Why Franken (maybe) lost

Check out the Washington County election returns.

It’s generally considered a Republican county. Obama narrowly carried the county by a little under 5-percent. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Franken, on the other hand, lost the county by almost 10 percent of the vote. That’s a 14-percent swing down the ticket, in what is literally a “swing county.” It’s difficult for a DFL candidate to win when so many jumped ship to either Coleman or Barkley.

They thin switched back to the DFL, giving El Tinklenberg a narrow win in Michele Bachmann’s home county.

No coattails here.

Oh, by the way, look for Washington County to pull out of the agency that’s pooling the county’s sales tax increase for transportation. Lisa Weik’s victory in Woodbury appears to shift the County Board on the issue.

  • Washington County be extremely conservative if Bachmann was able to pull off a win.

    However, I believe another factor in the Franken v. Coleman race was Priscilla Lord Faris’ “stunt” of a campaign. My mother knew Judge Miles Lord to be a fine man, and I mean no disrespect to the family.

    However, Faris did the DFL a disservice by waging her campaign at the moment – and in the way – that she did. I wish she had filed prior to the state convention, as is the proper way to run a fair campaign. With Republicans like Bachmann and Coleman and office, it wasn’t right for Faris to attempt to split the party to which she claims allegiance.

  • Bob Collins

    Diana, the problem is the people who charaacterize Washington County usually don’t really KNOW Washington. It’s not *really* extremely conservative. Is it more conservative than a Keith Ellison district. Yes.

    The DFL is intolerant of the “middle” just as the GOP is intolerant of the “middle.”

    And every election when the middle determines an election, the people on the far left or far right want to blame the people in the middle rather than educating themselves about those people in the middle and maybe — gasp — take a step in that direction.

    Statewide DFLers continue to run by trying to win the two cities and the Iron Range and maybe getting “lucky” in the suburbs.

    It’s a recipe for defeat and a lesson they haven’t yet learned. Instead, they choose to just criticize the suburbs for not being just like the cities. City folks spend 364 days looking down on the suburbs, and then on Day 365, they wake up and wonder what the heck happened?

    It’s the arrogance of politics.

  • Bruce

    Punditry over a victory (?) measured not in tenths, but hundredths of a percent is dangerous business. Obama won by a margin not seen by a Democrat since the early sixties. Those coattails weren’t likely to carry everyone.

    Let’s face it, if you put down a Coleman victory in a forecast, you won by dumb luck.

  • You make an excellent point, Bob. I must say that, from where I sit, the “middle” is getting stronger and stronger – and it’s a good thing.

  • Bob Collins

    That’s the opportunity that the IP has in Minn., if it can get off its “one trick pony” campaign and actually develop a coherent philosophy that is more than “we’re not them.” I mean, sure, you’ll get your 10-12 percent of the vote, but you’ll never get elected with that.

    Voters overall, I think, are pretty smart and while some people dismiss ticket-aplitting, it’s a tried and true Minnesota tradition that suggests that people really aren’t blind loyalists to a particular party that the part insiders and most fervent supporters are.

    What Minnesota said yesterday — within Minnesota — is “you didn’t give us any solutions, and you didn’t give us a reason to change.” And that’s on the candidates, not on the voters.

    Love him or hate him, Tim Pawlenty has correctly identified a strategy for his too-far-to-the-right party bosses with his “Sam’s Club strategy” that he outlined at the National Press Club a few months ago. He probably should’ve used Target instead, though.

  • bsimon

    :That’s the opportunity that the IP has in Minn., if it can get off its “one trick pony” campaign and actually develop a coherent philosophy that is more than “we’re not them.” I mean, sure, you’ll get your 10-12 percent of the vote, but you’ll never get elected with that.”

    Peter Hutchinson’s philosophy as articulated in the 2006 governor’s race was quite compelling. I think the real problem is not one of articulating a philosophy so much as one of convincing voters you can win & they won’t be stuck with the worse of the other two evils.

    If I’m not mistaken, Hutch outscored the other candidates in the 2006 select-a-candidate. This seems to imply his problem wasn’t his positions, but some combination of making sure voters knew his positions & convincing them he could win.

  • sm

    So Pawlenty should update the “Sam’s Club” strategy by using Target instead, eh? Tsk tsk. That doesn’t sound like a nod to Joe-the-Plumber, but rather a nod to Hildy-Hausfrau.

    Target has worked hard to niche itself away from the X-Mart milieu and capture the IKEA chic-but-cheap customer. Don’t you realize Target is sancrosanct in Minnesota? Don’t dilute the brand!

  • Bob Collins

    //if you put down a Coleman victory in a forecast, you won by dumb luck.

    I didn’t make a forecast, but I did win all of my bets and no doubt luck had something to do with it as luck has something to do with everything.

    But so does observing and ignoring most of the ridiculous negative advertising that features quotes from 1999 and out-of-context statements from 5 years ago etc.

    Minnesotans generally like to have a good reason to turn people out of office. Norm Coleman at the same time is a very good politician who knows how to conform to whatever time he’s in. If he needs to be a Democrat, he’s a Democrat. If he needs to convert to being a Republican, he does so.

    As President Bush’s popularity increase, he aligned himself with Bush, as it decreased, he walked a bit in the other direction.

    If you have a Democrat-dominated Washington, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will come closer to the middle.

    Now, yes, I realize that’s opening the door for a barrage of criticism but a lot of the voters don’t buy the negative campaigns or the hyperbole that surrounds these things and so something else comes into play.

    Let me tell you a story. A few years ago we had a thing online here with regular voters giving their opinions as they sized up candidates. We couldn’t get them on the radio. “Why would we want to talk to voters?” one producer at the time asked.

    Say what?

    I mean, we put pollsters on and political scientists on, and politicians on and everyone on BUT the voters to tell us what the voters believe.

    So, yes, punditry can be dangerous but you can learn a lot more at times, I think, from a Saturday at the town dump than you can with a spreadsheet and four professors with degrees.

    In the case of Washington County, which is the subject of this post, many of the pundits don’t live there, don’t know people there, and their perception is often influence by external views of the county.l

    In the aftermath of Hardball, it was difficult to try to parse out the barrage of noise in reaction on both sides to weed out — and ignore — the voices of non-6th-District people from 6th District people to try to determine what the net effect would be.

    Bottom line, though, is the bottom line…people go from one side of the ballot to the other, just as the middle has always done.

  • Paul

    The “middle” is the problem. The only thing in the middle of road is yellow lines and dead armadillos. If you want to vote for the status quo (the middle) fine, but then don’t be surprised when the result is mediocrity and stagnation. The answer isn’t always “left”, but but the idea that the answer is in the middle has been a disaster for our country and our state, it’s a recipe for doing nothing, and nothing is exactly what we’ve done.

    Of course then there’s the question of what exactly is the “middle” really. The fact is that our political landscape is distorted, the idea of left, right, and middle is askew. I’m a lefty, I live with lefty’s, I go to movies and eat dinner with lefties, I’m telling you, Al Franken is no lefty, Franken is just a Democrat. The idea that the democrats are a “liberal” party, and the republicans “conservative” is a myth. Only 30% of democrats consider themselves to be liberals, that means those in the middle are actually conservatives, there really is no “left” in the United States or MN. That’s the problem. The shift to the middle has actually been a shift to the right, and that’s led to stagnation because aside from cutting taxes and making people more Christian, the right has no ideas or solutions.

    I don’t care what “party” the person representing me belongs to, nor do I care what party wins or loses. I want my representative to be making rational, good public policy, and solving the real problems our communities are facing. I don’t care if Democrats lose elections, I’d rather have liberals run and lose than have no liberals at all on the ticket for either party. The reason we’ve made no progress on any of our major issues since I graduated from high school in 1981, is that we’ve limited the ideas and solutions we’re willing to consider by pretending that the “middle” is some kind of virtue that lies between the left and right when in fact it lies between right and he far right. It’s a celebration of mediocrity, it’s just being closed minded, and paralyzed. The problem isn’t Franken, the problem is the electorate that’s paralyzed by fear, lack of imagination, and ignorance. An electorate that considers voting to be a consumer activity rather than a civic responsibility. You want candidates that make you feel comfortable rather than candidates that actually make good policy and run governments. Selecting candidates is not the same as buying a car, it’s not just about what you “like”, it’s about what will actually work, and sometimes he middle doesn’t work.

  • Bob Collins

    I think you improperly define what’s in the middle.

    To me, the middle is where ideology meets reality. Typically, hard-core politicos think in terms of adherence to a party ideology from 1-10 on the list of issues.

    In the middle, it’s a little more selected; one might even say a little more bipartisan and practical.

    The odd thing about tuesday’s election for me was that the most difficult and gut-wrenching decision I had to make was actually for county commission. I favored one candidate because Washington County is well known, I think — maybe not, for human services and open space. But I also — personally — think the county is getting hosed on the transportation tax and it doesn’t make sense to give our sales tax money to Hennepin or Anoka Counties. And that was the position of another candidate.

    So I had to choose.

    In the land of the middle, there’d be a candidate there not quite so enslaved to the entire ideology.

    In the middle, there’s room for a pro-life Democrat or a Republican who sees value in human services.

    The middle, quite often, is where people go after their parties have been purged of their kind.

    You are absolutely correct that a typical Democrat or a typical Republican does not define themselves by the labels generally given them. But that’s not true for party insiders who pretty much dictate what choices those average people have.

    I agree that Al Franken is not a typical lefty. His willingness to sacrifice mental health parity so readily shows that.

    But the middle is a virtue because it says there’s no single right answer for many issues…that the world isn’t really black and white but that there are shades of gray. It’s a more open minded region that is willing to listen, and not automatically consider those who have different opinions are stupid or racist or Marxist or any number of nonsensical epithets. These days, that is a virtue.

  • Paul

    “I think you improperly define what’s in the middle.

    To me, the middle is where ideology meets reality. Typically, hard-core politicos think in terms of adherence to a party ideology from 1-10 on the list of issues.”

    I have to ask: middle of what?

    You don’t seem to be talking a spectrum of ideas, or political orientation at all. Reality meets ideology? What’s that? Reality exists independently of ideology.

    This is exactly my problem with you “middle” people, your actually the most ideological people on the block, but you don’t recognized it, you’re not self aware. You brand anyone who doesn’t fit your narrow idea of status quo as a “extreme” and you stop listening. Then you complain about the extremes who don’t listen to you or each other.

    I’m speaking generally here, this not a personal attack.

    Why would the “middle” be where ideology meets reality? Listen, the truth is the truth, whether a communist or a Nazi is speaking it. If a Republican tells you the earth rotates on it’s axis, that’s no more true coming from a Republican that it would be coming from a Democrat. Reality and “meet” ideology anywhere along the spectrum. This middle stuff is just egocentricity masquerading as political analysis.

    There’s nothing extreme about Al Franken, your branding him as extreme, and you’re doing so for own ideological reasons.

    I guess another way of putting it is that the status quo, the middle, is an ideology in it’s own right. The primary characteristic of ideologues is their inability recognize their own ideological bias. Ideologues always reject the notion that their ideologues, they insist they’re just seeing things the way they are. Sound familiar? You’re basically saying you have a better handle on reality (in principle) than I do, because your in the middle, and I’m not. Those in the middle have special qualities not obtainable by anyone outside of that group. If that’s not being an ideologue what is?

    You don’t have to be “in the middle” to be open minded, and realize that there may be multiple solutions any given problem. Nor do you have to be in middle to listen to other people and respect their views. My experience with the “middle” is that they are just as intransient, closed minded, and disconnected from reality as any other ideologues. That’s why it’s sooooooo difficult to budge the status quo.

    My problem with the middle as an ideology is that it is bereft of ideas and solutions, and appears to be content just circle around the same problems with the same solutions indefinitely.

  • Bob Collins

    The fact that the middle voted for Barack Obama — as near as I can tell from the exit polls — would seem to suggest that it’s not connected to the status quo.

    So is the problem that you’re citing that they didn’t also vote for Al Franken? Or that they were more likely to vote for Dean Barkley?

    The middle is its own political party. Neither totally liberal on all issues, nor totally conservative on all issues, but conservative on some, liberal on others.

  • Paul

    Both parties are status quo parties, therefore this election in no way indicates a flight from the status quo. The middle did what the middle always does, it voted for a Republicans or a Democrats that branded themselves as moderates. Obama and Franken are liberals within the narrow confines of the dominate political landscape, but neither of them really threaten the status quo or promise a radical turn to the left. Remember we’re talking about a landscape that ranges from right to far right. Voting for “change” doesn’t necessarily mean voting against the status quo, the quo isn’t monolithic, and “change” is relative.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the middle voted for Norm Coleman because Coleman branded himself as the status quo moderate in this election and Franken didn’t.

    Clearly the middle isn’t actually a political party, but is is an ideology. If you want to know it’s characteristics look at people who call themselves moderate democrats or republicans.

    By the way, being neither totally liberal or conservative etc. That’s the definition of status quo. The problem with the quo is that is not capable of recognizing problems, or producing solutions outside it’s own frame of reference. Right now the quo is failing, the middle is not working, we need to look beyond the middle. Demanding that candidates like Franken move to the middle is suicide because again, there’s nothing in the middle but yellow lines and dead armadillos.