Monday, October 15, 2018
How the rural-urban divide is changing the Democratic Party in Minnesota
The Democratic Party has been losing rural voters for years, most notably in the 2016 election when rural voters came out en masse for Republican Donald Trump. Even in Minnesota, usually rock-solid blue, the tension between rural and urban residents is eroding the Democrats' rural support.
The Democratic Party's hold on Minnesota is formidable, in part because the state-level party merged with the Farmer-Labor Party long ago to create a populist powerhouse. "Republicans have not won Minnesota’s electoral votes since 1972. No Republican candidate running for a U.S. Senate seat or the governorship has won more than 50 percent of the vote since Arne Carlson in 1994," Reid Wilson reports for The Hill. "President Trump lost Minnesota by just 45,000 votes in 2016, the closest any Republican has come to winning the state since Ronald Reagan’s re-election bid in 1984. Trump became the first Republican to win parts of Minnesota’s Iron Range, like Itasca County in the northeast corner of the state, since Herbert Hoover in 1928." Trump won 19 Minnesota counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
The big problem for the DFL Party: Rural people worry that it doesn't care enough about blue-collar workers and farmers. Obama limited copper and nickel mining in the Iron Range, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law requiring farmers to leave a buffer of up to 50 feet between fields and waterways to limit fertilizers pollution, reducing the land cash-strapped farmers could use. "You’ve lost productivity, the ability to raise a crop," Kevin Paap, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer in Blue Earth County and the president of the state Farm Bureau, told Wilson. "Many feel like it was a taking."
"The far left is trying to stop [blue collar] jobs. You can't tell people you're for them when your party is trying to take away jobs," Jason George, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, a mining union, told Wilson. "Minnesota is emblematic of the problem that Democrats have around the rest of the country." The DFL, he said, "has abandoned the F and the L."