The Big Problem In “Conservative” Senate Districts

I see a big problem here in Senate District 36, and I think it probably applies to other “conservative” senate districts.  People have bought into the myth that Democrats don’t live here.  People are letting that idea influence what they do and how they act when it comes to politics and social justice.  People are afraid to act as individuals or fearful of being “outed” as a liberal to their conservative neighbors. 

The problem with that is that we are letting the conservatives tighten their grip on our district.  Every time a conservative political leader in our community makes an outrageous partisan comment and we let it go unchecked, an independent voter accepts it as reasonable.  Every time a Republican sign goes up in a neighborhood and we don’t counter it with a Democratic sign, an independent voter takes that as an indication of who to vote for.  Every time a donation is made to a Republican candidate, and a donation is not made to the Democratic candidate, an independent voter is hit with unmatched propaganda.

But I am here to tell you that there are Democrats in our district.  13,686 people voted for me, the DFL candidate for Minnesota Senate in District 36.  That is a lot of people!  True, it wasn’t nearly enough to win, but what if we could have gotten our message out to a couple thousand more people?  What if all the Democrats had voted?  What if 10 more people had door knocked?  What if we could have afforded 100 more signs?  There are 50 more things we could have done, and what if it all happened in a year that wasn’t a “wave” election year?  There is no reason to believe we could not have swayed a few thousand independent voters, after all, all those voters are not Republicans.

Districts like Senate District 36 are not unwinnable, they are just challenging.  It might take years to challenge the political status quo, but we can change it.  To do it, we all need to take a role in the transformation.   We are Democrats, and a democracy works best when everybody participates.  So take an active role over the next two year, and let’s work to change the attitude in this district.

I know it can be a pain to volunteer for a couple hours.  I know that the never-ending phone calls at election time are annoying.  I know that money might be too tight to donate.  I know that neighbor down the block might quit talking to you because of your sign.  But accept it as part of the price we need to pay for better schools, more jobs, a little more social justice and a brighter future.

Take the next step and be a part of the transformation.  The Senate District 36 DFL is holding a meeting at the Lakeville Heritage Library, Thursday, December 9, 2010, at 6:30 PM.  Show up, be a part of the democracy and make a difference.

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4 thoughts on “The Big Problem In “Conservative” Senate Districts”

  1. Living in SD 34, we’re in much the same situation. We also need to find a way — whether it’s within the party itself or outside the formal party structure — to provide better support to candidates in these tough districts. It was depressing to us to be completely ignored by the CD and the Coordinated Campaign when we actually had candidates who were raising money and running the best campaigns we’ve ever run out here but needed a little boost in terms of volunteers and other support. Not to mention the fact the impact it had on the top of the ticket — we need to get used to the fact that statewide elections, by and large, are going to be close and we can’t afford to write-off any part of the state. We need an “87 County” strategy, not a “Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth” strategy.

  2. A big part of the problem in 36B is that for at least the last 4 elections, we’ve had a different slate of candidates each time. We’ve started over from scratch every 2 years. It’s virtually impossible to succeed with that kind of turnover. In CD 2 it’s been Colleen Rowley and then someone from Burnsville who I can’t recall at the moment (see?) and then Steve Sarvi and now Shelley Madore. Will Shelley run again in 2012? The same turnover is true in 36B, both House and Senate races.

    If we could get candidates who would be willing to run again even if they’re defeated the first time, maybe we could build some continuity and name recognition. It’s not that there aren’t voters who will support Democratic candidates as much as it’s extremely difficult to get folks to follow the bouncing ball when the names change all the time.

    By the way, thanks for throwing your hat in the ring.

    1. Dan I really appreciate your support you provided this election. The problem is that in general so few people provide support from our district that candidates feel unappreciated and end up throwing their hands in the air. You are right, but running a second time is not the issue for many candidates. This election, the House candidate in 36B had every intention of running at least a couple times, but got very frustrated by the lack of support both financially and physically in our district. I felt much the same way, even thought I had no plans for a second run. Consider this that less than 50 individuals in our district contributed cash to my campaign. Taking away the state’s contribution, only about 15% of my campaign funds were from individuals in our district, and only about 6% overall. I had fewer than 20 volunteers from our district and the state DFL actually ended up causing me to waste money. It is no wonder to me that candidates decide not to run twice. So, you are right, it is the problem, but there is a bigger problem that causes that problem. That’s why we need to work together to turn it around in our district, and the first step is getting more people active and willing to participate like you did this year. Thanks Dan.

  3. As I’ve said recently, the term “wave election” perfectly describes what really happened in 2010. Splashing occurred by the Tea Party and extreme groups, but only a fool believes it creates waves. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate money proved as irreplaceable to modern campaigns as the moon to the tides. The candidates who spent a lot of their own money and lost were only a precious few of the many who tried to buy seats.

    Congress has become an exclusive club for out-of-touch millionaires and no longer represents us.

    Compounding all of our problems, our voters did not bother to vote. They did not know names or policies of politicians they liked enough to show up and vote for them. The continuation of wars now reaching into the trillions of dollars and the failure to even consider Medicare-for-all healthcare in Congress made many average progressives stay home feeling betrayed. Knowing that a health care bill passed while you’re job is being exported offshore is cold comfort. Certainly, apathy towards federal politicians hurt local candidates.

    I believe Lakeville is winnable. I do not believe we can win without reaching voters in a way that they hear. Even while knocking on thousands of doors, most voters do not have enough time to hear more than a few sentences. If all they hear is “cut taxes, cut spending” and they aren’t historians, they don’t know enough to challenge the crystal clear cyclic lies. How many times do they need to hear “read my lips” before they stop going back to the lips that betrayed them? My opponent literally went from “cut spending” to supporting an $800M taxpayer-funded Vikings stadium only a week after the election. We need to reach our voters in several avenues with a clear message.

    I thought running without accepting a single special interest dollar would make the difference in my race. It seems that one needs an incredible amount of media to make that kind of message effective. The voters don’t have the time to understand why it matters and many who do are too cynical to notice.

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