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by Steve Timmer
Jun 19, 2015, 10:30 AM

On comments: Welcome, David Schultz

A few days ago, Hamline professor David Schultz published his first commentary here: Whatever happened to the liberal Democrats? You should read it if you haven’t. Read it again if you have.

There were comments to David’s piece, uniformly positive, and remarking how he would spiff the place up. I got emails from readers, too, to the same effect. I agree completely.

There are a couple of things the professor said that I think deserve special emphasis. First:

Progressives have no overarching rhetoric and narrative to support their world view. Progressives need a winning narrative that appeals to Americans [and Minnesotans] and which dictates a governing philosophy.

And as I have heard David say a number of times, during presentations, that narrative also has to be forward looking, too. Going way back to 1996, I remember Bob Dole saying in a debate, “Let me be your bridge to the past.” I knew at that moment that candidate Dole was a dead duck. The next day, I think, Bill Clinton’s campaign adopted the slogan “Bridge to the Future.”

The second thing he wrote that I would like to echo is that attention must be paid to what I’d call political systemic issues.

[C]onservatives understand how to make structural reforms and policy changes that both benefit their supporters and enhance their power. Tax cuts and cuts in regulation are simple ways to benefit supporters, but there is more. Voter ID disempowers their opposition, attacking union rights undercuts labor support for Democrats and opposition to business in the workplace, and gutting regulations on money in politics strengthens corporations and rich individuals. Obama’s biggest mistake in his first two years was his failure to act accordingly. Instead of health care reform he should have used his sizable majorities in Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act to strengthen unions, adopt national legislation banning voter ID, and permitting day-of-election registration in federal elections, and adopting real Wall Street and bank reforms that would have limited their power, including reauthorizing Glass-Steagall.

Take the long view, in other words. Taking this advice down to the Minnesota level, it means that after the 2012 elections when the DFL ran the table, among the first things it should have done was be sure that disclosure and electioneering legislation was passed. That would have at least told us who was behind the tsunami of money that washed over rural DFLers in the 2014 House election. I wrote about that in Mourning opportunities lost, and in a follow up, too.

Second, a constitutional amendment bill should have been passed to offer up a referendum on a judicial retention system for electing, or rather un-electing, judges. This is an issue that has been kicking around for a long time, has a lot of bi-partisan support, and has near-uniformity of support in the bar (well, with a couple of exceptions).

Exhibit A in why this is so important is the candidacy of Michelle MacDonald for the Minnesota Supreme Court. She got 46% of the vote as the endorsed Republican candidate. And vows to be back.

Republicans endorse judicial candidates. The DFL doesn’t. We’ve just been lucky so far that the candidates endorsed by the Republicans have been as obviously extreme as they are. But there is no guarantee that will continue.

Failure to pay attention to the systemic issues will come back to bite you, every time.

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