Pain and Progress after the Election


Pain and progress after the election

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Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Like millions of Americans, I’m feeling considerable pain about the election. I also hope that President Donald Trump and others who’ve been elected will produce progress. Despite my deep disappointment with some results, I think that a number of terrific people were elected in Minnesota, both Republicans and DFLers, who have modeled collaboration and respect that helps improve the lives of youngsters and families. Their actions can serve as national models.

Fortunately Minnesotans re-elected many legislators who have shown a willingness and ability to work across party lines to get valuable things done. Here are a few examples:

–Sen. Greg Clausen, of Apple Valley, a DFLer, and Republicans Sen. Carla Nelson, of Rochester, and Rep. Ron Kresha, Little Falls, have worked skillfully to help expand dual-credit opportunities.

–Rep. Roz Peterson, of Lakeville, a Republican, and Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, worked with DFLers, business and union leaders to obtain start-up funds for “teacher-led” district public schools.

–Republicans Rep. Jenifer Loon, of Eden Prairie, Rep. Sondra Erickson, of Princeton, Sen. Roger Chamberlain, Lino Lakes, and Rep. Bob Dettmer, Forest Lake, have been advocates of strong early childhood options as well as district and charter public school options. So have DFL Sens. Melisa Franzen, of Edina, and Ann Rest, of New Hope, and Reps. Carlos Mariani, of St. Paul, and David Bly, Northfield.

Will Trump display a similar, collaborative attitude? Will he continue the gracious tone of his election night speech in which he promised to be “the president of all Americans” and praised Secretary Clinton? Or will he continue to criticize many loyal Americans from various racial and religious groups? Will he follow up on his pledge to prosecute Clinton? How will he treat women?

Will he bring Americans of different viewpoints together to find things we can agree on that will help solve the significant problems? One person he might reach out to and appoint is Minnesota state Sen. Terri Bonoff, who was a visionary bipartisan leader in K-12 and higher education.

A model for what Trump and other elected leaders might do was on display Nov. 5.

Almost 200 Minnesota parents, grandparents, students and educators from across the state met to develop ways that more students can participate successfully in dual-credit opportunities.

Twenty-five groups – rural, urban, suburban, district and charter, community, education and business – helped plan the meeting. The Carlson Family Foundation, Generation Next, Wilder Foundation and Holman Fund of the St. Paul Foundation made the meeting, in which our center was involved, possible.

Nov. 5 meeting participants identified many areas of strong agreement and a few disagreements. But everyone shared and listened respectfully. Because there was so much useful information shared, a follow-up meeting already is being planned.

This kind of openness contrasts with some senior higher education leaders in Minnesota who have so far declined requests from community, business and educator leaders to meet. Frustration with leaders, who some felt were not listening, helped produce Trump’s victory.

The late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s first Senate election reminds me in some ways of the 2016 presidential election. In each case, a brash, outspoken, passionate person who challenged conventional wisdom won an unexpected victory. There are many differences between Wellstone and Trump. But I think one lesson from their victories is that citizens who feel leaders are not listening will find ways to be heard.

We’ll see what President-elect Trump does. Meanwhile, I think we’re fortunate to have elected a number of state legislators who put parents, students and the state – rather than their party – first.


Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is director of the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at