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In a statewide election, do candidates really need to bother with Greater Minnesota?

REUTERS/John Gress
In the 2016 presidential election, Republicans increased their gains in Greater Minnesota significantly.

It won't come down to the Electoral College.

The candidates Minnesotans send to the governor’s mansion, elect to the U.S. Senate and pick for other statewide offices will depend on something obvious come November: who gets the most votes. What’s less obvious — and what campaigns for the people vying for those positions will be working out over the next several months — is how exactly to go about getting those votes, which are unevenly distributed across the state.

At a time when politicians are increasingly talking about an urban-rural divide, that fact also leads to something of an impolitic question: Can you win a statewide election in Minnesota by focusing only on voters in the Twin Cities metro area?

The big, blueish metro

Just as it's home to the majority of the population in the state of Minnesota, the seven-county Twin Cities metro (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties account for 55 percent of all Minnesotans), is also home to the majority of votes in statewide elections. In the last decade’s worth of elections, the share of statewide votes that comes from the metro is consistently between 54 and 56 percent, said Eric Ostermeier, a research fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The Twin Cities metro also tends to lean more Democratic than the rest of the state, particularly the closer you get the urban centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which in and of themselves accounted for 12 percent of all votes in Minnesota in the 2016 presidential election. “In very very broad strokes, if you say that a DFLer wins … 55 percent of the (metro) vote, and a Republican wins 55 percent of the vote in Greater Minnesota, the DFLer is always going to win because there’s more people voting in the metro area,” Ostermeier said.

The 2010 governor's race between DFLer Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner offers a good example of the way that dynamic plays out, said Ostermeier: Dayton beat Emmer by 4.7 percentage points  in the Twin Cities metro, and Emmer beat Dayton by 4.7 percentage points in Greater Minnesota. Dayton, of course, won the election (though by less than 10,000 votes).

2010 gubernatorial race vote
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State

Because of the bigness and the blueness of the metro, the deck is stacked against Republicans winning statewide, and a GOP candidate hasn’t won statewide since Tim Pawlenty’s re-election bid in 2006, though several have come close, including Norm Coleman in the 2008 Senate race against Al Franken, Emmer in 2010 and Donald Trump in 2016.

In fact, Democrats can fare somewhat poorly in Greater Minnesota and still win statewide, Ostermeier said. Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, despite only getting 35.2 percent of the Greater Minnesota vote — a smaller share than the 38.8 percent Al Franken got in his 2008 U.S. Senate bid, a race that included the presence of a credible third party candidate, Dean Barkley.

2016 presidential race vote
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State

Clinton “lost all but nine counties, but managed to win the state," said Jeff Blodgett, a longtime DFL operative. "To me, that’s a lesson in really where the votes are. She won with very strong performances in the Greater Twin Cities metro area, including the suburban counties, and then a few other pockets, Duluth, St. Louis County, et cetera.”

For all the DFL votes in the metro core and inner-ring suburbs like St. Louis Park, Brooklyn Park, and Richfield, though, there are still Republican votes to be had in the metro, especially in farther out suburbs and exurbs. “It’s definitely not just about Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s about the first- and second- and third-ring suburbs as well, and yeah, those suburban districts, the further out you get the more swing it becomes,” Blodgett said.

Of course, there's another trend that could make life for Republican candidates increasingly difficult going forward: The metro continues to see its population grow. But Greater Minnesota? Not so much.

In 2012 and 2016, the metro accounted for 55.9 percent of statewide votes, Ostermeier said, up from 55.1 percent in 2008. As the metro keeps growing in relation to the rest of the state, its relative share of the votes will continue to rise.

That could spell trouble for the GOP, Ostermeier said. That's because if DFL voters continue to outnumber GOP voters by a 70-30 percent margin in Minneapolis and by a 53-47 margin in the suburbs, as the population grows "it’s just going to dwarf those counties or those areas in Greater Minnesota, which are 70-30 split the other way,” Ostermeier said. “You just need so many of them to equal one Minneapolis.”

Rising rural redness; purple suburbs

If DFLers dominate in the metro, Republicans are increasing their gains outside of it, with some exceptions in population centers throughout Greater Minnesota.

In the 2016 presidential election, Republicans significantly increased their gains in Greater Minnesota. They also increased their majority the Minnesota House and took over the Senate, thanks to their ability to win in Greater Minnesota — and in the Twin Cities suburbs.

In fact, the latter is where many political observers believe the 2018 election will be decided. “For Republicans to win statewide, their base has to vote strong and they have to do well in the suburban legislative districts that are currently Republican,” said Maureen Shaver, a consultant and former advisor to Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “I firmly believe that the election and the control of the Minnesota House will be decided by suburban women."

The race to November

The advantage Democrats have had in recent statewide elections means they could still win statewide with a candidate who isn't particularly popular in Greater Minnesota. But that's a risky bet.

When it comes to the governor’s race, “One could argue that it would be shrewder for the DFL to nominate a candidate who has the greatest appeal, or the largest appeal to Greater Minnesota," in order to minimize Republicans' advantage there, said Ostermeier, "provided they have not substantially alienated the progressive base that resides in the metro.”

For Republicans, Ostermeier said, the key to winning statewide in 2018 is blunting Democrats' advantage in the metro. One of the main GOP contenders, Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has done well in the Twin Cities suburbs in the past, though it's unclear whether he would be able to replicate that success in the era of Trump, who is unpopular in the Twin Cities suburbs.

2006 gubernatorial race vote
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State

Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/28/2018 - 12:22 pm.

    The problem is that if in statewide races we ignore out state races, we can win the governorship but at the very substantial risk of losing the legislature, which is in fact the situation we are in now.

    For me, the point of the whole thing isn’t to win elections, it’s to create a status quo in which my guys can govern effectively. That’s why my assessment of the last four years has been that we have failed even though we hold every statewide office.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/28/2018 - 06:04 pm.

      As we are discussing

      elsewhere… This is why the electoral system and districts are so important for the good of our country.

      Without them the urban areas could “rule the country” which could lead to some serious and maybe violent conflicts.

      I prefer a stable peaceful democracy (ie region / state weighted)

      over a perfect democracy. (ie all votes carry equal weight)

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/29/2018 - 01:26 pm.


        “Without them the urban areas could “rule the country” which could lead to some serious and maybe violent conflicts.”

        Why is that? Why would the conflicts turn violent?

        Would there be “serious and maybe violent” conflicts if rural areas “ruled the country?” Why or why not?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/29/2018 - 06:02 pm.


          I assume it could go either way. Look at the various riots and protests turned disruptive over the past ~60 years when a sizable minority feels disenfranchised and powerless. That has caused a significant number of deaths and destruction.

          Now imagine if the fairly homogeneous high density population centers could force their will across the outer suburbs and rural heartland with no checks / balances. I just could not see it ending well.

          The founding Fathers were smart to ensure everyone had to collaborate and that the high population areas could not just ignore the low population regions.

          Please remember that Germany is one of the larger European countries and it is only about the physical size of MN and WI and has ~8 times the population. A “pure democracy” may work in that small of a space, but across a nation as large and diverse as America. I don’t think so.

      • Submitted by Paul Harvey on 06/30/2018 - 09:17 am.

        “Stable democracy over perfect democracy”

        If you’re worried about insufficient rural representation, there is always the Senate, in which rural states have disproportionate representation.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/30/2018 - 03:12 pm.


          That is what I meant by “region / state weighted”.

          Even if all the truly urban areas voted one way… They still can not seize control of the country without help from the out burbs and rural regions.

          It is an excellent system !!!

          The question then is how will the Democrats change so their message is more inclusive of people from different regions of the country?

          Or are they going to keep saying that those people must conform to their will???

        • Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/01/2018 - 09:56 am.

          Senate is only most egregious example

          Over-weighting small population states’ power is most obvious in the Senate, but also happens in the house (compare how many people the MT rep represents vs a CA rep). And, of course, the size of the electoral college is determined by the total number of senators & representatives, so smaller states have an outsize influence in presidential elections as well.

    • Submitted by Wilj Flisch on 06/29/2018 - 03:42 am.

      The darker logic here..

      “The problem is that if in statewide races we ignore out state races, we can win the governorship but at the very substantial risk of losing the legislature, which is in fact the situation we are in now”

      The darker logic at play is that if you follow this train of thinking and ask the next question, one might suppose that the answer one would arrive at is that Republicans would see an obvious strategy to consolidate legislative gains by systematically destroying the ability of the metro region to attract or retain population. Certainly if you look at their policy proposals and actions, this has precisely been the logic at play for quite some time – not just in MN, but nationally to be sure..

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/28/2018 - 01:07 pm.

    It’ll be interesting

    I’ve often asked myself some variation of the same question. Further, if it IS possible, does that make the election result for statewide office (e.g., Governor) more or less democratic (with a very definite lower-case “D”)? Asking rhetorically, how much influence should a minority have on an electoral outcome if the generally-accepted view is that the best, or most “democratic” outcome reflects the view of the majority?

    There are lots of variables to be considered, but in an increasingly urban state, according to the numbers, and an increasingly urban nation, also according to the numbers, this is a question that couldn’t even be asked, realistically, until a generation or so ago. As long as the state and nation were predominantly rural in both area and population, it was, sensibly enough, a non-issue, but in many parts of the country, that may no longer be the case.

    I don’t think it’s unique to Minnesota, and in fact, I think Greta’s question(s) apply just as well to both of the states I lived in before moving here.

    My former home of Missouri essentially has “Twin Cities” in Kansas City and St. Louis, they’re just at opposite ends of the state. Toss in Columbia and a couple of other university towns that are roughly equivalent to Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud and a couple of Twin Cities suburbs, and there’s a LOT of sparsely-populated space in between those two barbell-like metro areas, which are connected by Interstate 70.

    Colorado is even more urban or metro-centric. About 85% of the state’s 5+ million population lives within 25 miles of the north-south artery of Interstate 25, which roughly parallels the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Pueblo are the “traditional” population centers, but Denver suburbs of Aurora, Lakewood, Centennial and Thornton, among others, help to concentrate the state’s population in that urban core.

    I won’t be around to see how it all plays out in 50 years, but it’s going to be an interesting political and social phenomenon.

  3. Submitted by Aaron Albertson on 06/28/2018 - 01:10 pm.

    So greater Minnesota has 45%

    And the metro has 55%. So let’s say the GOP takes Greater Minnesota by 35% next time (Trump won rural MN by 25) and the DFL takes the metro by 19% (Clinton’s margin). That doesn’t leave the DFL in a good position. You can’t just get blown out by 45% of the state.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/28/2018 - 08:43 pm.

      Generals Fight the Last War

      Don’t assume that 200K Democrats will stay home in 2018 as they did in 2016..

      • Submitted by Aaron Albertson on 06/29/2018 - 02:33 pm.

        Except they didn’t

        They went third party for Johnson and McMullin, two right of center candidates

        • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/29/2018 - 05:27 pm.

          Challenge Flag

          Upon review of the last four POTUS election results for Minnesota, the call has been overturned by officials at the league headquarters. Analysis does indicate that overall voter turnout in 2016 was consistent with recent elections, with third party candidates grabbed a larger number of votes at the hands of the Democratic candidate. In fact, Don Trump under performed Geo. Bush’s 2004 results.

          Even write-ins jumped noticeably.

  4. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 06/28/2018 - 02:50 pm.

    Yes, for everybody’s sake.

    Although I am a Democrat from the metro area, I would rather see our state-wide elected officials reaching out to all the constituencies they wish to represent. The urban/rural divide is bad for everyone, and from what I’ve read it exists in part because rural people see state government as focused on the metro and inattentive to their needs.

    More practically, we should also consider the effect that these campaigns may have down-ticket. If Democratic gubernatorial candidates have events in rural areas, they will often help to boost the visibility of local Democratic candidates or at least they’ll advocate for more progressive perspectives.

  5. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 06/28/2018 - 03:27 pm.

    “In a statewide election, do leftist candidates really need to bother with Greater Minnesota?”


    Answer: No. And that includes the Iron Range.

    • Submitted by Eric House on 06/29/2018 - 07:11 am.

      “In a statewide election, do rightist candidates really need to bother with the Metro?”
      Answer: No. and that includes the suburbs.

      See how ridiculous that sounds? Especially when the consensus in the comments is that it is bad for EITHER party to focus only on one side of the urban/rural divide. Greta makes the point that it is possible to win a statewide election without appealing to voices outside the Twin Cities metro area, but there is a difference between possible and desirable.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 06/29/2018 - 08:08 pm.

        Lot more conservatives in the metro, and especially in the burbs than there are leftists in rural counties. Your comparison fails.

    • Submitted by Chad Quigley on 06/29/2018 - 09:23 am.

      I hope the DFL uses the Clinton strategy of ignoring people because they’ll get the same results.

  6. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 06/28/2018 - 04:44 pm.

    My idealistic take on this (which I believe aligns with that of Elsa Mack) is that politicians should do what is *right*, and that is, seek to address issues that will affect ALL of their constituencies. It shouldn’t have to do with “Where are most of the votes coming from?”. It should be driven by “What are the concerns of the people I will be representing statewide if I am elected?”.

    It’s the politics part of it that can turn people off, and that brings me to my next point: Putting your eggs in one basket by basing your election strategies on only your urban constituencies (because there are more of them) assumes that a good share of the “more of them” are actually going to get out and vote. If – for whatever reason – that urban constituency doesn’t actually turn out on Election Day, then the candidate may end up losing after all.

    So because it’s the right thing to do, and because it’s the smart thing to do, I do not believe candidates should write off Greater Minnesota as they decide where to expend the resources of their campaigns.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/28/2018 - 05:07 pm.

    When Rural Minnesotans Have Been So Thoroughlyl Brainwashed

    by a steady diet of weasel news,…

    conservative talk radio,…

    and “evangelical” (nothing matters in the world except that we come out on top) religion,…

    and because of those factors, those rural folk believe the “liberal” politicians are stealing all their hard earned money,…

    in order to support the worthless, lazy poor folk in the five county metro area (i.e. minority folk and immigrants),…

    despite the fact that tax money is actually flowing disproportionately the other way,…

    there’s precious little the Democrats can do to win those folk over,…

    unless they can bring them back to some semblance of reality,…

    which will likely happen when it gets to be a very cold day in what is reputed to be a very warm place.

    The majority of rural folk have been convinced to cut their own throats by their own trusted sources of information,…

    and they’ll insist that those sources would never lie to them,…

    as their economic lifeblood, their property, their access to healthcare, and any hope they ever had of a comfortable retirement bleeds right out into the pockets of the liars they’ve so mistakenly trusted.

    Sadly most of them would rather die,…

    than admit they trusted the wrong people,…

    or help those who do not look or think like they, themselves, do.

    They’ll continue to vote against the Democrats who have and will continue to help them,…

    in favor of the Republicans who are too cheap to notice that people are dying out there,…

    even when it’s their own friends and neighbors.

  8. Submitted by Robert Henderson on 06/28/2018 - 05:07 pm.

    you fixed it for your narrow view

    Absolutely candidates need to concern themselves and reach out to their entire constituency. Current Republicans are unwilling to do anything other than appeal to outstate fears. If you want to get somethings done outstate like improve broadband access, fix ailing water systems, improve the quality of the water in general, improve healthcare options. Consider voting for DFL candidates. And don’t listen to name callers who are unwilling to engage in thoughtful conversation about issues.

  9. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/28/2018 - 09:39 pm.

    DFL must not write off Greater Minnesota

    Tthough his trade war, Trump is going to permanently damage our rural economy, as farmers need to export much of the production. Farmers do poorly and Main Street Minnesota is harmed. Any “strategist” who suggests writing off Greater Minnesota hasn’t given nearly enough thought to how the economics of Greater Minnesota is being punished by Trump to help other business sections. We really do need to take back the Legislature and win the Governership to do right for all of Minnesota.

  10. Submitted by Ann Reed on 06/29/2018 - 07:23 am.

    Dems learn nothing

    We are a state of 5.5 million. To arrogantly ignore the rural areas is just wrong and will eventually hurt the DFL.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/29/2018 - 11:33 am.

      “to arrogantly ignore…will eventually hurt the DFL”

      Sometimes, “eventually” comes sooner than you expect.

      The national DFL decided to ignore a rising progressive movement, in fact, pulling every dirty trick in the book to marginalize all progressive candidates, starting with Bernie Sanders, and working down the list from there.

      Now, they’ve got a real revolt on their hands.

      It’s going to hurt the DFL here in Minnesota as well as nationally.

      Count on the Democratic machine to stay the course. The leadership has a political hardening of the arteries, can’t stand new blood that doesn’t genuflect to the leadership, and has patented the means to crush any fresh ideas.

  11. Submitted by joe smith on 06/29/2018 - 08:18 am.

    So sad!

    I remember when politics was a debate about ideas and values. Now it appears it is about avoiding those who do not agree with you. There has never been an elected official I’ve agreed with 100%, DFL or GOP. If you can’t separate the policy from the person, you are part of the problem. If you believe strongly one way on an issue and a politician on the “other side” holds the same believes, you should be able to support that person on that particular issue without fallout from “your side”.
    Some things are (or used to be) universal, more and better paying jobs, better education, safety for you, your property, your family, work is a good thing, freedom to say what you think (no matter how much that offends someone else), freedom to practice your religion. Somehow these have become wedge issues.
    So sad!

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/29/2018 - 10:41 am.

    Three basic osbersvations

    The math here has been obvious for quite a while, this is why some of us are not impressed with the argument that Walz has to be the guy because of his rural appeal. The rural appeal gambit is a centrist argument that threatens to strengthen Democrats where can afford to lose votes, and weakens them where they can ill afford to lose votes.

    Second, good policies work for everyone. The rural-urban divide is a Republican myth in terms of actual policy and agendas. Anyone that actually thinks Republicans can or will do a better job of representing “Out-State” MN is seriously misinformed or outright delusional. As we’ve seen in the last few years, Republicans will attack urban initiatives, they’ll zero out transit funding for instance, but rural MN still gets didly-squat compared to Democratic plans. What this means it that despite their votes, rural voters do better with Democratic governors, so to the extent a sufficient number of rural voters “get that”, they can deliver enough rural votes, even if it’s a minority or rural votes.

    Finally, running “liberal” is NOT focusing on urban voters. Remember what “DFL” stands for. Liberal works for everyone, not just city folk. The problem with Democrats is that they decided they need to be two Party’s instead of one- a rural Party out-state, and an urban party in the metro area. This is how they lose the legislature while winning the house on Summit Ave. There has been a palpable divide between Democrats in the Legislature and rural Democrats and Dayton during his entire term. Part of that may stem from his decision to ignore their endorsement, but part of it was definitely an schism between his liberal tendencies and the Party’s centrists tendencies. I can’t prove it but it looked to me that during the 2014 election Democrats basically decided to stay in their barracks because they didn’t think they could lose the Legislature, and they didn’t mind the idea of Dayton losing to Johnson.

    If Democrats want to keep the Governorship AND win back the House of Senate they need to organize around some basic liberal principles, maybe 4 or 5 basic proposals and agendas. Having a governor run on one message while everyone else runs on some other message is how Democrats lose. If they pull together and get organized around a simple basic liberal message that give voters a Democratic identity they can hold on to… they can take power.

    • Submitted by Aaron Albertson on 06/29/2018 - 01:31 pm.

      On the other hand

      Some of us aren’t impressed with the Murphy argument that she won’t play tippy toe politics. I remember when she was majority leader and she and Thissen told drivers license advocates to forget the bill because it would cost us greater MN. Or how she and Thissen couldn’t be bothered to let gun control or the gas tax to come up for a vote.

      My big rub is the “progressives” don’t actually accomplish much of what they are bashing moderates over for not supporting

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/30/2018 - 08:05 am.


        Some of us aren’t impressed with the big accomplishments moderates have been making… maybe because moderates don’t believe in “big” accomplishments. Progressives will have to get into power in order to enact progressive policies, moderates and centrists have had a lock on power in the Democratic Party for decades. Kind of weird to blame progressives for moderate mediocrity?

        By the way, some of us have noticed that moderates/centrists have a long and documented history of claiming to be progressives… remember Hillary Clinton’s claim to be a progressive? So is Clinton the progressive failure you refer to? And now that Democratic “moderates” everywhere have adopted Sanders’s progressive platform (a platform of “pipe dreams” apparently) the only question is whether or not moderates are running another bait-n-switch con? We’ve seen it before. This is how Democrats have failed women, failed labor, failed the environment, failed immigrants, failed voters, and turned Republicans into the most powerful Party in the US. THAT’S ALL on moderates, not progressives.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/30/2018 - 09:28 pm.

          Quick point

          So I assume the both of you have been paying attention to the news of late. Bad things are happening. You’re fighting with each other. I know your rhetoric Paul, I can assume that of the centrists. Guess what? Either peace is made, or all is lost, period. I don’t know what form that peace will take, or whether it’s even possible, but the only other option seems a permanent split, which will be nothing more than acquiescence to the barbarians in power. I think the time for arguing has passed, no?

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2018 - 09:18 am.

            Maybe not so quick response

            Matt, I think if moderate Democrats want “peace” they should stop attacking everyone else. From Murphy to Omar, to Sanders’s before… it’s attack attack attack. Centrists and moderates like to pretend they stand outside the fray… they’re actually the biggest extremists in the room.

            Part of the genesis of “attack” politics stems from the Democratic reliance on identity politics. When you refuse to discuss issues, messages, or policies, all your left with is personalities and personal attacks… and that’s what we get from the centrists and moderates over and over again. And no, it’s not productive or constructive. Progressives come to the table with policies and agendas- universal health care, living wages, affordable or free college, abolish ICE, whatever… and moderates attack the candidates and dismiss everything else as “pipe dreaming” beyond consideration. That’s how Democrats put Clinton on the ballot.

            When Party fails as catastrophically as the Democrats failed in the last elections, the Party HAS to change. And it’s not just the last election cycle, or Trump. A “peaceful” Democratic Party run by moderates and centrists over the last few decades has put everything from labor unions to environmental protection, and abortion rights in jeopardy today. As you say, bad things are happening, THAT’S why it matters who gets on the ballot, and what kind leadership and direction the Democratic Party ends up with. A party at peace that puts duds who lose on the ballot doesn’t really do us any good, I’d rather have a party in turmoil that puts decent candidates who can win on the ballot.

            Those in power always resist change. Yes, elite Democrats and the moderates/centrists who have and still control the Party are resisting change… but that’s not a “Civil War”, it’s just a primary election. If Democrats don’t want a permanent split they need to stop pretending that the same people who delivered a catastrophic failure are the only people in the room who can lead us out of the wilderness. It matters who gets on the ballot because no matter how toxic or ridiculous the Republican candidates are, Democrats can lose to them. That’s simply documented history. So the Democratic Party and it’s elite need to decide whether or not they’re going to be genuinely inclusive, or if they’re going to continue the politics of exclusion that brought us into this crises to begin with.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/02/2018 - 09:14 pm.

              A long response

              That boils down to ” Do it our way”. I know your arguments, this isn’t a new conversation, but at the risk of sounding a bit jerky, so what? I understand your position, but HOW exactly do you propose bringing the so-called “elites” along? There will HAVE to be some give and take, unless you think there is some huge untapped well of “progressive” voters that are suddenly gonna materialize to push every candidate over the hump. I realize the Sander caucus win is a thing, but primaries are not caucuses, and in my opinion, some of that Sanders swell was as a result of the personality politics ( a better descriptor I think) you describe. What is the back up plan if they don’t? While you might like the candidates a party in turmoil puts forth, how do you plan to support them, if the party can no longer be relied upon to do so? While crowdfunding might be viable at a national level, it’s not so easy further down the chain. Unity at the expense of ideals sounds bad, it’s true, but ideals at the expense of oblivion sounds a fair sight worse.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/04/2018 - 10:22 am.

                I’ll answer your question

                Whether or not the current Democratic “elite” comes along is their decision to make, we will move on regardless.

                We bring about change by running candidates and voting for them, see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortaz for an example. Voting for popular candidates who represent us effectively is actually supposed to be the function of political Parties. I know that’s a foreign concept to many Democrats but it is what it is.

                I don’t know why someone would assume that popular candidates who win elections will have more trouble funding their campaigns than unpopular candidates who lose elections. Funding hasn’t been any more of a problem for progressive candidates than moderate candidates thus far. There’s no reason to assume that Sanders’s model won’t be sufficient because outspending the opponent doesn’t guarantee victory, as Clinton demonstrated in her run against Trump. I don’t why a party that wins elections would cease to function? I don’t know why the Democratic Party would not “work” for Democrats who win nominations and elections?

                There is no “Sanders swing”, that appears to be a reference to the defunct clam that Sanders and his supporters represent some kind of personality cult. Clinton supporters have always had a hard time with this because they cannot see beyond their own reliance on identity politics. You can claim that guys like Tim Walz who has now adopted Sanders agenda, have joined a Sanders cult of some kind if you want, but I wouldn’t expect to be taken seriously. I think Clinton supporters and former Clinton supporters need to give up that particular ghost and face the fact that the “pipe dreams” they denounced are legitimate policy initiatives.

                We could say that there is a surge of Democratic Socialist candidates and progressives, but none of those candidate could be credibly described as Sanders’s representatives. Ocasio-Cortez for instance acknowledges the fact that she started as an organizer for Sanders, but she always focused on issues and policies, not any affiliation or association with Sanders. I don’t even see progressives or Democratic Socialists referring to Sanders as a source of inspiration with any kind of frequency. This isn’t about Sanders, and it never was.

                Unity at the expense of ideals doesn’t just sound bad, it fails politically and it loses elections. I don’t why we keep having to point this out but Clinton lost. Republicans captured Congress and the State Legislature. Everything from environmental protections to abortion rights is now in serious jeopardy and voting rights are more restricted now than any time since the Voting Rights Act was passed. THAT’S what happens when you have Parties and Candidates without ideals. Such Parties may win elections now and then, but to what end?

                The Democratic Party may become the liberal Party that some Democrats don’t think it should be, but there’s no reason to believe that such an outcome would be the end of the Party. On the contrary, liberals are throwing the Party a lifeline, the only question is whether or not Democrats will be smart enough to grab hold. At any rate, liberalism and liberals aren’t going anywhere, we will be here and we will eventually prevail with or without the Democratic Party, it’s an arc of history that neither centrists or conservatives can block.

                Finally I have to bring attention to one of the more pernicious myths of centristism- Matt asks what MY back-up plan is IF Democrats lose because liberal voters don’t materialize? First of all, anyone who asks such a question is telling us they don’t believe there are enough liberal voters to win elections. So centrists and moderates may not be the liberals they pretend to be, they harbor such doubts despite clear demographic data and evidence to the contrary. But beyond that, the myth of moderation and centrism is that it’s located in some kind of Goldilocks zone where victory is magically guaranteed. The claim is always that candidates outside the “Zone” are risky, as if centrist victories are somehow guaranteed. Well, obviously this is magical thinking, and it may be the reason we keep having to point out the fact that Democrats keep losing elections. Again, Clinton lost- what’s YOUR back-up plan?

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/02/2018 - 07:26 am.

    The political problem

    Why do we run so badly in greater Minnesota is a question I have asked often and rarely get satisfactorily answered. What I am told is that by and large there isn’t a rural agenda that’s being ignored by the DFL, with a few exceptions. Basically, rural legislators want to dump a lot of pollution on people who live in cities who aren’t entirely happy with that. But that is the sort of thing people of good faith find a way to work out.

    But I am told this isn’t what happening. What highly partisan folks I hang out with tell me is that legislation that helps rural Minnesota, that gives them what they want, just isn’t enough. In order to garner their support, it must also hurt the cities. What my friends are told, is sure you can pay for our roads, but we aren’t going to pay for yours, and you aren’t going to have mass transit, and you are going to pay a heavy, heavy political price for that Senate office building you wanted so much.

    So this is a recipe for disaster, but for rural Minnesota, disaster is what they want to order from the menu. If you don’t have a disaster, you don’t have something to blame Democrats for. And that means you don’t further the real goal, not of Minnesota Republicans or Minnesotans who live in rural areas, but rather the out of state folks who finance them, which is lower taxes.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2018 - 08:39 am.

      I’ll answer your question Hiram

      To the extent that Democrats do run poorly in rural MN it’s because they run as if rural MN is different than the rest of MN. This means you have a Party that not a single Party with a coherent message people can get their hands around. Republican’s don’t have THAT problem.

      I believe I’ve discussed the schism between Democrats in the Legislature and Dayton previously, THAT’S the schism that lost the legislature.

      Democrats would do just fine if they ran on a liberal agenda, and ran on their liberal accomplishments. Everything rural MInnesotan’s want with the exception of lax environmental regulation is a basic liberal agenda that the DFL was built on to begin with. You want roads? Well we have the 4th largest road network in the country, and small government Republicans didn’t build that system. When Democrats ran the table in Dayton’s first two years they deliberately dialed back spending and programs that could have been campaign assets. They gave themselves less to run on, ironically out fear of “over-reach”. So they under-reach and lose anyways.

      Rural Minnesotan’s aren’t anti-environmentalist for the most part, they’re just afraid of regulation that might harm them in some way. Republicans simply promise fewer regulations, Democrats just need to promise a regulatory regime that isn’t harmful. It’s not brain Surgery. Democrats built the infrastructure rural Minnesotan’s rely on, and Democrats (and they’re urban base) want to expand and maintain that infrastructure where necessary. All Republicans can offer is a race to the bottom, they promise more but they’ll only deliver less. Sure, they attack urban spending, but they don’t deliver rural spending, they zero out transit spending but they don’t increase rural infrastructure, they just leave that budget un-cut.

      We know the progressive message sells in rural MN, we have ample evidence and testimony for instance that many rural voters would have voted for Sanders if he’d been on the ballot.

      The Democratic “dilemma” in rural MN is artificial dilemma of their own making… it’s what happens the ostensible liberal party tries to figure out how win elections without being liberal. Voters don’t like when Party’s and candidates run different campaigns for different audiences, it’s disingenuous. That was one of Clinton’s problems, she thought she could use analytics to tweak different messages for different groups but all that did was reinforce her image of dishonesty and idea that she tells audiences what they want to hear, and tells different audiences different things.

      You would think that it would be an elementary principle that any major political Party in the would comprehend, but for some reason Democrats don’t understand the need for their candidates to be on the same basic page when it comes to agendas and policies. Since liberal policies have made rural Minnesota what it is… Democrats could win by being liberal.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/02/2018 - 09:24 pm.

        All of which

        Applies ONLY if one believes all involved are rational actors coming to rational decisions. What if what rural citizens REALLY want is simply to be pandered to, to be made to feel as though their look lives and problems are as important, if not MORE important than their counterparts in urban areas? This is of course silly and spiteful, but nonetheless a distinct possibility. None of the perfectly rational and truthful information you lay out so carefully will do a thing to combat this mindset, in fact it will simply be reflexively dismissed as just another snooty city dweller telling folks what’s good for them. I swear sometimes I think you’ve invented the mirror image of the just world fallacy, in this version, all that’s needed is careful and earnest explanation of the truth, after which all irrationality magically ceases to exist and the just world ensues.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2018 - 10:33 am.

          Telepathy is the fantasy

          Yes, let’s abandon rational thinking and historical evidence in favor of a telepathy that can tell us what rural voters want. The funny thing about those who keep making this argument is that they clearly have no idea what rural voters actually want.

          I don’t know why rural voters would respond more positively to candidates who’ve decide they just want to be “pandered” to, than they would candidates who treat them with respect as if they’re rational and intelligent people? It’s kind of weird to assume that candidates and political Party’s who’ve decided that rural voters cannot be approached rational actors will win a popularity contest and be LESS offensive to rural voters isn’t it?

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/03/2018 - 02:27 pm.

            Because they DO

            Just because you want to believe in the better nature of people and the supremacy of logic, it doesn’t make it so. I grew up around these people, they dislike urban areas for the simple fact that they are not rural. They feel superior to you because you choose live in the “rat race” and don’t subscribe to the simple homespun “common sense” that they do. All you talk about is trying to “educate” them with a clear explanation of your ideals, as if that is some panacea that will magically make the deep seated resentments go away. They will laugh in your face and tell you to go back amongst your fellow Citiots. Simply put, YOU have no idea what rural voters are looking for, and believing that you’ll win them over by just treating them “like everyone else” is just foolhardy.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/04/2018 - 09:21 am.


              Yes, liberals believe in the better nature of people. Liberalism is also based on fundamental believe (stemming from the Age of Enlightenment) in the human capacity for intelligent and rational thinking. You can reject that proposition, but rejecting it doesn’t nullify it or make it: “not so”. And anyone rejects these basic liberal principles… cannot claim to be liberal.

              Once you descend onto magical thinking rational discourse is no longer possible.

              One problem with people who aren’t liberal is that they can have a really difficult time representing liberal perspectives.

              No one said anything about “educating” rural folk, we’re just talking about offering them liberal options and policies that have been quite successful in the past. Farm subsidies, energy infrastructure, high speed internet, transportation infrastructure, local government aid for law enforcement, education, utilities, and schools. You don’t have to “explain” these things to rural folk.

              I haven’t spent a lot of time around rural folks, but I know they recognize condescension when they see it, and they don’t appreciate it any more than urban folk. You can assume that rural voters are incapable of intelligent or rational thought if you want, and you can send candidates who will treat them that way out into their districts… but it would be truly foolish to expect a lot of votes.

              This idea that liberalism is too complex to form succinct and popular messages is a centrist myth. The claim that liberals have to “explain” everything is because we’re so burdened by our knowledge and complexity has always been centrist claim without any real merit. Just because you don’t know how to approach rural voters with liberal policies doesn’t mean no one does. The problem is no one has even tried for decades.

              This is why so many Social Democrats are surging into prominence and it’s why basic liberal policies are have gained so much popularity and traction. And no, centrists don’t know how to champion liberal agendas… but that doesn’t mean liberals don’t know how to champion liberal agendas.

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