Thank you for joining us, DFL. This is an intervention.
We asked you here because we care about you. We understand you are struggling through the denial, handwringing and blame-shifting that comes with a humiliating time in your life. We feel your pain. But your self-destructive behavior is impacting us all.
We are committed to helping you through a three-step program of recovery (and that’s nine steps fewer than most!).
The first step is … admitting you have a problem. That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Despite spending about twice as much as the other guys, Democrats lost the presidency, Congress, tacit control of the judiciary, and about seven out of every 10 state legislative chambers, including your Minnesota Senate bulwark.
Many reasons, of course. Republican Inc. has always been better than the Democrat Co-op at the cutthroat battleground tactics necessary to win elections. If they could sell the damaged merchandise at the top of their ticket this year, they pretty much proved they can sell anything.
Republicans also capitalized on the mess you have made of critical services like health care, which you seem incapable of making work. Voters don’t want rationalizations — they just want the trains to run on time. You really need to shed the quaint, naive belief that voters are motivated by facts and logic, rather than emotional perceptions.
Unfortunately, your underlying malady is far more intractable than the proximate causes of your most recent relapse. In short, you have developed a systemic insensitivity to an electorate you no longer represent. So, baby steps.
The second step of your recovery is to stop lecturing the proletariat. Here are two recent examples that clearly illustrate why the patronizing illuminati were summarily rejected by the illiterati:
Garrison Keillor led off your postelection response, before all ballots were even counted, with a whiny, condescending piece in the Washington Post. The working-class men and women who gave Republicans their victory know when they’re being insulted by an effete snob, even one masquerading as a folksy balladeer.
Another vivid example of your cluelessness is the ongoing coverup by the political elite to protect the buddies they fete with exclusive access to luxury suites in the “People’s Stadium.” Those would be the same DFL officials who have been lecturing suburban leaders for their supposed lack of commitment to equity.
Your electoral implosion was not driven by ignorant, racist, homophobic misogynists, and you need to let go of that morally smug meme if you ever want to regain the trust of middle-of-the-road D- and R-leaning voters.
While deplorables will always occupy a corner of the Republican tent, Democrats lost the country because you are tone-deaf to the perspectives of your rural and small-town fellow citizens, who justifiably feel ignored and left behind by the ruling order. It really is that simple.
Accordingly, the third step to recovery is to begin rebuilding the Democratic base. You’re pretty much starting from scratch, because there no longer is a DFL — only a D. The F’s have been voting Republican for years. And while union and party bosses might remain joined at the hip, you are hanging onto actual L workers by a thread. If you have any doubts about that hard truth, stop preaching to the choir on social media, and read “Hillbilly Elegy.”
The urbane Democratic elite abandoned the traditional base of the party, and that has cost you dearly. Perhaps for years to come. To regain viability, the D(FL) needs to re-establish its traditional coalition.
You cannot afford to wait for the celebratory Republicans to fumble the scepter you handed them. They probably will, by arrogantly interpreting their election as a mandate, but you cannot rely on some self-satisfying I-told-you-so moment that will translate into a mea culpa from the electorate. See step two.
We truly hope you understand our resolve. We are asking for your commitment to complete the full course of treatment, and will not accept any half measures that simply enable and perpetuate your current behavior.
We will be there to help you along.
John Gunyou was Minnesota’s finance commissioner under Republican Gov. Arne Carlson and the DFL’s endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010.