Thursday, December 27, 2007
originally posted at MNBlue.com and Aaron Brown's blog...this is the 2nd in a series about the political climate on the Iron Range of Minnesota.
How to win the Iron Range
Last week I talked about how Range politics centers on personal relationships. The region blends social conservatism with economic liberalism to create a unique environment that plays a big role in state politics and a bigger role in state DFL politics. Though the only Iron Ranger to hold statewide office was Gov. Rudy Perpich, the region has influenced the path of every Democrat and/or Farmer-Laborite elected to statewide office in Minnesota since Floyd B. Olson. But like the statewide DFL, any path to victory must include coalition building.
There are three big factions that make up the DFL’s majority coalition on the Iron Range. This configuration might also apply to many other parts of Minnesota (and the nation, for that matter) but I am focusing on the Range because I’ve run campaigns here. Apply this to your neighborhood how you see fit.
Most people associate the Range with labor for good reason. The labor movement has its roots here. I don’t just mean Minnesota’s labor movement. I mean THE LABOR MOVEMENT. There were Wobblies and red flags in the streets here in 1907.
Today’s labor faction on the Range includes old powers like the Steelworkers, Teamsters and all the building trades, but increasingly the word “labor” on the Range refers equally to professional and service workers like AFSCME and Education Minnesota. They usually endorse and work for the same candidate in a primary (notable exception: the Steelworkers and AFSCME on the Iron Range are currently split between Al Franken and Mike Ciresi, respectively, for U.S. Senate).
Labor also represents a steady, though not enormous, source of political financing for local candidates and parties.
The current progressive voters on the Iron Range are strongly motivated by the Iraq war issue, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. In fact, this faction has existed since the beginning of the Range and was in the 1910s and ‘20s an offshoot of the Republican Party. They are moralistic, pro-environment and generally refuse to compromise with those in power on issues important to them. Today they vote DFL (and sometimes Independence or Green). For example, Becky Lourey’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 drew much of its strength from 8th CD progressives. This group fights with the Iron Range legislative delegation all the time, usually behind closed doors but sometimes out front. (Conservative DFL State Rep. David Dill’s 2002 and 2004 primary challenger Bill Hansen was DFL endorsed, due in large part to progressive activists … but Hansen lost both times … more on that later).
Like labor, the progressives are good at making things happen during a campaign but unlike labor they won’t work for candidates they don’t love. Similarly, progressives can raise lots of money if they really like a candidate but raise nothing for those they don’t like.
Past and present state legislators, party leaders, mayors, city councilors and county commissioners, and – increasingly – lobbyists, consultants and developers. Add to that newspaper editors/publishers, prominent citizens and anyone else who holds more sway on the street than Joe or Jane Ranger. I’d include bloggers if I weren’t the only political blogger I know of on the Iron Range and if my blog got more than 200 hits a week. In the old days, this collection of people would get together and form what we used to call a political machine. There are vestigial remainders of “machine” politics on the Range, but by and large this group is neither unified nor organized. When they DO get together on a candidate or issue, they can sometimes overrule the will of the labor and progressive factions within the DFL (That’s how David Dill beat Bill Hansen twice). However, when they are divided, a unified labor and progressive coalition can beat the conventional wisdom. That’s how State Rep. Tom Anzelc beat Bob Anderson in the 2006 DFL primary for District 3A even though Anderson had the same last name and is related to outgoing State Rep. Irv Anderson. (I ran Tom’s campaign).
Opinion Leaders hold a bit more sway than any other faction because opinion leaders often control the greatest amount of public influence and campaign funding, the latter disproportionately influenced by the aforementioned lobbyists, consultants and developers.
Oh, and Opinion Leaders are not necessarily Democrats. They only trend that way because of the power structure on the Range.
The Republicans have their factions as well.
This is the core of the Republican Party on the Iron Range (and the entire 8th Congressional District, for that matter). Deeply pro-life and anti-gay marriage, this group also rivals labor unions in their ability to organize. Unlike labor, their numbers grow each year – even on the Iron Range. I think there’s a ceiling on that, but it’s worth noting.
Business owners, bank managers, stock brokers and others like them have trended Republican since the beginning of the Iron Range. When all the immigrant laborers couldn’t vote – in the 1900s and ‘10s, the Iron Range was a Republican bastion. The last Republican elected in the core of the Iron Range was the late former State Rep. Carl D’Aquila, a Hibbing businessman, who served in the 1950s. Unlike social conservatives, business leaders will cross over to the DFL if the Democrat is more moderate (especially in local races).
Democrat or Republican, a NRA endorsement will move 10 and sometimes 20 points in your favor in the general election. Gun rights are a major issue here. The rural edges of the Iron Range – the places where I grew up and currently live – hold a disproportionate number of “libertarian” style voters who distrust government, oppose gun control and vote accordingly. They will vote for gun rights DFLers, but seldom vote for the Democrat in a presidential election.
As I said last time, by the numbers the Iron Range is a solid but improbable DFL stronghold. However, like another Democratic stronghold – the South of the early- to mid-20th Century –the Iron Range elects conservatives and liberals same as anywhere else. We just do all our campaigning in the primary. Business Leaders and libertarians will cross over under the right circumstances, which is why guys like House Majority Leader Tony Sertich will sometimes outperform the DFL’s statewide ticket by 10 or 15 points.
I’ll continue this series in a few days with a piece about the challenges of keeping the positive aspects of Range political tradition while modernizing the parts that no longer work (or never worked). No easy task. One commenter posted that my analysis glosses over the Iron Range’s “cult of personality” that overshadows issues and genuine progress. There’s something to that. I’ll explain.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Aaron is a man of many hats and along with being a father of 3 under 3 he is an instructor at Hibbing Community College, a columnist with the Hibbing Daily Tribune, a blogger who is involved in DFL Iron Range politics and a writer. You can find more on him on his introduction from his new postings on MNBlue.com. MNBlue.com is described as: providing analysis of, coverage of and snark about Minnesota politics.
Aaron is writing a series of postings about the political culture of the Iron Range on MNBlue.com - check it out:
The Range: where "poli sci" is some kind of ethnic dish and potica is political
Submitted by Minnesota Brown on December 15, 2007 - 12:07pm.
This is the first part of a series of cross-posts about Iron Range political culture for MNBlue.com and the MinnesotaBrown blog.
The first thing you have to know about the Iron Range is that you need to cast aside the conventional wisdom on "rural vs. urban" political trends. The Range is often considered to be a rural area by those who haven't spent much time here. But in truth the Iron Range is an industrial area, larger than Duluth but spread out over a long string of small- to medium-sized mining towns. A local college history instructor, Pam Brunfelt, first explained this analysis to me and it's the best I've encountered. These towns operate much the way neighborhoods function in a large city but the geographic isolation has preserved the kind of rivalry that most cities escape after their first few decades.
At the same time, parts of the Iron Range -- such as the part where I now live in Itasca County and the part where I grew up near Cherry -- are classically rural. But in all cases you can't make the assumption that rural areas naturally break to conservative trends and urban areas naturally skew liberal. For instance, my home township -- Balsam -- tilted just slightly for George W. Bush in 2004 and is home to a strong evangelical Christian community like what you'd expect in a "red" precinct. But state DFLers, because of tradition and personal connections, still do very well here. And then my native Cherry -- which is one of the few legitimate farming communities on the Range -- is solidly liberal (and was home to many socialists at the beginning of the 20th Century, including famous communist Gus Hall).
The cities of the Iron Range are mostly 3-1 DFL towns. Places like Chisholm and Keewatin run about 80 percent DFL in local races. Some of the larger towns -- especially Hibbing, which is the mine managers used to live and control politics back in the pre-WWII era -- have larger communities of Republicans, but the vote totals still tilt 2-1 DFL. In all cases, local DFL candidates run about 10-20 percent better than statewide DFL candidates.
Why? The first rule of Iron Range politics is the importance of personal relationships and sincerity. Traditional modern politicking -- the kind you see from Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney at the national level -- don't jive around here. The Range is (generally though not exclusively) socially conservative and economically liberal. I know several pro-lifers whose opinion on taxes and spending would be considered socialist in the suburbs.
People often wonder why Paul Wellstone did better on the Iron Range than anywhere else when his politics ran slightly to the left of most Rangers. The reason is because the Range will forgive political differences if people perceive the politician's motives as sincere and if the candidate visits often and listens well. So Wellstone thrived here while others have not.
You have to know people, the ara and the history. Political conversations don't begin with "Do you support the Whatsit Bill?" They begin with "I was talking to Eddie Skavich the other day ... ya, he's Bobby's brother ... no they never did find Bobby's thumb ... ya, they found the finger. That was in Buhl ... so ya, are you for the Whatsit?" Now, if you are good at the personal touch, it matters much less if you are for or against the Whatsit bill. Wellstone was a master at this. All the good local pols were born for this stuff.
In future posts I'll talk about the factions that make up the DFL and Republican political spectrum on the Range.
Friday, December 21, 2007
"Aaniin" is a very useful word. It's often used as a greeting around Leech Lake, but can also ask what, how, why or where depending on the context.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Winter Solstice arrives this Friday. The sun sets about the same time this week. After this Friday, the 21st, the sun will begin to set a little later later each day. At first we only gain a few more seconds of daylight because the sun will continue to rise a little later each day until around January 1st. After that, the sun rises a little earlier and sets a little later each day until the Summer Solstice in June.
You can find more information about the solstice and other heavenly topics at the Earth and Sky web site and listen to Earth and Sky every weekday morning at 6:06 and 8:06.
Harry's top picks for birding field guides are the Sibley Guide for Birds of North America, the Fifth Edition of the National Geographic Field Guide for Birds of North America, and the large print edition of Peterson's Field Guide for Birds of Eastern North America for someone who has trouble with the small print in the regular field guides.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Catherine Watson's books are wonderful - she is the former travel editor of the Star Tribune and has collected her essays in two volumes "Roads Less Traveled" and "Home on the Road". Her writing is like sneaking into her suitcase and joining the trip.
Barns 0f Minnesota by photographer Doug Ohman and story by Will Weaver. This is more than just a coffeetable book, this is a great story accompanied by amazing photos that chronicle our state and our vanishing barns. His other books "Cabins of Minnesota" "Courthouses of Minnesota" "Churches of Minnesota" and "Schoolhouses of Minnesota" are wonderful as well.
900 Miles from Nowhere: Voices from the Homestead Frontier by Steven R. Kinsella. It's the chronicle, through photos, diaries and letters, of the people who came to the Midwest for a better life.
Sweetland - this is the independent film based on Will Weaver's short story "A Gravestone Made of Wheat". If you haven't seen it, run - don't walk - to the store for a copy. I just took the time to watch the extras and I fell in love with it all over again. The rerelease of Will's short story (along with others) is good too.
Broken by William Cope Moyers. William is the son of veteran journalist Bill Moyers and the vice president of External Affairs at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption is gritty and honestly shows the allure of addiction.
Torch by Cheryl Strayed. A family story of how you keep going when you lose the person that keeps you together. KAXE has a bit part in this one, the mother is a volunteer programmer.
Keeping the House by Minnesota native Ellen Baker. This novel is set in WWI and WWII and examines the roles of women during wartime.
The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik. Set in Minnesota beginning in the 70's, it's the tale of Joe Andresen, a real good guy. This book has sex, drugs AND rock and roll!
Novels for Young Adults:
Will Weaver's Defect - the story of 15 year old boy who was born "defective" and is taunted by bullies until he starts going to an alternative school.
William Durbin's El Lector. Set in Florida, Bella wants to be a lector at a tobacco just like her grandfather. He reads books and newspapers to the cigar rollers until machines take over and the lector isn't needed anymore.
Alison McGhee's Falling Boy - Teenager Joseph is paralyzed and working in a bakery in the heat of the Minneapolis summer. A young girl, Enzo, sees the world through superheroes asking questions like "Did you really rescue your mother from a fate worse than death on a cliff overlooking the sea?"
Mary Casanova's The Klipfish Code. A historical novel set in WWII in Norway, 12 year old Marit's life changes drastically when Norway is occupied by Nazi Germany.
What were your favorite books of the year?
Monday, December 10, 2007
The turbulent year comes to its final month - a few weeks to go. The globe is warmer. A busy metro bridge is rubble in the river. Local schools beg for money. One searches for something to agree about. One child, one youth, one person matters. 'Tis a season to give thanks, sing, pray and promise. Never again - in Darfur or the Gulf Coast. Conserve, preserve, protect, think into the future. What size footprints, and where are we going to leave them?
In a short time we will clock another lap for our spinning earth - the end of 2007. I prefer to think about what good and kind things have happened recently and not dwell on the year's tragedies and disappointments, without forgetting them. The best we can do should be our goal - the kindest gift to new generations hurrying toward us. And to me, this focuses the Aitkin Lakes Area on its waters. Our "Waterworks."
Protecting our waters
For a year some of us have tried to get the attention of the county officials responsible for shoreland protection and water quality. We have asked the Commissioners to examine and adopt new standards most suitable for Aitkin County from those prepared for our five-county area, which three of our own leaders helped to write.
The good news is that some of the officials showed up at a shoreland conference in June where the standards were examined. In September we got new shoreland standards on the board agenda, but many who showed up for the meeting had no chance to enter the boardroom or be heard. The issue of shoreland protection has been put off into the winter and next spring.
Whenever I bring up the subject of ordinances, rules and regulations, the current leadership of our government tells me that they (and those they listen to) think there are already enough or too many rules about shoreline development. Their rights to do as they please with "their property" adjoining the public waters is "their business." I will continue to make the case for better protection of those shallow, fragile lakes with little or no development as yet.
Recent subdivisions put in at Birch Lake and Spectacle Lake in Hazelton Township are examples where "Natural Environment" rules are not sufficient to preserve lake quality, in my opinion. A new classification and safeguards for such vulnerable lakes is one of the Alternative Standards that I consider the most valuable legacy we can create for Aitkin County. Perhaps the name of this classification can be shortened to "PROTECTED LAKES." If this matters to you, tell your Commissioner.
Friday, December 7, 2007
On Tuesday this week (December 4th), I had the honor of serving as a judge for the third annual Lefse Festival Cook-off, a fundraiser for the Beltrami County Historical Society. It was a snowy night, and I was subbing for KAXE’s Member Services Manager, Jennifer Poenix who couldn’t make it because of the bad weather.
Eight teams/individuals competed in the cook-off, held at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bemidji. There were demonstrations, snacks, extravagant candies and baked goods for sale, pumpkin soup, wild rice, and door prizes. There was a three-piece band that included a tuba and sometimes veered from the Norwegian theme into a distinct oom-pah-pah!
Some competitors dressed in costume. All had long lefse sticks, patterned rolling pins, cloth-covered lefse boards for rolling, and electric lefse griddles. At one point the cooking was temporarily halted when all those griddles heating up at once blew fuses! The competitors brought their dough either completely mixed or else they added the flour at the last moment. One dipped from a big metal bowl with a favorite spoon. Others made patties or loaves.
One of the best things about lefse is that it can be made almost entirely from local ingredients. Most recipes contain russet potatoes, butter, cream, flour and salt. Some people include a little sugar to help the lefse brown.
We four judges got to taste all the lefse. We ate it plain and we ate it slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar. We didn’t know whose lefse was whose. The tasting was an education, and the more experienced judges passed along some hints as we went along. Some lefse was too dry and floury. Some had a greasy feel in the mouth. Some was thick, and some very thin. Some was browned perfectly and some not enough. The smell of good lefse is heavenly!
Our unanimous choice for the winner was Jason (Jay) Seitz, a plumber from Bemidji. He and his young son wore camouflage and worked from an unassuming deer-stand-turned-lefse-stand at the back of the conference room. Jay also won the people’s choice vote! Jay said he learned the art of lefse making from his mother-in-law. His family is getting together to make their holiday lefse this weekend.
I don’t have Jay’s recipe but I do have two others. The first is from Carol Bauer. The second comes from Anita Norden. It is her mom’s recipe
Carol Bauer’s Lefse
8 cups riced potatoes (5# russets—only use russets)
1 stick butter
1 T salt
½ c. cream
3 c. flour
Cut up and boil the potatoes. Put them through a potato ricer and mash. Add cream, butter and salt. Put them on your porch or another cool place until they get COLD. Then mix in the flour.
Form into “loaves.” To make the loaves, gradually add flour to the potato mixture, then roll and mold with your hands until they form loaves. Carol generally makes 4 loaves.
Use one loaf at a time while you are grilling the lefse—leave the others in the refrigerator, covered.
Slice off a chunk, roll to a thin 8 or 10” round (on a cloth board sprinkled liberally with flour, using a textured lefse rolling pin), pick it up with a lefse stick, and bake it on a hot lefse grill (465-475°), flipping once or twice.
Put it on a plate under a cloth, fold into fourths, serve with butter and sugar or anything you’d like!
Irene Keit’s Lefse
Cook Russet potatoes (10# makes about 4 qt., 35 lefse)
Salt pretty heavy. Don’t let them get too done or they pick up moisture and potatoes become too “wet”. While warm, rice the potatoes, measure them and add:
4 qts. Riced potatoes
¾ c. lard (if using Crisco, add 1c.)
Mix up and cover with a damp dishtowel and allow to cool
When cool: Mix 1qt. Potatoes, ¼ c. whipping cream and 1c. flour
Mix with hands (like meatloaf) and form into small balls
Keep the balls cool and covered with the damp cloth.
There is definitely a trick (or two or three) to this, but here’s one big hint—don’t let the lefse sit on the board too long or it will stick!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I got my mum and sister and me matching jammies and slippers with spice drops on them. We do this every year. But we like to put them on (we keep them buttoned, unlike THAT naughty girl) and dance around and lip synch "I Will Survive" into hairbrushes and/or wooden spoons. I don't know how these traditions get started. I guess I blame my sister.
In "Some Dog" George saves the day. Has your dog or cat ever saved the day? Let us know!
Later in the Morning Show we'll talk to Dr. Michael Fox. He'll take your pet questions! Call and join us between 8:15-8:45 for our monthly call-in pet program.
Speaking of Minnesota Christmas gifts, Mary and Dr. Fox are Minnesotans with new books available on their websites!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
1. The Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones
2. Don't Forget the Duct Tape: Tips and Tricks for Repairing Outdoor & Travel Gear by Kristin Hostetter -How to fix your outdoor gear in the field
3. National Geographic 5th Edition Field Guide to Birds of North America. Much updated with many new paintings, maps and all US birds. Birding hotspots also included.
4. Midwest Skiing - A Glance Back
A great set of pictures from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois skiers.
5. Momentum: Chasing the Olympic Dream by Pete Vordenberg . Autobiography by former US ski team member and current head coach of his experinces from age 10 to present day. It is funny, a lot of UP stories and a great read.
6. 50 lbs of birdseed
7. Shopping bag - can be found at Ogle's in Grand Rapids, 2 for $3
What gifts do you recommend this holiday season?
Here's some ideas for MN Christmas presents:
We just sampled some smoked Gouda cheese from Green Pastures Dairy in Carlton, Minnesota. It was great! Green Pastures Dairy is a family-owned, grass-based farm producing "naturally healthy" Minnesota Farmstead™ cheeses. They milk in the spring, summer, and fall, using intensive rotational grazing, which means their cows are moved to fresh green pastures daily.
Forestedge Winery is located in LaPorte, Minnesota and produces 7 to 8 thousand gallons of wine in small batches every year. Their signature wine is their rhubarb wine which has won many international awards as well as the 2005 Best Minnesota Fruit Wine.
Minnestalgia wine is produced in McGregor, Minnesota. They also sell locally produced jellies, jams, syrups, honey and other products.
Wintergreen Northern Wear of Ely produces outdoor clothing. They are one of the largest private employers in a small remote town where jobs are scarce but garment-making talents and pride in workmanship are in abundance. They are one of the last full-line outdoor clothing makers in the U.S.
Bemidji Woolen Mills produces a line of woolen clothing and blankets. Since 1920 they have been producing clothing for life in the cold north. Bill and Bob Batchelder are 4th generation owners/operators who continue in their great grandfather's footsteps. The Batchelders set out to produce the highest quality, authentic outdoor woolen apparel for the early logging era in Minnesota and surrounding states. They are known for their Paul Bunyan style authentic plaid.
Caleigh Capes are custom crafted wool capes made in Bemidji. They recently made capes for the Team USA Women's Curling team.
MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids has a December marketplace selling the artwork of local talent in media as diverse as birchbark, jewelry, soaps, pottery, cards, photography and paintings.
Jacques Art Center in Aitkin has their annual holiday marketplace with a wine and cheese tasting fundraising event on Thursday December 6th from 5-8pm.
The Franklin Art Center in Brainerd is a renovated high school that houses artist studios. You can walk in anytime or go to their community open house the second Saturday of every month from 10am-4pm.
Bemidji Community Art Center is a member supported art center with three galleries. They also sponsor the First Friday Art Walk in Bemidji.
We've got the 2008 Phenology calendar for sale ($20), live Bill Miller CDS for ($10), KAXE t-shirts, mugs and waterbottles. Call us for more information! 218-326-1234.
Books are always a great gift - check out this list from KAXE callers to Between You and Me for children's book ideas.
Do you have ideas on holiday presents that support the community? Email us!
Monday, December 3, 2007
Penny and Dan were in for Between You and Me on Saturday and made Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies and Moravian Spice Cookies. Penny got the recipe from The Food Network and passed it on....
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper and mustard together in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until just combined and lightly fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg yolk. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix together on low speed until dough is just combined and still crumbly, about 3 minutes. Give dough a few turns with a spatula to bring together.
Lay out wax paper on a clean work surface and put about 1/3 of the batter on top. Lightly press down and top with another sheet of wax paper. Using your hands or a rolling pin, gently pat into a rectangle. Roll out with a rolling pin until dough is as thin as possible without breaking, no thicker than 1/16 inch thick. This is the key to these cookies: they really can't be too thin. Gently peel back the layer of waxed paper and then replace it loosely.
Transfer rolled batter to a flat baking sheet and freeze until firm and can easily be peeled away from the waxed paper, about 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Cut dough using a small (2- to 3-inch) fluted round cookie cutter and return to the freezer for 15 minutes to set. Transfer frozen cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until crisp and lightly, evenly colored (but not brown), about 10 minutes.
Busy baker's tips: Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days. The dough can be frozen, between sheets of waxed paper and well-wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks. Baked cookies can be wrapped in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.
Cook's note: Don't be intimidated by how many cookies this recipe makes. This dough freezes well, and you can roll out far in advance -- so when you need cookies, you can cut and bake as needed, which is a great holiday timesaver.
Copyright 2007 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved
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