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?