Framing the 2022 election
The main issues to keep in mind when heading to the polls.
What issues are driving voters to the polls? That’s the most important question in every election. The candidates don’t get to decide this question, but they can influence the answer through what’s known as “framing” the election.
If Minnesota voters walk into the polls this November to voice their frustration with inflation and crime, Republicans will come out on top. If voters go to the polls to react to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision, Democrats will win. Both sides are using their press releases, advertising budgets and Twitter accounts to “frame” the election in the most favorable way for their candidates. But voters always have the last word.
Since Thinking Minnesota subscribers are also very likely voters, here is a brief rundown of the issues and where each party stands in 2022.
Gov. Tim Walz is correct, governors don’t have much influence on inflation, but he unfortunately shares a party label with President Joe Biden, who many voters are blaming for higher prices on food, clothing and almost everything else they purchase. The cost of driving is one area where the Walz administration has made an impact. Walz proposed to raise the gas tax and adopt the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that would directly raise the price of a gallon of gas. He went around the legislature to adopt California’s emission standards, forcing Minnesota car dealers to fill their lots with electric cars, ignoring market demand. The result: higher prices for all cars sold in the state.
If voters head to the polls to voice their frustration over rising crime in Minnesota, Scott Jensen and Republicans will win in a landslide. Jensen and his allies have focused on Walz’s failure during the 2020 riots when he froze for two days before finally calling in the National Guard to quell the unrest. Two years later, Minnesota is still suffering under a sense of lawlessness, and we are now officially a high crime state according to FBI and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data. Walz is trying to deflect by blaming the legislature for not passing a $300 million crime prevention package, but more than anything he just wants to change the subject. If crime is the issue, Walz loses.
Education policy is always a top issue in statewide campaigns, and this year it’s probably the fourth most important issue for voters. Jensen has a 10-point plan for schools that includes a strong school choice provision with state money following the student to the school of their choice. He also proposes a Parents’ Bill of Rights, a focus on reading by the third grade, and keeping divisive topics out of curricula. Walz is promising to “fully fund education,” which has proved to be a moving target with local school districts awarding teacher contracts they can’t afford (see: Minneapolis teacher strike). The candidates and parties offer stark differences for Minnesotans planning to make education their top reason for voting.
Taxes and spending
Taxes and spending are always on the mind of voters to some degree. This year, the state is sitting on $9.3 billion in excess funds after the legislature failed to reach any agreements in the 2022 session. Jensen proposed eliminating the income tax entirely, a bold proposal considering the income tax accounts for 36.7 percent of our revenue. Critics immediately focused on the revenue side, unable to imagine Minnesota surviving any spending cuts, even though we rank fourth in the nation in per capita welfare spending. In fact, if Minnesota lowered welfare spending to the national average, we could eliminate the need for most of the income taxes collected each year. Walz is reminding voters he signed into law two separate income tax cuts.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has elevated abortion to a top issue in the 2022 campaign, especially for voters who support legal abortion. Voters have been using abortion as a litmus test for candidates in every election since Roe was decided in 1974. Jensen is trying hard to convince abortion rights supporters that Minnesota’s Supreme Court settled the issue with their Doe v. Gomez decision in 1994. While true, it’s a tough sell. Walz and his allies are putting a lot of resources behind this issue to rally their base into believing abortion rights will be in jeopardy if Jensen and Republicans are elected. Voters who care about abortion (for and against) have a very clear choice in the 2022 election for governor. Historically, Minnesota has one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation. To some extent, every campaign — no matter the political party — depends on making sure its base goes to the polls. This year, however, there are a variety of issues, from crime to inflation and education, that have cut across party lines. It will be up to individuals making the best choices for themselves and their families who will ultimately decide who has the privilege to lead the state for the next four years.