Category Archives: Politics

Minnesota’s Democratic Party (DFL) Convention, 2018

Today, Rebecca Otto, Minnesota Auditor, suspended her campaign for Governor of Minnesota.

Rebecca had run to seek the endorsement from the Minnesota DFL (that’s what we call Democrats in Minnesota). The state convention, at which endorsements are determined by a large collection of dedicated delegates and alternates, was held in Rochester. (Note: candidates can still run in the August primary, but it is often considered bad form to ignore the endorsement process.) I was there as a delegate. I’d never been to a state convention before, though I’ve been to plenty of state Senate District and Congressional District ones. The state convention was similar but ten times bigger, twice as loud, three times as long, and doubly exhausting.

Rebecca lost the endorsement process with a gut-punching and unexpected low number of votes on the first ballot, followed by a long period of chaos, followed by the exuberant endorsement of candidate Erin Murphy. Congratulations to Erin, who has doubled down on this process with her choice of picking a second Erin, Erin Maye Quade, as her running mate. That was a stunningly excellent choice.

But back to the Otto campaign. I was truly expecting the numbers to be different in this endorsement process. I was not personally privy to the detailed data on this campaign, but I had seen the top-line analyses. I expected Murphy, not Otto, to be in distant third. Clearly the numbers were wrong!

I don’t fault the people in the Otto campaign for getting that wrong. Well, yes, they did get it wrong, but this is not uncommon. I myself have had the job of counting delegates. I’ve gotten it at least as wrong. I know others who have as well. Campaigns often, perhaps to some extent, in most races, end up with incorrect delegate counts. (I note that as far as I know, the Murphy campaign had the numbers close to correct.) I have some ideas as to how this happens, and it might be helpful to work out some theory on this. But that is for later. For now, there is this one element of getting surprised by a low delegate count on the first ballot that I’d prefer to dwell on for just one moment:

It feels really, really, bad.

I don’t feel it is my place to relate how things were in the war room after the end of the process. That is private. But I was struck by one thing I’ll leak out. The people in the room, all of whom I have great love and respect for, exhibited the full range of expected emotional states from quietly stunned to liquefied-in-place, except for Rebecca Otto herself. Rebecca was the strength in the room. That was not unexpected, but I think it is something that should be said. I know she felt just as bad. I know her just enough to have sensed that. But she was not the quivering bowl of jelly I would have been.

I helped Rebecca in her campaign for two reasons. One is simply that she and her husband, Shawn, are my friends. But I’ve had a lot of friends run for office for whom I offered only perfunctory help. In the case of Rebecca Otto, there was another reason. I knew that Rebecca was blindingly smart, and a deeply good and honest person, and ever thoughtful. I know that for each area of policy, Rebecca would assemble her best assets and then ask them to assemble their best assets. These teams would then develop details and try ideas, in order to ultimately advance well developed proposals that could be brought to fruition in the State House to change the fundamental nature of economy, society, and culture in Minnesota, all in good ways. I was at the tail end of at least one of those assemblies, and contributed a bit to the policy development. There was a fact Rebecca often repeated in her stump speeches that I had worked on. I was proud to hear it mentioned again and again.

The other candidates are great people, great democrats, any one would be great as a governor, but I was supporting Rebecca Otto because I knew her approach and her results would be uniquely and powerfully transforming. People around the country were going to look at Minnesota, and go, “Wow, what the heck was that??? Why can’t we do that? Who did that? Let’s do that!” And the answer would be Rebecca Otto and the team she leads.

In the end, we are all Democrats. Just as importantly, those other guys? They are all Republicans. So, we have work to do. I like Erin Murphy. I will support her and her campaign, as the endorsed candidate. I’ll support all the endorsed candidates. I’ve been working on the campaign of our local Minnesota House, where my friend Ginny Klevorn hopes to unseat Representative Sarah Anderson, who is is a less religious but just as tea-happy mini-me version of Michel Bachmann, and leader of the evil Republican redistricting ploy in our state.

But I’ll be standing by for future versions of a Rebecca Otto campaign, should that happen, and I hope it does, somehow, sometime, somewhere.

A few notes about the other events at the convention.

The first one is a major piece of news that is still unfolding even as I write this.

Lori Swanson is the Minnesota Attorney General. Swanson has been the perennial heir apparent for that job forever. What I mean by that: everybody always assumed she’d be endorsed, then win. She has a great reputation and everybody likes her, etc. etc.

But this year, Matt Pelikan ran against Swanson for AG. Everybody seemed to like Matt, but everybody also said this about that race: we need Lori, she’s been great, Matt is great, but he has no experience, maybe he can run for something else someday.

Meanwhile, Swanson made a nuisance of herself at the very beginning of the pre-election season, last summer, telling everyone she might or might not run for Governor. This moved several good people into the position of running for the AG seat, but promising to pull out if Lori gives the governor’s race a pass. She pulled that trick (do I sound annoyed? sorry!) for way too long, using the fact that she was a state AG but also, not really an actual candidate, to exploit her moves along with other state AGs against Trump for positive Democratic Party cred.

At the convention, two things happened, then the boat tipped over.

First, Matt Pelikan, who is one very impressive young man, gave a speech that in my view was in the top three given at the convention, maybe the best one. He had the crowd on their feet. He also landed about eight good punches on the Swanson campaign, including noting Swanson’s NRA endorsement over the years, and her stand on various other issues that have become highly questionable even though everybody loves Lori and assumes she’s the automatic candidate.

Then, the Swanson campaign totally messed up their own presentation. Each campaign gets a certain number of minutes, then they have to get off the stage. Most campaigns have a short video, a person or two talk in favor of the candidate, then the candidate gives a rousing speech. Swanson had a mediocre video. Then, some dozen or so people lined up to each speak on her behalf. They were mostly unpracticed and poor speakers (including at least one who is an experienced politician who simply had not woken up that morning, it seemed). Each one spoke for 3-5 minutes. But they were supposed to speak for one minute! SO, half way through that awkward and embarrassing event, the whole lot of them got thrown off the stage, and Swanson never got to speak.

When the delegates voted, Pelekan had denied Swanson the endorsement. A very large number of delegates had probably figured, “OK, Lori is the obvious candidate, but Imma cast this one vote for Pelikan because he is so impressive.” The outcome of that vote was so astonishing, they had to bring in a special sweeper device to remove everyone’s jaws from the floor.

Before the second vote, Swanson dropped out. Ear shattering collective gasp.

My first thought? She’ll run in the primary for the AG slot!

My second thought, seconds later? No, wait! She’s running for governor!

And, low and behold, seconds ago as I write this, the news has leaked out: Swanson is running for Governor with Congressman Nolan as her Lt Gov.

In a less dramatic and less complicated event, former Republican and Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter ran against Senator Tina Smith for the endorsement. Smith got the endorsement, but Painter got a surprisingly large number of votes.

And, finally, another sad thing. I’ve always supported Jon Tolefson in his political career, and I wanted him to be endorsed for auditor. He had a lot of support, including the endorsement of the Environmental Caucus. In something of a surprise, Julie Blaha took the majority of votes on the first round, and Jon stepped away, allowing Julie to be endorsed by acclamation. That was sad for me, but more sad for Jon’s Mother, who was sitting with me in my unit delegation at the event.

That’s all I have for now, but later, there are some people I want to thank. First, some dust has to settle and and I have to go through some photos and videos I may post.

OK, everybody, get to work!

ADDED: Keith Ellison, US Congressmember and Democratic Party co-head, considering running for Minnesota AG? This makes no sense! The world is spinning in the wrong direction!

Trump almost won in Minnesota, thanks to Democrats

In a year in which Democrats show up, like they did in 2012, Trump would have been trounced in Minnesota. Instead, he barely lost. It was a very very close call, just a couple of percentage points.

This graph says it all:

One thing this means is that the Democrats, in putting up candidates in Minnesota, are not trying to win back Republicans or Trump voters. They are simply trying to win back their own.

Many months ago I coined the term “snowflake” to refer to liberals, progressives, or Democrats, who felt that since their own personal point of view is not perfectly represented in the mind of each and every other liberal or progressive or Democrat, that they should therefore complain incessantly, stay home from the polls, and sit there in a funk hoping someone like Trump wins the election in order to show the rest of them how bad they are being.

Unfortunately, the snowflake moniker has been co-opted, without my permission, by others! But, here, I revise it for the special purpose of talking about this graph.

Roughly six percent of Minnesotans are snowflakes.

This year, dammit, show up.

Also, in the coming convention, if you are a DFL delegate, vote for Otto because you don’t need a medium size male with a lumberjack shirt and a booming voice to win in this state.

Facts and Fears: The Russians Did Elect Trump

General James Patton is famous for this advice. Carefully account for and consider all the facts, and all your fears. Armed with this information, make a plan. Then, put aide your fears and attack! James R. Clapper, who is the offspring of an intelligence operative and who has spent his entire life engaged in intelligence, under each and every one of the United States Presidents from Lancer through Renegade, just wrote a book. In it, he gives us something to be afraid of, when he presents a startling and important conclusion. Continue reading Facts and Fears: The Russians Did Elect Trump

Minnesota Could Get A “State Bank” if Rebecca Otto Becomes Governor

In 1919, the farmers of North Dakota got fed up with predatory lenders, and successfully lobbied for a credit union style state-run bank for them to use instead. Private sector financial institutions elsewhere in the country would have none of this, and destroyed this initial effort by freezing the North Dakota bank out of access to bonds, and by underwriting a political attack on bank supporter Governor Lynn Frazier, leading to his recall. Frazier was, in fact, the first governor to be successfully removed from office in the United States. The leader of the anti-farmer and anti-labor movement, a member of the Independent Voters Association party, took over the governor’s seat. Frazier was later elected senator.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her farm.
Although anti-farmer interests managed to get rid of pro-farmer and pro-union Frazier, they didn’t exactly get rid of the bank. It continued to exist, but with an altered mission. Today, the bank is still a state bank. The state uses this bank to hold its funds, instead of using a privately owned bank. Local governments can optionally use it, as can other entities.

A state bank that is not chewed up by Wall Street goons has the potential to help a lot of people and advance important progressive ideals. Therefore, you can expect Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, and of course, bankers, to vigorously oppose it.

But Minnesota may well get a state bank. Continue reading Minnesota Could Get A “State Bank” if Rebecca Otto Becomes Governor

Bloviating Morons Will Bloviate: Trump and Giuliani

As a logical person seeking an understanding of what happened with the election, the Trump campaign, all of that, there is one piece of information that led me, long ago, to strongly suspect that there was an arrangement made between Trump and his campaign, the Russians, and Wikileaks (and possibly other intermediaries).

This was when two people with inside information told us that this was happening. These two individuals told us that information that we later learned was stolen by Russian agents and distributed via WikiLeaks and other means would be used to affect the outcome of the election.

The first instance was a bit vague, but it was repeated several times and in retrospect, this is strongly suggestive. Here:

The second was not vague at all and is very clear, considering what was said, when it was said, and what happened:

I’m not claiming this is court admisible evidence. But then again, I’m not a court. I’m a person. When I see these two sets of comments, knowing what happened, I see this as very strong evidence that the alleged arrangement was not only real, but emerged as a strategy, from an internal discussion among the campaign personnel, including Trump.

Both of these men are blowhards and morons.

This raises one historically interesting question.

Giuliani is well known for having successfully carried out one of the most difficult and intense investigations and prosecutions ever, shutting down powerful NY mafia families. But looking at his recent incriminating bloviating, one has to wonder. Was Giuliani taking credit he did not deserve? Has he lost part of his self control or reasoning, lowering his capacity to think and communicate to Trumpian levels?

No matter, really. We should probably not be looking a gift horse in the mouth. Long live Rudy Giuliani as Trump’s lawyer!

Tina Liebling Endorses Rebecca Otto for Governor

Liebling calls Otto “bold and progressive,” says she “can go toe to toe” with any Republican

SAINT PAUL – In the first endorsement of a DFL gubernatorial candidate by a former candidate for the office, State Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-26A) today endorsed State Auditor Rebecca Otto for Governor of Minnesota.

“For too many Minnesotans, opportunity seems out of reach. They know that the economy is rigged against them, and they are looking for a leader who will stand up to the special interests and fight for them,” Liebling said in making the endorsement. “Rebecca Otto is that leader. She has a bold, clear, progressive vision for Minnesota with ordinary people at its center.”

Liebling also said she believes Otto is the strongest candidate electorally. “She can go toe to toe with any candidate the Republicans put forward and will give Minnesotans a real choice in November,” said Liebling. “Campaigns can’t be won without money, but money will not win the campaign. For that we need a candidate who is both progressive and bold. I believe that Rebecca Otto is both, and I am pleased to endorse her candidacy for Governor of Minnesota.

“I have always had great respect for Tina as a smart, progressive leader who is not afraid to tackle issues of great importance,” said Otto. “I am very honored to have her support. Having Tina on our team will be critical to securing the DFL endorsement at the State Convention in June.”

Otto said she appreciated Liebling’s policy expertise on issues she has heard about repeatedly in listening sessions and on the campaign trail. “Representative Liebling has important health care expertise and has worked for years to move Minnesota to a Single Payer health care system,” Otto said. “She will be a great partner in moving Minnesota to a more efficient, cost-effective health care system that is no longer tied to your job – a system where everyone receives high quality health care, where we remove administrative burdens for our doctors and medical professionals and allow them to focus back on our health.”

Otto also acknowledged Representative Liebling’s work and advocacy around the legalization of marijuana. Last session, Liebling introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate personal use of marijuana.

“I respect Tina for leading this important discussion. We need to move away from the failed criminal justice approach to drug use and focus on a public health approach,” said Otto. “Prohibition of cannabis does a lot of harm to our state and disproportionately impacts people of color. As governor I would support decriminalizing marijuana and expunging criminal records for those convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses. We need to have a thoughtful, open, evidence-based conversation as a state about how to reduce the harm of addiction while respecting the autonomy of Minnesotans.”

Rebecca Otto was first elected Minnesota’s State Auditor in 2006, unseating a high-profile Republican incumbent by the largest margin in 112 years for a seat that had been Republican for 90 percent of state history. She is the first woman Democrat to be elected State Auditor, and the only Democrat to be re-elected to the office. Prior to that she served as a State Representative from the St. Croix Valley area, and before that as a School Board Member in the Forest Lake Area school district.

Today’s Minnesota Third Congressional District Convention

Congratulations to citizen Adam Jennings for running a fantastic campaign in the Third Congressional District DFL!

Adam reminds us of the essential nature of the Democratic Leader. He embodies the spirit of Lettered Democrats and Progressives Past (JFK, RFK, FDR, and even TR and possibly LBJ on a very good day). The Jennings campaign did not prevail at today’s Congressional District convention, but they made an excellent showing, and many left the hall thinking, “Adam’s got to run for something important, soon.” My recommendation for a future run: Start calling yourself AJ. It flows.

Congratulations to Endorsed Congressional Candidate Dean Phillips for also running a fantastic campaign in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District. A somewhat more fantastic campaign, apparently, winning the 60% super majority needed to gain the DFL Endorsement on the first ballot! Continue reading Today’s Minnesota Third Congressional District Convention

Cover the fans, the sh*t is coming

I’ve been cautious about predicting what Trump will do next, and when I do predict I’m usually wrong, because he is so random. But right now I’ve got a strong feeling that he is about to make a move on Mueller.

I know, I know, it’s been looking that way all along so saying that now is meaningless. But not really, because now is now and before was then. I know I know, he can’t do it because the law says he can’t. Well, wrong. That has never been true. I know, I know, it will be like the Saturday Night Massacre all over again. But no, that play has been made by Trump and it failed. Nixon had the balls to make the SNM work, and when Trump did the same thing he got told to sit down because he is basically a bully, and thus, spineless. So, he’ll be doing it a different way. Continue reading Cover the fans, the sh*t is coming