Minnesota’s Fightin’ 8th goes through the changes

Minnesota Public Radio’s Elizabeth Dunbar has an excellent analysis of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District in the wake of last week’s upset win for Republican Chip Cravaack over longtime DFL stalwart Jim Oberstar.

The money line:

There’s no question that Minnesota’s Iron Range, a longtime DFL stronghold, and the 8th District as a whole have changed dramatically in the past several decades as iron mining has become a less dominant force, both politically and economically.

But the district is far from turning completely red. If anything can be concluded from last week’s election, it’s that — like many areas of the country — the 8th District has become less predictable.

This is going to be an interesting place to follow politics over the next decade. Good thing there are so many blogs about northern Minnesota. Oh …. oh, wait. Here I am. Ha! This is going to make me a thousandaire!

In all seriousness, Oberstar vs. Cravaack made for the biggest week of page views and total readers in this blog’s four-year history. Thanks! I’ll be here, watching and typing things into this little entry box for you to read into this bold, new future.


  1. Aaron
    I’d respectfully disagree that the “money line” of Elizabeth Dunbar’s MRP story is – “iron mining has become a less dominant force”, causing the 8th District to become less predictable.

    That’s not the issue at all. I’d suggest the voters of the 8th district are much more informed and they disagree with politicians who have promoted:

    •Larger government and increased intrusion by government into their daily lives

    •Lack of common sense in creating and enforcing laws

    •Increased government spending to a level that’s unnecessary and way, way beyond its means.

    Examples are:

    The FCC trying to institute government control over internet. (Google “net neutrality”)

    Obama insisting on an oil drilling moratorium despite two court rulings against the moratorium.

    Obama basically ignoring Iran’s plans to develop nukes and their tyrannical murder of Iranian freedom fighters.

    Obama forcing BP to shell out $20 billion for the oil spill and disallowing the handling of their own claims.

    The Justice Department’s decision to try 9/11 terrorists in civilian court.

    The Justice Department giving Miranda rights to Christmas Day terrorist plane bomber.

    Not shutting down ACORN despite gross corruption and receiving millions in government funding.

    The unconstitutional health care reform bill which simultaneously takes over entire student loan industry.

    The U.S. House passing an energy overhaul “Cap and Trade” bill, creating an alternate currency, hurting business and jobs.

    The U.S. House passing a Financial Reform bill with massive amounts of new government controls on banks, businesses, executive pay, yet failing to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Congress/Obama enacting massive $789 billion Stimulus bill, promising unemployment not go over 8%, and upon its failure, consider enacting a second Stimulus bill.

    Congress lying about the total costs of the health care bill and Obama lying about details of bill such as current members can keep their plans.

    Reid and Pelosi providing sweetheart and backroom deals–kickbacks to buy votes for the health care reform legislation.

    The Department of Justice suing Arizona over their illegal immigration enforcement law.

    Obama making three appointments including the Medicare/Medicaid Administrator during Senate recess, bypassing public hearings.

    The Department of Justice dismissing the case against Black Panthers who intimidated voters with threats of physical harm at polling locations.

    The White House offering Senators Sestak and Romanoff jobs within Obama administration in exchange for dropping out of key Senate races.

    Obama revealing that he refuses to secure the U.S. border until he receives a comprehensive Immigration Reform package from Congress.

    That’s why Oberstar is out and Cravaack is in. It’s nothing to do with iron ore mining.

  2. You’ve identified a host of issues that you might hear conservatives talking about around a watercooler, but I don’t think that’s exactly what’s going on here. Quite a few of these issues (Black Panthers, ACORN, really?) are the fodder of national e-mail forwards and blog talking points, not something you hear around the 8th district, certainly not the Iron Range except in tight circles of diehard Republicans. There are more of those than before because of the traditionally conservative areas in the southern part of MN8 and the drift that is occurring in Range precincts. I’d argue, however, that the 8th is becoming more independent, perhaps more conservative, but not necessarily more Republican. People might indeed be worried about government intrusion, jobs and taxes, but a lot of this stuff is a stretch, quiet frankly, and I’m trying to be fair. The degree to which living in the 8th sucks for you as a voter is the degree to which its horseshit economy has you by the throat. That’s my experience, anyway, and its confirmed by what I’ve seen as a college teacher.

    Rather, it is quite the case that the loss of mining jobs on the Iron Range, and the drop of the percentage of union, mining jobs in the overall workforce is affecting the way people here think about politics. Mining jobs are good jobs but there just aren’t as many and they aren’t the same as they were. In fact, the miner of the next few years is going to have a lot more in common with an engineer than they will with the miners who worked in the 1970s, before the crash. You’ll probably agree that the politics of engineers tends to be different than the politics of union labor.

    MN-08 is getting older faster than the state because it’s a great retirement destination. Young people are getting more conservative because sociological sorting is taking place. If the recent 8th was 55-45 liberal/conservative, more liberal kids are moving to the cities and more conservatives are trying to make a living here. It’s a demographic shift that is actually quite fascinating.

    But, with all due respect, the points you list here are not on the lips of the people I know who switched from Oberstar to Cravaack. Some were upset about the health care reform package (some feeling that it was too much, others too little or ineffective), a pocket of them were upset about cap and trade, and many others just thought that Oberstar had been their too long and liked the look and the energy of the new guy. I have an opinion on all this, but as objectively as possible, I have to say that this sort of shotgun diagnosis of the politics of the region is very disconnected from the reality I see.

  3. I agree with you Aaron…although the shopping list of examples I gave are real, it confuses/diffuses the reason Oberstar is out.

    You sum it up well –
    1)”living in the 8th sucks to the degree which its horseshit economy has you by the throat”

    2)Oberstar is old in more ways than one

    3)the new guy comes across with refreshing, young energy

  4. Your points aren’t all true. Many of them are overhyped nonsense. I’m trying to be honest with you, not do talking points. You missed my point in my comment about living in the 8th. Our economy is bad because of the nature of the world-changing but volatile work that was done here in the 20th century. I happen to think a Grover Norquist approach to public policy would have left a region like this in worse shape, not better. Even fewer people for even fewer jobs. I don’t know why you need to be such a jerk about Oberstar even after he’s lost. It speaks to your character, not his.

  5. He didn’t die Aaron, he simply had a job taken away from him. (We typically only shy from the truth about people when they die).

    And the job he lost, by definition, was a privilege, not a right. Why did he lose it? He lost contact with those he represents, really believed he had tenure, his ideas are old, he’s tired…and a bit crotchety.

    P.S. Stating facts about people only reflects on one’s character when speaking about a spouse or close friends, certainly not when speaking of politicians. You should know that..

  6. Oh..I don’t know much about Norquist but you piqued my interest. I see he believes in strong, but more limited government.

    In the late ’70’s the Iron Ore industry on the Range employed 16,000 people. Today, it’s 4,000.

    In the late ’70’s, total government employment was about 15,000,000. Today, 22,000,000.

    I’d say Norquist is on to somthing, smaller is better…at least for the Range..

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