Two articles in the New York Times—a recent news story, Twinned Cities Now Following Different Paths, and an earlier but similar opinion piece, Right vs. Left in the Midwest—look at the political divergence between neighboring states Wisconsin and Minnesota, both with “one party rule.”
While Wisconsin “elected Republicans to majorities in the Legislature and selected a bold and vigorous Republican governor, Scott Walker. Minnesotans elected one of the most progressive candidates for governor in the country, Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.”
Among the results, “Minnesota raised taxes by $2.1 billion, the largest increase in recent state history. Democrats introduced the fourth highest income tax bracket in the country and targeted the top 1 percent of earners to pay 62 percent of the new taxes, according to the Department of Revenue.” Consequently, “According to a recent Minnesota Chamber of Commerce survey, a quarter of Minnesota companies—a 10-year high—describe the state’s business climate as worse than elsewhere.”
But Minnesota also began recognizing same-sex marriage.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, has held the line on taxes and played hardball with government workers unions fighting to protect outsized pay and benefits packages paid by taxpayers who, overall, have considerably lower pay (for comparable positions) and less rich benefits. But Gov. Walker and his GOP are firmly against marriage equality.
Business owners in Duluth, Minn., lament they are not across the river in Superior, Wis. But public school teachers in Superior wish they were working in Duluth. And a gay couple told the reporter they were planning on moving from Superior to Duluth, where they can be married.
As the news story points out, “In Minnesota, a coalition of wealthy in-state donors joined with national labor unions and gay-rights groups to smother the state’s divided Republican Party with a blitz of advertising and grass-roots organizing, handing Minnesota’s Legislature to Democrats, who also held the governor’s office.”
Yet another recent NYT article also discusses the impact of out-of-state gay political donors on shifting states into the Democratic column:
Republican majorities [in Minnesota] had sought to enact a wave of conservative or pro-business policies, battling with the new Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, over tax cuts, education spending and a measure to rein in unions. … Minnesota already had a law on the books banning same-sex marriage. But over Mr. Dayton’s objections, Republican lawmakers had put a question on the November ballot asking voters to enshrine that ban in the State Constitution, making it less vulnerable to repeal.
Other deep-pocketed gay-rights groups, both in Minnesota and around the country, were already mobilizing to defeat the marriage initiative. The Gill group had a complementary goal: helping Democrats win back the Legislature, so that Republicans would not get a second chance.
And they succeeded, turning Minnesota into a high-tax state subservient to government workers unions, but with marriage equality.
One might wonder why we can’t rein in excessive government spending, keep business and individual taxes moderate and also recognize same-sex marriage? The answer is because party alliances are built on blocs, and gays + government workers are Democratic blocs while anti-gay conservatives + pro-business interests are GOP blocs.
Some of us, of course, would like to rearrange the blocs, as challenging as that might be.