Tuesday, November 5, 2002, will be remembered as the day that the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party died. On Election Day, the Republicans swept most of the state’s constitutional offices and elected Norm Coleman to the U.S. Senate, Tim Pawlenty to the governorship, and John Klein to the U.S. Congress. The GOP also gained seats in the state legislature.
The Democratic Party will survive this loss, but the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will not. The election was a watershed not just because the DFL old guard and such prominent names as Walter Mondale (standing in for the late Paul Wellstone), Roger Moe (state senate majority leader and 30-year veteran of the legislature), and Hubert H. Humphrey (his grandson ran for secretary of state) all lost, but because the kind of populism that Wellstone and the DFL once represented and the base upon which it was built are all but gone.
Yes, the DFL practiced state socialism, but Humphrey purged the party of communists during the vicious battles of the 1940’s. The DFL was culturally conservative up until the 70’s, and it always stood for the working class, which once was the bulk of Minnesota’s population. It was a model for the Democratic Party nationwide, and its leaders served in the top ranks of the national government. The DFL was the dominant party in Minnesota from 1954 to 1990.