Mother Jones features a fascinating look at how Minnesota progressives got their mojo back and turned a state that seemed to be trending purple back to a solid blue. Wellstone's Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back:
America Votes' fourth-floor office, which it shares with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and WIN Minnesota, is located in St. Paul near the Minneapolis border, in a LEED-certified building covered with hideous green tiles. Inside are photos of native sons Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey along with posters for fundraisers—captioned, ironically, "Minnesota is Not For Sale," under an umbrella with dollar bills raining down.
I swung by one morning to meet with the new generation of operatives running the Minnesota machine: America Votes' Beadle; Carrie Lucking, ABM's executive director; and Adam Duininck, the executive director of WIN Minnesota. Each attended Camp Wellstone or Wellstone-inspired training programs; Lucking had a Wellstone sign on the wall of her office. "We're the three-headed monster," joked Lucking, a feisty former high school teacher who'd downed five shots of espresso earlier that morning.
I asked them about the 2014 elections, which stand to be their toughest challenge yet. It's all about defense now for Minnesota's progressive machine as it gears up to protect a 12-seat majority in the state House, as well as Gov. Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, who ousted Norm Coleman in 2009 after a seven-month recount.
Up to this point, the ingredients in Minnesota's left-leaning takeover—data, money, grassroots organizing, and deep coordination—have given Democrats the edge. And in races decided by a few thousand votes or a recount, that edge can make all the difference. But they also recognize that the Republicans are not asleep at the wheel. "We've been very fortunate so far in that hustle in Minnesota has been effective at counteracting late, big money," Lucking says. "The question is: How long can the hustle outlast that?"
Ken Martin, the DFL chairman, seems less worried. Some Republicans, he notes, have been trying to pull together the GOP's socially conservative factions and the bottom-line-focused business community, and once they do, "they could be immensely effective." But they've had little luck so far. "That's the challenge for these guys in '14 [that] they have not figured out yet." (One outcome of his May luncheon, Hubbard says, was commissioning a plan to coordinate big-business support in 2014.) As for the DFL, Martin's sights are set just where Karl Rove had his in 2004. "Most important to me," he says, "is how do you set yourself up to build a permanent majority?"
A couple of quick thoughts:
- Considering the source, the article is surprisingly fair in not sugarcoating the fact that money-lots of it-have played a key role in the DFL resurgence and the impact of negative attacks launched early and often against Republican candidates by Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
- Republicans who dismiss this success by saying “yeah, we could do the same thing if we had that kind of money” are missing the point. Money is part of the equation, but it’s more than that. It was the coming together and coordination between progressive groups combined with the money that made the effort so effective. Too often on the MN GOP side the money and the activist base are not connected or coordinated.
- The article spawned some good discussion among local conservatives on Twitter today. One key point that came up a few times is the advantage that progressives have by having paid political activists who share the same passions and positions as their base. Republicans tend to look down on paying people for their political work relying instead on volunteers. And when they do pay, it’s for people more for interested in politics as a profession than a passion. How’s that been working out for us?