We must be doing a few things right


Today, Charles Pierce has twice said good things about Minnesota. The first was an article praising Al Franken. And it’s true, we’re pretty gosh-darned happy with the guy.

Franken is a fascinating politician. His public profile is practically non-existent, at least by the yappy standards of the cable-news, clickbait era. He is a first-class fundraiser; his work on behalf of Senator Professor Warren was the stuff that dreams are made of, but he never gives you the sense on the stump that he’s trading on his celebrity. And, in the Senate, he’s gone out of his way to prove himself a workhorse, and not a show-pony, without ever giving the impression that he’s overcompensating for having been a next-level comedian for all those years. He is a Minnesota liberal in the tradition of Hubert Humphrey and Paul Wellstone, but both Humphrey and Wellstone were more visible politicians than Franken has been. (Wellstone used to walk picket lines, and Humphrey could be positively frenzied on a rope line.) In his desire to get into the real nitty-gritty of the job of legislating, and in his ability to put aside simple celebrity for the grunt work of getting things done in an increasingly dysfunctional national legislature, Al Franken looks like nothing less than the heir to Ted Kennedy, and that’s an amazing thing in and of itself.

The second was to quote RT Rybak, former mayor of Minneapolis. We’ve got an interesting phenomenon going on right now: two northern states with similar demographics, sitting right next to each other, taking two different political approaches. It’s what them scientists like to call an ‘experiment’. On the west side, Minnesota has been pushing Democratic party principles; our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin, has been mired in the Republican tarpit.

In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and investing in the middle class, and now we are seeing one of the most business-friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life. In Wisconsin, Walker opposed a minimum-wage increase and equal-pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right-to-work and anti-collective-​bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income is thousands less than in Minnesota. The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.

Yet Walker is the one running for president.

Sorry, Wisconsin. Why don’t you throw out those Republican rascals and join Minnesota in a progressive future?


  1. F.O. says

    Did the two legislatures start more or less at the same time, and inheriting more or less comparable economic situations?
    Could other causes explain Minnesota’s success on Winsconsin?

  2. latveriandiplomat says

    I’m not a particular fan of Ted Kennedy (e.g., huge blunder on NCLB). I think Franken has already shown himself to be Kennedy’s superior, and he earned it all himself.

  3. says

    Walker is running for president? Where have I been? Just this morning on the radio they were talking about Walker’s non-answer to global warming.

  4. says

    The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.

    Looks like the policy differences, as usual, have been implemented in a manner resulting in them having zero effect on anything.

  5. jehk says


    She was once. Not any more. Economic policies have nothing to do with her now.

    Truth be told Minnesota is on the edge of a knife. It might seem like a progressive haven in the US. That’s really only because… we’re white up here. It’s easy to sponsor economic policies when everyone looks like you.

    However, that’s changing fast. We’ve had a huge flux of Mexican, Somali, Indian and Hmong/Tibetan immigrants within the last decade. Many people want to break down anything that benefits these newcomers to our state.

    Thankfully, many others understand these people are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and our family. Dismantling these social programs would hurt the people we care about most.

    Whatever, I’ve been drinking and the mention of MN politics set me off.

    @Enopoletus Harding

    As if unemployment was the only thing that mattered. Even then, MM’s unemployment rate is consistently lower then WI’s.

  6. Paul K says

    Groan! I grew up in Minnesota, and moved to Wisconsin a decade ago. Not because of the political differences, though at the time Wisconsin had a Democratic governor and Minnesota, a Republican. Many of the very nasty things Walker has done has had a direct impact on my family, and certainly on lots of friends. The thing is, we love our little town, our schools are doing a great job (I’m on the school board; but they were great before I got there), and where we live — north of La Crosse — is one of the few mostly rural regions in the country that still votes pretty consistently for Democrats.

    Walker is so obviously doing all he is doing simply to impress the Kochs and others like them, as well as the rabid Republican base, and he seems to seriously think he has a shot. He has been ticking off the brownie point checklist for the evil rich and wilfully-ignorant less-rich since he took office. It has not made Wisconsin a better place in any way, and it has clearly made it a worse place for most of us living here. He won his first election, the recall election, and re-election because Democrats didn’t vote. (Both Democrats and Republicans voted in significantly smaller numbers in those elections, in 2010, June 2012, and 2014, then they did in 2008 and 2012; but more Democrats didn’t vote.) He has all the charisma of an old, moldy mophead, yet he’s getting serious attention as a contender for President.

    The comparisons to Minnesota are painful. But the changes Walker and the Republicans have made — to legislative and Congressional districts, to voting rights, to union rights — have possibly helped to make sure that Wisconsin will stay red for some time.

  7. says

    I was not an Al Franken fan when he had a radio show, and I was skeptical that he’d be a progressive in the Senate.

    But he’s done far better than I could have hoped for.