The results of the 2014 election cycle was very, very good for Republicans throughout the country.
In Minnesota, not so much.
In 1984 Democrats sought refuge in Minnesota as their last remaining stalwart state.
In 2014 Minnesota remained the outlier in national politics by re-electing Al Franken and Mark Dayton with healthy margins on Election Day.
A significant consolation prize, however, was the victory by the GOP in controlling the Minnesota House of Representatives.
There’s already been as much conversation among Minnesota Republicans about what went wrong in Minnesota as there has been among national Democrats about what went wrong across the country on Election Day.
Frankly, I am less concerned about what impact the party’s endorsement process does or doesn’t have on the quality of its candidates, or the type of campaigns that were conducted by statewide candidates, than I am about what the incoming GOP House majority is going to do to build upon its success.
The fact is; as goes the GOP House majority in the next two years goes the future of the Minnesota Republican Party.
Minnesotans know all too well what Republicans are against when it comes the DFL policies.
They campaigned on the fact that DFL legislators were the Great Enablers when it came to Governor Dayton’s policies on raising taxes – increasing the size and cost of government – the failed experiment that is called MNsure – and of course, the big daddy of government waste and excess, a $90 million office building for a handful of politicians.
With the election over Minnesotans now expect something more from Republicans than simply opposing the Governor and the DFL Majority in the State Senate.
They expect them to be active partners in governing – with ideas and a vision that will move Minnesota forward.
This doesn’t mean embracing the ideas, vision and policies of the Governor and the DFL State Senate Majority. But, it does mean putting forward a governing philosophy that will strengthen and improve the quality of life of all Minnesotans.
Which isn’t in the least in conflict with a philosophy of limited government.
In fact, it ought to be this philosophy of limited government that should inform the direction of the Republican Party in Minnesota.
Limited government must be effective government. Effective government must be forward-thinking government. Forward-thinking government must be efficient and address critical needs of our state.
First and foremost, Republicans need to resist the temptation to spend hard earned political capital on being against everything that is proposed by the Governor.
The fact is, there may be some opportunities on education reform and addressing our state’s child protection policies where the Governor and the GOP House can work together to improve the future for our children.
Second, MNsure is a disaster. It is important that this program either be fixed, or dismantled. If it is dismantled, the GOP House majority must have an alternative ready that ensures those without health care are given a reasonable plan that will serve themselves and their families.
Third, the GOP House must hold all units of Minnesota government accountable. There ought to be a legislative review of the growth in the cost of government in Minnesota – understand what the biggest drivers of that growth are – and present to the people of Minnesota a no-nonsense analysis of what that cost of government means to them.
The goal and objective should not to be to point to all government spending and decisions by local government to be bad – but to understand all government and spending decisions and how they are being justified. And, most importantly, are those increases in spending actually achieving their stated goals.
Fourth, the GOP House must work with the GOP Senate Minority to effectively coordinate a governing strategy that can be presented to the people of Minnesota. With no statewide campaign in Minnesota until 2018 the next statewide focus will be on the Presidential election in 2016. Regardless of who the candidates will be for either party the fact is Republicans will need to have a vocal strategy to present to voters of Minnesota for their consideration.
Finally, elections are not won by playing defense. They are won by playing offense. This ought to be a worthy lesson of 2014 in Minnesota for Republicans.
GOP candidates for the Legislature throughout the state brought their case to the people. They fought for every single vote by actively engaging with the electorate. And, on Election Day they were rewarded with a majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
To succeed in governing in 2014 and beyond, Republicans must have a plan and a vision.
To succeed in winning elections in 2016 and beyond, Republicans must have successfully implemented both to the satisfaction of Minnesota voters.