The DFL mining battle that wasn’t

State PoliticsLast week the question was how badly a pro-mining resolution would damage the electoral prospects of DFLers after this weekend’s state convention in Duluth.

What we’ve learned is that Democratic-Farmer-Laborites have at least figured out that the more they bicker in public on this issue, the worse things get for them — especially among a very touchy set of Iron Range mining backers and environmentalists. So, as this Star Tribune story explains, leaders of both sides rushed to find a compromise on Sunday: they would table the measure, perhaps forever. The party took no new positions. Mining opponents and supporters will continue to hold their own positions, as they would have done anyway.

Naturally, the soundbites rising from the Republican convention in Rochester were resoundingly pro-mining, as that party seeks its biennial bounty of theoretical Iron Range votes. As I’ve explained, without any environmental wing to speak of, Republicans have no one to offend by saying “mine every mountain.” Anyone bothered by that sentiment was never going to vote for them anyway.

I was worried that by the end of this past weekend, we’d be looking at the wreckage of a DFL coalition. I’d have to repeat Charlton Heston’s lines from the end of “The Planet of the Apes,” where a space traveler finds that he was on Earth the whole time, and that “the maniacs blew it all up.”

There is nothing about a party platform resolution that has any serious bearing on the enactment of public policy. They can, over time, shape a party’s priorities, but this resolution in Duluth was never going to help or hurt new mining in northern Minnesota. By walking away from it, DFLers found the only path that would allow them to maintain their coalition. Amazingly, they did so rather deftly. The only better outcome would have been for no resolution to have been advanced in the first place.

So, as it stands, DFL standard-bearers Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken hold similar positions on mining: generally supportive, so long as environmental protections are ensured. All Republican candidates for their offices hold a position supporting mining, rejecting any possibility that the mining would be done in an unsafe, unclean way.

You can form your own conclusion about this. But it should be apparent that there is no serious opposition to mining at the top of either ticket. But there are myriad, serious differences on virtually all other issues. This is why I keep saying that focusing on mining is an ineffective way to guide your vote, particularly if you support it. The effect on mining policy differences with your vote is minimal, whereas outcomes would be much different on matters like public education, taxes, health care access and more based on who is elected this November.


  1. David Gray says

    The convention still hurts the DFL amongst those who want economic development for the Range. It was a defeat for the pro-mining forces in the party and a victory for the extremists. They didn’t do Rick Nolan any favors by caving to the Twin Cities environmentalists.

  2. Kristin Larsen says

    Its everyone’s water and as someone living smack dab in the Duluth Complex I’d like to see science and health considerations be unsullied by politics. The last thing we want is to be taking votes on gravity or how many angels fit on the head of a pin. Go with the facts.

  3. I guess those who are deeply concerned about what will be left for our grandchildren, and future generations …fresh air and untainted water…are extremists. Who knew?

  4. David Gray says

    Yes, environmentalists are grinning but it is going to hurt the DFL among those who want to have jobs still available when our children enter the job market. If only everyone was worried about facts…

  5. Ranger47 says

    If B.O. and the DFL can declare CO2 a pollutant, a naturally occurring compound vital to all plant life on earth (God’s gotta be chuckling), they certainly can kill any future mining on the Range.

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