“As one of the country’s largest granaries and dairies and indispensable iron ore, Minnesota held a prominent position among states when the war came. If we are to win, maximum production of her staples must be in every way stimulated.” Minnesota Commission of Public Safety – 1918
Clothed in the shroud of patriotism and economic development, Minnesota entered into its darkest political era with the establishment of the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety in 1917. This Commission was given broad powers, near martial law, to promote Minnesota production for the war effort and, sadly, to suppress political dissent. During the gubernatorial election of 1918 several state sanctioned efforts through that Commission were put into place to intimidate any candidate who took on an antiwar position.
Enter a political hero who chose to stand against political thuggery. You may not know that Charles Lindbergh Sr., father of the famous pilot, was the first to show bravery in the face of great odds, but his endeavor was over the stormy seas of Minnesota politics in 1918 as opposed his son’s endeavor over those of the Atlantic Ocean nearly a decade later. During an explosive agrarian grassroots political movement on the prairies of the Dakotas and Minnesota there arose a political group known as the Nonpartisan League. In 1916 they were successful in dramatically changing North Dakota’s state government and now the movement set their sights on Minnesota with its focus on the 1918 gubernatorial Republican primary.
Charles Lindbergh Sr. had distinguished himself in Congress as one of the loudest and persistent voices against America’s entry into World War I and what he viewed as a monopolistic takeover by large banks of American finances in the creation of the Federal Reserve. The Nonpartisan League put Lindberg forward as their candidate in the 1918 primary. In order to help throw the election, the Commission would send agents into communities in advance of Lindbergh on the campaign trail to incite local thugs to disrupt the rally of local farmers. For example, when he and his entourage exited the car at a theater in Cloquet to address a group of farmers, he found instead a mob of “patriots” that invaded the hall, keeping out the farmers while screaming anti-German slogans and caring ropes that threatened a lynching. When confronted on the street, Lindbergh coolly stared down the angry mob and commanded them to step aside. Amazingly the mob froze, giving him and his entourage time to escape Cloquet as their vehicles were pummeled with the stones.
Despite the state sanctioned thuggery, Lindbergh nearly won the Republican primary that year and helped launch a new political movement known as the Farmer Labor Party that would bring change to the course of Minnesota politics to this day.
Today we are fortunate to have another steely political hero in State Auditor Rebecca Otto. In her role as a member of the Minnesota Executive Council that must approve mineral leases, she recently had the audacity to challenge Minnesota’s mining industry. She voted against several leases for exploration of sulfide mining. She pointed out this new type of mining to Minnesota has proven highly risky in other areas of the country and world with significant water pollution, putting our precious lakes and rivers and the health of our communities at risk. As a result, a shadowy organization entitled “Dump Otto” has emerged in northeast Minnesota with campaign style signs and a website without any disclosure of who is paying for as required by law. Clearly this is an effort to intimidate Otto just like the mobs back in 1918.
Fortunately Otto has not backed down, but bravely outlined her position in the Star Tribune comment page. Back in the era of the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety, which was later found unconstitutional, this thuggery backfired on its proponents. Let’s make the same happen today by following Otto’s lead and be well educated on the subject of this dangerous new mining effort. Learn more by going to the Mining Truth website. Also, take some time to thank Otto for her courage. Minnesota needs more leaders like her.