I hope so but have my doubts.
Ideas that matter
Some facts Minnesota conservatives can’t ignore
Conservatives in Minnesota sense serious trouble. Beset by internal conflagrations, and a political party that is buried deep in debt and a brand image with the public that is at historic lows, they are looking for a platform that can help them celebrate and advance their ideas.
And, make sure they are put into action.
There’s opportunity to restore confidence, but it will require more than winning elections. It will require establishing in the minds of voters that conservatives have ideas that matter, solutions that will work and the capacity to govern effectively.
In a recent poll done by the Minnesota Action Network, some key facts emerge that conservative activists and policymakers cannot ignore.
● In Minnesota, there is an 18 point gender gap between the DFL and Republicans, and a significant split on social and economic issues with young people that will continue to grow.
● The middle class of Minnesota does not believe conservatives understand issues facing them, that we are out of touch and that we don’t listen to their concerns.
● Minnesota conservative activists and leaders may believe our problem is messaging, when in fact, Minnesota independents and many others believe we are too consumed with social issues.
● If the issue is the economy, conservatives find more support
● If the issue revolves solely around social issues, at the expense of economic and overall quality of life issues, conservatives will continue to lose ground.
Conservatives need to accept that Minnesotans are not anti-government. They believe that government has a legitimate role to play in Minnesota.
What Minnesotans do not support in their government is waste and inefficiency, or government for the sake of government. They want value from their government, and returns for the tax dollars they spend for government programs and services.
The fact is, in our survey, 50 percent of respondents say that government is always wasteful and inefficient, and that 71 percent believe government is important but needs to be limited. Yet, a firm plurality says government regulation of business and the environment are generally positive.
And, Minnesotans want government that works. They reject the kind of dysfunctional system of governance they see at the federal level, and they want Minnesota political leaders to find bi-partisan solutions.
The DFL Party does not have a monolithic hold on power, nor on the hearts of the people of Minnesota. However, because the Republican Party is in such disfavor today, the DFL dominates the Minnesota political landscape.
The Minnesota GOP, and conservative candidates, will continue to lose ground with Minnesotans unless we dramatically change our level of empathy towards the people we seek to support.
The fact is, Minnesotans want a social safety net to support those who may need help from time to time. Republicans shouldn’t be seen as attempting to dismantle the social safety net, but working to make it more efficient, effective and truly capable of helping those who can get on their feet, and do so with compassion.
Minnesotans support business and job creation, but they believe that Republicans have become too concerned with defending the wealthy and corporate interests at the expense of workers and small businesses.
While in reality this may not be accurate, perception is reality. We should not support positions that are not only unattainable, but unsupportable by a majority of Minnesotans. Listening to Minnesotans when they tell us they support a certain level of government that is efficient and effective should not be met with calls by conservatives to dismantle government and eliminate agencies simply for the sake of downsizing without drawing out the argument to focus on the trade-offs if we do not act.
In Minnesota, the people support conservative ideas and principles that are reflective of their philosophy of limited, effective and efficient government that lives within its means.
The DFL Party and its DFL governor do not have a mandate from Minnesotans to grow government bigger or to tax and spend to excess. But, they have given them the votes to govern as a majority.
For conservatives the key will be to articulate legitimate differences of opinions, offer up new and compelling ideas and to find responsible, conservative ways to partner with the DFL to get things done.
Conservatism intent on focusing on economic issues, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government, ensuring that those who most need help in our society are able to have the support they need while still standing firm on their principles with regard to social issues, will gain support and trust from Minnesota voters.
It’s time for conservatives to listen to what Minnesotans want and to share with them how we intend to govern to achieve their goals for the future.
Norm Coleman, a former U. S. senator and former mayor of St. Paul, is chairman of the Minnesota Action Network, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that advocates for center- right solutions on the state level. Laura Brod is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and is president of the Minnesota Action Network.