Years ago, I gave local governors nicknames, because this is what people do when they can’t afford a social life. Iowa’s was Governor Mustache for obvious reasons, and the Wisconsin governor, well… his name wasn’t really printable. Minnesota had Governor Awkward, the guy who you know is just trying his best to help, but never seems to be able to look cool doing it. Now, with the weird but wonderful tenure of Dayton coming to a close, it’s time to welcome a new face into the governor’s mansion. I present to you: Tim Walz, Governor Dad Joke. He looks like that Dad of a friend you had in high school who made those terrible jokes that he knew were terrible but did them anyway, just to hear his kids groan. In fact, there’s a lot to be said about Minnesota governance that can be summed up in the stereotypical actions of Dads, so allow me to indulge my ‘90s kid upbringing and discuss the phenomenon of the Family Movie Dad.
Family Movie Dads usually fall into one of two camps: they either work too hard and never get to see their kids, but have lots of success outside the home, or you have the FMDs that work too hard and never seem to get ahead, but at least they form bonds with their kids. Now I could say something about how both FMDs are cursed to slave away and how that’s not the best look for capitalism, but that’s another article. Instead, let’s break down how Minnesota’s two main parties embody the two main classes of ‘90s FMDs.
Your Class 1 FMD is very serious. He’s got a lot of business to do, and business-ing takes time and effort. If he’s going to get ahead, by gum, he’s got to do it by the sweat of his brow because it’s a dog eat dog world out there and no one’s going to help. This leads to the endless cycle of wanting more, getting it, but then feeling like it’s never enough, all the while the kid keeps looking hopefully at the stands in the Little League game, but only sees an empty seat. In his single-minded quest for gain above all else, the Class 1 sacrifices women, children, and the fragile home environment in a misguided belief that his own success and happiness will, shall we say, trickle down to the rest of the family. This is the GOP.
The DFL is clearly the Class 2 FMD: you know he’s trying to make things better, and he believes that everything will work out in the end, but this usually sets him up for getting a big promotion stolen from him, or a raise being denied by a calllus boss, or a family trip being postponed because the Pemberton file just has to be fixed right here and now or he can kiss his modest earnings goodbye. This almost always leads to the scene where the kid sees the FMD get browbeaten by the boss and have to take it, or have to break a promise previously held to the kid, making the kid lose trust, affection, and that sense of reverence we all seem to have for our dads no matter how many times they screw up. In the best scenario, a Class 2 will have the triumphant moment where he tells the boss where to stick it and runs out of the boardroom to make it to the game on time, because some things are just more important. Life doesn’t always resemble a movie, but I’d sure be cheering if Governor Dad Joke decided to turn around and tell the big donors and the billionaires where to stick it.
Now it’s interesting that neither of these dads are considered “good dads” by the standards set up in the movie, mostly because if everything is good at the start, the movie has nowhere to go. Class 2 FMDs are failures because they can’t provide materially, and Class 1 FMDs are failures because they can’t provide emotionally. Again, there’s a bigger argument to be made that this shows a flaw in our entire system where dads (and moms) are expected to be everything for everyone… but I’ve only got a few hundred words here. For now, let’s just keep doing what ‘90s kids do and remind our two Bad Dads that they need to take care of us, the people of Minnesota, and that means first providing for needs at home.