It's only starting to sink in how big a shift this election was in terms of make up of the Minnesota state legislature and its orientation on social and family issues. If Dayton wins and we have a DFL governor and a legislature controlled by Republicans, we'll continue to see gridlock on many issues. The governor has a lot of power to control what ultimately gets passed into law. (DFLers in the legislature know this only too well despite having overwhelming majorities in both Houses the past 4 years.)
But the governor doesn't have the power to pass things. And that's what is key from our standpoint. Many of the issues we're concerned about were in danger of getting passed into law with a DFL-controlled legislature and liberal governor. Now with the seismic shift in the political center of the legislature, the governor isn't even necessary to stop things.
Take for instance, gay "marriage". Whereas its proponents were looking to pass it in 2011 if the DFL controlled both Houses and the governor's office, now there's no chance it could even get close to passage in either the state House or Senate. The same is true with many other social issues. The political center has shifted dramatically in the legislature. The state Senate in the past session was often for a particular social issue by a 10 to 15 margin. That's now flipped. In the House, there's probably a 20 vote shift on many issues.
Remarkably, the Senate is now more conservative than the state House, which has never been the case in the 22 years I've been around the legislature. I'm sure liberals in the Senate will be gunning to recapture control in 2012, but I think that's going to be tough though certainly not impossible. I wonder if many incumbent DFL senators won't run again. They're at the age where they were thinking about retiring anyway and being in the minority for even two years will only give them added impetus to step aside. Will they want to take the risk of running for re-election, not capturing the majority, and being stuck in the minority for another four years, not just two years.
With President Obama in the White House and possibly a liberal, DFL governor in St. Paul, I don't think the public will be in a mood to do a reverse political tsunami in 2012. It maybe status quo at the legislative or even some conservative pick-ups which means Republicans will keep control of the state Senate and maybe gain a seat or two. Similar in the House.
There is also an interesting dynamic at play with a possible liberal governor and conservative legislature which is different from the reverse scenario in play while Pawlenty was governor. Liberals want to pass things and raise taxes but they can't, even with the governorship, if the legislature doesn't want to pass those things. That's different from the previous scenario where the conservative governor acted as a goalie and stopped liberal initiatives. This is a recipe for gridlock and gridlock is preferable to lots new spending and programs.
The current scenario clearly opens the door for a marriage amendment, something which the public supports and pro-marriage supporters are much more passionate about than gay "marriage" supporters. That's what our polling done in 2005 and this past summer showed us.