Guest Column: Stop bickering and achieve common goals

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Guest Column by Lori Swanson

Lori Swanson


As your attorney general over the last 12 years, I learned that people need to have confidence that their government will stand up for them and that it won’t simply cater to special interests. People tell me that, as attorney general, I earned a reputation for standing up against special interests. I will continue to do so as governor.

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People want to see political bickering at the Capitol come to an end. The problem with political campaigns is that candidates tend to polarize the electorate with issues that divide us. Then, upon winning an election, the leader must gain consensus and maintain a coalition to support tough decisions. In other words, upon winning an election, the leader must jettison the tendency to divide the public and must now engage in uniting it. This is not happening. Rather, our political leaders — both in St. Paul and Washington — too often continue to campaign — and divide — the state in a 24/7/365 campaign.

There was a time when both political parties and their leaders had common goals but disagreed on how to achieve them.  Whether it be Elmer Anderson (a Republican) or Wendell Anderson (a Democrat), they shared a common embrace of a prosperous Minnesota future:

• Making it better for our children’s generation by providing the strongest K-12 education system.

• Providing economic opportunity through geographic as well as financial access to higher education.

• Supporting our families through the establishment of the finest health care and mental health systems.

• Building community infrastructure through roads, buildings, libraries, the arts and community centers.

This bickering will end with my administration. To start, I will meet every legislator between the time of the election and my inaugural. I want to know what goals they have for their community and to find our common goals.

The leadership that made this state a model for the nation came from both political parties and from individuals outside the world of politics, who together achieved a high level of prosperity, quality of life and sense of community.  They gave us pride in our lives and abundant promise for our children.

It wasn’t complicated.  We made ourselves a great state because leaders of both parties, and of no parties, believed that the most vital link to our future was education.  The best ladder of opportunity was a quality education that is accessible to everybody — rich or poor, urban or rural.

And that is why we prospered.

We became a financial center, a milling center, an agricultural center, a transportation center, an advertising center and a marketing and merchandizing center, not because we had great weather or were easy to get to — but because we had quality education for everyone.

The Federal Reserve Bank issued a study on the amazing success story of Minnesota. It noted that in 1950, our unemployment rate was not good and the income made by people who were employed was average. By the late 1990s, however, Minnesota’s unemployment rate was one of the lowest in the country, and people who were working made the sixth-largest income.  We also had the highest high school graduation rate and the highest number of college graduates on a per capita basis. The Federal Reserve Bank attributes this success to the education movement embraced by every governor of both parties over the last half of this century.

For 50 years we have had governors who gave the highest priority to education in Minnesota. I will follow this tradition of education leadership.

Governors also do much more than support education.  Some of my goals are:

• We need to make prescription drugs more affordable. We should help people to get the same 30 to 80 percent discounts on their prescription drugs that the state gets when it buys drugs in bulk.

• We need to enhance our pre-K and K-12 programs.

• We must increase accessibility and affordability of higher education.

• We should support career and technical education programs to train our people for jobs that pay sustainable wages in sectors like health care, information technology and construction trades.

• We must work to expand broadband to the more than 20 percent of Minnesotans who do not have access to high-speed broadband.

• We need to battle the epidemic of opioid addiction, suicides and domestic violence. We need everything from juvenile diagnostic treatment centers to accessible drug treatment centers.

• We need to make health care more accessible and affordable.

We are too great a state to limit ourselves to small dreams.  Let us renew our determination, our strength and our commitment. Let us renew our faith and hope. Minnesotans have a right to dream of greatness and to end the partisan bickering and get things done.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is a DFL candidate for governor.