Aspirational goals are an element of politics and emblematical of how politicians make promises they fail to keep. With Minnesota being the only state in the nation with divided government, the making of a political promise, even a joint one, between House DFLers and Senate Republicans is a Herculean task to overcome. When we learned of the additional deadlines legislative leaders were putting forward to “make the system work”, we were skeptical and actually cynical about the possibility of success in reaching these goals, mainly due to divided government and a gulf between the political ideologies.
Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) all failed to deliver on the ability to meet the call to have collective targets for the Legislative Conference Committees by May 6th. As we listen to Walz discuss the situation we can hear distinctly the difference in his rhetoric as he talks about aspirational issues, he learned on the campaign trail. He seeks to apply a philosophy that is bigger than just numbers. Gazelka, on the other hand, wants to cap spending at a fixed rate (5%), and the government to live within its means.
As we learned today, from a press conference by Hortman and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-46A, Golden Valley) Senate Republicans are willing to agree to a “keep the lights on” proposal that kicks the can down the road for a while.
“Minnesotans expect the Legislature to finish its work on time, and that’s why House DFLers proposed significant movement,” said Speaker Hortman. “It’s disappointing that Senate Republicans offered $0 in movement in return. It’s critically important for us to continue negotiating and agree to targets so we provide conference committees enough time to complete their work in public and end the legislative session on time, but we need the Senate to get serious about compromise.”
“We have limited time and deadlines to meet. House DFLers are ready to finalize a budget that improves health care, education, and economic security for all Minnesotans,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “It will be very difficult to complete this session on time and in an orderly fashion if Senate Republicans are unwilling to compromise at all. The House DFL offered a two-to-one compromise, and the Senate GOP offered nothing.”
Walz who faced his election last year feels he knows what people sent him to St Paul to do, with the largest number of votes in state history. Coincidently, Gazelka, remembers 2016, and the force that swept him into power across the rural communities, Donald J Trump (R).
Inside both caucuses, there are pressures building to stay true to the principles that got both parties to places they are at this time. The problem is while they stare into the sun trying to read the will of the electorate in 2020, and trying to discern they’re own future more looms.
Walz calls on Republicans to define themselves and put forward what they stand for other than, a hard no on everything. If this discussion can become one of debating political principals it Is one where he feels comfortable. Gazelka is cagey and not about to be boxed in. He doesn’t telegraph his punches and refuses to negotiate in public. He leads a caucus with a slim two-vote majority and this is akin to herding cats. Additionally, we will restate our common statement, those with stronger ideologies feel that compromise is capitulation and they would rather fall on their sword for a cause than surrender and live to fight another day. Yes, Governor Walz, they are willing to “die on this hill.”
All, but Walz are facing the re-election campaign of Trump, the most polarizing President in modern day history, a fight across the state to determine whether control of the State Senate chamber remains in Republican hands or returns to the DFL, and the efforts of House Democrats to hold onto or even increase the majority in the State House, as they negotiate the 2019-20 State Budget. Fact, each caucus knows Trump will be the primary factor in the electoral result and depending on what side of the aisle it is both a boon and a bane.
Because Republican Senators have not faced the voters since 2016, they believe their own rhetoric of that time, and it might as well be a different era. With Trump as their bannerman, Republicans were emboldened by the campaign of a Reality TV Show Carnival Barker, who sought a return to isolationism and the ideals of a white working industrial class reminiscent of 1986 rather than 2016. The out of touch, out of step throwback to a different era appealed to a white working-class mentality. The less educated, white male knee-jerk reactionary mentality didn’t appeal to the broader electorate, because Hillary Clinton (D-NY) won the popular vote, but it did to the region of the rust belt, or as it has been called the blue wall. The Electoral College victory for Trump is an example of how no election can be taken for granted. It also proves the need to play by the rules written and not to change the rules in the midst of the game.
Now, Trump is a hobbled man, a habitual liar, who is overseeing a surging economy, that is only beneficial to some. As he rails away on his latest pet peeve on Twitter, he further isolated himself from the general population.
Because of their base, the Republicans are grasping at straw trying to hold on as each day more of their constituency dies off. Their appeal to the past as romantic as it may be is not to an expanding and growing electorate. The question is, will the 2020 election be the last bastion for the GOP in Minnesota? This election will be highly significant because it will also determine who set the political boundaries for the state for the next decade through redistricting.
We expect the current course will continue until Republicans give some ground, but Walz who has the bully pulpit needs to sharpen his rhetoric and call Republicans to task for their obstruction. When Republicans controlled the Governorship with Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and State House with Speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) first they got their way over Senator John Hottinger (DFL-MN) and then over former Republican Dean Johnson (DFL-MN). This also resulted in perpetual deficits and destabilization of our state government. As we like to say, having Republicans in charge of government is like asking a demolition expert to build you a house.