Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Notes on the "Remarks on the Minnesota shutdown for Sen. Al Franken"

First of all, it is obvious that the drama in Minnesota is heightened by the budget talks at the Federal level. However, everyone speaking to Minnesotans must be aware of the important differences between these two situations and make an effort not to simplify or diminish the unique issues of the state by going overboard with the idea that this is a warmup act to the debt ceiling negotiation. It's not- this is the state's second shutdown in six years and the budget has been an issue for more than a decade.

Still, there's no denying that the outcome of this dispute will be heralded by the cable news networks as an indicator of what might happen between the President and Congress. Through their 24/7 repetition, it might end up reinforcing one of these competing narratives; either that big government cuts are still as important to the people as they were in November, or that people think these new GOP leaders are being irresponsible with the economy and are unbalanced in their approach to deficits. Similarly, this outcome will have a big impact on the Republican presidential nomination, with Tim Pawlenty's term as governor setting the stage for this whole mess. It's shining a light on claims he's made which have so far gone unchecked (and which turn out to not really be true).

I wrote the speech for Al Frankin, as he's a high profile politician, and is one of the few leaders with a genuine reason to talk both about the state's budget, and about the Federal debt ceiling. While I think it needs to be done subtly, someone should be trying to invigorate supporters with the argument that "the whole country is paying attention, and what we do could potentially help the President."

As far as specific lines in the speech go, I thought it was important in the first paragraph for Frankin to preempt the attack that he's not in Washington D.C. during a legislative crisis. The truth of course is that Al Frankin isn't in the room with the President, the Speaker, and the Majority Leader, and that he's not going to have a lot to do with the negotiations. I think it would be good to for him to say that the Senate leader wants Minnesota to set an example for the country, and although it wouldn't stop the attack, his reelection is so far away it wouldn't be remembered. Also, in the second paragraph I thought it was good to echo Gov. Dayton's line about the Republican demands amounting to "more debt". Obviously the way talking points stick is by repetition, and it's important to brand the Republicans as using deceptive accounting tricks.

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