There is more that connects us than divides us as Minnesotans. We share countless needs in common, but this reality gets challenged during election season. Corporations with big money are again intentionally trying to turn us against one another based on what we look like and where we live.
I live in rural Minnesota. I grew up in a town of 700 people and have served both as a pastor and a state legislator for small communities. I've talked to Minnesotans, and I've heard Minnesota values expressed in these conversations. Deep down we care about others and want to see everyone succeed.
What gives me hope is that despite efforts to divide us, Minnesotans can and do rise above divisive politics to find solutions that work for all of us. We are far from perfect, but I've seen Minnesotans choose to stand together across our differences and stand up to those in power.
In the race for Minnesota attorney general, we're being served an extra helping of fear and division politics. The fear mongering and scare tactics being used against Attorney General Keith Ellison are desperate and ugly, and they are being funded by the same large corporations that Ellison as attorney general has been holding accountable.
The disingenuous ads flooding our state supporting Ellison's opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, drip with dog-whistle racism and play on people's fears.
The strategy is clear: distract and divide. Suggest that Ellison, as an African American and Muslim, isn't "one of us," and by association, that other African Americans and Muslims aren't really Minnesotans either.
I recently gathered with Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith leaders from across the state to demand that Schultz denounce these ads and take them down. Our message is simple. When politicians resort to fear and division, we all lose. This kind of politics isn't good for us. What often goes under the radar is that large corporations bankroll these messages that tear us apart.
These racist ads against Ellison are being funded by the Republican Attorney General's Association. This organization is funded by large corporations, like oil and natural gas companies, big drug companies, gun manufacturers and others, that Ellison as attorney general has been fighting in order to protect Minnesotans.
The top theme I've heard talking to voters at the door this cycle is how exhausted we all are by fear and division politics, politics that pits rural against urban, preventing us from coming together when we know we must. We need to stand together and stand against the politicians and big corporate backers who employ these tactics. Greed is behind it, the sort of greed that our faith traditions tell us is a deadly sin.
As a white person from rural Minnesota, it's frustrating to know these dog whistles are created in many ways for people in my communities. Rather than helping us do the needed work of building bridges across race, they are designed to turn neighbors into enemies, reducing our ability to act together and be powerful together. We build the power to get solutions on climate change, affordable health care, eliminating gun violence and more, as people stand together and demand it.
It's not surprising that big corporations that profit from our problems are trying to keep us divided. Their support for someone like Schultz for attorney general shows us what is really happening in this race. Corporations believe he will protect them, when the purpose of the attorney general is to protect the people of Minnesota. And if scorched-earth politics is what is needed to get their guy elected, so be it.
I'm confident, though, that rural communities like mine, and our whole state, can see through this. We know Minnesotans must be better than this kind of politics. When the Schultz campaign and the large corporations behind it resort to racist dog whistles and try to fan the flames of fear, we all lose.
We are not powerless. We can show we are greater than fear by sending the message that in Minnesota, dividing is disqualifying. Our statewide leaders must work for all Minnesotans: Black, white and brown, rural and urban. No exceptions.
Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield, is a member of the Minnesota House and a minister in the United Church of Christ.