July 15, 2005


Unions debate the place of politics (Jill Lawrence, 7/14/05, USA TODAY)

Patti Fritz worked at a nursing home for 30 years, then decided it was time to get more control over her job and her patients' care. Last year, on her second try, the feisty Democrat ousted a veteran Republican who had headed the state House committee on health.

Fritz, a licensed practical nurse from Faribault, 55 miles south of here, didn't have a fancy degree or family money. But she did have an extensive education in organizing and politics, thanks to her union. And in the months before the election last fall, she benefited from a labor drive to turn out union voters in her district.

In all, 13 Democrats beat Republicans in Minnesota state House races last year — cutting a 28-seat deficit to two seats. It was the best showing of either party in state assembly and house races nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Unions played a pivotal role. Yet union membership here is shrinking, and so is labor's political clout.

Minnesota is a microcosm of a national decline so dire that it threatens to rupture the 13 million-member AFL-CIO.

Policies Aiding Blacks, Bush Says: Progress Made on Many Fronts, President Tells Indiana Group (Michael A. Fletcher, July 15, 2005, Washington Post)
Making a rare appearance before a predominantly black audience, President Bush on Thursday touted his administration's initiatives to bolster education, increase homeownership and restructure Social Security, saying those efforts accrue to the benefit of African Americans.

Speaking before about 3,200 people at a luncheon at the Indiana Black Expo, a statewide business and youth development organization, Bush listed a series of milestones achieved by black citizens under his watch. He cited a record number of black homeowners, sharp increases in the number of loans to black-owned small businesses, and a narrowing in the wide achievement gap separating black students from their white and Asian counterparts.

Bush pointed to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test often referred to as "the nation's report card." The results, released Thursday, showed black elementary-school students making significant gains in math and reading scores between 1999 and 2004.

"We're making big differences in the lives of African Americans," Bush said in his remarks at the RCA Dome.

Things get worse and worse for Democrats...

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 15, 2005 9:46 AM

How is cutting a 28 seat deficit down to 2 an example of "getting worse?"

I'm in the middle of Saul Alinski's "Rules for Radicals" and Malanga's "New New Left." (which mentions Alinski on the first page of the book.

The reduced clout of the private sector union is ameliorated by the increase in public sector growth (add teachers to the pig-fest)

It's not that I disagree with your general take (that the demographic & economic winds blow in our favor). It's just that "our side" (conservatives) tend to be just plain stupid about walking precincts, organizing, manning phone banks, etc.

Yes, we have lives (while preserving government IS the left's life). But we need to do a better job at PERSONALLY getting our ideas in front of our friends & neighbors.

We can't just rely on Blogs & talk radio. We have to BE a blog & "talk radio" on our streets. The rumors of the Left's death are greatly exaggerated.

Posted by: BB at July 15, 2005 10:10 AM

as Malanga points out, they only matter in cities.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 10:17 AM

And St Paul and Minneapolis (I live on Nicollet Ave myself), with the economic retards on the city council, matter less all the time.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 15, 2005 10:22 AM

The reality is that if unions went back to focusing on workers' rights and working conditions rather than on the social issues of the day, they would have significantly more clout. Ms. Fritz won because she talked about health care, not about gay marriage or abortion or BushHitler or Valerie Plame or any of the other nonsense that gets them all hot and moist down at the DNC and the MSM.

The nice thing about Howard Dean being in charge at the DNC is that there is zero chance of them shifting their focus from these nonsense issues on his watch. It is the nonsense issues that matter so much to the trust fund Left wot put him there in the first place.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 10:25 AM


Since politics is often controlled at the state legislative level (particularly education), the clout translates from the city to the rest of the state.

The dingbat soccer mom/public employee pig alliance is keeping (and will continue to keep) education choice away from the people who need it most.

IL & CA are bankrupt, and too deadlocked to improve much.

I maintain that you and Malanga are mistaken that "they only matter in cities."

The nation is only one scandal (that sticks) or one shift on abortion away from a returned Democratic Majority.

Bart's assertion that the MN woman won by focusing in certain issues also goes to my point. Where are the people walking precincts promoting HSAs, medicaid reform, and the dangers of "government health care."

Based upon our superior ideas and (new) abilty to bypass the MSM, that 28 seat marging shouldn't have been lost.

We lose because the moment we win a decent battle, we go home and lay down our arms.

Perhaps my view is colored by living the people's republic of IL, but if a state like this (suburbs, big exurbs and decent rural downstate) can be turned into a Massachusetts, then all of us have something to worry about.

Posted by: BB at July 15, 2005 11:06 AM


Minnesota's tradition IS Massachusetts.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 15, 2005 11:08 AM


You are 100% right. Her campaign was right out of the old DFL playbook. The DFL ran into trouble when it started yelping about social issues no one cared about or mostly opposed. The notion of Ann Wynia in an Iron Miner's union hall in Hibbing is just too funny for words. Old line DFLers are social conservatives and economic super-liberals, perhaps because the American tradition of 'rugged individualism' never took root there as the weather in Minnesota is too rugged even for the most rugged of individualists. A lot of traditional DFL voters are probably tired of hearing from metrosexual idiots from Minneapolis about how they are out of step with the rest of the nation. Minnesotans work hard, drink beer, play polka music and like to hunt and fish. It is hardly Howard Dean or Air America territory.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 11:15 AM

Fritz won by 374 votes. Will the union turnout be there in an off-year election (2006)? In 2002, the GOP swept MN clean. Plus, Pawlenty is a very popular governor.

The public sector unions are not viewed with favor by the general public, certainly not in the same way the industrial unions were viewed in the 50s and 60s.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 15, 2005 11:29 AM


It is hardly Howard Dean or Air America territory.

We're about to find out, as Al Franken is to seek the retiring (dope) Mark Dayton's seat.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 15, 2005 11:51 AM

Bart, Brain, Jim & the rest...

Your analysis is excellent, but completely misses the point I made.

374 votes? With all the winds blowing in our favor, this is a seat that shouldn't have been lost (it is probably the same with others).

The point is that WE need to do more to get our ideas across. WE need to organize more effectively.

It isn't about how public sector unions are viewed! It's about effectively countering their organizing prowess.

Posted by: BB at July 15, 2005 12:42 PM


If the GOP runs a candidate other than OJ and who does not drool in public and hasn't been caught molesting children, and Al Franken is his opponent. If the Democrats win the Minnesota seat, I'll eat my dog.

And I love my dog.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 8:36 PM


Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:25 PM


We did elect Wellstone twice.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 15, 2005 11:38 PM

He ran against Boschwitz. Twice. Boschwitz's hostility to the notion of Jews marrying Christians did not help him in a state where 99% of the population is Christian, and most are quite serious about it.

Posted by: bart at July 16, 2005 9:02 AM


Are we absolutely sure he wasn't going to beat Coleman? The stupidity of the DFL after the plane crash helped Coleman a LOT.

There are plenty of evangelicals in MN, but overall I don't think that MN Christians are much more serious than anywhere else. We have lots of lame mainline churches headquartered here. This state is, however, much more conservative about abortion than a state like Massachusetts. Overturning Roe and placing more restrictions on abortion at the state level would definitely help the Dems here (and nationally too).

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 16, 2005 9:38 AM

The occasional commenter Timothy Goddard could help you much more on Xianity in MN. I'm a free-riding atheist and my wife is Hmong (and also a free-riding atheist), and we live in the blue city.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at July 16, 2005 9:43 AM


Wellstone's numbers had already tanked by the time he died.

Posted by: oj at July 16, 2005 10:20 AM


OJ, mirabile dictu, is right concerning the Wellstone campaign. When his plane crash occured, I immediately thought of Ron Brown.

By serious, I did not mean evangelical necessarily. But much of rural and small-town Minnesota is places where people are either believing Lutherans(of various sects) or Roman Catholics. If my non-Jewish Upper Midwest relatives are any indication, social conservatism is quite ingrained in the firmament of the region once you get away from the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Madison. Divorce and certainly abortion are frowned upon. The DFL has nearly had open civil war over abortion a few times.

Boschwitz's obvious anti-Christian sentiment could not help him in a state that is overwhelmingly Christian.

Posted by: bart at July 16, 2005 11:57 AM

Minnesota politics can't be viewed through the simplistic red/blue prism that is so popular today. I've lived here for 20 years, and I still don't understand it.

A lot rides on the personal qualities of the candidates. Outside of Wellstone and the late Hubert Humphrey, neither party has been blessed with particularly charismatic candidates. I blame the Ventura governorship on the particularly pathetic lack of charisma of the two main party candidates, Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey. Wellstone won with his outsized personality, not his ideology. Boschwitz, while having "Christian" problems (which I don't think did him in), was about as exciting as wallpaper paste.

Rural areas are socially conservative but have strong ties to unions and national agricultural subsidies. The DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Labor) locked in support of areas like the Iron Range, which has been crying for governmental help to revive the economy in the wake of the decline of iron mining ever since I arrived here. The rural areas are also heavily populated by Scandinavian immigrants, which have tended to be more communally focused, and less in the mold of the rugged individual.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 19, 2005 10:47 AM