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Ellison grew up in Detroit, the child of a psychiatrist and a social worker. He studied economics at Wayne State University before law school at the University of Minnesota. He practiced law in Minneapolis.
At 49, he’s written an autobiography, “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” that is due out in September. He hopes the book’s concepts of economic justice will “galvanize and influence large sections of Americans.”
Ellison insists the book presages no push for higher office. He says he’s happy to stay in a House seat considered one of the safest in Congress.
“We have two excellent senators. We have a great governor,” he said. “I support them.”
Ornstein does not think Ellison is viable for national office. But by becoming broader based and more practical, Ornstein said, Ellison could help shape the national economic debate.
On a recent day, Ellison hopscotched across the nation’s capital from a fair-wage rally to a youth economic policy forum at the AFL-CIO to a gathering of senior citizens fighting Social Security cuts.
“I don’t see myself as simply being a lone voice in the wilderness,” he said.
He will always be sensitive to matters of race and religion. But as he told a young black activist at the youth employment forum, “you live in more of a multicultural world than your ancestors.”
In an interview, Ellison was even more frank.
“You can’t move the political paradigm toward a fairer model of economic distribution without talking to the white middle class,” he said. “I believe you can solve a whole lot of problems if working people have a decent income.”
Jim Spencer • 612-673-4503