BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Although it was not quite the blue wave hoped for nationwide, it sure felt like it in South Minneapolis last night. Nationally, there was a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, for Democrats and progressives alike. So what can we say about the immediate future? The flip side of “Don’t mourn, organize” probably ought to be “Don’t celebrate, organize” but for two obvious flaws in that kind of thinking. First, I debunked DMO last week (you have to keep doing both) so probably I would say the same applies to celebrating. Second, self-care is a thing, and appropriate celebration can be part of that. Third, statistically, a few of those glorious wins are going to break your heart before winter snows melt, so keep your eyes open and keep the heat on. We have lost so much through complacency and misplaced trust.
The most nail-biting local race of all, at least at the time, was Keith Ellison’s last-minute, quixotic run for Minnesota attorney general. He had an absolute safe seat in Congress, one of the safest, and was deputy chair of the DNC, a leader in the Progressive Caucus, and sponsor of the House version of the single-payer healthcare proposal. There was little danger, given the 85% or more solid true-blue status of MN’s Fifth Congressional District, that the Dems would lose a seat. But could Keith’s immense popularity prevail in purple MN outside the metro? That was the original question, then came allegations of domestic abuse from a former girlfriend and the equation gained a whole new layer of complexity. Enough ink has been wasted on this piece already, so in the post-mortem I will just point out that there were quite a few conflicted #ibelieveher progressives who said Ellison should win the race to save the state from Doug Wardlow, but then resign. Others said they would support him, but stop supporting him once in office if he continued to refuse to do any restorative justice or even admit his faults in the breakup. Personally, I fear the vertiginous wave of DFL self-congratulation will wipe all of that out. If he ever does something bad again, we will be so shocked. (Did you hear that, Keith? You can never do anything bad FOR YOUR WHOLE LIFE NOW. Enjoy your time in office.)
I’ll just quickly go through the DFL wins in Minnesota, in descending order of how much they delighted me personally, before doing a brief post-mortem on the national scene and the outlook for resistance organizers in the new scenario. Hennepin County commissioner for District 4 win for challenger Angela Conley was both the first result announced and the best immediate high for me and most voters and campaign workers. Pure euphoria. The race was far less close in outcome than it seemed in the campaign process. Conley is the first person of color ever on the Hennepin County Board. Yeah, #20freaking18. (LaDonna Redmond Sanders, another woman of color, had a creditable showing in District 3 but lost to the incumbent. In District 2, Irene Fernando beat former Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang, who is not a progressive at all, so that’s fine.) A very close second in celebratoriness, but one of the last to be “final” due to a couple of very slow precincts, was Metro Transit police supervisor Dave Hutch’s stunning but painfully close victory over incumbent Richard Stanek. Whereas the losing incumbent Peter McLaughlin in the District 4 race was a fondly remembered, fairly progressive DFLer, Stanek was Trumpist Republican and the most despised local official of most leftists in town for his enthusiastic cooperation with ICE, his medieval methods of running the county jail, and his sending of militarized deputies and tanks, etc., to Standing Rock to violently attack Water Protectors, among other crimes. So yeah, he’s gone. In further county action, Mike Freeman won a close victory over challenger Mark Haase for county attorney.
Next delight was the election of a woman of color somewhere described as “the Queen of South Minneapolis,” Aisha Gomez, to the State House representing 62B. This election was never really in doubt, but the added sweetness is it’s the highest margin ever recorded in a MN State House race—over 92%! Close behind that, the win for Ilhan Omar, to fill Keith’s vacated Congressional seat, CD 5. This too was not really in doubt, or close, but it’s most historic. Omar became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress (see below for more on that). Close on the heels of her victory nationally, the state added two Somali Representatives to replace her in the House—Mohamud Noor in 60B, and Hodan Hassan in 62A. Around about this time there were enough statewide precincts reporting to declare officially that the MN House had been flipped to DFL. A collective sigh of relief. The victories of Tim Walz for governor and Peggy Flanagan for vice governor, and of both female DFL incumbent U.S. senators, was almost anticlimactic, even though it wasn’t late in coming. Minneapolis School Board results were not a big surprise; both DFL endorsed candidates, Kimberly Caprini and Josh Pauley, won. Sadly, the school board will say good-bye to its only real questioner of the corporatist reform agenda, Rebecca Gagnon. On both School Board ballot questions, an overwhelming Yes, and also on the liquor license ballot question for Minneapolis.
Nationwide, wow, bit of a roller-coaster. I had to intersperse TV results watching (I followed the MN ones online, the national on CNN with captions on and sound muted—don’t you judge me!) with bouts of playing online Monster Busters and finishing up the last two episodes of House of Cards, which got increasingly gothic as it neared the conclusion. I switched focus to local, thinking Beto O’Rourke was going to take Texas, only to switch back late at night and see that he’d lost. Stacy Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, would have been both the first woman and person of color, and man, did she put up a fight. Her opponent, however, besides being a white supremacist, had actual power over the voter rolls. Such things are merely regrettable, but apparently not preventable or punishable, in today’s normal. But still, a modest yet irrefutable blue wave tipped the U.S. House of Representatives ever so slightly blue. The Senate is still Republican. (And Sandra Day O’Connor is stepping down, but God, let’s not think about that right now.) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won. Lots of other women won. Pundits all agreed, the big story was women. (It was so weird watching House of Cards at this point! I won’t spoil it for you, but just imagine when you watch it.) Here is the historical highpoint, in my opinion. Previously, there have never been any Muslim women or Native American women in Congress. Just like what happened with the Minneapolis City Council re: transgender people of color, the House went from zero to two in both these categories in one election. In addition to Ilhan Omar, the House gained Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, in Michigan’s 13th CD. One of the sweetest victories was Sharice Davids (Ho-chunk, lesbian, army vet, single mother) for Kansas’s 3rd CD. And she shares “first” honors with Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) of New Mexico’s 1st CD. New Mexico now has an all-POC congressional delegation, a powerful message from this Mexican border state.
The outlook for the resistance movement—LGBTQTI, Black Lives Matter, anti-ICE, antifascist, socialists, labor, women and antiwar (who did I miss?)—is this. Don’t rest (too much). Now is when the Persistence part comes into its own.
–Dance – Fundraiser for Legal Defense of Anti-ICE Activists, Saturday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m., at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, 2524 Nicollet Ave., Mpls. Featuring several danceable bands (TBA), hosted by a coalition comprising members of IWW/General Defense Committee, Twin Cities DSA, ISO Twin Cities.
–Rally to Win $15 and a Union for All MSP Airport Workers! Public • Hosted by Unite Here! Local 17, SEIU Local 26, and MN AFL-CIO. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 3:30 p.m. MSP Airport, 4300 Glumack Drive, Saint Paul.