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Party rifts won’t remain hidden for long

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United. That seemed to be the rallying cry and the buzz phrase of the weekend in Duluth for DFLers gathered for their party’s convention. They emerged united behind Gov. Mark Dayton and united with Sen. Al Franken in their bids for re-election. And they certainly presented a united front as Minnesota heads into campaign season.

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All according to plan. “Our party is going to come out of this weekend unified and energized,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin told the News Tribune Opinion page Friday on the eve of the convention. The script was set.

And when it hit a snag, as it did over the issue of copper mining, party leaders simply plowed under the issue rather than discussing it and debating it — and risking coming off as anything but all-for-one.

Although the platform proposal on mining was, in the words of Martin, “neither pro-mining nor pro-environment,” but a “statement that our party supports mining as long as it’s done in an environmentally friendly manner,” and even though a statement as innocuous as that probably is about where “the vast majority of Minnesotans are on this issue,” the DFLers pushed it aside. They refused to take a stand, even a wishy-washy one, on an issue as big to us in Northeastern Minnesota as any open-pit mine.

But buried or not, the issue of mining — and its divide in the party — is still there. It’s simmering. It’s threatening to explode at the worst possible moment for Minnesota’s Democrats.

United? Not as united as party leaders want voters to believe.

Republicans aren’t immune from this, either, of course. They have their far-right extremists just as Democrats clearly have an extreme-left environmental faction. It’s on voters to demand clear stands on mining and other issues from the candidates — and not from the candidates’ parties.

It’s also on voters to reject claims from either side of unwavering unity. It sounds good, sure, but it’s not realistic. And when such claims suppress controversial subjects, they’re more of a ticking time bomb. — Duluth News Tribune

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