Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Message from the Business Conference: The DFL is the party of creation

Contributed by Katie Foley
This past Saturday (Feb. 5) found DFLers flooding Cokato, Minnesota for the State Central Committee's Business Conference.  The agenda included electing new party officers and the weeks preceding the conference found this blogger's phone ringing semi-constantly with this candidate or another telling me that I should support them.

Among the offices to be filled were Chair and Vice-Chair.  Ken Martin and Marge Hoffa ran for the offices respectively, unopposed and as a ticket. I appreciated the fact that they were running campaigns and making phone calls even though they ran unopposed because, as Senator Amy Klobuchar pointed out, you can't make predictions in the DFL. Don't, however, get me started on the obnoxious pamphlets that flooded the auditorium and atrium - suffice it to say that the reassurances that I received that the amount of wasted paper has decreased over the years was not actually reassuring at all.  

Ken and Marge were elected by acclamation, with the sole dissenter being a gentleman behind me who claimed to "not know enough about [Ken]."  (He has apparently found a way to keep his phone number a secret...)  Vanessa Blomgren was elected secretary, a Mr. Hamilton was elected treasurer, Eric Margolles (likely spelled incorrectly) was elected Affirmative Action officer and Chris Schmitter and Jamal Abdhualli (also likely spelled incorrectly) were elected to fill the two vacant male director seats.

Anyone who has attended a party convention or conference can tell you that, for the most part, they are incredibly boring.  You sit for hours, listening to speeches and casting ballots.  Most of it involves waiting - waiting for a ballot, waiting for ballot results, waiting for the parliamentarian to decide whether Mr. Y can speak at microphone 1.  It's really very boring, except that it isn't.  To a political junkie such as myself, meeting with crowds of DFLers provides many opportunities for reflection and enlightenment.  

For example, I have discovered that the most coherent message the DFL has to offer right now is that we are in need of a coherent message.  Though I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment that getting DFLers elected (starting with my former classmate, Carly Melin) is what is best for Minnesota, that statement in and of itself is insufficient to establish the party's stance.  Why is electing DFLers what is best for Minnesota?  That is the question on everybody's mind, and the most consistent theme I spotted was that the DFL is the party of creation.

We strive to create jobs.  We know that tax breaks to the wealthy do not create jobs - in fact, many economists would say that tax breaks creates major disincentives for reinvestment in labor and other business costs.  We strive to create opportunities.  Lower tuition, increase funding for K-12 education, develop new technologies that can be manufactured in Minnesota - whatever the topic, the DFL wants to provide people with as many opportunities as possible, starting with a solid education.  We strive to create fairness.  We believe that the Right to Counsel means that there should be a well funded public defender system and that the size of your bank account should not be directly correlated to your political power or access to justice.  The DFL strives to create the educational, political, business and social environments necessary to ensure that Minnesota thrives, not merely survives.  

The Republican booth at the State Fair this past summer had a sign that listed what the Replicans stood for in 9 words (picture pending).  That's what the DFL needs to do, develop a succint statement of what we stand for.  My proposal, based on the speeches I heard this weekend, is this:

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party
  • Create opportunities for all Minnesotans
  • Keep America Competitive
  • Ensure Fairness and Equality

It is not perfect as far as catchy political messages go - I'm not even sure it has mass appeal - but we need to start somewhere.  If this is not what the DFL stands for then we need to re-evaluate how we are talking about ourselves and our values.

Note: My two highlights from the day were 1) the t-shirts being sold to support the group D.O.G. - Democrats Own Guns; and 2) Jamal Abduhalli assuring us that 1 in 3 Somalian refugees do not come to Minnesota for the glorious weather or because it was their life's ambition to live in a city with "Pine" in the name - they are here because they heard Minnesota was the best state to live in.  

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