Former MN Senate Minority Leader On The Role of the Minority Party

By Duane Benson (Guest Commentary)

I have a confession to make.  I am actually glad that elected representatives do not always “do what the people want.” If they did, we would have government from floor to ceiling, and no taxes. Yummy, but ultimately bankrupting.

The idea of representative democracy really is to give the public what is collectively realistic, not everything that we want.  What is collectively realistic is best delivered if there are a lot of bipartisan fingerprints on the final product.  No one lawmaker, or one party, is suppose to “sweep the table.”

Whether we’re talking about the congessional “fiscal cliff” negotiations or the new Legislature’s budget, we need people coming at problems from more political angles to shape the final rascal. We should care little if the parties to the negotiation get along.  But we should care that the product gets legitimately checked and balanced by both the House and the Senate, and all political perspectives. Pucker your lips and say it with me now:  “Bipartisan.”

Seeking bipartisanship is worth the considerable effort it requires.  After all, a trip down memory lane shows us that every truly major piece of legislation that has been passed in our neck-of-the-woods in my lifetime has been bipartisan.   It’s the secret sauce of successful legislation.

When I was serving as Minnesota Senate Minority Leader, I remember many days when the majority was kickin’ the ass of the minority.  On one such occasion, I rose and declared. “You in the majority are the Harlem Globetrotters, and we in the minority are the Washington Generals. We know you are going to win. Our job is to make it entertaining.”

I was only half joking.  In a representative democracy, the majority is suppose to win, and the minority, through amendments, debate, cunning, charm, and threats, is supposed to make legislation a little better.  But if the majority wants to win some of the toughest fights, it needs to take on those extra minority party fingerprints. That way both sides get to win – though one more than the other — and be entertaining – though one more than the other.

Admittedly, being the Washington Generals isn’t as satisfying as being the Harlem Globetrotters.  Still, if you play ball, you can influence the game.

– Duane Benson

Duane Benson is a Fillmore County rancher.  He also serves on the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ (MnSCU) Board of Trustees and on the Minnesota Stadium Authority.  He is a former Minnesota Senate Minority Leader (IR-Lanesboro), President of the Minnesota Business Partnership, and NFL linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Oilers.  

Editor’s note:  Beyond the credentials stated above, Duane is a wise friend with a terrific sense of humor.   Duane has agreed to occasionally drop by Wry Wing to share some of his trademark wit and wisdom.  This post was featured as a “Best of the Blogs” in Politics in Minnesota’s Morning Report.  – Loveland

2 thoughts on “Former MN Senate Minority Leader On The Role of the Minority Party

  1. Good article.

    You might note in the Bio that Sen Benson was a Hamline graduate. And to the best of my knowledge the only Hamline graduate to ever paly in a Super Bowl.

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