Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is the Anti-DeSantis. Dems should take note.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beat/Reuters

When he signed an executive order Wednesday that makes Minnesota a sanctuary state for anyone seeking gender-affirming care, Governor Tim Walz he was talking about those who are behind the bans instituted in other states.

“It’s run by bullies, and I say this as a teacher, we can’t tolerate 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 supporters of the ban, “Nothing to gain for themselves, without following any factual data, and essentially using the state apparatus to bring cruelty.”

On the same day, the state legislature in adjacent Iowa passed a similar ban Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had instituted through a Florida compliant medical board. The Iowa measure only had Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature when DeSantis arrived in his 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.

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

Reynolds said he will be “thrilled” to join Trump when he visits Iowa on Monday. The question is how many other Iowans will be there. Trump could be left as what he is: a pasty, elderly bully of a more narcissistic variety, whose lies are growing increasingly desperate and whose legal problems will lead to one or more indictments.

With the prospect of DeSantis winning the GOP nomination, Biden will look decrepit by comparison. A common complaint among Democrats is that there isn’t someone younger and more vital to support. But 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 really believe.

In addition to being someone who can talk about schools as a former teacher, Walz can lead the way as a retired master sergeant used to doing what needs to be done from his two decades in the Guard National.

He reacted with the stubbornness of a veteran NCO afterward Minnesota police killed George Floyd in May 2020; he called a special session of the legislature in 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 the Minnesota legislature for the first time in nine years. Walz joined the House and Senate leadership to set in motion a wide range of progressive reforms. The first priority was to guarantee a woman’s right to choose an abortion and access to a wide range of reproductive health care.

On January 31, Walz signed the Protection of Reproductive Choices Act. “The message we’re sending to Minnesota today is very clear: Your rights are protected in this state,” he said. “Today we are making good on our promise to put up a firewall against efforts to curtail reproductive freedom.”

Walz spoke about his state in almost the same tone that DeSantis does about Florida. The two men also often talk about rights and freedoms, although DeSantis means only for some people, while Walz means for everyone.

For example, on March 3, Walz signed a bill that would make 55,000 felons eligible to vote after serving time.

“We’re taking action to ensure that thousands of Minnesotans who have served time for their crimes can vote — a fundamental, inalienable right,” he tweeted. “Here in Minnesota, we are 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 driver’s licenses. He tweeted, “Making sure Minnesota drivers are licensed and carry insurance makes the roads safer for everyone.”

And on March 8, he signed an executive order guaranteeing that sex-affirmation care will remain available in Minnesota. The order also guaranteed legal protection for those out of state seeking such care in Minnesota.

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

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

With his executive order nine days later, Walz proved that these are not just words. It also showed that the Democrats do, in fact, have an alternative that can stand up to any bully that the Republicans nominate.

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