DFL legislators embrace ‘socialist’ label GOP colleague lobbed at them in viral clip

Several DFL legislators openly embraced the "socialist" label that Sen. Jim Abeler used to describe them.

Republican Sen. Jim Abeler intimated that the vast majority of legislation passed by the DFL “trifecta” this spring was driven by a handful of “30-something, particularly progressive socialist women.” (Al Travis Show/Facebook)

Is describing a Democrat elected office holder as a socialist in 2023 a pejorative? A fair characterization? A compliment, perhaps? That seems to be in the eye of the beholder, at least for a handful of DFL legislators who embraced the label in recent days on social media. Credit for that goes to one of their Republican colleagues for getting the ball rolling.

A free-flowing conversation more than a month ago between a veteran legislator from Anoka and a Greater Minnesota radio talk show host turned into a quasi-viral moment captured by a progressive social media amplifier last week when Republican Sen. Jim Abeler intimated that the vast majority of legislation passed by the DFL “trifecta” this spring was driven by a handful of “30-something, particularly progressive socialist women.”

That analysis came during a commercial break on the Aug. 3 episode of the Al Travis Show, which can be heard on the Faribault-based KDHL station.

Travis, a longtime political talking head on television and radio in Greater Minnesota, interviewed Abeler during his Aug. 3 program. Travis books a wide range of Minnesota politicos for his program, both Democrats and Republicans. He also posts those interviews full-length and unedited on his Facebook page, even the “off air” moments where the veteran radio host occasionally chats with his guests during brief commercial breaks. That’s where Abeler’s comment, characterizing a handful of newer legislators who happen to be Democrats and female, came about.

“It’s lunacy,” Abeler said, describing the DFL “trifecta”-led legislative session. “These 30-something, particularly progressive, socialist women that are there, that’s what’s driving it. And the moderates went away. And if you want to have a good conversation, if he’d even talk to you, [DFL Sen.] John Hoffman, who has described himself to be a moderate, voted for everything that he was not going to vote for; every crazy idea, at the end, he stuck with the team, he was going to be Joe Manchin. I don’t know if you want to reach out to him, but it might be entertaining if he’d actually take your show and then ask him.”

While Hoffman appeared for two segments with Travis just four days later, the topic of Hoffman’s voting record never came up. That the DFL holds just a one-seat majority in the Senate has been a heavily-used talking point by Republicans who say the Democrats are overreaching with their DFL “trifecta” by passing legislation they never campaigned on.

It took about a month before someone representing the other side of the political aisle captured the Aug. 3 Abeler clip and amplified it on social media as a sort of “gotchya” tweet. The progressive social media account, Chicago-based Heartland Signal, tweeted the clip of Abeler, which amounts to 36 seconds. The clip has been viewed nearly 200,000 times on the social media platform owned by Elon Musk. And several of Abeler’s DFL colleagues took to social media to chastise Abeler’s comments while seemingly embracing the “socialist” descriptor.

“I feel so seen,” Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, tweeted in response to the Abeler clip.

“Thanks for the reminder Jim that I’m behind on my dues to @TwinPortsDSA (Twin Ports Democratic Socialists of America),” Sen. Jen McEwen, DFL-Duluth, tweeted.

Other social media responses from DFL legislators to the Abeler comment included:

Abeler declined to add any further comments when contacted by Alpha News. Neither Hoffman nor his legislative staff returned requests for comment.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.