What does DFL stand for?
We received an email this morning from a new resident of our state who wondered why the Democratic Party is referred to as the DFL in Minnesota. She wanted to know if the party is any different here than it is in other states.
Good question. Those of us who've grown up in this state or are longtime residents just take it for granted that everyone understands that the DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor Party) is our term for the Democratic Party in this state. It's essentially no different than the Democratic Party in any other state. But it's been called the DFL in Minnesota since 1944, when the Democratic Party merged with an influential third-party in the state, the Farmer Labor Party.
The Farmer Labor Party was created in 1918, when some Minnesotans — many of them blue collar workers and farmers who felt disenfranchised by the two major parties — banded together to form their own party. The Farmer Labor movement eventually expanded to other states, but it was strongest in Minnesota, where it became strong political force.
Floyd B. Olson became the first Farmer Labor Party governor of Minnesota, serving as the state's chief executive from 1931-36. Olson was a handsome, articulate and nationally respected governor who was being mentioned in the mid-'30s as a possible presidential candidate. But in 1935 he was diagnosed at Mayo Clinic with stomach cancer and died at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester in 1936. He was 44.
Two more Farmer Labor governors were later elected, as were four U.S. senators and eight congressmen.
In 1944, Hubert Humphrey successfully pushed the two parties into talks that resulted in their merger. It's been the DFL ever since.
Next history lesson: What happened to Minnesota's Independent-Republican Party?