How the Minnesota Democratic Party re-elected Trump…

It’s friday after the 2020 elections, finally got some sleep and still can’t believe we lost. But the numbers don’t lie, especially here in Minnesota where we have paper ballots and a bunch of senior citizens running the elections that you don’t argue with. But for the first time in decades a republican won Minnesota, and it was Trump, the least popular republican ever. Was the closest race in the nation, with Trump taking Minnesota by almost a percent.

What the… ?

We should have seen it coming- Unlike Iowa and other surrounding states, one big ol’ metro area has 60% of the population and the state capitol too, so our Democratic Farmer-Labor (official term, not many farmers left in the party and the republicans are wooing labor) Party figures they can pretty much ignore rural Minnesota. Thus we’ve seen party support for rural down ballot candidates drop and disappear. Hillary barely won Minnesota in 2016, garnering 178 thousand less votes than Obama got in 2012. Trump in 2016 got only 3 thousand more votes than Romney did in 2016. Almost every one of those lost democratic presidential votes, 169 thousand, came out of the most rural 4 of Minnesota’s 8 congressional districts.

In 2012 our downballot candidates won several rural congressional and legislative seats in Minnesota, and in 2014 and 2016 we lost a bunch of them back to republicans. The Minnesota Democratic Party was not ignorant of this drop in rural votes and took action. Problem was, they took the wrong action- Pulling most all support for rural legislative candidates in 2018 and favoring suburban congressional candidates. No surprise that while the blue wave pushed democratic candidates to victory in surrounding states, the Minnesota Democratic Party held on to the statewide offices, swapped congressional seats, and made slight gains in the legislature. By 2020 many rural democratic local units had gone dark, and rural democratic voters took the hint and stayed home on election day.

The above 2020 prognostication is fiction, and hopefully will remain so. But truth is, their are several swing states where a low turnout of rural democratic voters could give even Trump barely enough electoral votes to eek out a win. That’s why even in rural red districts, every democratic voter counts!

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Homelessness Ended in Southwest Minnesota… Not!

Today we were summoned to a local meeting room for a discussion of homelessness here in southwest MN. Turns out the discussion was rather one sided, as ’twas just a media event for HUD to proclaim that chronic homelessness had been eliminated here, at least according to their count and definition. Having patted themselves on the back and brown nosed the local social service agency staff present, HUD offered a few minutes press availability before high tailing it outa town.

That was my opening, took off my imaginary city council member hat, put on the press hat, and asked the question they didn’t want to hear: We’ve had homeless people in my little town of 39, I know of a mayor of a small town in southwest MN that’s struggled with homelessness, so how come our numbers don’t jive?

Turns out HUD is counting chronic homelessness only, which they define as being homeless for a year or more amongst other measures. Now what homeless person here on the tundra is going to stay the winter? That makes it damn easy to have no homeless people in Southwest Minnesota when if they as much wander south to Iowa or get an apartment for a month they aren’t officially homeless anymore. And for a Trump administration that’s trying to look like they’ve accomplished something, anything, it’s a low bar to meet. So sadly a lot of good democrats that know otherwise and concerned local folks were co-opted by HUD into this self congratulating media event.

Truth is, we’ve got homeless people here and everywhere, often for want of simple needs like transportation to a 20 mile away job or funds to fix up their house. Yup, I’ve actually met homeless people out here that own homes free and clear but can’t afford repairs to make them habitable. As for the transportation problems, I brought this up with “roads and bridges” advocate and legislator Chris Swedinski and he tried to talk it down. This is the same legislator who thinks everyone should have their own snowplow instead of those “socialized” government snowplows. When I mentioned to him the basement flooding many of our citizens experienced these last few days and my attempts to acquire a heavy duty pump for our town, he told me we each need to buy our own pumps, generators, etc.. Sorry Chris, most of our citizens already have those big box store generators and such, and most of them weren’t up to the job if we could even get them started. And Chris, hows that pickup truck plow working on snowcrete drifts? Yup, this is the mentality we’re up against…

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Storm Lake culls the candidates…

You gotta love a small town with the trifecta of a beautiful lake, a college, and a packing plant. Storm Lake would be a household word but for the fact it’s in the middle of northwest Iowa, over an hours drive from any Interstate, and I suspect the airport can’t handle business jets. But it’s Storm Lake’s diversity, rural geography, and the fact that the local newspaper editor Art Cullen has won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the excesses of Big Ag that made the city a natural for a presidential candidate forum on rural issues.

So a bunch of organizations like Art’s newspaper, the college, Huffpost, and Farmer’s Union organized today’s major and only events on the Iowa campaign schedule. Now these multi candidate forums, steak fries, etc. generally draw just about every candidate, the weather was great today, and the floods were far away from Storm Lake… Yet only five candidates had the courage to show their face in rural Storm Lake today. Julian Castro, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, John Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren had the guts to show up in rural Iowa today, the rest of the herd blew off us rural democrats and we should treat them likewise on caucus night.

But first, there was the “pre forum” event over at the high school, which kinda bombed…DSCF2495Good idea, poor implementation= They kept the bleachers locked up while setting up risers for the video media, maybe hoping for a “mosh pit” between the cameras and speakers. Crowd looked to be less than 100 even counting the press and Liz Warren was running late, so I bailed and headed over to the “main event”.

The actual forum was much better organized, despite what looked like Huffpost’s attempts to crowd out competing media. Each candidate got about 15 minutes with Editor Art Cullen and a couple lesser known young questioners, one of whom asked some pithy questions and the other seemed to keep trying to drag the questioning off topic to the standard far left topics with little or no relation to rural issues. Here’s the staging:S0142521That’s Art Cullen on the right with Liz in the “hot seat” next to him. She was first up, clearly had done her homework, and stuck to economic issues despite the aforementioned questioner’s attempts to distract her.

Next up was Julian Castro who did OK despite being a thousand miles away from his base. Then the two lane delay factor left us with no candidates for a few minutes (campaign staffers, don’t assume you can average 70 MPH out here) ’til John Delaney arrived.  John comes off as a policy wonk and junior version of Biden, ‘cept he made the mistake of voting for the “too big to fail” banks and that won’t play in Storm Lake or Peoria. John’s a long shot candidate, but he seems to be opening up campaign offices all over Iowa.

Then came Amy Klobuchar… On top of every issue, damning monopolies and promising tougher antitrust enforcement. She hit all the bases and hit it outa the park, speaking from experience on issues where the other candidates can only offer policy proposals. No surprise Amy got the best audience response. Last up was Ohio Congressmember John Ryan, another policy wonk who noted the similarities of Rustbelt and rural problems.

So as only a town with a packinghouse, college, and Pulitizer winning newspaper editor can do, Storm Lake has culled the 2020 democratic presidential; candidate cattle call from 20 odd down to five. Amy seemed the preferred candidate followed by Liz, Julian did well for a new candidate off his native turf, and the Johns showed the substatntial policy chops our democratic congressmembers have these day.

My bets on Amy!

And thanks to Iowa 4th CD candidate J.D. Scholten for keeping up the good fight:DSC_6266

 

 

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Would you donate to elect rural democrats?

We rural democrats, ‘specially here in Minnesota, gotta problem: Our statewide candidates like Amy Klobuchar win almost every legislative district, while our downballot democrats running to represent those same legislative districts get beat by double digit margins. It’s not hard to see why- Amy wins because her campaigns have had millions to make her a household name and 12 years of incumbency hasn’t hurt either. Downballot our dinosaur Democratic state party throws six figure funding at suburban races while writing off rural Minnesota. So our downballot candidates on low 5 figure budgets struggle to get name recognition, and on election day are lucky to break 40%.

Last November in R+11 Iowa 4th Congressional District (CD) upstart democrat J.D. Scholten damn near retired rabid republican Steven King, coming within 3% of winning. In the process King’s Nazi sympathies became public, leaving him a political zombie still going through the motions of being a congressmember while even his own party took away his committee assignments. Scholten did that with a brilliant campaign powered by 3 million dollars in fundraising, over three times King’s haul. The same story was repeated in several rural districts as “small d” democrats via millions of small donations defeated or damn near defeated republicans that were way too red for even their rural districts.

So here in west central Minnesota’s 7th CD, given that the state party has all but abandoned us, what if we started our own campaign fund to properly fund strong democratic candidates challenging republican incumbents who’ve worn out their welcome? Across the border in South Dakota Billy Sutton has kept the lights on in his campaign after running the strongest democratic campaign in South Dakota this decade… Will you donate to send him to Congress in 2020? And in Nebraska’s 2nd CD, Kansas’ 2nd, back to Iowa’s 4th, and in a bunch of other rural districts we came within a hair of winning…

We online democrats have a history of “money bombing” worthy candidates the party has ignored to victory- Will you donate to help rural democrats retire republican incumbents in 2020?

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New best practices: Off year conventions!

Old political hacks have more than enough bad memories of election year conventions that dragged on for days (and nights), struggling to select candidates, write the platform, elect party officials, and maybe even find time to deal with urgent party business. No wonder conventions became friday morning ’til late sunday afternoon tests of endurance with victory going to those who could get off work friday and maybe monday too and afford multiple nights in big city hotels.

So no wonder the idea of off year conventions to elect party officers is catching on. I follow several democratic party units in the rural areas of midwest states on Facebook, and seems like everybody’s doing it, and turnout has rivaled election year conventions. Last weekend South Dakota democrats has their convention, I’ll refer you to South Dakota’s best progressive blogger Cory Heidelberger for his account at this link.

My own 7th congressional district had it’s convention too, and it went pretty well, especially since someone finally stepped up to relieve me of the thankless job of Outreach Officer. While the convention started friday eve with social events and ended with a saturday night banquet that required another nights hotel stay for those travelling far, following CD7 tradition the business of the convention began at 12:30 pm saturday and was over before 4. That meant I could leave the south end of the district at 7, drive 240 odd miles there (bit more than usual as my shortcuts were iffy due to flooding) and arrive at 11:30 with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting. Meeting over, hopped back in the TDI at 3:50, gambled and took some of my usual county road shortcuts, and got home just before 8. Average speeds were 56 MPH on the way up and 59 MPH headin’ home, the VW Golf TDI again showing it’s ability as a real world performance car on this 90% 2 lane route, with MPGs in the usual 40s.

So off year conventions are working well- Heck, even the CD7 republicans copied us and held their convention the same weekend!

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Backstory: The “Iowa caucus effect” helps down ballot democrats!

Sorry, no prez candidate visits to my end of Iowa lately, seems the candidates are staying close to the big airports in eastern Iowa. Bernie graced us with a visit to Council Bluffs, normally within day trip range for me, but the weekly blizzard killed that plan. So time to write of the action downballot here in the rural midwest.

Saturate a state of but 3 million souls with near two dozen presidential campaigns and… The “caucus effect” is unavoidable. Then there’s the scale of it- Back in ’96 Republican candidate Steve Forbes was rightly criticized for spending more in Iowa than all his competitors combined, a whole whopping 5 million dollars! Heck, they wasted so much money they even fed this died in the wool democrat at a decent Des Moines hotel while I taped Steve explaining how he was going to destroy social security. That was Steve’s downfall, he didn’t know how to lie like the rest of the republicans.

Steve was a piker… By 2004 Dr. Howard Dean was so successful at fundraising that his campaign had rented every available rental car in Iowa and were draining the fleet of the surrounding states. On the weekends before the caucus motel rooms were in such short supply that they rented girl scout camps to house volunteers.

’08 brought us an even more expensive battle between the best campaigns of the 20th and 21st centuries with Hillary taking an early lead before falling to Obama and Edwards. Hillary hired semis to carry her name in eight foot tall letters and had classic John Deere tractors for backdops. Obama had an army of staffers and money to burn, I pitched a stock car sponsorship and an ex-autohauler rig for “whistle stop” campaigning to them and probably was shot down because my proposals were too cheap. Campaigns were spending more than Steve Forbe’s 5 million in just one weekend and over a hundred million $$$ on the near year long Iowa caucus campaign alone. ’16 upped the ante again, with Hillary outspending and barely beating Bernie.

So here were not even in 2020 yet and we’ve got twenty odd candidates, two of whom have raised Steve Forbe’s “excessive” five million $$$ in just a day and a bunch more who can haul in enough dollars per day to match a busy Costco. Every democratic county unit with half a brain is holding frequent fundraisers to make the campaigns rain on their parade units and every other campaign activity, and those dollars will trickle down to support downballot democratic candidates. Heck, they’ve even got a dem campaign staffer in long shot Iowa CD4 already, while the media is increasingly saturated with democratic policy pitches as multiple democratic candidates blow their millions in the media markets. In short, Iowa will be saturated with democratic pitches for darn near two years before the 2020 elections.

Now I’ve heard some so called “progressives” label Iowa as too white, etc. to hold an influential early caucus and suggest giving that honor to more diverse California, etc.. Sounds great, but why waste a billion dollars in campaigning in a California that will vote blue for free. The billion dollars spent on campaigning in Iowa will help swing Iowa blue, and all those media buys in Iowa’s eight or so media markets will overflow into neighboring swing states and help democrats there too. Same for swing states New Hampshire, Nevada, and even long shot South Carolina.

 

 

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Blizzard Proof: How traditional farms and local economies are naturally resiliant.

Had our latest blizzard over the weekend, punctuating the every other day snows we’ve been getting here in Minnesota. Two Interstate highways have been shut down for two days now and the back roads look like the above picture, ‘cept some of them still aren’t plowed out. There’s megadairies with thousands of cows down some of those back roads, and they’re so confident of their business plan that they milk 24/7 straight into tanker semis with no milk storage tanks… You can bet lotsa milk is gettin’ dumped. And if the milk tanker trucks can’t make it out the feed trucks that come from the next county or even state can’t make it in, and the manure…

Big Ag and Big Business don’t plan for blizzards and floods and all the other things that can and will go wrong. They design supply chains where in theory parts from all over the world are shipped at maximum speed to arrive at the factory at the same time to be assembled into widgets, which are then shipped at the same maximum speed to warehouses, megastores, and consumers. The whiz kids who plan these lean logistic schemes are so confident in their “Just In Time” creations that keep little inventory in stock… One part being delayed can shut the whole system down.

The traditional farm, a system refined and proven over the centuries before it’s recent near abandonment, doesn’t need next day express deliveries. The farms first function was to feed the farmers, and raising diverse foods and preserving them meant no rush trips to the grocery store were needed. Winter on the farm was a time to rebuild machinery, sew, and catch up on reading. Taking advantage of the available space, parts and food were kept in stock so a supply run to town could wait for clear and dry roads. Heck, the contents of the root cellar and machinery shed of a decent farm rivaled a decent grocery and hardware store’s! Traditional small towns copied this successful model- They carried months rather than days supply in stock because you were going to sell it sooner or later anyway, and may as well take advantage of the price breaks on volume purchases. Thus fresh bread and meat, farm supplies, and repair parts were available even if the roads were impassable.

That’s the way I run my little retiree’s joke of a farm… I haven’t wandered over a quarter mile from the house since friday when I drove the six miles into Tyler to catch up on my reading and gossip at the library. Despite the blizzards, being locals the staff has kept the library and city hall open most every business day, blizzard or not. I spent saturday in the shop getting four wheel drive functional in the old pickup, just might need it. Cleaned and rearranged the shop sunday and put the carbs back on the ‘83 BMW motorcycle today along with new cables. Went out a few times to clear the snow and check for any stranded motorists. What blizzard?DSCF2465

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