Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Time to call it a night

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:40 AM |  

Three-thirty-three. Pawlenty has finished his victory speech. Michele Bachmann won. Dean Johnson lost. So did Phil Krinkie, which is for me, personally, the most significant event of the night. More than ever, Krinkie's real fiscal conservatism is needed in Minnesota government. Also significant is why he lost -- he didn't bring home the bacon for his district. Over his career, Krinkie became what we all say we want in a representative -- someone that put the common good of the state (as he saw it) above the short-term good of his district. It cost him. That's a shame.

That said, the Democratic landslide in the House may not be what it at first appears. While a great number of seats went to the DFL, they did not go by a lot of votes. No question the election was a repudiation of the Republican party, but it was not necessarily a repudiation of conservative principles. Minnesota followed a nationwide trend evident in the congressional races -- voters rejected more moderate Republicans and replaced them with somewhat conservative Democrats -- in other words, the election was not a significant philosophical shift. On KSTP's coverage, David Strom made the point several times that it will be interesting to see how the Democratic party sorts out its new mix of inner city liberals and more conservative suburban moderates. That's especially true in the Senate where Johnson, for all his faults, was a strong leader that held his party in check. It remains to be seen if anyone in the DFL can herd cats as wells as Johnson.

Gov. Pawlenty definitely raised is national stock a bundle tonight. In the face of a huge Democratic surge, he managed to survive. A split government is the perfect playing field for the governor's vision of being a "transcedent" governor, one that rises above political partisanship to get things done. That's fine, as long as he can do it without selling out his principles. President Bush tried transcendency with his "compassionate conseratism," and he failed miserably. Whether T-Paw can pull off transcendency remains to be seen. Hint: Stadium-like deals and fees instead of taxes doesn't cut it.

A final note -- the governor's campaign focused on promises to the middle class, where the Democrats usual constituency of "Minnesota's most vulnerable citizens" barely got a mention. The seats won by the Democrats are suburban seats -- not a lot of vulnerability shopping at Kowalski's and Byerley's. Now that they've learned that it's the middle class that goes to the polls and votes, and perhaps realizing that voters expect some return on their vote, it will be interesting to see home much floor time is devoted to traditional Democratic consituencies.

Are we finally going to see an education plan that adresses the achievement gap, for example, or simply more programs targeting benefits for college kids of middle-class families? Are we going to try and solve problems with the health care system, or simply create another middle class entitlement to make the problems less painful? Those are going to be real tests for the new Democratic coalition. Rather than change, we just might see more of the same from a different set of legislators.

Time to call it a night.