The state of Minnesota has been a Democratic stronghold for decades, but one curiosity out of the Gopher State hasn’t escaped the notice of political observers: President Donald Trump and Republicans have made inroads in an unusual part of the state.
The Iron Range in the northeastern part of Minnesota is strongly Democratic territory — or Democratic-Farmer-Labor, as Minnesota’s state affiliate of the Democratic Party calls itself.
The times there are a-changin’, partially due to the fact that the president is pro-mining in an area not known as the “Iron Range” for nothing. And Trump’s support for a “massive” nickel and copper project in the region has helped that change come about.
“A place that once gave Democratic native sons Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale 4-1 voting wins and considers the late Sen. Paul Wellstone a local hero has begun to embrace a president who bears little resemblance to them, except that he reversed the ‘injustice’ of an Obama-era order that would have brought the nickel-copper project to a 20-year standstill,” liberal outlet Politico reported in March.
“On top of that were the 25 percent tariffs Trump imposed on most foreign steel, which provided an initial boost to the 5,000 miners still employed in the region’s numerous iron-ore mines that have served as the backbone to the region’s economy.”
This, Politico said, “makes Minnesota the president’s top target among states he lost in 2016 — and potentially a pivot point in the 2020 presidential race. Trump lost the state by 45,000 votes in 2016, a remarkable feat considering how entrenched Democrats have been in the state.”
If you want one person who represents this transformation, it’s Bob Vlaisavljevich.
Vlaisavljevich is the Democratic mayor of Eveleth. It is, as he described it during his speech for the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, “a small town in the Iron Range of Minnesota.”
Not only does he credit President Trump with restoring the region’s economic prosperity, he said Democratic nominee Joe Biden is “too weak, too scared, and too sleepy to stand up to the radical left.”
Full video here:
“My father and grandfather earned their livings mining the raw materials that made the steel that built America. This election is a make or break for workers who are carrying on the legacy of men like them,” he said.
For generations, Vlaisavljevich said in the speech, Minnesotans needed representation in Washington and “looked to Democrats to fill that void for many years because we actually thought they cared about our welfare.”
It’s clear, given current Democratic antipathy toward mining causes, that that’s no longer the case, Vlaisavljevich said.
“The radical environmental movement has dragged the Democratic Party so far to the left, they can no longer claim to be advocates of the working man,” he said.
“This is hard for me to say because I am a lifelong Democrat. But for far too long, members of both parties allowed our country to be ripped off by our trading partners, especially China, who dumped steel into our markets and slapped tariffs on our products. And what did so-called leaders like Joe Biden do? Nothing.”
The story was the same in the Iron Range as it was in a whole swath of industrial communities across America, as Vlaisavljevich described it. They “lost thousands of jobs” and “a generation of young people who had to leave the Iron Range to find a livelihood.”
“Worst of all, we lost hope,” the mayor said.
“Then something unexpected happened: The street-talking New Yorker burst onto the scene, promising to stand up to China and the rest of the world on behalf of the American worker. Four years later, the Iron Range is roaring back to life, and we have one man to thank, President Donald Trump. He made good on his promises by cutting our taxes, rolling back senseless regulations, and delivering trade deals that put America’s interests first.”
However, that resurgence is at risk, Vlaisavljevich says, due to Biden’s willingness to work with the far left to craft his environmental policies.
“Joe Biden has allowed radicals like [New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] to craft his environmental policies. Their so-called Green New Deal is a job-killing disgrace dreamt up by people who don’t live in the real world. But Biden is too weak, too scared, and too sleepy to stand up to the radical left. He has been doing nothing in Washington for 47 years. Why would Year 48 be any different?”
Of course, it won’t just be “Year 48” Americans need to worry about if Biden is elected. If he completes his first term, it’ll be 52 years in Washington for a man whose sagging sails are rigged to catch the breeze of the moment.
Even if it were Biden crafting his own environmental policy, it would just end up being a melange of the Obama-era environmental policies that decimated industrial communities, and the kind of and desultory learn-to-code job training programs liberals claimed would revitalize these economies. (Spoiler alert: They didn’t.)
Trump’s targeting of Minnesota may yet fall short, since generations of political tradition are tough to overcome. However, the political calculus in the Iron Range has changed in a generational way.
Democrats — in Minnesota and beyond — don’t quite understand the implications of that yet. They will.