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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

2018 Congressional Races - Minnesota

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 03/21/18 13:42

by Dave Mindeman

Let's take a quick look at the state of play in Minnesota's Congressional races:

District 1: This district is vulnerable to a Republican take over. The district has a Trump rural base and it is now an open seat. The Republicans will be having a tough contest as Jim Hagedorn (who came close to Walz last time) and Carla Nelson duke it out. Nelson has been showing some significant fund raising ability and she might make the convention a fight. On the Democratic side, Vicki Jensen has been a disappointment and it looks like Dan Feehan will be emerging as the front runner for the DFL nomination. Feehan is an Iraqi veteran and did some service in the Obama administration. He has not run for office before but he leads the pack in fundraising. Democrats will need one of these candidates to come out of the convention strong.

District 2: I still expect that Angie Craig will be endorsed for a second run. Jeff Erdmann has only $11,000 on hand as of January 1 and has struggled to get any major endorsements outside of Our Revolution. Meanwhile, Craig has been endorsed by most labor groups, women's groups, and most significantly, by Andy Slavitt - the ACA expert and advocate. Jason Lewis has fully embraced the Trump agenda and has raised nearly $1 million.

District 3: Dean Philllips has emerged as the overwhelming front runner for the DFL nomination. He has wealth, but has shown some passion for Democratic issues, and has an engaging personality. It seems that he would give Erik Paulsen a good race. Of the other candidates for the DFL endorsement, only Adam Jennings has shown any ability to compete on the fund raising front, while Brian Santa Maria has some progressive issue support.

District 4: Betty McCollum, up to this point, has had little competition.

District 5: Keith Ellison seems a lock for re-election.

District 6: Tom Emmer also has had token DFL competition.

District 7: Collin Peterson has a challenge but looks to be re-elected.

District 8: This district is an open seat because Rick Nolan retired. The competition for DFL endorsement (or primary) will be hard core. Leah Phifer has been running early on and looks like she may be the leader for the endorsement. She has support from environmental groups. But her fundraising has been horrible and a number of strong challengers emerged after the Nolan retirement and will probably move directly to a primary. We do not have any fundraising numbers because they are late to organize, but I expect that Joe Radinovich, Michele Lee, and Jason Metsa to move ahead of Phifer as time goes on. Pete Stauber is the GOP candidate so far, and he does not appear to be a strong contender yet. But Ray Sandman has switched to the Independence Party and will take votes away from DFLers. To me, Joe Radinovich may emerge out of this group - he is a good campaigner and is very personable.

Overall, Minnesota will have at least 4 very competitive races in 2018. It is very possible that District 2 and 3 could switch to Democratic - while 1 and 8 could switch to Republican. The national mood will certainly play a factor. Brace yourselves - it will be a bumpy ride.
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The Damocles Sword Hanging Over Democracy

Category: Donald Trump
Posted: 03/21/18 12:07

by Dave Mindeman

Let's review some things about the 2016 election....

1) Cambridge Analytica stole the data of 50 million American Facebook users. Facebook knew about it but did not follow up to stop it.

2) Russia used a troll farm to weaponize false news stories and spread them thoughout social media.

3) Cambridge Analytica admits that they were targeting areas of the US that would be vulnerable to social media attacks. And they bragged that they were able to use the electoral college to get Trump elected.

4) Roger Stone had a back channel to Wikileaks that gave him a heads up on Wikileaks releases. Which indicates that the Trump campaign probably knew about the releases before hand.

5) Numerous Trump campaign associates made undisclosed contacts (until discovered via the press) with Russian government officials.

6) The FBI is investigating Russian money being funneled through the NRA to help the Trump campaign. (NRA spent 30 million dollars for Trump)

7) Paul Manafort has far too many back channel ties to Russia via the Ukraine and other Russian oligarchs.

8) The June 9th Trump Tower meeting between Russian representatives and the 3 key members of the Trump campaign (Don Jr, Manafort, and Kushner) continues to be a focus of investigation. And Trump personally tried to push a false story about its intention.

9) Throughout the campaign and to this day, Trump, himself, will not publicly state anything negative about Vladimir Putin. Even the Russian sanctions that passed Congress and been begrudgingly implemented via the Treasury Department without any encouragement from Trump himself.

10) Devin Nunes, a Trump ally and chair of the House committee, shut down the House investigation into Russia and repeatedly tried to push competing narratives that had no basis in actual fact.

11) There was a curious back channel attempt to contact Russian officials initiated by Jared Kushner for a still unknown purpose.

12) When US banks refused to loan money to the Trump and Kushner organizations, Russian money funneled through Deutsche Bank in Germany came to the rescue. Deutsche Bank is being investigated for money laundering and has been heavily fined for financial misdeeds.

13) The Alfa bank (a Russian bank) server connection to the Trump organization has still never been explained and remains a mystery.

The list is larger than that and most of this will only be explained by Robert Mueller at some point.

But the idea that Trump did nothing nefarious grows dimmer by the day. When we talk about Trump the business man becoming President, we seem to have overlooked the fact that Trump is a corrupt business man and that he is now a corrupt President.

And the even broader nefarious problem is that our Congress has abdicated its oversight role and refuses to acknowledge growing evidence of an administration wrapped up in an international conspiracy.

Democracy has a Damocles sword hanging over it. And only a democratic people, working together, can solve this problem.
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What Did We Learn From Pennsylvania 18?

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 03/14/18 19:34

by Dave Mindeman

In the 18th District of Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb has, most likely, squeaked out a win in a district that Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

So what do we learn from this?

First, let's examine what we know about this race.

1) Conor Lamb is NOT a progressive candidate.
2) Rick Saccone was not a top of the line candidate.
3) This district will not exist by the next election.
4) The Republican Party sank an extraordinary amount of money into this race while the Democratic forces put very little in support.
5) Conor Lamb was a great fundraiser on his own, and put together his own centrist message without outside help.

Now that is a lot to absorb, so let's try to figure out what that means for Congressional elections coming up in the fall.

That first item is important. Conor Lamb did not run on a progressive platform. In fact, he stated that he would prefer leadership in Congress that did not include Nancy Pelosi and that he was not favorable to gun safety legislation. The district, itself, is very conservative and Lamb fashioned a very clever centrist message which appealed to the district's core values. But he did not shy away from being a Democrat either - he is pro-choice, ran against the GOP tax plan, and supports a fix to the ACA.

On the other hand, Rick Saccone never could settle on a message. He was tentative about Trump at first, then fully embraced him. And he made plenty of unforced errors. Republicans in Washington did not find a way to help Saccone and in the end almost threw him under the bus.

Going into the fall, Pennsylvania will be fully redistricted and Lamb and Saccone will both be in different redrawn districts. Lamb's will be slightly more blue and Saccone will fall into a fairly competitive one. Which made the Republican investment in this election all the more curious. Obviously, they were very afraid of the message a loss could send and their worst fears were realized.

The key thing in PA18 is that Lamb understood his district well and was not afraid to venture into positions that were unique to him - and not part of some national message.

Can that translate in elections across the country? Well, yes and no. Democrats can win with a national message in a lot of districts - but if they want to compete in red areas as well, that message will need to be narrowed to their own district.

I guess the bottom line is that Democrats need to open up the tent if they want that "blue wave" to materialize. We can't have litmus tests. The candidates have to know and understand the people they will represent.

Which brings me to the progressive movement. Progressives are going to have to be realistic about candidates like Conor Lamb. He won because he was NOT a progressive. He won because he fashioned his own message.

As progressives, our goal is progressive policy. To promote that, we need to have the potential of a majority vote in Congress. Yes, that means we will need to support a lot of progressive candidates - but in order to pass real progressive legislation, we need to have an opportunity to persuade centrist and semi-conservative candidates who have the ability to win in districts that have less than progressive priorities....to convince them that they need to support an agenda which will succeed for everybody.

So let's have the progressive policy debate AFTER we have an opportunity of working with a majority in Congress.

Win first - debate like hell later.
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