well don’t expect much in the candidates because we’re just polarized we have to opt for the middle.” But then they lose, so it’s weird. It’s like an excuse to NOT take a position, and dismiss everyone else’s position.

        • Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 05/22/2017 - 12:25 pm.

          “The Middle”: It doesn’t mean what you think it means

          I’ve very much enjoyed your analyses here, and agree with much of what you’re writing. However, I think labels sometimes get in the way of understanding because they mean different things to different people.

          For my arguments, the “middle” doesn’t imply a 50/50 split. The middle is where two groups collide, regardless of how many are on either side. It’s a place where moving to the other side is not a huge step. I believe that’s where Clinton lost the election. One example of why the middle is important is the Comey intrusion before the election. It clearly affected many folks who previously were in Clinton’s corner, but were not firmly there. Similarly, I don’t think that many Trump voters were convinced that Trump was the better of the two. At the end of the day, they believed more the negatives being spewed about Clinton than they saw Trump’s shortcomings. (BTW, to minimize misogyny’s role in Clinton’s defeat is just wrong. It’s not so much that people voted against her because she was a woman, but because the standards for a woman to be considered Presidential are exponentially higher than those for men. To wit, Clinton was attacked for her husband’s philandering while Trump was anything but a role model in fidelity–a double standard to the extreme.

          In talking about Paulsen and Trump with myriad people of all stripes since the election, most are positioned more closely in the middle than not.To be sure, there are hardliners on both sides. But there is a surprisingly large number of folks–Democrat, Republican, and Independent–who have told me that they’ve never been all that politically active, but with the direction the country has been heading since November, they feel they need to do something. I’ve considered that the hallmark of someone in the middle. Their need to do something isn’t tied to being a Democrat or Republican, but the feeling that something must be done to right the course. Again, that to me is one of the subsets of the “middle,” and I think it’s fertile ground for candidates like Phillips, who is not strident in his liberalism but fits that category all the same–not necessarily with his voting record (which I’m not familiar with), but with his actions both in business and philanthropy.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2017 - 02:44 pm.


            “It’s not so much that people voted against her because she was a woman, but because the standards for a woman to be considered Presidential are exponentially higher than those for men.”

            Absolutely true, but given ALL of Clinton’s liabilities sexism was not the deciding factor. Sexism is a given, it’s a stable feature of American society, but it’s also one that hundreds of women politicians have overcome. Voter’s have elected women to every office in the land for decades now, with the single exception of President and Vice President. Clinton won the popular vote which indicates that she too actually overcame sexism. Clinton beat that bar, she just didn’t win the election, I think it’s important to make that observation. We don’t want to minimize sexism, but we don’t want to surrender to it either.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2017 - 02:05 pm.


            The middle of what? This idea that people cluster around the middle is confusing a bell curve distribution with demographic distribution, they’re very different things. Bell curves don’t apply to political spectrum’s, so no, you can’t say most people cluster around the “middle”, they may or may not. And you can’t say that all collisions happen in the middle. To use a sport analogy (something I’m typically loath to do) you know that all the plays don’t happen on the 50 yard line. By definition our political collisions in the US are taking place on the extreme right because the extreme right is who we are colliding with. We’re nowhere near the middle of anything. We are not in the middle with extremists on either side, we are face to face with right wing extremists.

            Nor is the middle where we want to be, to use another analogy being in the middle of a collapsing bridge is not better than being on either side.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/17/2017 - 05:45 pm.

    Anyone who opposes what Donald Trump, supported by the Republican majority, is doing to this country has to applaud people deciding to stand up and give politics a try, like Phillips. He shouid be given a chance to do his listening, and then tell us what he’s going to do.

    The point: We have to choose someone who can help turn the Congress to Democratic control, so the second two years of Trump has a Congress to present a check or a balance to him.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/18/2017 - 02:44 pm.

    Let me explain

    My point here isn’t to beat down Clinton or her supporters. The point is that if Democrats want to win elections, they need to step away from a comfort zone that decided to put Clinton on the ballot. Clinton was huge mistake, and the reasoning behind that needs to change, and people don’t change unless they realize they need to change.

    I’m still seeing a lot of evidence that Democrats don’t get it. I hear and see this drift back to the same comfort zone wherein Democrats start pretending all over again they have some kind of reservoir of political and electoral wisdom, and that they it’s time to take that package and move on to the next election. We have to elect more Democrats so they can vote for Nanci Pelosi? Seriously? Democrats always delude themselves into believing that they know who everyone else will vote for… and then they lose when everyone votes for someone else. This has to stop. We can survive the Trump Presidency, but we can’t survive the collapse of liberalism.

    Part of that Democrat comfort zone and intellectual complacency is the tendency to treat elections like games that have been won or lost. You lose a game, you just move on to the next one. That’s not how elections and democracy works. Voters aren’t just looking for “A” candidate to vote for in “THIS” election, they want to part of something bigger, they want to vote for some THING, not just some ONE. That’s what Clinton didn’t have, and that’s what other Democrats failed to offer as well. People don’t just want to see someone or another win an election, they want to be part of something, and democrats don’t give people anything to part of. In the last election cycle it was particularly agonizing because Clinton just seemed to be offering people a chance to be part her own self indulgent desire to be president, because it was her turn, and that just didn’t appeal to voters.

    With Phillips, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but he needs to connect to something larger so his voters feel like their part of something large than Phillips. The only problem I think I see is that he looks like he’s doing a form market research, which would be his tendency and a business guy, but could be a mistake if he relies to heavily on it. The problem is that Market research is regressive, it can’t predict future reactions to novel options. No Market research would have recommended someone put a band like the Beatles together for instance, or that Rubix Cube would be such a hit. Political policy based on that kind of research will always regress or otherwise trend back, in a conservative fashion, it can tell you what people wanted… but not what they will want. Politicians don’t just need to listen to what people say they want, they have to think beyond that and imagine options people would want.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2017 - 03:27 pm.

    Democrats should run better in the third district than they have in the past. The trends favor them, and Paulsen is really out of step with his constituents. The problem, in part, has been that Dems haven’t run very strong campaigns in the district, and Rep. Paulsen has been very successful in presenting himself as the logical successor to Ramstad. Last time, with Terri Bonoff, a stronger effort was made, but it just didn’t work out.

    Mr. Phillips may not be a typical Democrat, but I think the great thing about typical Democrats is that they won’t necessarily hold that against him. We are pleased that he has finally taken an interest in government and public affairs. It’s never too late.

  11. Submitted by Karl Bunday on 05/21/2017 - 12:00 pm.

    Facts about Third District Electorate

    I’ve read the comments kindly previously submitted, and I would just like to point out that all is for nought if a candidate for the United States House seat representing the Third District of Minnesota has great ideas but loses the election. So far, Erik Paulsen has won each time he has run, against a variety of DFL opponents, and he has always won by a comfortable margin. That’s a fact any candidate running against him has to face. I do NOT say that Paulsen is unbeatable, but rather that making a credible run against him will take a lot of steady work, including the very hard work of understanding the points of view of the majority of Third District voters who may not agree with the personal point of view of any particular candidate of either major party.

    What’s very unusual about the Third District nationally (only just more than twenty districts out of 435 are like this) is the pattern of ticket-splitting found here. Hillary Clinton won a very comfortable majority of the vote in the Third District in the 2016 election, much more comfortable than her statewide vote margin. But Paulsen, as usual, also won by a still more comfortable vote margin. He routinely wins by about 60,000 votes in this district, whether turnout is high (presidential election years) or comparatively low (midterm election years). His margin is usually more comfortable for him in midterm election years, and 2018, the next next election year, is a midterm election year. So anyone challenging Erik Paulsen in the next Third District election might do well to figure out how to change the opinions of voters who voted for Paulsen last time while also voting for Hillary Clinton. There were tens of thousands of such voters in the last election. It takes a net change of 30,000 voters changing their minds about whom to vote for for the House of Representatives to change Paulsen’s chances of being reelected. I’m not saying that’s impossible–I changed from being a 2014 Paulsen voter to being a 2016 campaigner for and voter for Terri Bonoff–but that’s not easy. What issues matter to Third District voters (whether they matter to you or not)? What are you doing to talk to persuadable voters who currently surely disagree with you? What messages or slogans are perceived as mainstream and worthy of endorsement in the voting booth by more than half of the people who turn out to vote in the Third District? Those are the kinds of questions you should ask yourselves while preparing for the 2018 campaign.

    The link gives the actual voting totals for the Third District in 2016. This is worth memorizing for any serious campaigner, and definitely worth thinking about day after day after day.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/22/2017 - 09:44 am.


    I am wrong about things a lot, and one of the things I have been wrong about is the third district. For a long time, I firmly believed that Paulsen is a vulnerable candidate. He is a rather colorless individual, who is mostly out of step with his district. His is one of the few districts in the country with a Republican congressman who voted for Obama. I regretted the missed opportunity when the district opened up, that we ran Madia instead of Terri Bonoff. When Terri decided to run last year, I was enthusiastic about her candidacy. She is a good fit for the district, and Terri has proven herself an effective candidate. And as committed as I tried to be to taking Trump seriously, I and other Democrats grossly underestimated his appeal in Minnesota.

    All of those views are mostly unchanged, but they are all, also, mostly irrelevant. Terri was effective in running the wrong campaign. Paulsen still doesn’t represent his district well, but he was effective enough in concealing that point. Simply saying the words “Donald Trump” repeatedly wasn’t enough to move third district voters. We forgot that Democrats unlike Republicans, can’t win by being against things, we need to be for things as well.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 05/22/2017 - 01:37 pm.

      Bonoff started her candidacy too late. The sad reality of House races these days is that you need to be getting in the race 18 months prior, not 6 1/2.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/23/2017 - 10:24 am.

    The Bonoff campaign

    As with all campaigns, lots of mistakes, and lots of decisions didn’t work out. What I think we should do with Paulsen is focus on him at the outset. We need to establish that he isn’t whom he presents himself as. I thought his vote in favor of Trump Care and subsequent op ed offered us the perfect opportunity. The gap between what he was voting for, and what he says he supported which bore this incredible resemblance to what his constituents want to hear was truly remarkable. People need to be shown this over and over.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/24/2017 - 09:04 am.

      Bad advice

      Yes, Democrats underestimated Trumps appeal, but more importantly they underestimated voter antipathy towards Hillary Clinton. Given the extensive polling data that always revealed that antipathy this failure was inexcusable.

      Left with a unpopular and distrusted candidate that had no clear agenda or message Democrats decided to they didn’t need to give voters anything to vote for, they would win these contests by prompting people to vote against, and that was a spectacular fail.

      Hiram seems to acknowledge that fail, and recognizes that Democrats “forgot” they need to give voters something to vote for. (I would point out however that Hiram is making “we we” when he claims that “we” forgot; many of us did NOT forget, and kept pointing this out for months).

      Be that all as it may, we now get advice that basically returns to the same failed strategy of portraying Paulsen as an extremist who pulls a bait and switch on his constituents… in other words, double down on the strategy that keeps failing. To be sure, Paulsen is an extremist that sells himself as a moderate and betrays his own constituents. But campaigns organized around revealing that fact fail because he simply denies it, and for some reason voters consider his denials to be credible. This means that any campaign based on attacking Paulsen’s record becomes a campaign organized around defeating Paulsen’s denials, and that’s a return to a campaign of voting against Paulsen rather than voting for a Democrat.

      If Democrats want to win, they need to organize campaigns around liberal policies that improve people lives and solve problems. You have to have an affirmative message that promotes a clear alternative and tells people what your going to do, not simply that you won’t do what Paulsen does, THAT’S the difference between giving people something to vote for or giving them something to vote against. Your campaign message can’t simply be: “Look at this stuff that Paulsen did… I won’t do that”

  14. Submitted by Julie Stroeve on 09/14/2017 - 05:42 pm.

    Dean Phillips in the 3rd

    Thank God for Dean Phillips! Erik Paulsen won’t even appear at a constituent forum. He votes what? 93? 95? 98? percent with DJT, Dean Phillips needs to frame his message that he doesn’t think (he knows) that lower taxes increase jobs . Time and time and time again I’ve read from big and small business owners that Minnesota taxes don’t have an impact on business decisions — to start, to expand, to relocate from urban to suburban to rural. I also know that Eden Prairie employers are so desperate for low wage line workers that they hire a bus line to bring them from Mpls to Eden Prairie to work. So low taxes in Eden Prairie, then the add-ons to get the workers to Eden Prairie. Seriously Where are our priorities? Tax policy that affects business is an issue we can all get our heads around. Phillips certainly knows how it affects business growth. He needs to be pro-worker without sounding anti=business. for gods’ sakes, he is business. Minnesota taxes and regulations are NOT hurting Phillips or growth rates of business. get it right, Phillips! you go!

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