The land of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone finds itself in a very curious position these days. With the entry of both Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Governor Tim Pawlenty into the presidential arena, the election of a new congressional member from a district formerly considered a GOP black hole, and legislative majorities in both state houses committed to not just downsizing state government but completely overhauling its obsolete methods and assumptions, Minnesota is poised to be a major trend setter for the nation in the 2012 elections, perhaps THE trend setter.
Sounds funny, doesn’t it? “Minnesota” and “political conservatism” don’t exactly roll off the tongue here. The Scandinavian tundra is much better known for its ‘progressivism’, and downright socialistic tendencies in many respects. But things have been changing for awhile, even if establishment liberals have steadfastly ignored the shifting tides. More and more Republicans have been getting elected in the last 10 years, and those Republicans have trended more conservative than their 70s and 80s counterparts. Even though the 2010 election gave us a Democratic governor, he only garnered 44% of the vote, and he only managed to do that by spending more than $15 million – more than his two opponents combined. Buying an office isn’t exactly a voter mandate for the liberal agenda.
So what does Minnesota have to offer the nation?
First, we balance our budget every year. There is no such thing as deficit spending in our state government. We prove that it is possible to balance a budget and not run billions (or trillions) of dollars of debt. We had a governor who presided over that process for 8 years without raising taxes. Some Minnesotans will complain that he raised some fees, shifted some payments, and wasn’t exactly a libertarian’s dream. However, compared to governors in other states (Romneycare, anyone?), Tim Pawlenty’s record looks a darned sight better to regular voters. He can speak with authenticity about the reforms that are possible, and about the very serious reform limitations that challenge us if we don’t have the political will to make fundamental shifts in our thinking about government.
Second, we have a vibrant independent streak that demands politicians listen to us, or else. Michele Bachmann has become as popular as she is because she not only listens to what people are saying, she actually responds. Forget what the media elite are saying. Go beyond the Beltway Brie crowd, and you will find big chunks of voters who love the fact that she listens to them and respects what they have to say. Is her voting record perfect? Of course not. But her body of service shows that she actively works to learn what her constituents (and voters around the country) are clamoring to tell her, and then she takes that message back to Washington regardless of whether its popular or not.
Third, we have proven that the GOP should not write off ANY group of voters just because of past history. As they say in the financial world, “past performance is not indicative of future results”. The election of Chip Cravaack still has the Washington establishment shaking their heads in disbelief. They still think it was a weird fluke, that he can’t possibly get re-elected. The resignation to lose in certain districts among certain demographics is so ingrained that it will take a superhuman effort to instill a new paradigm of fighting for every district, every seat, every time. That’s what we did in Minnesota in 2010, and it worked. Every arm of the GOP – state party and house and senate caucuses – worked nearly seamlessly to recruit top quality candidates who fit their districts, train them, raise money and turn out the vote. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had the same level of teamwork on the national level among the RNC, the NRCC, the NRSC and the RGA?
Fourth, we are showing the nation what is possible when you have elected officials who deliver what they promised. Our Republican candidates campaigned not just on fiscal responsibility, but a complete overhaul on how government runs and a line by line review of what government should actually be doing according to our state constitution. Now that they’re in office, they’re doing exactly what they said they would do. Imagine that. Our Republican majorities are focused on narrowing the scope of government to align with our constitution and allowing Minnesotans to figure out the rest. This new paradigm is something our nation desperately needs. Americans want to trust their elected officials, but they’ve been betrayed and hoodwinked time and time again. Minnesota proves that politicians can and do follow through on their promises.
Minnesota has much wisdom and inspiration to offer the rest of our country at a time when it is sorely needed. That the wisdom and inspiration are coming from Republican leadership in a traditionally Democratic state only shows how truly progressive we are. Ya, you betcha.