Political parties at the MN legislature: Is DFL self-destruction inevitable? Can the GOP rebound?


Northfielder and Carleton Political Science Professor Steven Schier had a commentary in the Strib ten days ago titled DFL-led Legislature: New era or new error?

The essential problem is with one-party rule itself. Lengthy periods of one-party rule allow a governing party to indulge its less desirable tendencies without fear of reprisal. In the case of the GOP, that can mean starving government of needed resources and programs. For Democrats, it can mean growing government beyond a sustainable size, as has happened in New York, California and Illinois…

Regardless of policy output, closely competitive political parties produce accountable government and prevent either major party from indulging its worst tendencies. If strong two-party competition produces divided government, that is a risk well worth taking.

All Minnesotans will benefit from a future in which both major parties can seriously contest all major races. It’s up to the state’s GOP to reform itself so that it can again be an effective competitive force.

Earlier this week, Schier was quoted in this Strib article titled GOP regroups, looking for way back to majority:

Steven Schier, professor of political science at Carleton College, said he expects the GOP to de-emphasize social issues, which it can no longer prevail on, and focus on the “hardy perennial” of fighting tax hikes. “That unifies Republicans, and it has the potential to appeal to a broad number of voters,” Schier said.

In editorial writer Lori Sturdevant’s commentary in the Strib on Sunday, Guide to a DFL-led legislative session, she quoted Gustavus professor and departing three-term DFL’er Rep. Terry Morrow:

He thinks the 2012 election’s lesson isn’t as much about “overreach” as about the need for compromise. “Minnesotans accept that decisions need to be made, so we can move on. Some in the Capitol in the last few years saw intransigence as a political good. Minnesotans disagree. That’s not a quality of leadership they admire. People want it done. They expect value for their dollar, yes, but they want government to function to solve problems,” he said.

Members of the new majorities should arrive in St. Paul thinking less about which side of various gaps they stand on and more about how to build consensus. That’s key to convincing Minnesotans that, this time, the DFL can be trusted to govern.

I’m guessing that neither the DFL nor the MN GOP will heed the advice that we citizens want consensus.


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    I’m gonna go with “No” and “Yes”.

    January 9, 2013
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    How about now, Phil?

    Strib, 6 pm: Senate Republican leader criticizes proposed social studies standards

    The leader of Senate Republican caucus joined his House counterpart in opposing new proposed social studies standards. Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said the standards proposed by the state Department of Education, to be used by teachers in the next school year, “are weakened by downplaying and/or eliminating the American understanding of inalienable natural rights we all possess by virtue of our humanity…”

    Hann made his comments in a letter to Judge Barbara Nielson of the Office of Administrative Hearings, who is hearing complaints and deciding whether the new standards can go into effect as they are written. Hann joins House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, who wrote the judge last month that the proposed standards de-emphpasized “the contributions of the United States and our economic and political ideals.”

    January 9, 2013
  3. Paul Zorn said:

    Prof. Schier’s warning about “lengthy periods of one-party rule” may be apt — if a “lengthy period” is really in the cards. That’s far from clear.

    As for GOP prospects, I hope Prof. Schier is wrong, but guess he’s right, that the GOP will toggle back to blanket opposition to taxes. This “perennial” may indeed be “hardy”, but I see it more as invasive buckthorn than as, say, a virtuous Minnesota native, like the white oak.

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, or wash the dishes, or take the garbage out, or pay to fix the roof. But none of these aversions adds up to a policy. I think the GOP will hurt itself unless it’s willing to take a more grown-up approach toward balancing costs and benefits of government.

    January 16, 2013
  4. David Henson said:

    The government is now becoming the driving force behind gambling expansion. The demand for electronic pulltabs is very weak (A GOOD THING) so now the government wants to create more demand by expanding beyond bars to grocery stores, etc. Understand this is very very bad, rather than responding to citizen demands for needed services we have a Minnesota government that is pushing harmful activity for which there is no demand. In other circles this is called drug dealing and considered highly unsavory.

    January 17, 2013
  5. Paul Zorn said:

    David H,

    I mainly agree. Indeed, the state should not function as the moral equivalent of a drug pusher, even if gambling’s gains (to the state, not the public) support irreproachable causes. Once, governments suppressed gambling as crime; now, they’re in the business.

    But why do you say there’s “no demand” for gambling? Were that so, why would the state bother?

    January 18, 2013
  6. Impulse shopping: There are things people will buy if they exist, but won’t go looking for. This isn’t “demand” in the usual sense, but you can make money selling such things with good marketing.

    January 18, 2013
  7. David Henson said:

    Paul, you are asking me to respond to a misquote. I said there is ” “no demand” for electronic pulltabs” … more properly I would say the government has placed 120 of these units in bars and had projected placing 2500 by this time. So the revenue forecasts are way off and now they want to expand to grocery and if they does not work I suppose Chucky Cheese.

    I see we are in basic agreement on government involvement in gambling. But you state the funded causes are “irreproachable.” I would think by definition if a cause that needs gambling to support it then it is not “irreproachable.”

    January 19, 2013
  8. Paul Zorn said:


    OK, fair enough on the “demand” side. I imagined, wrongly, that by “harmful activity for which there is no demand” you meant gambling expansion across the board.

    Demand issues aside, I’d bet (legally, of course) that we agree that gambling’s “harmful activity” goes well beyond electronic pulltabs. (What the heck is an electronic pulltab anyway? Sounds oxymoronic to me.)

    Note, by the way, that I did not “state”, as you put it, that causes funded by gambling are irreproachable. I “stated” that I don’t like government-run gambling even if it supports poster-child causes, like education and aid to widows and orphans.

    For one thing, I think a society should pay honestly, forthrightly, and progressively for causes it supports — not through what (I’m guessing) amounts to a regressive tax on the credulous. For another, the whole idea that specific revenue sources pay for specific things makes little sense. Money is fungible.

    January 19, 2013
  9. David Henson said:

    Paul, if we are in agreement then one wonders where the support for ever more gambling expansion is coming from?

    January 19, 2013
  10. Paul Zorn said:


    Apparently neither of us is in the political mainstream on this.

    If your question is serious, here’s my takek: State-run gambling is politically almost irresistible, since it (a) raises money; and (b) isn’t (explicitly) a tax.

    January 20, 2013
  11. David Henson said:

    Paul, I think your analysis is correct. I don’t get the sense many voters are for state gambling but no strong opposition seems to be mounted against lotto, etc. People are sold on its being free money that effects someone else even though the reality is the quantity of gambling and our economic strength seem to be inversely related.

    January 21, 2013
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Paul and David… interesting discussion you’re having and doesn’t it relate to how strongly we view the ‘moral’ choices we make as a society and how we are able to parse out the different imperatives to either allow or protest an action?

    We, as a society, take different positions on how much (dare I use the word, ‘choice’?) latitude we will tolerate on individual choice to either pursue or not pursue any action which some might feel has a debatable harm, either to that individual, or to a larger group, even society in general.

    I agree with Paul’s statement that “money is fungible” … and that is why I think it is disingenuous to say state supported gambling is okay because it supports arts, environment, whatever.

    New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg tries to manage the public intake of soft drinks by limiting the sizes,hopefully a small war on obesity; but MN supports gambling, justifying the end uses of funding, although many will testify to gambling’s often serious side effects.

    There is little accounting for what people who are willing to make the ‘fight’ can justify enabling, or limiting…

    January 22, 2013
  13. David Roberts said:

    In the Dayton Budget out today : Proposing a 94 cent tax on cigarettes that is no way to go about getting revenue it ia a regressive tax plain and simple : People who cannot afford smokes or what ever would probably put stores Like Kwik Trip or SA at risk for late night robberies and if you have ever been held up at gunpoint it is not fun (I have in 1991 in Minneapolis) : It is not a safe tax : I do not like smoking but a regressive tax that is what it is : What Happened to the Tabbaco settlement Monies years ago seem like that was a wasted effort : No to REGRESSIVE TAXES !!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks David Roberts

    January 22, 2013

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