We shall overcome

The path to undoing the radical output of the 2023 legislature begins with the fact that most Minnesotans disapprove of them.

“Elections have consequences,” stated former Pres. Barack Obama on Minnesota’s 2023 legislature.

All Minnesotans watched, most in horror, as Democrats used their unchallenged control of the governorship and the House and Senate to run up a costly and unprecedented array of radical new laws this past legislative session that each stuck a thumb in the eye of moderate and conservative sensibilities.

This issue of Thinking Minnesota is possibly the only place you’ll read about how the unconstrained liberal majorities overwhelmed the outnumbered Republicans. With a boorish spirit and ghastly judgment, they drained the $18 billion budget surplus, increasing Minnesota’s budget from $52 billion to $72 billion. And then, incredibly, they chalked up another $9 billion in tax increases.

Their path of legislative destruction places our once-thriving state alongside California and Oregon as states who create radical policies to please targeted political constituencies without understanding or appreciating how they will pay for them or how they will impact the average Minnesotan. The DFL passed a bill that will dramatically raise energy prices in future years. They addressed Minnesota’s growing crisis in public safety with a 500-page bill that begins by reducing punishments for offenders. They legalized pot and created an array of politically motivated giveaways that included free tuition. They funded thousands of new state government jobs, most notably a 400-person agency that will oversee a costly new program for family leave.

Their legacy intentionally makes Minnesota a destination for the trans “community.” They bestowed pedophiles with protected legal status. And Minnesota’s abortionists can now terminate late-term pregnancies, including live births.

And with all their rhetoric about sticking it to the rich, the decidedly un-rich will end up paying the bill through increased fees, sales taxes and gas taxes — and more regulations.

But there is reason to hope that the litany of damage might not endure. The most recent Thinking Minnesota Poll (found in this issue of the magazine) discovered that Minnesotans reject the much-hyped victories of the 2023 legislature, sometimes with overwhelming distaste. Only 37 percent rated their work as “excellent” or “good.” Most Minnesotans — 59 percent — rated their work as “only fair” or “poor,” while individual components of the DFL agenda fare much worse. Fifty-one percent of Minnesotans said their state was on the “wrong track,” a record number for historically optimistic Minnesotans.

These might be the most illuminating survey results we’ve ever published. The poll likely understates Minnesota’s distaste for that litany of extremist laws when we consider that most Minnesotans learned about them solely through local media’s fawning, worshipful reporting. (I, for one, have never seen such examples of naked media bias. The Star Tribune headline writers must have struggled through the weeks to find synonyms for “historic” and “transformational.”)

Future legislatures can unravel virtually everything passed in 2023, but it will take a significant effort. Here are a couple thoughts about how we, the majority of Minnesotans, might begin the road back.

Re-engage business. Not long after the 2023 session of the Minnesota legislature concluded its business, I joined a group of Minnesota business leaders to discuss the aftershocks of that troubling session. The business community needs to step up financially and politically in favor of a pro-growth agenda. It’s an enduring disappointment that the largest corporations in our state — Minnesota Business Partnership types — disdain their long history of leadership and no longer play a role in keeping Minnesota a growth-friendly economy. Too many now think of themselves as national players and think little about their Minnesota roots. Many aren’t from here; some don’t even live here. I think of Richard Davis, the former U.S. Bank president who liked to extol the virtues of Minnesota but who, when his career ended, fled the state before having to pay Minnesota taxes on his stock options.

Many other business leaders might have stayed on the sidelines because they thought they weren’t needed. House and Senate leaders assured me in separate private meetings that they anticipated adding three seats to its 34-31 majority in the Senate and to add “at least” 12 to 15 in the House, turning a 70-64 advantage for the Democrats into a 76-58 majority for the GOP. Instead, the 2022 elections gave the Democrats a slim 34-33 majority in the Senate and allowed the House Democrats to retain their 70-64 advantage. Despite their razor-thin majorities, the DFL enacted a leftist and extreme agenda at the expense of Minnesota’s values and interests.

The issues are on our side. The GOP’s best chance at overturning the 2023 debacle will be to run on a solid agenda of creative and relevant policy proposals, not just personalities. Liberals spend their time (and your money) buying off their constituencies with government payouts. Center-right candidates can’t combat them merely with clichés that mock woke policies, disparage high taxes, or re-litigate how the government mishandled COVID. A conservative agenda must show, in detail, how to guarantee objectivity in our classrooms, how to keep our communities safe, and how unfettered partnerships with business will create opportunities that let all Minnesotans soar. It can also demonstrate practical solutions to keep fuel affordable and show how reduced regulations will unleash affordable housing and bring reasonably-priced childcare. These are just a few of the constructive, winnable issues that will appeal to Minnesotans. And American Experiment is here to help!

I can’t conclude without saying a word about Gov. Tim Walz, the most ideologically “flexible” statewide leader in memory. His participation in the 2023 legislative session exposed the convenient plasticity of his “be-for-what’s-gonna-happen” political philosophy. It made me think about the devolution of various versions of Tim Walz we’ve met over the years. As a congressman, he seemed to work hard to be the Republicans’ favorite Democrat. He was the likable schoolteacher who served in the Army National Guard and supported main-street business. One year, he was even named the seventh most bipartisan member of Congress. He won his first term as governor by fashioning himself as the reasonable adult who could forge a “One Minnesota” unity by mediating the widening gaps that separated Minnesota’s political extremes. And he based his 2022 re-election on a pledge to return $2,000 of the looming budget surplus — later raised to $2,600 — to each Minnesotan in the form of “Walz Checks.” In the end, he said he was “grateful” when legislative power brokers approved just a $260 payment to a limited number of Minnesotans, and even that was bound in red tape. Wait. Who’s in charge here? It didn’t seem to matter so long as he could take credit. Walz eagerly used extravagant ceremonies to sign every extremist bill that reached his desk. And now, as he is adored by liberal apparat-chiks nationwide as the architect of Minnesota’s Radical Miracle, try to imagine how he’ll reconfigure himself for the next wave of political expediency.