Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Walz Is the Anti-DeSantis. Dems Should Take Note.

·4 min read
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beat/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beat/Reuters

When he signed an executive order on Wednesday making Minnesota a refuge state for all those seeking gender-affirming care, Gov. Tim Walz spoke of those behind the bans instituted in other states.

“It’s being led by bullies, and I say this as a teacher, we cannot stand bullies,” said the 59-year-old Democrat, who was a high-school geography teacher and football coach before serving five terms in Congress, and now a second term as governor.

He added of the ban backers, “Nothing to gain for themselves, not following any factual data, and essentially using the state apparatus to bring cruelty.”

That very same day, the state legislature in adjacent Iowa passed a ban similar to one that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had instituted through a complaisant Florida medical board. The Iowa measure only needed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature when DeSantis arrived in her state on Friday. The visit was officially part of a book tour, but it was widely seen as a wind-up to his inevitable presidential bid.

Along with being the country’s most self-righteous bully of the marginalized, DeSantis is young and energetic, and smart and new. He drew a crowd of more than 1,000 as Reynolds joined him at the Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport and again at the Iowa State Fair. Not a MAGA hat was to be seen.

Reynolds has said she will be “happy” to join Trump when he visits Iowa on Monday. The question is how many other Iowans will be there. Trump could be left looking like what he is: a doughy, aging bully of a more narcissistic variety whose lying grows increasingly desperate and whose legal troubles portend one or more indictments.

With the prospect of DeSantis winning the GOP nomination, Biden will look decrepit by comparison. A common lament among Democrats is that there is not somebody younger and more vital to support. But the Democrats need only look to Minnesota for a candidate 22 years younger who calls out bullies when he sees them and stands up for what he seems to actually believe.

Along with being someone who can speak of the schools as a former teacher, Walz can lead eye-to-eye as a retired master sergeant used to getting done what needs to be done from his two decades in the National Guard.

He reacted with a veteran NCO’s doggedness after Minnesota cops killed George Floyd in May 2020; he called a special session of the legislature that July and managed to push through major police reforms despite resistance from the Republican-controlled state Senate.

With the 2022 election, Democrats took control of both houses in Minnesota’s legislature for the first time in nine years. Walz joined the House and the Senate leadership in setting in motion a wide range of progressive reforms. The top priority was to guarantee a woman’s right to choose an abortion and access to a wide range of reproductive health care.

On Jan. 31, Walz signed The Protect Reproductive Options Act. “The message we are sending to Minnesota today is very clear: your rights are protected in this state,” he said. “Today we are delivering on our promise to put up a firewall against efforts to reverse reproductive freedom.”

Walz spoke of his state in much the same tone as DeSantis does Florida. Both men also often speak of rights and freedom, though DeSantis means just for some people, whereas Walz means for all.

For example, on March 3, Walz signed a bill making 55,000 felons eligible to vote after they served their time.

“We took action to ensure thousands of Minnesotans who have completed time for their offenses can vote—a fundamental, inalienable right,” he tweeted. “Here in Minnesota, we’re committed to living up to our democratic ideals by protecting voting rights for all.”

​​On March 7, Walz signed a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. He tweeted, “Ensuring drivers in Minnesota are licensed and carry insurance makes the roads safer for everyone.”

And on March 8, he signed the executive order guaranteeing that gender-affirming care would remain available in Minnesota. The order further guaranteed legal protection for those from out of state who seek such care in Minnesota.

Back in February, a transgender woman had been severely beaten in what appeared to be a hate crime at a Minneapolis light rail station.

“This is horrific,” Walz declared afterward. “Minnesota must protect our trans community. We will not tolerate acts of violence toward our friends and neighbors. As governor, I will continue to stand in this fight with you.”

With his executive order nine days later , Walz showed these were not just words. He also further proved that the Democrats do, in fact, have an alternative who can stand up whichever bully the Republicans nominate.

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