Dirty Job Dayton

So far in his tenure, Governor Mark Dayton has scarely met a controversial issue that he has not embraced. Think about the hallmarks of his tenure so far:

• He is attempting to sell the extremely unpopular taxpayer subsidies for professional sports owners, in the middle of a difficult economy.

• He has tenaciously advocated for an income tax increase on the state’s most powerful individuals.

• He has cut billions of dollars in safety net programs that are near and dear to him and his political base.

• He crossed the environmentalists on environmental permit streamlining and the teacher’s union on alternative teacher licensure, and these are both very powerful constituencies in his own party.

• He has taken on Native American gaming interests, perhaps the most financially powerful interest group that supports his party, by supporting a variety of ideas for expanding gambling.

• He has very aggressively championed the implementation of the much vilified Obamacare.

Nobody could ever accuse this guy of only choosing issues that are politically easy. Dayton’s tenure so far reminds me of a marathon showing of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, where the host engages in a variety of revolting vocations that very few of us are willing to enter.

But maybe he’s on to something. After all, today we learned in the Star Tribune’s poll that Dirty Job Dayton’s approval rating is a respectable 52%, much higher than midwest GOP Governors in Wisconsin (37% approve) and Ohio (36% approve). Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had a 42% approval rating in his last year of office.

How does Dayton do it? He is not considered particularly glib or politically skilled. He has almost no electoral mandate. He certainly hasn’t been able to ride an economic boom to popularity.

I don’t pretend to fully understand Dayton’s appeal, but I think he benefits from at least two things. First, even when Minnesotans disagree with Dayton on many of these issues, I think the majority of them admire that he is at least sincerely engaged in messy problem-solving, rather than opting for partisan gamesmanship.

Second, everything is relative in politics, and to most Minnesotans Dayton looks better than his dance partners in the Legislature, who seem to have badly overestimated the extent of their electoral mandate, and don’t always appear to be sincerely engaged in nitty gritty problem-solving.

In other words, Minnesotans may not want to go up and give a big hug to Dirty Job Dayton after all the time he has spent mucking around in the State Capitol sewers, vermin traps and dumpsters, but they seem to admire him more than the dandies who refuse to dive into the dirty but necessary jobs.

– Loveland

9 thoughts on “Dirty Job Dayton

  1. I’m impressed at the way he’s working–confident and seemingly unafraid to wade in. He has an earnest awkwardness that is endearing and I love to see him so happy and proud of his dogs. Go, Governor!

  2. Minnesotan says:

    I didn’t vote for him and he seemed like an alien life form or robot in the debates. But what I like is he doesn’t seem to have political aspirations beyond this job, and thus seems most interested in finding workable solutions, not things he can turn into talking points for his next campaign. It also allows him to take on controversial issues and (gasp) work across the isle without fear of being demonized by “the base” down the road.

    Sort of the exact opposite of our last governor.

    1. john sherman says:

      Although I didn’t much care for him when he was governor, I’ve developed a certain respect for Arnie Carlson as governor who actually wanted to govern. Dayton has this quality too, unlike the clowns between Carlson and Dayton.

      1. PM. says:

        John, i agree with you on that. Arne was pretty damn good–and a lot of that is due to his performance since he left office.

        I did not like Dayton as a prospective governor, but he is growing on me. not a lot of talent as a media personality, but he has authenticity–i think that Kay pointed that out. And he is not ducking the hard issues. got to give him credit….

  3. Folks with a media personality are sometimes easy to listen to but I do admire someone who is so uncomfortable in front of a camera but takes a public job anyway. Arnie was that rare combination of media comfortable and unafraid to wade right in–my favorite ex-governor.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    We are always going to tell our politicians “I don’t want bad tasting medicine .” But politicians need to understand that complaints about the bad taste aside, we would rather suffer through the bad taste than the deadly disease.

Comments are closed.