As recent events have caused the eyes of the nation and the world to focus on Minnesota, a question I’ve wondered about has resurfaced: Why is Minnesota so politically radical?
That Minnesota’s politics are radical is seen in a simple survey of the state’s prominent politicians. Both of Minnesota’s two U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, are decidedly left-of-center Democrats. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz can be seen on TV inciting Black Lives Matter (BLM) crowds and rioters in situations that would seem to call for restoring civil peace.
Keith Ellison, the state’s Attorney General, is an enthusiastic backer of Antifa and a convert to a black nationalist form of Islam. Ellison was an outspoken fan of Mark Bray’s The Anti-Fascist Handbook. With its call for revolutionary violence, Minnesota’s chief law enforcement official has glowingly displayed Bray’s book as his preferred reading material.
And let’s not forget Ilhan Omar, the radical leftist Congresswoman from Minneapolis, who expresses support for Islamicists. Omar personifies what the French call “islamo-gauchistes,” political figures who blend Western cultural radicalism with effusive sympathy for Muslim Fundamentalists.
One may be tempted to attribute this political radicalism to the black population in Minnesota, which votes heavily for the left and which is quite visible in and around the Twin Cities. But since there were only 382,612 black residents in the Gopher State in 2018 out of a total population of 5.61 million, this variable doesn’t explain the situation fully. By comparison, neighboring Wisconsin had very similar numbers, with 389,652 blacks out of a total state population of 5.81 million in the same year. We might also note that since blacks have a much younger median age than whites, they may be less likely to belong to Minnesota’s voting population.
Most of the state’s radicalism, then, is a white phenomenon, and the explanation for this carries us back into Minnesota’s political and cultural history, where Northern European Protestants have long perpetuated this radical tradition. The Scandinavian and (to a lesser extent) German populations that settled in this region were heavily influenced by European socialism. The creation of a social welfare state in Sweden in the 1920s, which aimed at reconstructing social relationships as well as redistributing income, made a favorable impression on Minnesotans.
Norway also influenced the state, with 1960s Minnesota Governor Karl F. Rolvaag, who was of Norwegian descent, touring that country after World War II to learn about its socialist state and economy.