Saturday, December 18, 2010

Missed Opportunities

If you missed the political panel on Almanac Friday (12/17/10) you can watch the segment here. The panel is at about the show's halfway mark and the debate was kind of ugly!

In politics, as is true with most things in life, timing is everything. Opportunities come when windows open, but those windows do not remain that way forever. The DFL, Dayton, and Obama are the thought of opportunities in today’s blog.

Minnesota Democrats, Mark Dayton, and the Independence Party
Face it–the Minnesota Independence Party is a permanent minor party. After a highwater mark in 1998 when Jesse Ventura received 37% of the vote and won the governorship, the party has fallen into a permanent minor status. In 2006, Tim Penny received 16.2% of the vote for governor, in 2008 Peter Hutchinson received 6.4%, and in 2010 Tom Horner received 11.9%. In 2008, Dean Barkley received 15.2% as a Senate candidate. The party is more than a blip but it does not seem to have enough strength to be a serious challenger for statewide office in Minnesota. My guess, as I stated throughout the 2010 campaign, was that the Independence Party commands about 10% of the voting population. Its members seem to be composed of former moderate Democrats and Republicans, as well as others who politics do not line up with the two party profile.

At the same time the IP is about 10% of the voters, neither the DFL nor the GOP seem able to command a majority of the population. If the governor’s race is considered, there has not been a governor who received more than 50% of the vote since 1994. The 2008 Senate race shows the same, although the 2006 race did produce a majority with Klobuchar. The point here though is that the fate of the GOP, DFL, and IP are connected–all three are fighting for majority status and none can achieve it alone.

In a parliamentary system the permanent minority status of parties forces coalition governments to form and rule. Ventura sort of did that in 1998 when he picked his commissioners from across all party stripes. There is a similar opportunity here now for the DFL and Mark Dayton.

The DFL and Mark Dayton need to raid the IP. There is an opportunity here for the DFL and Dayton to reach out to the IP and bring them into their party. The GOP could do this too but seem to have abandoned this approach recently when it shunned its moderates who supported Horner. These Arnie Carlson and David Durenburger types have no place to go except a permanent minority status within a 10% IP. The DFL and Dayton should reach out to them? What should they do?

* Dayton should appoint Tom Horner and other prominent IP members to serve in his administration
* DFLers should allow IP members to caucus with their party

In addition, now is the time to reconsider fusion. Fusion was a big issue about 15 years ago. It would allow cross party endorsements on the ballot. Thus, as is the case in NY, a candidate for the Democrats could appear on ballot also as the endorsed candidate for the Liberal Party. Here, fusion would allow a candidate to appear as the DFL and IP endorsed candidates. Fusion, which is not legal at present in Minnesota, potentially would allow for a building of political coalitions to form a majority party and the strengthening of a third party. IP voters who otherwise would not vote DFL would vote for the person as an IP candidate. Something that ranked choice voting will eventually allow for the same creation of new majorities, but I am not sure that alone with will do that even though I support RCV as a voting option.

Whatever the practical option is, the simple statement here is that there is an opportunity for the DFL and Dayton here–raid the Independence Party, bring their voters over, and use the chance to create a new majority.

Thoughts on Dayton
A few quick thoughts on the Dayton transition. He has appointed good people so far, most notably Peter Watson as his counsel. The rest of his staff is good, but missing so far from the early appointments is a budget director. With a $6.2 billion deficit and the demands to have a budget in early January, one would think one of the first appointments would have been a budget director. Moreover, none of the early appointments are budget people. He need to act quickly. The best names out there? Matt Smith who was budget director under Ventura and Senator Dick Cohen who has done the budget for the Senate for years.

Lacking a budget person already has hurt Dayton. His meeting with the GOP legislative leadership was interesting and a nice gesture, but they are driving the budget agenda right now because Dayton does not have a budget person in place.

Additionally, Dayton keeps announcing how he is reaching out to the GOP and he seems to be modifying his positions. So far I have yet to detected the same with the MN GOP vis-a-vis Dayton and their views.

Thoughts on Obama
Dayton’s compromise segues to Obama and his signing of the extension of the Bush era tax cuts. He justified the move as a necessary compromise, as a way to get middle class tax cuts, to get unemployment tax cuts, and to stimulate the economy. (See the above video link to TPT's Almanac to see me arguing with Larry Jacobs on some of the following points)

Bad economics. There is some stimulus here but not much. In many ways the tax cuts only continue the status quo and too much of the cuts go to the rich who will not use it to stimulate the economy unless you believe in supply-side economics. Second, despite Larry’s assertion that mainstream economists say it will raise the GDP by 1.5%, that bump is at best short term and wears off by 2012 ( also cannot find economists who are saying what Larry is asserting). Third, the cuts add $900 to the deficit, only delaying the inevitable problems of deficits and eventually spending cuts which will probably hurt the poor and middle class first. Overall, whatever short term economic benefit there is, the benefits are outweighed by the economic problems they create.

Bad politics. This is a naked grab by Obama to get middle class and swing voter support. I doubt it does that. Two years from now they will not remember this. Second, the tax cuts are extended only for two more years and in the middle of the next presidential campaign they will be debated again. Obama will again be unable to oppose their extension and again they will pass. Democrats who oppose them will be unable to do so because opposing tax cuts is never easy.

Obama basically sacrificed his political base and the economy for his political fortunes and I am not sure how much benefit he reaps from it.

1 comment:


    Here's a link to Almanac - Really interesting conversation.