Who voters will hold responsible for shutdown

Thomas Radke
Thomas Radke of Minneapolis, at a Dunn Brothers coffee shop in St. Paul, Minn. on July 4, 2011. Radke says he believes DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, not the Republicans, will be punished for the Minnesota state government shutdown.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

State government has been largely shut down for four days now. If the shutdown drags on, there may be severe consequences at the polls for some political leaders.

Outside a Dunn Brothers coffee shop in St. Paul, you can find a wide range of views about the political consequences of the shutdown which has put some 22,000 state employees out of work and halted a wide array of state-provided or funded services, affecting everything from fishing licenses and state parks to day care centers and highway rest stops.

Thomas Radke of Minneapolis believes DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, not the Republicans, will be punished for the shutdown. In fact, Radke expects Republicans could be rewarded for accepting a shutdown as the price to pay for holding the line on spending and taxes.

"Especially if they come out ahead on this particular impasse," he said. "It'll look more favorable on the right than the left."

Radke thinks Republicans will be seen as following the will of the majority of Minnesotans.

"They're simply tired of this tax-and-spending way that we've been dealing with our government," he said. "They elected these guys to make this change. Now, they're making this change and it's come to a loggerhead. And so they're going to have to ride it out and go tough against the governor."

Radke expects there'll be growing pressure on both sides to get a budget deal done, though. Though he describes himself as conservative who usually votes Republican, Radke says he's open to a tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans.

Joe Miller
Joe Miller of Minneapolis, at a Dunn Brothers coffee shop in St. Paul on July 4, 2011. Miller says he's certainly aware of the state government shutdown, but it hasn't been a top-of-mind issue for him. He also hasn't decided who he thinks bears more responsibility for the situation -- Gov. Mark Dayton or GOP legislative leaders.
MPR Photo/Martin Moylan

"After a couple, three, four weeks, people are really going to get fed up with not having their services that they're paying for," he said. "We paid for them. We want them. We just can't operate like this. We can't afford one-twelfth of the year down."

Even some folks who lean left think Republicans could get a boost from the shutdown, with it standing as evidence of their fiscal and political resolve.

Paul Ziezulewicz of St. Paul voted for Gov. Dayton and feels Dayton has been willing to compromise on the budget. But he says Republicans seem to be more attuned to the political sentiments of most Minnesotans today.

"They have been succeeding with new politicians, with new legislators over the past few terms," he said. "The new younger anti-establishment candidates that have been winning over the few terms have been predominantly Republican."

Some people who think we could do with a lot less government are actually glad about the state shutdown.

I'm glad, because it just shows the rest of the people that life is going to go on as normal," said Greg Wesson of St. Paul, who describes himself as "ethically" a libertarian. "The earth is not going to spin off its axis."

Wesson says he doesn't see the shutdown as a party issue, but as a reflection of the need for state government live with the means of the people.

There are also voters who just wish both sides would find a way to do what they were elected to do -- govern the state effectively.

"I think it's childish what they're doing," said Tom Ferrell of St. Paul. "I think they should just get this done."

But who's Ferrell going to punish at the polls? "Well, I'm undecided right now," he said.

He's not alone. Joe Miller of Minneapolis says he's certainly aware of the shutdown, but it hasn't been a top-of-mind issue for him.

"I have the newspaper right there," he said. "But I just haven't really gotten around to reading too much lately, because I've had some other issues I've had to deal with."

Miller says it seems to him that most people are blaming Dayton. But he says he hasn't made up his mind.

If the shutdown goes on for long and inconveniences, irritates and maybe even harms more voters, they likely will be blaming someone. The question is whether the shutdown will be something they remember by the time the next election comes up.