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Can the DFL reconnect with rural Minnesotans?

Can the DFL find ways to reconnect with rural Minnesotans?
MinnPost photo by Joe Kimball
Parties that once claimed to be big tents have come to be defined by a narrower range of views.

If you look at the electoral map of Minnesota in 2016, it’s possible to conclude that the DFL no longer is a statewide party.

One little exercise brings that point home: If you subtract all the votes cast in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties in the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have easily carried Minnesota, with 58 percent of the vote.

As it was, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump, with 46.1 percent of the statewide vote. But she carried just nine of the state’s 87 counties. And not only did Trump crush Clinton in Greater Minnesota, but Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature.

Republicans in Minnesota face plenty of their own problems when it comes to navigating the Trump era heading into the legislative and gubernatorial races of 2018. But Democrats also know that Trump’s triumph was a wake-up call, since it wasn’t just about his popularity — or Clinton’s lack of it — in Greater Minnesota. It was also about their own (in)ability to connect with voters outside the Twin Cities.

“I think progressives have ignored rural people and people of color,” in 2016, said Dan McGrath, executive director of the progressive organization Take Action Minnesota. “But I also think there’s a lot of awakening going on.” 

“Too often progressives give the impression that we know best. ... I admit, sometimes at night I wrap myself in a blanket of self-righteousness.”

Driven by causes

To be clear, Take Action Minnesota is not the DFL, and it doesn’t speak for all Democrats. “But in a two-party system, we work with DFL candidates and try to pull the party left,” said McGrath.

Indeed, in many ways, Take Action represents the politics of our times. Left and right, more and more people are driven by causes, not party.

It’s an issue DFL officials have long discussed, even as they acknowledge how difficult it is to solve. Parties that once claimed to be big tents have come to be defined by a narrower range of views. It was once easy to find pro-choice Republican activists, for instance, or pro-life Democrats. No more.

“It’s a problem in both parties,” said Nancy Larson, a longtime DFL activist who has been working for years to keep the state DFL connected with people in Greater Minnesota. “All of those people in the middle have been left out. You really see it in rural people. They feel left out. There are people in the DFL who let you know that if you don’t think a certain way, if you don’t toe the line, you’re not a Democrat.”

Rep. Tim Walz chatting with Farmfest attendees in 2016.
MinnPost photo by Doug Grow
Rep. Tim Walz, right, chatting with Farmfest attendees in 2016.

In the name of inclusiveness, Larson says, the left wing of the DFL has become “rigid,” so much so that some of the DFL’s fixations have become something of a joke in large swaths of Greater Minnesota.

Try Asian carp. These are the variety of species of carp that were imported in the 1970s from, well, Asia, and are invading U.S. waterways, causing all sorts of damage. “We’re not supposed to say ‘Asian carp,’ ” said Larson, laughing. “They’re ‘invasive carp.’ It’s in state statute.”

That’s not hyperbole. In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature, under DFL control at the time, passed a statute requiring that the commissioner of the DNR “use the term invasive carp or refer to the specific species in any proposed laws, rules or official documents when referring to carp species that are not naturalized to the waters of this state.”

This legislation was needed because, DFLers said, referring to the carp from Asia as Asian carp was perceived an attack on Asian-Americans.

Of course, there are bigger issues that have increasingly left many in Greater Minnesota feel unwanted in the 21st century DFL. Attitudes — and policy decisions — about mining and farming, for example, often separate people who once called themselves DFLers from today’s party.

And then came Trump. “He seemed refreshing to people who were being tired of being told what to say, what to think, what to do,” said Larson.

‘If you can’t capture the heart, it means nothing’

It’s an open question whether Trump will remain “refreshing” in Greater Minnesota by 2018, of course. But it’s also unclear how or if DFLers can reconnect with those outside the Twin Cities metro.

Both Larson and McGrath believe “messaging” is a fundamental failing of the modern DFL, a problem exacerbated in 2016 by Clinton’s shortcomings as chief messenger. “Democrats don’t know how to message,” said Larson. “They haven’t been able to do their messages in a personal sense."

And yet, there are fundamental issues that still unite many DFLers — health care, education and wages, among others — if they can get on the same page. “The party still does have blue collar values,” said Larson. “But if you can’t capture the heart, it means nothing.”

By contrast, the GOP has done a good job of being highly disciplined about its own messaging, says McGrath. One of the reasons the GOP has become the party of Greater Minnesota is by using the metro-rural split as a wedge issue, with campaign materials that constantly harp on the “fact” that the metro areas, especially Minneapolis, receive far more public benefits than those “underserved” people in Greater Minnesota.

Study after study, however, has shown that the reverse is true. A study by the nonpartisan House Research Department shows that the Twin Cities pays in 64 percent of the state’s taxes and receives 53 per cent of the state’s benefits. Meantime, non-metro counties pay in 36 percent of the taxes and get back 47 per cent of state benefits.

Gary Wertish with Sen. Al Franken
REUTERS/Craig Lassig
Gary Wertish of the Minnesota Farmers Union speaking with Sen. Al Franken at Farmfest in 2014.

A 10-year-old study by the nonprofit Growth and Justice was even more startling. When all forms of federal, state and local government payments were figured — including everything from farm subsidies to Social Security payments — public money amounted to 20 percent of the personal income of rural Minnesotans, as opposed to 12 percent for Minnesotans living in metro areas.

Despite such stats, both McGrath and Larson agree that when many people in Greater Minnesota think of the DFL, they think of Asian carp and of know-it-all environmentalists, not working people with sweat-stained shirts.

Meanwhile, many young progressives think the DFL hasn’t moved left enough, fast enough. “We primarily are concerned with our agenda, not party,” said McGrath.

In other words, crossing the divide won’t be easy, especially since the DFL could very easily retain the governor’s office by continuing to dominate in the places it already does so — by winning the same nine counties that Clinton won.

But regaining control of the Legislature is another matter, one that may require someone, or some thing, to reorient the relationship between metro progressives and former DFLers in rural Minnesota. Or a lot of therapy. 

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Comments (46)

Statewide party

Looking around my neighborhood in Minneapolis, it's hard to imagine how the GOP could be considered a statewide party either.

DFL Statewide

I think the conflation of urban left politic with overly earnest politically correct language like "invasive carp" in bills rustling rural polity is the wrong one to draw, not that article explicitly does so. The main causes being pushed by the young agenda driven progressives who think the DFL hasn't "moved left fast enough' in cities are ones that can resonate out-state. Minimum wage, paid sick leave, single payer healthcare, real working issues that resonate with everyone! Put up 15 now billboards over every pro-life billboard on the highway and watch those districts flip. If it sounds risky, just look at the polling on these issues, they consistently perform even with republicans! What out-state currently sees is a party working harder on rural "invasive" carp than the rural electorate. You don't have to ditch the environmental agenda, but you have to offer the people something in order to advance these causes.

When people in cities say the DFL hasn't moved left fast enough it's not about the carp, it's the seeming unwillingness of the party to embrace a winning strategy that should be at the parties core. Part of the messaging problem is that the center way has nothing to offer anyone, even for folks who would describe themselves as such out-state and they certainly did not turn out for Clinton.

Yeah, that's it

Rural areas are just as progressive as Minneapolis - we just need better billboards.

I don't know if you have ever worked on a rural campaign, but that just isn't true. There's a reason that the few elected Democrats from rural areas are the party's most conservative.

re: Yeah, that's it

Any billboards would be a refreshing start to be honest.

These candidates tend to hold on to their seats by the slimmest of margins, and they are the first to go in a bad year. The kind of voter you engage with on these campaigns may very well identify as more conservative (and even hold views that are completely counter at the same time!), but I think it's time to reach out to class a of disaffected voter that hasn't shown up, and I think you can do that with an unabashed left campaign with tangible offerings. I'm not saying you can work miracles and win everywhere all the time, but it's a much better approach imho.

Sorry Doug...

...I don't accept the premise of your article. The rural vs city divide is a false construct created by Republicans to divide us. Dividing us is their only hope for remaining it power so it drives most of what they do. Democrat's problems with rural voters is about them abandoning their principles of supporting the average working person and going after the corporate campaign cash. It started with Bill Clinton and culminated with Hillary's loss to Trump. Hillary may have tried to shake the Corporatist label but she was too tied to the establishment Democratic party for it to work. Democrats can regain the support of working class voters if they return to the core principles of the party. Affordable Education, Health Care for all, an honest days pay for an honest days work. Its not about where a person lives, it about HOW they are living. Democrats sold out, they need to come to grips with that, find a new path, Bernie Sanders had/has a pretty clear of view of what that should be and move forward. The first step is to stop chasing Republican BS and focus on ALL working class voters. Rural vs City is just Republican Bulls...

The divide

…is more than rural/urban, but it’s a useful rule of thumb. Whether the DFL can — or should — be a “state-wide” party seems to me a question that’s something of a red herring. Upon reading Doug’s piece, two other issues occur to me right away.

First, in a political system that purports to be democratic, is geography more important than population? As long as individual votes actually matter in an election, it’s the number of votes that count, or at least ought to count, rather than where those votes are cast. The fact that an intellectually-bankrupt Republican Party controls both houses of the Minnesota legislature says more about the anti-urban bias of this and many other state legislatures and their electoral districts than it does about policies and the relative size of either party’s ideological “tent.” Two centuries later, the agrarian myth of Thomas Jefferson (that yeoman farmers are somehow automatically more moral and pure than city dwellers) still thrives in a good many parts of this and many other states. A significant majority of the state’s population resides in the 7 metro-area counties, and if democracy still leans in the direction of majority rule, it should come as no surprise to Minnesotans, rural or urban, that those 7 counties provide most of the votes in statewide and national elections.

Second, let’s not casually skip over the results of the two studies mentioned in Doug’s piece, not to mention several other recent ones that reach essentially the same conclusion. Rural Minnesotans may *feel* forgotten, but in terms of getting back from St. Paul the tax dollars that they’re contributing, they’re well ahead of the game. It’s urban dwellers who have the more legitimate claim to getting the short straw from state government when it comes to funding.

More importantly, by insisting that they’re somehow being “ignored” by state government, rural Minnesotans fall into the same trap that has captured rural populations in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. That trap consists largely of acceptance of reactionary, right-wing propaganda about social and economic issues such as LGBT rights, supply-side economics, and so on. Where it’s been practiced (Kansas is the most recent example), supply-side economics has not only proven conclusively that it doesn’t work—prosperity does not automatically arise from low(er) taxes—it has transformed somewhat sluggish state and regional economies into economic disasters.

As for social issues, there’s nothing remotely “conservative,” or admirable, about an ideology that treats minority groups as inferior “others,” especially in areas with a documented history of KKK and similar racist behavior, and especially when those same areas were, and are, populated by people whose ancestors were themselves “others” a century ago. Irony abounds in these situations. Bigotry—racial, sexual, economic and social— may be alive and well, but it’s nothing to be proud of, particularly when its practitioners claim at the same time to be pious Christians.

As a member of neither party, formerly a Republican, then a Democrat, and now dismayed by both, I’m less concerned about the geographic coverage of the DFL than I am about the coherence and application of its message.

Trump’s election (and his showing in Minnesota outside Hennepin and Ramsey counties) demonstrates that a significant portion of the population is willing to put a greedy, racist, know-nothing, sexual predator in a position of power. The GOP may continue to appeal to those kinds of sentiments (Good luck, Jennifer Carnahan), but my own hope is that the DFL will figure out something better, and then figure out how to make that “something better” crystal-clear to voters. They’re going to have to appeal to a broader audience to win back the legislature and elect a governor to replace Mark Dayton. It remains to be seen whether they can do that, and whether the Republican side can move beyond its simple-minded “Taxes bad, regulation bad, business good” mantra to something approaching policies that are actually constructive for the population as a whole.

Statewide

The map in Minnesota isn't any different from the map in any other state. Democrats generally represent urban and inner-ring suburban areas, while Rebublicans represent rural areas and outer suburbs. And it's not just the U.S. - go look at the map of the U.K. from its last election. Labour did well in London, Manchester, etc while getting swamped in rural/exurban areas.

messaging is part, but so is misinformation

I struggle to understand why anyone votes repub, but don't disagree that repub deceitful messaging and faux newsmadeup are keys.
I remember reading some guy in the Iron Range claiming the Dems aren't what they used to be. Maybe not, but when it came to extending their unemployment benefits, it was the Dems who were front and center, with the repubs opposing it.
It is sad that those voting repub are so misinformed to think this repub party wants to help the people, when in fact, everything they do is to help only the wealthier. Would love to hear from you repub/trump voters what this repub party does for you.
Look at the budget bill they passed this year...it cuts taxes for basically the wealthier...and then goes on to borrow money to fix our infrastructure, instead of using the surplus to fix our crumbling infrastructure...then having the audacity to talk about deficits. Most repub states do run deficits with Kansas being the worst. They also have slow economic growth and some of the worst poverty and K-12 educational systems.
Considering that we have a large part of our population voting for trump and his constant flow of misinformation tells me a lot about our society...that facts, humanity, morality are not their values. Disagree? Then how do you vote for someone like trump who sexualizes women, has had reported sexual abuse issues, 6 bankruptcies, insulted women horrifically as well as minorities...and you think he or you have moral or Christian values supporting someone like him?

You're right that messaging is the key but it is really a negative on our people that they're so willing to grasp the rampant misinformation from the right.

Right Wing Propoganda

Here it comes again. Right wing propaganda, antiabortion billboards, intellectually bankrupt Republicans, Repub BS, and so on. When it comes to what the Democrats' positions are, you instead label conservatives over what you want to promote. This is what the Democrats have done since even before Obama was elected. You prove the point that the left is morally empty and that think you are better than anyone else on the political spectrum. No one wants to hear that anymore. It's no secret why in all levels of government that conservatives outnumber liberals. The more the left loses, the louder the insults are. Go out and prove your ideas are better instead of the high brow insults.
Or does it have to be this way because the liberal agenda does not work so you have to resort to other tactics?

not impressed

This piece starts with a staggeringly silly proposition: removing the two most populous counties in the state from the equation. How does Trump do if you remove CD6 from the equation (still less people than Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, btw)?

here's another: why is one election suddenly a trend? DFL won state-wide in 2014 for both Franken and Dayton, in what was nationally a horrific year for democrats.

The MN GOP has made it part of their platform basically to pit rural MN against metro, and it's a major concern, not just for the DFL but for how we function as a state. But let's not just start making things up for a click-bait headline.

Out of touch DFL

"Last year after the election in a presentation about the results to the Minnesota Corn Growers, we asked what the top issue on corn farmer’s minds was.  The answer wasn’t corn prices, or environmental regulations.  The answer was health care costs." (Blois Olson)

Of course the DFL and the mainstream national democrat still believe the Obamacare is not failing, that they did not Lie to the voters about healthcare, and Obamacare is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Of course the fat cat union and government employees escaped the tax on Cadillac health plans, receive their healthcare as benefits, and are mostly unaware of the true cost of healthcare.

Those in private business (farmers and such) are forced to purchased the prescribed health plan, pay for it with after tax dollars, and are paying much more in premiums and deductibles while at the same time the DFL are bragging about Obamacare.

I think you can see the disconnect.

Plus - the dems nominated a candidate that even trump could defeat. The coddling of the law breaking of black lives matter by the DFL does not endear law abiding citizens as well.

So I assume you are a Single

So I assume you are a Single Payer / Medicare For All advocate?

More?

So your solution for the failing Obama care health plan is more failing Obamacare on steroids?

Ahhh

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ACA exchanges are for buying insurance from private insurers.

In other words, it's not even close to single payer.

Obamacare

If Obamacare made your health insurance costs go up it means exactly one thing: you had terrible health insurance before. Your insurance company used to be able to collect premiums from you without offering you minimally-acceptable coverage.

That's bad for you in the sense that you have to pay more, but not in the sense that you're getting a worse deal.

Correction

It actually can mean many things:
- you had less coverage than you may need
- you now are forced to have more coverage than you may need
- a lot of people in your market are using the "pre-existing condition" coverage to get expensive work done and then not continuing to pay the premiums
- you live near a lot of unhealthy people and now they are in your pool
- not enough young healthy people joined your pool
- you have no 19 - 26 year old kids and now they are in the parents pool
- you are middle class or wealthy and now are paying for your insurance and that of many other citizens

I keep wonder if either the Left or Right will ever be able to discuss the good and bad aspects of ACA...

And by the way, if you doubt that ACA increased the costs middle income households pay. Please remember that reducing the amount that could be added to your tax free medical flex spending was one of the funding mechanisms. As was taxing all of our medical devices.

And the math is pretty simple... If a lot of people were added to medicaid, received health insurance subsidies, pre-existing condition folks had their premiums reduced significantly... Some folks won this deal and everyone else has to pay more.

Obamacare

Obamacare was not my first choice. I would have preferred a single-payer healthcare system. But what is the story on the Republicans now talking about repeal and 'replace' all they ever wanted to do was repeal. There was no serious discussion of replacing Obamacare. Donald Trump won on the basis of promising to Make America Great Again. If you recall back when America was great (by Republican logic this would be sometime before Obamacare) there was no health care policy or program. There was never any serious intention to replace

You forget one thing

the MNGOP hasn't won statewide since 2006, nor have they broken 50% since Arne Carlson in 1994. Al Franken won by 10 as Dem Semators nationwide were losing by an average of 8 (D+9). Dayton won by 6 as governors nationwide were losing by 6 (D+6) Swanson and Otto blew out their competition. Sorry but to say it's the DFL with the statewide problem based on one election where no Klobuchar, Franken, etc were on the ballot just isn't true. And I'm sorry but a local DFLer will do better than HRC in the 78 counties she lost in

Rural v Urban

I agree that some Democrats don't message well in rural America -- let alone spend time there trying to message! -- but it is possible. HRC was dismal at this and I think her campaign strategists were wrong to go that way. And Grow is right that the messaging just isn't there. So okay, let's assume the messaging IS there. Now it's time to actually propose policy and practice that resonates in rural Minnesota AND broadcast the policy and practice that supports it. It's a broad-based approach that needs all 3. I think we call this a 3-legged strategy. I come from rural Iowa stock and I have seen progressive candidates win there because they are able to speak to rural Iowa and the farming community. Tim Walz does this very well. If you can't explain the rural v. urban tax support system, you shouldn't run as a Democrat (or any party for that matter). Farm subsidies make or break farmers from year to year. How often do you read about it? hardly ever. Bread and butter issues are personal and everyone who votes votes because a candidate has spoken to him/her. Al Franken has won the hearts of voters in every county in Minnesota. He gets it. We need more Als. What I'm reading here is the disconnect between the Haves and Have Nots. That's the messaging problem. We can fix it and we must. Let us begin the work.

DFL Needs to have positive appeal

Yes, the Democratic Party needs to talk about good jobs, health care for all, and taking care of the poor. But it also needs to project a positive message similar to "Make America Great Again". People want to feel proud of their country and want to hear a positive message. Talk about abuses and unfairness, while necessary, can't be the only thing that people hear. And what about the endless wars that take over half of the discretionary budget and result in untold suffering? Are they really necessary? How about if we get to be great again by spending that money on building up our country rather than blowing up other countries, like we just did in Syria.

The problem with

Patriotic pap, is that it cuts both ways. The very premise you object to in the last half of your statement, that foreign conflict is a problem, is used AS patriotism by the opposition "look at that un-American liberal/commie etc..., not supporting our stupendously fantastic military.
Better to stick to truth and leave the pandering pablum to the enemy.

We all do better when we all do better

Paul Wellstone's motto would be the perfect positive message for the Democratic party. You can interpret it in ways that are important to you, as in "Make America Great Again." It might even fit on a ballcap.

Democrats don't know how to message??? Really

If Larson thinks that Democrats don't know how to message he's not listening to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. You mean there's nothing in their messages that can't be molded to be relevant for rural Minnesota? These two have unifying messages that are relevant for both young urbans as well as those in rural areas.

2016 and water under the bridge

Since the election, we have had six months of Trump awfulness and another legislative session. The 2018 election will be on in less than six months. Clearly, the DFL is trying to turn around the vote in Greater Minnesota.

After seeing the damage Trump can do, their natural voters are likely to turn out in big numbers. Republicans will need to run on what they achieved for rural Minnesota.

Who got the big tax cuts? Big business and dead people with huge estates. How many rural working does that help? That helps the lake people (as those who lived in mansions on the shores of Lake Minnetonka). They help the big city bankers and wealth managers, not your local bank. How are commodity prices? How about the pay increases employers are paying out?

I come from Appleton, the town with the empty prison. Republicans prefer a lease to a large out of state company, that already closed the prison once when their business dried up. If purchased by the state, the prison would have plenty of business and bring higher paying union jobs to a part of state with no prisons and low wages.

Republicans could have gotten it done this session or last year, but they prefer to take advantage of workers in order to benefit out of state companies that give them generous campaign contribution.

Did they put together a transportation plan to fund the full needs of the state and deal with rural bridges due for replacement? No, they prefer to play Santa Claus and give tax "relief" to those who are too rich to need them instead of actual state needs. Sort of like buying your booze and lottery tickets before fixing the furnace.

If rural people focus not on all the claims, but what parties chose to prioritize and why, the DFL looks pretty good. Living wages, great schools and healthcare for all, secure retirements, transportation that fits communities needs, a highly educated workforce, a growing middle class, clean air and water, the list goes on, they look good.

Reading these comments; not

Reading these comments; not gonna happen.

There might well be a turnover of GOP legs that failed to make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare, but there is no chance they will be replaced with Democrat challengers.

Folks are sick of left wing psychobabble. Until the Democrat party gets that message, they will remain spectators for the foreseeable future.

HRC was a poor ....

candidate. She took the whole party down with her. Remember how well Bernie did in the state ? The message is there. Use it. And meet the religion thing head on ala JFK.

The Dems will not connect with rural

folks until they have a message. Identity politics don't resonate with most of us. If I want strong borders that doesn't make me a racist, 8 years of Obama's open door policy didn't sit well with us. Making a bigger deal out of a bathroom policy than creating good jobs turned many Democtatics up here on the Range into Trump voters. The Dems claiming that extended workmen compensation and extended unemployment benefits are helping the working middle class is plain ignorant. The working middle class want jobs not handouts! Telling us "rural" folks our educational system is fine, it just needs more money, doesn't get votes. Bringing out Hollywood stars and having musicians on stage touting "down home American values" makes us laugh, not vote. Having limousine liberals claim they are fighting for blue collar folks, is not that convincing. Us "rural" folks believe all lives matter (not just BLM) including the unborn.

Bottom line is the Democratic Party needs a message that rural folks can get behind, not silly slogans. The elites have a hard time remembering that regular folks (rural folk) worry about house payments, feeding their family, car payments, their families health and everyday issues not Global warming!!

Obama's "open door" policy...

Is another bit of misinformation. Much of what you say has some merit, but the immigration question was central to the election and will be again.

Illegal immigration went down significantly during Obama's 8 years. He deported record numbers. There is no wave of undesirables washing up on our shores.

Our "vetting" system for refugees is very thorough, and Obama made it that way. Under Obama we accepted fewer refugees than most other advanced nations.

Actually reforming the immigration system needs to be done, but "stopping" it, treating it as a threat or denigrating/othering immigrants is just fear mongering and distracts from more pressing issues (as it's intended to do).

I can agree that the Democrats need to focus on an economic narrative and really need to make an effort to connect with rural voters...

But we rural people ALSO need to step up and engage with reality...

Both parties have gotten lazy in that they

play to the gut instincts of their bases by taking exactly opposite stances on hot button issues, such as abortion, guns, immigration, and GLBT issues. Since rural people the world over tend to be more socially conservative than urban people, this is a winning tactic for the Republicans. Meanwhile, on the DFL side, this tactic plays to urbanites' laissez-faire tendencies in the area of personal behavior. Both parties treat the other as the bogeymen who are going to destroy society as we know it.

Although social and behavioral issues are important, highlighting them is a way to guarantee that your base will narrow down to people who hold strong opinions either way.

One of the worst example of Democratic tone-deafness on campaign tactics was Wendy Davis' run for governor of Texas in 2014. She highlighted abortion rights in her campaign, and she and the mainstream press were convinced that she was going to win with support from "the women of Texas." All the other documentation I can find about her lists only positions on social and behavioral issues, by the way. Maybe these are winning positions in Austin, but...

She lost to Rick Perry by 20% and won less than half of the women's vote. Somehow she failed to notice that most of the women in Texas are either Evangelical or Roman Catholic, members of churches that are firmly against abortion.

What if she or some other Democrat had taken the Huey Long approach to campaign?

Huey Long was a Louisiana politician of the 1920s, and he was unusual for his time in that he never appealed to segregationists in his campaigns. Instead, he campaigned on economic issues, such as when his first campaign for governor promised paved roads (of which Louisiana had almost none) and free textbooks in the public schools (because the prices of textbooks were preventing poor families from sending their children to school). Long has a mixed reputation today, but he understood the principle of finding out what people's problems are and proposing easily understood steps toward solving those problems.

If the DFL is smart, it will send listeners out to the rural communities to find out what people are unhappy about or where their vital needs are not being met. After sifting out the mindless repetition of clichés from AM radio demagogues, the listeners can then come together and craft a platform that highlights steps toward solving these problems.

Then, it statewide campaigns, the DFL needs to highlight economic issues and, while not dropping behavioral issues, refer to them only if asked. In such cases, the only proper response should be, "And how will--banning abortion/allowing unrestricted use of firearms/whatever the questioner is obsessing about--help your community get--decent Internet service/jobs that pay a living wage/whatever people need around here?"

Hey, it can't work any worse than the standard operating procedure.

Except of course

That this allows the opponents of all the social issues that liberals rightly champion to hold any elected democrats hostage to their position, effectively winning the battle. I get that rural folks don't like our values, thats a sad statement on theirs, but allowing fear of their backlash is tantamount to admitting defeat on the issues themselves. Sadly, the only tangible solution to the problem, given the intractable nature of the opposing positions and the mechanics of our electoral politics, will need to be demographic. We have the numbers, we always have, we need to put them in places that we need to win. I haven't a clue how we go about that, it may not in fact be possible. But outside of waiting a couple decades for the rural population to decline even further, I don't see another approach. In my mind, rural folks inclined to conservatism are a lost cause, they cannot be won over, only defeated and rendered irrelevant.

Note that I am not saying

Note that I am not saying "give up on behavioral issues." What I am saying is "Don't highlight them in rural areas. Don't reinforce the Republican stereotype that says that Democrats care ONLY about racial and sexual minorities and hate white people."

Many rural whites have never seen a non-white person in the flesh, they THINK they don't know any GLBT people, and their religion teaches them a knee-jerk anti-abortion position.

So if the DFL tries to go statewide with these issues as their centerpiece, they will continue to lose ground, not only in presidential elections but also in the legislature.

The average voter doesn't vote based on abstract principles. They vote on the basis of "What's in it for me?"

If the DFL's message seems irrelevant or even hostile to them, they will either vote Republican or stay at home or vote third party. The fact that people who do not vote Democratic have options other than voting Republican is something that the DFL and national Democratic establishments seem to miss.

I agree that the hardcore supporters of the current Republican president are a cult, and cultists are notoriously hard to convert. But the DFL can win if it speaks to the non-voters in terms that they can understand.

So the DFL needs to find out what rural and exurban voters need and want, not in terms of social issues but in terms of economic issues, and then it needs to craft economic policies that benefit all Minnesotans, including rural and exurban voters. Give them something to vote FOR, not just bogeymen to vote against.

That's what I'm saying.

Cults

I think that word seems to describe both the far Left and far Right very well... They see citizens who think differently than themselves as bad people... Not just people who believe differently...

As for "never seen a non-white person... I think you need to spend more time in out state MN. Diversity is growing quickly there also.

As for "knee jerk anti-abortion positions", I think your comment tells a lot. I am not sure the decision to allow the stopping of a human heart should ever be labelled "knee jerk".

And my final normal strange fact note. Science has still not proven that there are "LGBT people". If you know of any new science on how one would test for it... (ie like sex, race, etc) I would appreciate you sharing it.

I agree with Karen

Matt,
I keep hearing that the Democratic Party is supposed to be open to people with different views, and yet your response seems more typical. Apparently Democratic politicians need to comply with your views on social issues our they don't count.

It seems to me that the Democratic and Republican politicians have the same problem... They are focusing on their further Left and further Right party members, and therefore losing the votes of those who live in the middle.

The good news is that more moderate folks like myself will have greater impact in future elections. The down side though is that who ever wins always wants to take a hard left or right...

I agree with Karen

Matt,
I keep hearing that the Democratic Party is supposed to be open to people with different views, and yet your response seems more typical. Apparently Democratic politicians need to comply with your views on social issues our they don't count.

It seems to me that the Democratic and Republican politicians have the same problem... They are focusing on their further Left and further Right party members, and therefore losing the votes of those who live in the middle.

The good news is that more moderate folks like myself will have greater impact in future elections. The down side though is that who ever wins always wants to take a hard left or right...

The "It"

I have often asked myself and others, what's the "it" that we don't get. I have, more than once, asked DFL legislators, "Is there are rural agenda down at the legislature going addressed?" And the answer is always "no". And this is evidenced by what people talk about. What you call Asian carp isn't really at the heart of the problem, it there is one. Republicans often oppose measures which would benefit greater Minnesota.

Hiram, saying that Republicans oppose measures

that would benefit greater Minnesota is basically saying us rural folk who vote GOP, are not smart enough to understand what is good for us. That is why there is a disconnect between rural and urban voting. A increased buffer zone with more regulations from water doesn't affect city folks but it affects many of us living on lakes up here. Not logging Federal land (leads to dead falls and a tinderbox) doesn't affect Edina but affects us up here when your home butts up to Fed land. Anti mining doesn't affect Bloomington but affects us..... The list is endless why many of us up here on the Range vote GOP, it does not have to do with us not knowing what is good for us.

OK, then...

If the tailings pond at the Polymet project fails, are just Iron Range taxpayers going to pay to clean it up or are you going to expect all of us to chip in?

History

Historically, there was a de facto coalition between rural and urban voters. Each supported the other's projects. But that coalition has been broken, smashed really. Bills in the legislature intended to benefit both rural and urban citizens go nowhere, since what the other partner in the former coalition is getting is attacked as waste, and/or pork. In greater Minnesota, Republicans run very effectively on that idea which allows them to appear as heroes while delivering nothing.

How does one break this circle? I am a strong supporter of the interests of greater Minnesota, particularly in education, but how is it's possible to support effectively when greater Minnesota doesn't help with my concerns?

that would benefit greater

that would benefit greater Minnesota is basically saying us rural folk who vote GOP, are not smart enough to understand what is good for us.

I don't thing it "basically" says that. I think by using the "basically" you are simply giving yourself permission to rewrite something that I said that was a little too effective in the way it was originally written.

I think you rural folk are plenty smart enough to understand what's good for you. The problem is that you don't seem quite smart enough to figure out how to get it. You put too much effort in rewriting the language of others and too little effort in developing an effective political strategy. More importantly, you don't understand that in how in our form of government how often it is necessary in order to achieve what's good for you, it is necessary to help others achieve what's good for them.

No, "common good" is the new form of socialism.

The writers of our constitution had rights for the individual to live his life without Government over reaching into his life. No where in the constitution does it give you any rights to other people's money, land or possessions. That is up to the individual to decide. Government spending has somehow become looked at as "common good" charity. It is not the Government's job to redistribute money, that is the new age liberal idea. The individual is free to succeed or fail, it is up to him/her to decide their fate. Everyone is afforded a free education in public school, the fact that some succeed and some fail is the way of the world, again personal choice. We as a country have decided, rightfully so, that the unfortunate few that cannot take care of themselves, we will help. The "common good" of helping able bodied men and women has been an abject failure. The over 20 TRILLION spent on the "war on poverty" since 1965 shows "common good" done by elites in DC doesn't work!!

That is the biggest difference between rural folks and urban folks, us rural folks want less Government, city folks want more.

Well said Joe Smith!

Well said Joe Smith! This city folk totally agrees with you!

Unfortunately, the Democratic party has moved so far to the left that even JFK would not be welcomed in the Democratic party of today. The Democratic party of today does not believe in JFK's most remembered quote "Ask not what the country can do for you; ask what you can do for the country.".

Democrats need to re-read our Constitution and the writings of our Founding Fathers to understand what makes this country great. Our Founding Fathers left Europe and rejected elites telling us what we must do. Instead they articulated God given individual freedoms for us to live our lives by.

If you think that today's

If you think that today's Democratic Party Establishment is "far left," then you must have never met a real leftist. I happen to know all kinds of leftists, and not one of them thinks of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as a comrade.

The current Democratic leadership is about at the same ideological point on the right-left scale as Nixon, who started the Environmental Protection Agency, turned food stamps from a local experiment to a nationwide program, proposed a guaranteed annual income, signed Title IX, negotiated arms reductions and a nuclear test ban with the Soviet Union, and opened diplomatic relations with China (then regarded the way right-wingers regard Iran and North Korea today). Those are just the policies I remember from having lived through his era.

The reason today's Democrats seem so "far left" to right-wing commentators is that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it has become reactionary. No other modern industrialized country has a major political party (i.e. one that stands a chance of taking over the government, as opposed to splinter parties) that is so off the far end of the right end of the scale. Nigel Farage, the British politician who often appears on Fox News, was once the leader of Britain's most right-wing party, UKIP, but they never cracked double digits in the parliamentary elections.

Minnesota is often stereotyped as a Democratic-controlled state, but if you look at our history, the Republican and Democratic parties have passed control back and forth on a regular basis, and the state was well governed either way.

When I arrived in Oregon in 1984 the Republican party was an environmentally conscious party that cared about stewardship of the state's resources. It was the Republicans who instituted the nation's first bottle recycling bill, forbade private ownership of the state's coastal beaches, and advocated for mass transit. By the time I moved back to Minnesota in 2003, Oregon Republicans had become low tax fanatics who were completely fine with raping the land as they promoted mandatory minimum sentencing laws that forced the state to build more prisons while starving other public functions, such as schools, parks, and basic maintenance of infrastructure. They wanted to privatize as many public services as possible so that their friends could make money off them.

When I arrived in Minnesota, I found that the same thing had happened to Minnesota Republicans. If the economy was good, they wanted to cut taxes. If the economy was bad, they wanted to cut taxes. They may have made a big show of being "Christians," putting in face time at the right megachurches, but they didn't care who or what suffered from their policies.

From the vantage point of a contemporary Republican, especially one who is too young to remember life before Reagan--it's hard to believe that someone who was born the year Reagan took office is now 36 years old--today's Democratic Party probably seems "far left."

But it's all a matter of perspective. Our entire political scale is to the right of the political scales of the other modern industrialized countries. Bernie Sanders would be a centrist in most of the world.

Yeah, I know, you're going to say, "But we're not the rest of the world."

True, and China under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) started to believe that it was so special that the rest of the world had nothing to teach it. That's when it began to decline from its position as the world's most advanced civilization.

Facts and Data

Karen,
Here is a chart I created to explain the country's shift over the last 100+ years.
http://give2attain.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-g2a-nolan-diagram-rev-00.html

Now it shows that our country has been moving Left for the whole time period. So I never understand when Liberals comment that it is the Conservatives who changed?

I see it as the Conservatives kept giving more to placate the folks on the Left, but the folks on the Left always had another tax, program, regulation, etc and finally the Conservatives had to start saying no... Because our country had passed the point where this continual shift was advantageous for our country.

Pet Peeve

My normal pet peeve is poor Single Parent households, how they harm children and trap people in poverty. And yet the typical Liberal answer is that more money should be taken from successful homes and given to these mamas / papas. Somehow they seem to think that giving irresponsibly people more money will make them more responsible.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Nonmarital_Birth_Rat...

Of course then I rail at the Conservatives who are against making long acting reversible contraception free for every citizen... They would rather pay trillions to feed unplanned for children instead of millions for an ounce of protection...

No where in the constitution

No where in the constitution does it give you any rights to other people's money, land or possessions.

The constitution provides for the power to tax, and it also provides powers for things like eminent domain. As for wealth redistribution, nowhere in the constitution is the practice banned, and I, for one, am unable to imagine a system that provides for taxation which does not also provide for redistribution of wealth.

As it happens people in rural America are both poor and expensive to maintain. That free education comes at a pretty high cost. And each each at the legislature, rural people come to the legislature equipped with a lengthy and wealth redistributive shopping list for which others are expected to foot the bill.

language and math

Doug Grow is good with the language; not so good with the math.

Hillary won Minnesota with 46.44% of the vote. Trump got 44.92%.

When you remove Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, you are removing nearly 1,000,000 votes, or almost ONE-THIRD of the total Minnesota vote. When you remove such a huge segment from any collection, you're likely to see a lot of changes.

But even doing that dramatic exclusion, Trump does NOT win the state with 58% of the vote, as stated by Mr. Grow. Without Henn/Ramsey votes, Trump got 53.2 % of the vote to Hillary's 38.2%. The remaining 8.6% of the vote was given to at least 7 other candidates by voters who espoused a pox on both the big houses.