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What does it all mean? Of course, today’s Legislature is much more conventionally diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and race. That, to be sure, is a good thing. But are lawmakers as diverse as their 1969 counterparts in other important ways? One wonders.
What’s clear is that while each caucus in 1969 contained a good deal of occupational diversity, they were less different from one another in terms of job experience than are today’s Republicans and DFLers.
The sharp division today is between a DFL majority dominated by veterans of the public sector and a Republican minority dominated by men and women from the private sector. One party’s roster of legislators is heavily stacked with businessmen and businesswomen, while the other team of lawmakers is top-heavy with educators.
Is this lack of common background a good thing? It’s at least fair to wonder. Might it not have been a better arrangement when a fairly even number of educators could be found in each caucus, as was the case in 1969, and when both caucuses contained a significant, not to mention similar, percentage of business types?
It’s also fair to wonder how and why this shift came about, as well as what it might portend for the future. In the meantime, this much seems quite clear: If there once was a time when both caucuses featured a diverse array of people who primarily earned their living in the private sphere, that time is gone.
Today a bright line divides the two parties in both the House and the Senate, and there is little reason to wonder why it’s so difficult to find common ground today and why our legislators so often fail to arrive at genuine compromise and meaningful agreement.
Chuck Chalberg teaches American history at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.