Editorial: Dayton's challenge: Unite divided state
Confident collaboration can still be the Minnesota way.
Star Tribune Editorial
It's Inauguration Day in Minnesota, when tradition asks that partisan discord at the Capitol fall silent and that all in state government welcome a new governor with offers of help.
If ever a new governor needed an initiation that positive, Mark Dayton does today.
No governor since the Great Depression has arrived in the Capitol's executive office facing as much fiscal and economic trouble. To succeed, the new DFL governor will need as much unity and goodwill as a polarized and anxious state can muster.
Coming together has been Minnesotans' almost automatic response to shared difficulty through 152 years of statehood.
History says that Dayton should be able to count on at least initial support from a large swath of his fellow citizens. His exemplary conduct during five uncertain weeks of recount after the close Nov. 2 election, and the quality of his actions since then, certainly warrant warm reception.
Yet Dayton will take office today with little assurance of a political honeymoon.
The fractious, volatile nature of contemporary American politics encourages division and hypercriticism, even in the face of the real trouble presented by a $6.2 billion budget deficit.
The fact that Dayton campaigned on proposals that would qualify him as the most liberal governor in 35 years, and that he succeeds the most conservative governor to serve Minnesota since the 1920s, suggests that he could have difficulty rallying broad support.
Not since Gov. Floyd B. Olson replaced Gov. "Tightwad Ted" Christianson in 1930 has the philosophical pendulum in the governor's office swung so far so fast.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been dubbed "transformational" by historian Hyman Berman for leading his party sharply to the ideological right, with claims that lower taxes and less state spending would bring economic rewards.
Dayton is an exponent of a much different view -- the notion that strategic public spending on education, infrastructure and human capital will pay long-term economic dividends, and that the cost of that investment ought to be spread fairly among people of all income levels, not loaded disproportionately onto the poor and middle class.
Dayton is sure to sound that theme in his inaugural address today. He would not be true to his 35 years in public life, nor to the people who elected him, if he abandoned the message now.
But we hope that today, he also speaks as the governor of the whole state, including those who think differently about how best to solve Minnesota's problems.
We hope he makes a commitment to listen to ideas from across the political spectrum, and to meld the best of those ideas with his own.
We hope he issues a special invitation to the business community -- which spent millions of dollars trying to defeat him -- to join in efforts to make government more cost-effective.
We also hope that the Minnesotans who did not vote for him will listen today with open minds and hopeful hearts.
The partisan discord and resulting policy gridlock of the last eight years don't have to be the "new normal." They were a departure from a longer tradition of robust, respectful and creative bipartisanship at the Capitol.
A willingness on the parts of both big parties to collaborate in the search for new ways to solve problems is much more in keeping with what has been -- and can be again -- the Minnesota way.
During the fall campaign, Dayton often recited the motto that his mentor and boss, the late Gov. Rudy Perpich, posted on his office wall: "None of us is as smart as all of us."
Dayton vowed to put that sign back up today. We hope its return means that smarter strategies for a better, more united Minnesota are on the way.