What do we have to lose? Midterms 2022.
The country, Minnesota, and what's on the line in 2022....
Oh boy, election time is here and if there is one thing that seems universal on "our side" right now, it's exhaustion. The Right is newly fired-up about it's Roe victory—the slow disaster that has been brewing since the 2016 election—and crowing about the Red Wave they see coming. The Left is wondering what there is left to fight for in this crumbling dust heap, and where they'll find the energy to do it. But if there is any silver lining in the ongoing series of nightmares that has taken place since 2016, it's the knowledge that as bad as things are they can always get worse, which is pretty motivating. So let's look at what's ahead at potential disasters and calamities, and anticipate why, once again, elections matter....
The curse of the midterms is the "presidential penalty"; the President's party almost always loses (remember how relieved we were about that in 2018!). Biden's approval rating is also the second lowest of any president—he hasn't exactly been a rousing unifier, and he's dealing with the economic fallout of the pandemic as well as Putin's aggression and limited supply of oil due to the war, which have caused oil/gas prices to skyrocket. Both of these I personally put on 45's shoulders, but we all know how that goes.
However, there are some murmurings (delusions?) that the Roe reversal might have a significant impact on midterms, along with the ongoing rollout of insurrection media coverage and arrests.
In my opinion, now more than ever it's anybody's guess. There is usually a mood or a sense of how things will go, and the only thing your humble author is sensing at this point in time is burnout from repeated trauma, hostile and increasing division, economic stress, and all the other things that go along with the deconstruction and devolution of a country. On that cheery note, let's take a look at the national landscape for 2022.
For our national representation we have Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith in the U.S. senate, both incumbents and uncontroversial enough to be considered safe in my book.
Here's the more tumultuous U.S House, with an interesting situation in MN CD1.
CD 1: SPECIAL ELECTION August 9th. Jim Hagedorn (GOP) died on Feb 17th after a battle with cancer. Following his death there was a primary on May 24th to figure out who would fill his shoes until the general election in November (his wife Jennifer Carnahan threw her hat in but was defeated to the huge relief of just about everyone). Primary winners now move on to a special election on August 9th—I think they are deliberately trying to confuse us by having both an election to vie for the remainder of Jim's term AND a primary for the November contest. If you're confused, hopefully this helps:
August 9th there will be a special election to fill the remainder of Jim Hagedorn's term (ends January 2023). Remaining candidates after the primary from May 2022 are now:
Haroun McClellan, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party
Richard B. Reisdorf, Legal Marijuana Now Party — super! let's have two weed party splitters in case the first one doesn't get the job done
Brad Finstad, Republican Party
Jeff Ettinger, DFL
August 9th there will ALSO be a primary election to see who will compete in the regular November election for the new CD1 term (starts January 2023 and lasts two years).
There is probably very little reason to suspect this will shake out for the Democrats, so enough said about CD1.
Assuming these incumbents win their primaries on August 9th, let's look at how things will likely shake out in the other CDs.
CD 2: Angie Craig. Running as an incumbent with no notable scandals or issues, I expect a win for Angie.
CD 3: Dean Phillips, also running as an incumbent and with high popularity in general should also be fine.
CD 4: Betty McCollum, same story—incumbent, should be fine.
CD 5: Ilhan Omar is in the unshakeable seat of CD5, which will always stay blue for whoever wins that primary.
CD 6: Tom Emmer, another incumbent unlikely to leave
CD 7: Michelle Fishbach—ditto
CD 8: Pete Stauber—He will likely win but some say we do have an outside chance here with a particularly popular candidate for the DFL, State Representative Jen Schultz.
If Jen doesn't win, we'll stay the course—contributing another 4 dems and 4 GOP to the U.S. House of Reps, and our two dems, Tina and Amy, to the U.S. Senate.
As always, you can find your representatives (state and national) here, and see what's on your ballot here.
Meanwhile in Minnesota...
But enough about national politics, where the action is really at is in our state politics. Minnesota remains the only state in the nation with a split state legislature: One chamber Democrat (the MN House) and one GOP (the MN Senate).
Here's the breakdown: In the MN House we have 134 total, with 70 Dems and 64 GOP. In the MN Senate we have 67 total human organisms, 31 Dem and 36 GOP.
To make things more confusing, there are also four Dems who extremely unhelpfully vote along with the GOP on certain issues like gun control and choice, effectively giving the GOP a super duper majority in the Senate, and eating into the Dem majority in the House to create an even split or a GOP majority on certain issues. These Reps are:
Julie Sandstede of Hibbing district 6A
Dave Lislegard of district 6B
Mary Murphy of district 3B
Paul Marquart of district 4B (not seeking re-election)
Gene Polowski, Jr. of district 28A
Unless you are a legislator, it is really hard to keep track of what goes on with each bill. Generally, things start out as single bills then eventually end up in giant mishmash omnibus bills where each side tries to keep some things in and takes other things out. If you are not personally connected to a bill, it's hard to know its fate. A bill generally has to have a hearing in various committees then a floor vote, but some don't even receive a hearing depending on the politics of the committee. Some bills are abandoned before anyone even tries, knowing that they will be blocked by the senate. So there's lots of factors that determine what happens to legislation.
However, there are a a few examples of how this has played out, and concrete samples of what the GOP-dominated Senate is costing us. Keep in mind senate terms are 4 years, so this includes the 2019-2021 session.
1) Gun Control
In the 2019-2020 session the DFL House approved a red flag law and legislation to expand background checks pushed by DFL Rep. Ruth Richardson and Dave Pinto, but the bill went nowhere in the GOP senate. In 2022, in response to the Uvalde massacre, the bills were again highlighted by the DFL House, and blocked by the Senate. Article.
In the 2021-2022 session: Gun control legislation was not brought up in the house because it would not pass the Senate.
Reproductive rights are protected now in MN, but this is definitely food for thought: if the legislature flips so that the GOP retains the Senate and grabs the House, the GOP could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot banning abortion. Even assuming Walz wins (likely) the governor can’t veto constitutional amendments.
In 2012 that’s how the marriage amendment ended up on ballot. In 2010 we had GOP majorities in both the house and senate. In 2012 the GOP-controlled chambers passed constitutional amendments: one banning gay marriage (defining marriage as between one man and one woman), one requiring voter ID. Dayton couldn’t veto, so both appeared on the ballot to voters and both (thankfully) were defeated.
Interestingly side note: no other state had previously defeated the marriage amendment! We remain the only state in the union to have successfully defeated the marriage amendment where it appeared on the ballot to voters.
Would MN voters also reject an anti-choice amendment at the ballot box? Likely, but with enormous effort, similar to the massive Vote No campaign of 2012.
Ban on Conversion Therapy A bill to ban conversion therapy passed the house but was blocked by the MN Senate. There is a ban in effect via an Executive Order from the Governor but could be overturned by a GOP governor.
Drivers Licenses for All This would allow non-documented residents to obtain drivers licenses to get to work, obtain insurance etc. (but not vote). It is supported by police and many others who want all drivers to have to go through testing and licensing to safely operate cars. It was carried by Ryan Winkler and passed in the House, but did not receive a hearing in the Senate. Article here.
Restore the Vote Legislation to restore voting rights to people who have served their sentence in prison moved through the House in 2019 and did not receive a hearing in the Senate.
3) Racial Justice
The African American Family Preservation Act addresses racial disparities in CPS proceeding, and the disproportionate separation of African American families. It passed the House in the 2019-2020 session and did not receive a hearing in the Senate.
Cedric Frazier carried the Public Safety Innovation Act in 2022; it would have "provided communities with $150 million worth of expedited, data-driven strategies for communities to address crime, hire personnel, and rebuild community trust with law enforcement" and addressed disparities in law enforcement practices. This was defeated along with other reform efforts to ban no-knock warrants and address outdated (and dangerous) policing practices.
In 2019 Rep. Jamie Long and Sen. Nick Frentz introduced a 100% clean energy bill. Gov Walz made it part of his One MN Pathway to Clean Energy. It passed the DFL controlled house in 2019 and 2021 but was denied a hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Despite Walz's flip-flopping on Line3, multiple DFL member of the MN House of Reps wrote a letter to President Biden, calling for stop to Line3.
Full legalization for recreational marijuana passed the House in 2021, and, you guessed it, did not receive a hearing in the Senate. Let's hear it for all those Cannabis Party and Legalize Marijuana Party candidates who so effectively prevent a DFL majority and split voters so that we can't get this passed! *yes that's an eye roll emoji*.
If the GOP takes the House and keeps the Senate, they could try voter ID again, or introduce "provisional balloting" which is an effective voter suppression tactic in other states. Provisional balloting is in place in Florida, for example. Basically someone challenges you (there is no criteria for proof), and asserts that you are not a citizen or otherwise eligible to vote. You are then given a "provisional ballot" which is set in a separate pile for review, and they may or include it in the tally. Often they are not included.
No doubt a GOP-dominate legislature would block any momentum on restore the vote; they could challenge the presidential election results in 2024 by questioning electoral votes, following other states lead on this.
So there you have it, a brief summary of policy differences and efforts over the last 4 years of a divided legislature, and a whisper of the nightmare that could come if the division was ended in the GOP's favor. How to find hope, energy and the will to keep fighting is something each of us must navigate, but if you're looking to help, check in at your local DFL, or join 2022 election efforts at Two for Blue.