The 2011 Minnesota Shutdown will hopefully be something we are talking about in 50 years. The 20-day shutdown set a state and national record, even in an era of polarized, divided government with a stagnated and recessed economy. There isn’t a political pundit in America that would be surprised if this became the norm, but let’s hope that this is historic and something to be talked about for years.
Not since the Clinton Scandal (which is what got me interested in politics as a teenager) have I sent so much hatred and anger thrown at the other side. That was national politics, though. In many ways, that dialogue has become the norm. On a state level, this was very unique. I don’t follow the 50 state legislatures with a microscope, so maybe this type of communication has happened before; but in the land of Minnesota Nice, this became quite embarrassing.
- There were in essence no real talks on budgets through the regular session.
- It was essentially a media game of posturing for the inevitable shutdown that both sides prepared for since the 2010 election outcomes.
- Partisan staff took to Twitter with mean-spirited attacks that would not fly in traditional media.
- Official political party staff, for the first time in state history, took an official state legislative position, and continued to do party work while on the taxpayer dime.
- Compromise was seen as a sign of weakness, not a sign of governance or statesmanship.
- Almost 14 days went by in the shutdown without either side truly making a legitimate offer to solve the crisis.
- Throughout this whole ordeal, state employees have been vilified and demeaned on a level never seen before in our politics.
This is just a quick overview of how Minnesota Nice turned to Minnesota Mean.
(Minnesota Mean might be a great name for our expansion NFL franchise, after we let L.A. steal another one of our franchises; then wise up, realize the mistake, and beg for another team to balance the great Midwest rivalries — see Minneapolis/L.A. Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves; Minnesota/Dallas North (Stars), Minnesota Wild for history).
In the end, the final budget has been somehow pooped on and highly praised by both political parties, usually depending on the phrasing of the question from the media. A few times it has been both praised and ridiculed in the same sentence. Neither side got most of what they wanted, and really neither side got even 10% of what they originally wanted. In reality, each side got the (sort of) the one priority that was most important to them. Even this is debatable. This is a good lesson in what happens when you do not negotiate in good faith and put compromise as a priority.
However, the damage is done. This is who we’ve elected. It is a thankless job. In my 10 years of being in politics, I cannot figure out why anyone chooses to do this for a living. It is so rewarding and so important. You serve the people in a unique way. Criticism, in its many different forms, is all our elected officials truly get in return for their service.
It is very difficult to thank our elected officials right now. Much damage has been done to our state. But their job at times seems impossibly difficult. When I ask people who criticize them if they want to get elected and go ‘do it better’? Rarely do I get a buyer. When I do, it’s from someone who seeps so much arrogance that they would get blindsided by the reality of the task.
Yes, they should’ve gotten it done on time; and if they needed overtime, then gotten it done by June 30. This is essentially passing a budget through penalty kicks, which never seems fair (Shoutout to our USA women!). Yes, they passed budget bills in the middle of the night, without any public input, and within hours of releasing them for media and public consumption.
But these are the personalities we put there, and they worked with what we gave them and what was politically possible. Before we blame them, we have to blame ourselves. It’s the cyclical reality of a democracy. Any time we want to blame an outcome from someone we elected, the blame has the begin with us.
Maybe that’s why it hurts so bad and pisses us off so much.
Because clearly, we failed.