Seriously folks, if you want to know where I come from politically and socially, read this article. My parents might be implants to Minnesota, but I would say they fit in with this description, particularly the "Other states, other voters, express alienation by staying home on Election Day. But Minnesotans take a more civic approach to their estrangement, showing up at the polls and replacing the bums with some choices that scan as odd from a distance."
In the words of my father, "whats the worse that could happen if we elect a third party, we could be at war with a failing economy? wait, that already happened."
Also, I have answered the question "what was up with Jesse Ventura?" countless times in my university career, and have always said, "hey, he did what he promised, he did a lot of good things for the state," and he did. You don't have to be beholden to traditional party politics, just think like a Minnesotan!!
Full text of the article:
Al Franken and the Odd Politics of Minnesota
At the St. Paul Civic Center in 1982, what should have been a routine re-election convention for the Republican Gov. Albert Quie was underway, but he had dropped out before it had begun.
A newbie reporter to Minnesota politics, I watched as democracy broke out in earnest on the convention floor over the fight to replace him. There were walkouts, prayer meetings, candidacies that came and went in the blink of an eye, all perpetrated by delegates who had the stamina of Marines. Their various causes righteous, their faces flushed with excitement, they went into extra innings, deep into the night. My head spinning, I climbed up into the bleachers and sat near a shaggy-looking guy in a shiny hockey jacket from Anoka. We watched the full pageantry of electoral politics silently and then I finally looked down the row and spoke. “Is it always like this?”
“Yes,” the man said, turning toward me. I recognized him as someone who should know: Garrison Keillor.
Mr. Keillor was already on his way to legend as the host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” but there he was staring in fascination at one of the most rococo expressions of state democracy in the land. Lately, everyone else has been watching Minnesota politics as well because the race between the Republican senator Norman Coleman and Al Franken, the comedian and radio host, ended in a deadlock. (A third-party candidate, a frequent feature of Minnesota elections, altered the math.) After a ruling of the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, more than seven long months after the election, Mr. Franken will become Senator No. 60 for the Democrats, a significant number because it could help make the Senate filibuster-proof.
It may not be a stretch to say that the nation’s governance hinges, in part, on the arrival of the man who played Stuart Smalley, a simp who was a bit too eager to put the self in self-help on “Saturday Night Live.” On Wednesday, a question I knew was coming arrived from a friend on the bus: “What is up with Minnesota politics, anyway?”
To which I say, as opposed to what? New York? Florida? California? And as a former Minnesotan who lives in New Jersey, don’t even get me started about politics, Garden State-style.
Yes, Minnesotans vote like crazy. At 77.8 percent, the state had the highest turnout in last year’s very busy presidential election. But yes, sometimes Minnesotans’ votes seem just plain crazy as well.
Other states, other voters, express alienation by staying home on Election Day. But Minnesotans take a more civic approach to their estrangement, showing up at the polls and replacing the bums with some choices that scan as odd from a distance. (We might mention that the Minnesota state bird is actually a loon, but there is other less avian evidence of Minnesotans’ idiosyncrasy.)
In Minnesota, there is a kind of populist approach that is less progressive than a reflex, a notion that politics belongs to citizens, and politicians only rent their positions.
The civic entitlement-engagement of Minnesotans has produced lions on the national political scene — Hubert H. Humphrey and Eugene J. McCarthy — but is fungible enough to produce singular leaders of another sort. There is not only Mr. Franken, but Jesse Ventura, a former pro wrestler who ran as independent in 1998 on the Reform Party and won, dumbfounding the rest of the nation. There was also a dentist from the Iron Range, in the northeast part of the state, Rudy Perpich, who both preceded and followed Mr. Quie and was dubbed “Governor Goofy” by Newsweek for his suggestion that the governor’s mansion be sold and that a chopstick factory be built in northern Minnesota.
Even Senator Paul Wellstone, with his hippy bus of a campaign and outré commercials that took out a sitting senator in 1990, stretched the definition of what constitutes electability. And in the last election in adjoining Congressional districts, Minnesotans elected Keith Ellison, a liberal Democrat who happens to be both black and the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, and Michele Bachmann, a conservative who is an advocate of intelligent design and once entreated a rally against same-sex marriage to “cry out to a holy God.”
Here’s the thing about most of those folks: in the main, it could be argued, they did a pretty good job. Governor Ventura hired a talented crew of state commissioners and came flying off the turnbuckle when he needed to. Governor Perpich was one of the first governors in the nation to realize that international economic efforts by states were increasingly important. Senator Wellstone came swinging out of left field with a raging populist agenda, but promptly made peace with Senator Jesse Helms, the Republican from North Carolina, who made a much better friend than enemy when it came to getting things done.
Behind the state’s unpredictability, there are some political fundamentals at work.
Minnesota was settled by agrarian, church-going folks — Norwegians and Swedes, with many Germans as well, whose subsequent generations continue to take a dim view of political corruption and vote accordingly. The habits of civic life are baked in at early age, with churches and unions — historically strong in Minnesota — reminding members that voting is both an obligation and an opportunity. The presence of distinct regions with separate needs and political agendas — the average union member from the Iron Range has very different expectations from government than a mother from the populous suburbs that ring the Twin Cities — means that each regional constituency shows up at the polling place to make sure its interests are seen to.
In terms of process, Minnesota is deeply married to the precinct caucus approach, which means the grass roots flourish and frequently overwhelm would-be kingmakers. The state’s system of public financing means that anybody who gets organized enough to be in a race will have the wherewithal to campaign. And perhaps most important, Minnesota has same-day registration, which means that a walk-up vote can tilt an election, as it did when Governor Ventura won.
“There are numerous state laws, institutions, and processes that contribute to the highly engaged electorate that often votes independently,” said David Schultz, who teaches election law at Hamline University in St. Paul. “Yes, party membership is high, but there is a sufficiently large enough independent or swing voting bloc that no one party can win elections in a statewide election unless it wins crossover votes.”
Demographics provide very few clues. Overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Protestant and Lutheran, the state has elected four Jews to the United States Senate in recent times. (Jews makes up less than 1 percent of the state’s population.)
“Because we think we’re such shrewd judges of human nature we’re intensely skeptical of everyone who looks and sounds like us and because we’re so proud of our broad-mindedness, we make a big show of embracing everyone who doesn’t seem like us,” said Brian Lambert, a radio personality and former media critic at The St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Remember that when Ross Perot ran for president as an independent in 1992 he received 24 percent of the state’s vote. Bill Hillsman, a political-advertising savant who helped invent Paul Wellstone, said that this kind of independent showing is less about third party than a third way into politics.
“The reason that different people break through in Minnesota politics is that there is a willingness to entertain a notion,” Mr. Hillsman said. “They look at candidates regardless of the conventional wisdom and orthodoxy.”
“Minnesota Nice” is real. It’s why you see seed art at the Minnesota State Fair, a popular local art form, expressing all kinds of political and cultural thinking. It’s hard to think of another state in the union where you’d see gay-themed art made out of mix of flax and corn seed.
“It is a state of deep contradictions,” said John Rash, an editorial board member of The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and a contributor to WCCO-AM, a radio beacon of all things Minnesotan. “There is a kind of prickly progressivism here. We are extremely reserved right up until we walk up to the ballot box.”
In 2005, I went back to Minnesota with Mr. Franken while he tested the waters for a run. In the past, he had been incredibly impolitic around a microphone —once suggesting that the only person with a lower poll rating than Newt Gingrich was the Unabomber — and had written an indelicately titled book called: “Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them).” But I found him remarkably skilled at retail politics: I watched him exchange jumper-cable stories with voters from northern Minnesota at a so-called “bean feed” fund-raiser. Still, as I dropped him off at the condo in downtown Minneapolis, I watched this short man with a backpack and no relevant political experience amble toward the front door and thought: “Could this wiseacre be the next senator from Minnesota?” The answer turned out to be yes.
And yes, Mr. Franken’s fast mouth carries with it the possibility of embarrassment, but as people who have to wear the equivalent of a spacesuit to go outside five months a year, Minnesotans are used to the mix of wonder and amusement their state engenders.Like other curveballs thrown by the Minnesota electorate, Mr. Franken might figure it all out, because, as Stuart Smalley used to say: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.” At least in Minnesota.