Change is a constant in Minnesota politics, but there's been another: In nearly every Minneapolis and state election for a half century, Richard "Dick" Franson has been on the ballot.
Only death, it seems, could take him out of the arena. Franson died May 27 at age 86, after years battling the ill effects of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. The most recent of his many unsuccessful bids for office was in 2014, when he lost the DFL primary for secretary of state. He won just one election, in 1963, for Minneapolis City Council. He lost that seat in 1965 to a fellow with a brighter political future, Arne Carlson.
Franson was undeterred by that defeat or any of the 30 or so that followed. He became one of the "perennials," the handful of determined, civic-minded people who offer themselves repeatedly as candidates for elective office. Often, they add a bit of color to drab politics as usual. Occasionally, they contribute a constructive idea or theme to public debate.
Always, they underscore that American democracy isn't an activity reserved for elites, party insiders or professional operatives. It's everyone's enterprise. Government by the people means that any citizen can participate, vote — and run for office. Candidates like Franson may lengthen the ballot. They seldom win. But we would not want to live in a country that barred them from trying.