What is "overreach?"

One analysis you'll hear frequently about the 2012 legislative election is that the MNGOP was handed its comeuppance for "overreach." I think there's some truth do that reading. So does that mean the DFL can't advance a bold agenda next year?

No, it doesn't. The DFL shouldn't feel worried about enacting a far-reaching agenda, as long as they do it right.

Where the GOP went wrong is that it came into office with a simple, coherent philosophy that won the election for them, but their legislative agenda didn't reflect that agenda. They were swept into office on a platform that claimed that sharp cuts to Minnesota government would unleash new jobs. But while they kept talking about jobs and spending, their only legislative successes were protecting the super-rich from fair taxes, $1.4 billion in borrowing, and two divisive constitutional amendments.

I believe the DFL can avoid charges of overreach if they define their agenda early on and stick to it. In many ways, this is very similar to my advice earlier this week to start with messaging. The GOP angered Minnesotans because they said one thing and did another. To avoid this fate, the DFL should be clear upfront about what they hope to accomplish.
Does this advice conflict with my advice to immediately legalize same-sex marriage? It could, but it doesn't have to. Let me say two things about that.

First, it depends on exactly what the DFL's message is heading into the session. For example, emphasizing that we need to recommit to making everyone's lives better instead of just rich white men is one possible theme. It encompasses a more progressive tax system, a commitment to social programs, and support for equal marriage.

Second, even if the DFL settles on a message that doesn't work with equal marriage, I believe that marriage is a moral obligation that must be addressed no matter what. Does that add some risk? Yes. But not every single item of legislation can be focused on a single, solitary theme. What's important is to be able to show that many important bills did accomplish the goals the DFL established for itself.

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