Dinosaur Politics

"ARE YOU NOW or have you ever been an opponent of Irv Anderson for Speaker of the House?" It's not usually phrased like this, but the "Irv question" is turning into something of a new litmus test for DFLers, and it could provide fireworks at the party convention June 8. Some in the party have been steaming over Anderson's "dinosaur" leadership style for years; last month state Reps. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) and Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) dragged pop psychology into the matter when they co-bylined a Star Tribune opinion piece. They were forced to speak up, they wrote, because "abusive relationships can only exist in a culture of secrecy." More to the political point, Anderson's critics say his record of protecting DFLers in ethical trouble may have provided a gigantic source of campaign fodder for Republicans, who think they have the best shot in years at taking over the House.

In some ways, of course, Anderson's method has been highly effective for exactly the same reasons that get his critics riled up. A veteran of northern Minnesota-style politics-as-contact-sport, the speaker has been only a little more obvious than others at indulging the Legislature's penchant for inside politics and ego-stroking. And while his pro-life stance makes him anathema to DFL feminists, it's not necessarily a drawback at a Capitol where the majority of legislators--including many DFLers--share his position.

And so, says DFL Party chair Mark Andrew, the anti-Anderson forces (who got the Fifth Congressional District DFL to pass a petition calling for the speaker's ouster, and plan to make a splash at the convention) "won't go very far." With his political future hitched to the party's fate this election season, the last thing Andrew needs is a squabble over what he says is "a matter for the DFL House caucus to resolve." If, that is, there is a DFL majority caucus.

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