I’ve lived in Minnesota for nearly a decade after residing in other Midwest states. The cultural divide here, as it is nationwide, is a chasm larger than I’ve ever seen — and it is growing.
While some good faith efforts at bridging the divide are attempted — say by Sen. Amy Klobuchar or Gov. Tim Walz — you still have many “Metrocrats” who rarely leave their echo chamber. Seldom do they venture north of Coon Rapids or west of Wayzata.
They simply don’t connect with a wide swath of Minnesotans.
“Minneapolis is out of touch” is a commonly heard refrain. Does it have merit? Complaints run the gamut.
Some feel shafted by big city politicians, by the Met Council or by an uneven distribution of tax dollars and overall public sector waste. Others are disturbed by a police officer shortage and growing crime in Minneapolis, including mob-style attacks this summer on vulnerable victims, which garnered national shame for our state.
Then there’s the Minneapolis 2040 development plan, which promotes “equitable growth.” Many consider this yet another starry-eyed endeavor to make the city even more congested while decreasing home values.
And finally, we have Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the Washington, D.C.-area native who arrived here in his 20s and went into community organizing before becoming a civil rights attorney.
Frey recently tripled his Twitter followers and earned national notoriety after saying President Donald Trump’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis” and then sending Trump a security bill for his rally 25 times higher than President Barack Obama received for a presidential visit.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board rightly took Frey to task for disrespecting his constituents, noting the mayor “had an opportunity to rise above partisan politics and showcase Minneapolis as a welcoming community — even for those with whom they disagree. It’s a shame he chose to convey a very different message.”
“All are welcome here” is a fashionable cliché in the Twin Cities. But does that include tolerating diverse political views? It’s unclear whether everyone realizes “612 values” don’t often connect in other parts of the Gopher State.
Regardless of age or race, how does the average St. Cloud or Mankato resident view profane riots after a presidential speech, with hooligans tossing urine, lighting fires and shouting at police? Most see this and shudder.
While there were peaceful protesters downtown after Trump spoke last month, organizers included “Black Lives Matter,” with its sordid history, and Antifa, a militant group known to cause destruction in major cities, assault journalists and shout down speakers.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and activist groups see white supremacists around every corner. But do they look in the mirror at the racial division and hyperpartisan fervor on their side?
The DFL may continue locking down votes around large cities. But Republicans recently won legislative seats on the Iron Range, as well as in the west and south, flipping seats from Albert Lea to Willmar.
This is due to the Metrocrats’ budget priorities and environmental platform, consistently opposing sensible projects that help Greater Minnesota, thereby alienating farmers and laborers. It’s due to a wrongheaded push to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This doesn’t appeal to people who want jobs, better roads, prosperous farms and support the police and our military.
The divide is also cultural.
In addition to Omar’s offensive rants, the Twin Cities’ identity politics obsession, commonly replete with accusations of “white privilege,” doesn’t sit well with people struggling to make ends meet. Multimillionaire scions like former Gov. Mark Dayton, lecturing as he did four years ago that “Minnesota is not like it was 50 years ago and anybody who cannot accept [immigrants’] right to be here, should find another state” are the ones who are intolerant and divisive.
The Trump campaign anticipates deploying over 100 paid staff across the state by summer, while the Minnesota GOP has never been this motivated to flip the state. Statistically, there is reason for this confidence.
In 2016, Trump lost Minnesota by only 44,000 votes, winning 90% of the counties. Some muse that without IP candidate Evan McMullin receiving 53,000 votes as an alternative, Trump could have won the state. This is the closest a Republican presidential candidate has come to turning Minnesota red since Ronald Reagan lost to Walter Mondale by only 3,500 votes.
Minnesotans fed up with moral preening and disconnected politicians believe that the slogan “a vote for Trump is a vote against Minneapolis” will work next November.
Time will tell.
Ari Kaufman lives in St. Cloud.