In “The ‘Minnesota Miracle’ should serve as a model for Democrats,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “The avalanche of progressive legislation that the state’s two-vote Democratic majority in the Minnesota House and one-vote advantage in the state Senate have enacted this year is a wonder to behold.” Dionne explains:
Minn Post reporters Peter Callaghan and Walker Orenstein offered a bracing race through the list….“Democrats codified abortion rights, paid family and medical leave, sick leave, transgender rights protections, drivers licenses for undocumented residents, restoration of voting rights for people when they are released from prison or jail, wider voting access, one-time rebates, a tax credit aimed at low-income parents with kids, and a $1 billion investment in affordable housing including for rental assistance.”
Take a breath and move on: “Also adopted were background checks for private gun transfers and a red-flag warning system to take guns from people deemed by a judge to be a threat to themselves or others. [Democratic] lawmakers banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ people, legalized recreational marijuana, expanded education funding, required a carbon-free electric grid by 2040, adopted a new reading curricula based on phonics, passed a massive $2.58 billion capital construction package and, at the insistence of Republicans, a $300 million emergency infusion of money to nursing homes.” The mix of tax cuts and increases, by the way, will make the state’s revenue system more progressive.
There’s a lot more, including laws strengthening workers’ rights and unemployment insurance for hourly workers previously left out of the system; a refundable child credit for lower-income Minnesotans; and free breakfast and lunch for all Minnesota K-12 students.
“It’s no wonder,” Dionne writes, “former president Barack Obama tweeted recently: “If you need a reminder that elections have consequences, check out what’s happening in Minnesota.” Dionne adds,
One other lesson for states that want to emulate Minnesota: Keep in mind what Long called “the Wellstone Triangle,” a governing concept framed by U.S. Sen. Paul D. Wellstone.
Long explained: “You need good ideas. … You need elected politicians who are going to be supporting those ideas, and then you need outside organizing for elections and to support those votes.” All three are key to getting things done. In Minnesota, key players included unions, environmental groups and faith-based organizers in the appropriately named Isaiah organization. In the run-up to the session, the outside groups were brought into the task of crafting an agenda.
One of the things Minnesota Democrats do differently from Dems in many other states is more effectively court rural voters. “Democrats in the state are known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from their merger with a third party in the 1940s,” Dionne explains. “True to the name, the party’s agenda combined social concerns such as abortion rights with what Long called “bread-and-butter, populist things that sell everywhere in the state.”
Minnesota has a unique political culture that can’t be replicated. But the legislative accomplishments MN Dems provide shows what Dems can do in the states — even with narrow majorities.