Down but not out

Now is the time to focus on holding lawmakers accountable to all Minnesotans.

After the Union forces in the Civil War had suffered 7,000 casualties during the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, William Tecumseh Sherman found Ulysses Grant resting beneath a large shade tree. “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant replied slowly, “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

Conservatives in Minnesota have suffered many slings and arrows over the decades and each loss has a particular poignancy and is cause for evaluation and recalibration. The recent midterm elections felt particularly disheartening to me, to many readers of Thinking Minnesota, friends, and to supporters of American Experiment. As the fall Thinking Minnesota Poll showed, many Minnesotans have a deep sense of uncertainty in their future and lack the usual optimism the state is known for. Only one out of three voters expressed a high level of optimism about the future. Many families are struggling with high inflation; they have reduced the amount of money put into savings accounts — particularly young Minnesotans; they have concerns about the escalating crime rate — not only in the Twin Cities metro area, but the lawlessness and disorder creeping into the suburbs and rural areas. In a September MPR/ Star Tribune/KARE11 poll, likely voters named jobs, the economy, and crime as their top concerns.

These are issues that will not go away overnight or just because elections have been held. The real work begins now. During the campaign, Gov. Tim Walz made a lot of promises to Minnesotans. He ran on having “One vision for Minnesota,” and that he’s “working to move Minnesota forward.” Well, voters gave him that chance and now he must prove his worth behind the rhetoric.

There is no better organization to hold Walz, his administration, and the Democrats in the state legislature accountable than Center of the American Experiment. Our policy fellows have been at the front lines since we started, not just highlighting the issues that matter to Minnesotans and their families, but advocating and proposing positive solutions for the state to optimize quality of living, happiness, and prosperity. And we have no plans to stop now.

In response to Walz’s plans for 100 percent carbon-free electricity in the state by 2040, policy fellow Isaac Orr and policy analyst Mitch Rolling released their report “The High Cost of 100 Percent Carbon-Free Electricity by 2040,” in which they detail the enormous financial cost to Minnesota families and businesses in the amount of $313 billion by 2050, not to mention the potential for energy blackouts in the midst of our frigid winters. Their groundbreaking energy modeling has garnered requests from states across the country looking for straightforward and honest analysis of green energy mandates.

Perhaps the most significant event in Minnesota’s recent history is the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent emergency policies. Walz continually vaunted his administration’s policy response and continues to boast about his leadership skills and positive impact on the overall health of the state post-pandemic. But our research tells a different story. Policies have consequences — very costly ones to Minnesotans, especially those with school-aged children. Economists John Phelan and Martha Njolomole’s September report looked at the actual economic cost to families for the government shutdown through data-driven analysis and showed that states that instituted harsher lockdown policies (such as Minnesota) fared worse than more “free” states. And the damage to kids in public schools is nothing short of devastating.

As a companion piece to the economic costs, policy fellow Catrin Wigfall investigated the impact that school lockdowns had on Minnesota’s public school children. The effects were especially devastating to minority kids and those attending schools in disadvantaged communities. Wigfall’s eye-opening report has been abridged and can be found in this issue of Thinking Minnesota. This is yet another example of how far from excellence Minnesota’s public schools have fallen at the hand of the Walz administration, which seems to care more about pleasing the teachers’ union than the quality of education being provided to Minnesota’s youth.

Nothing more exemplifies pandemic mismanagement and the need to keep Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Department of Education, and legislators accountable than the Feeding Our Future scandal. It isn’t just American Experiment reports exposing the holes in political promises and slogans. Adjunct policy fellow Bill Glahn has been on the story from the very beginning, even as every major local news outlet all but ignored it. But keeping the nation’s largest COVID-related fraud out of the headlines is hard to do when public federal indictments are involved. And rest assured, we will not let up. There is too much at stake, too many taxpayers who are angry about their hard-earned money being stolen — especially when it was done in the name of “helping children.” American Experiment is committed to finding the answers Minnesotans deserve.

Rising crime — everything from murder to carjackings — has permeated daily life in the Twin Cities and now extends to the far reaches of the state. Walz campaigned on “creating safer communities for all Minnesotans” and committing to an increase in spending to help local governments with law enforcement and first responder efforts. But this newfound rhetoric in support of police and law and order should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially after his public statement after the police shooting of Duante Wright, before all the facts were known. He tweeted on April 11, “I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

The election of Mary Moriarty as the new Hennepin County Attorney will also be watched closely. Our latest crime initiative, “It’s Official: Minnesota is Now a High Crime State,” and our Criminal Injustice tracker — which highlights the consequences of soft-on-crime policies — will make it tough for lawmakers and public policy officials to avoid accountability.

Altogether, American Experiment has been and continues to be the biggest ally to hard-working Minnesotans and families trying to create a better life in the state, and the fiercest foe to those trying to weaponize partisan political agendas, gain personal enrichment, or avoid accountability at the expense of the citizenry. We may have lost the battle this day, but we are still in the fight today — and tomorrow.