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John W. Johnson, Warren, Minn., Published November 10 2012

Letter: Lessons learned in Minnesota

Issues, not ideology. That should be the lesson learned by both the major Minnesota political parties after last week’s election. Minnesota, over the years, has been a “moderate-left leaning” state in its politics. In 2010, it gave the Republican Party control over both state houses, to clean up a fiscal mess – something the Democrats had been unable or unwilling to do. The Republicans misread those 2010 results, thinking their win was not only fiscal but also a shift in ideology and social issues. Wrong. Republicans get the message: “The electorate looks to the DFL as the messenger on social issues; they look to Republicans for pocketbook solutions.” Do both sides get that?

I look at two well-respected, longtime congressional representatives: Jim Ramstad, a Republican from the 3rd District and Collin Peterson, a Democrat from the 7th District. I will venture to say they are of almost the same ideology. Those are the politicians who Minnesotans hold in high regard, not extremists.

The Republicans of 2010 were elected to solve the state’s budget crises but got sidetracked into social issues such as defining marriage and voter ID. Their venture into those issues energized their opposition with the obvious result.

Republicans did one good fiscal deed last session: They came up with a viable financial solution to the Viking Stadium issue. But they did little to solve the overall state budget problems. They dug in their heels in an ideological fashion, and it became an “us against him” situation with the governor. Most folks sided with the governor.

Democrats now control both houses and the governor’s office. They may solve the fiscal issue with what most Minnesotans see as fair: a combination of revenue enhancement and budget cuts. However, if they play class warfare over the tax increases – like taxing only the rich – they may again be the minority party after the 2014 election, and the electorate will give the Republicans a chance to do what they do best: solve fiscal issues.

Both sides should learn from this election and nominate more candidates resembling Peterson, not strict party-line ideologues.