Political success in Minnesota has often hinged on an ability to simultaneously promote two goals, economic growth and economic justice. Voters tend to be leery of an overemphasis on one or the other, but generally reward candidates (the last three governors offer cases in point) who appear to strike a balance between the two.
Finding that balance is not easy in fast-changing Minnesota -- but help is on the way. A new think tank, Growth & Justice, is being launched this month, aiming to develop and promote new ideas for advancing both goals.
Growth & Justice springs from the fertile mind of Joel Kramer, the former publisher of this newspaper who made a brief foray into elective politics in 2002, as the running mate of DFL gubernatorial candidate Becky Lourey. He came away from that experience convinced that a new effort is needed to build a wider progressive consensus about pocketbook issues. Kramer's ideas about balancing the state budget appear on today's Commentary page.
Even in its infancy, Growth & Justice is not a one-man or a one-party show. It has attracted an impressive, multipartisan board of directors and group of advisers, and laid plans to engage scores of Minnesotans in deliberations, of both the face-to-face and online sort. Its Web site, www.growthandjustice.org, is due to be launched next week.
The Growth & Justice founders are demonstrating the kind of positive contribution they can make with their topic choice for their first round of deliberations this spring. They will take on what may be the No. 1 economic problem facing Minnesota -- the inability of low-income workers to support themselves and their families.
The new think tank will approach issues from a progressive perspective, but one to which even some conservative Republicans subscribe: Government has a role to play in making life better for all Minnesotans. Kramer hopes to "find solutions that a significant number of Minnesotans can support, and that a minimum number of Minnesotans hate."
The emergence of a new group dedicated to finding and promoting consensus is an especially welcome thing, at a time when too many Minnesota politicians are following divide-and-conquer strategies. Pitting Minnesotans against each other might win an occasional election, but it won't keep Minnesota strong over the long haul. Kramer recognized as much last year. Growth & Justice should help others see the same thing.
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