Oddities, Threats, Loons

July 5, 2009

Oooh man, the New York Times is pondering Minnesota’s electoral politics… Good f-in luck, my friend:

Minnesota was settled by agrarian, church-going folks — Norwegians and Swedes, with many Germans as well, whose subsequent generations continue to take a dim view of political corruption and vote accordingly. The habits of civic life are baked in at early age, with churches and unions — historically strong in Minnesota — reminding members that voting is both an obligation and an opportunity. The presence of distinct regions with separate needs and political agendas — the average union member from the Iron Range has very different expectations from government than a mother from the populous suburbs that ring the Twin Cities — means that each regional constituency shows up at the polling place to make sure its interests are seen to.

Later on, Lambert throws in his bit:

“Because we think we’re such shrewd judges of human nature we’re intensely skeptical of everyone who looks and sounds like us and because we’re so proud of our broad-mindedness, we make a big show of embracing everyone who doesn’t seem like us,” said Brian Lambert, a radio personality and former media critic at The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

I’m inclined to say that the state’s electoral funkiness has more to do with the form of ethnic and religious allegiance than it does with being broad-minded or skeptical.  The relative homogeniety of the state means that its constituent identities are only rarely defined against those of outsiders… This was a big part of why the state was able to lead during the Civil Rights era, and also why Jewish canidates have been so successful; ethnic or religious outsiders are perceived as oddities rather than competitors. (Though that doesn’t mean the state’s flawless by any means. The largest lynching in U.S. history, for example, happened here.)

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2 Responses to “Oddities, Threats, Loons”

  1. Nathan P. Origer said

    To the extent that I’ve investigated at all, Minnesota politics have always intrigued me. That the DFL can produce both some as progressive as Mr. Wellstone and then folks like Peterson and Oberstar. Interesting game they play up there. Let’s not forget Ventura, of course, and now Franken.

    Have fun.

  2. H.C. Johns said

    Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of variation internal to the dfl. So much so that I even hesitate to put Oberstar and Peterson in the same column… Oberstar, for his faults, is probably the closest you’re gonna get to a german-style christian democrat given America’s current political arrangement, which means he has at least some of my sympathies. Peterson, on the other hand, is basically the classic case of how pork barrel politics can lead to pork barrel politicians; witness the torpedoing of cap-and-trade, the blind pushing for ethanol subsidies, the naked politiking, etc. And he’s good enough at it that he won’t lose the seat till he dies. (Or gets an argentine mistress. or changes his name to palin and resigns.)

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