MOORHEAD, Minn. — Minnesota Democrats get beat up because they've largely lost rural voters. I've joined in the beating. When DFL state senators replaced Tom Bakk (rural) with Susan Kent (suburban) as their leader a couple of years ago, I opined that Democrats were openly abandoning outstate Minnesota.
This is a national narrative, too. For four years, political reporters have traveled to rural areas to talk with supporters of Donald Trump and find out why they love him and why so many have staked their fortunes to the Republican Party.
The stories all have the same tack: What can Democrats do to win back rural voters?
The onus is always put on Democrats to change their ways.
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Should the Minnesota Republican Party continue to be the party of Donald Trump?
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Perhaps it's time to turn the question around.
Maybe it's time to ask what Republicans are doing to win over urban and suburban voters.
That holds true in Minnesota, too. And the answer here, frankly, is nothing.
Even though the last time a Republican won a statewide office was 2006, and even though Trump didn't capture more than 45% of Minnesota's vote in two presidential elections, the GOP has focused its efforts on winning rural voters while ignoring the fastest-growing areas of the state like the Twin Cities metro and small outstate cities such as Moorhead and Rochester.
The conservative party that couldn't win statewide elections decided to become more conservative and sell its soul to a national candidate who can't win Minnesota.
Is it possible Republicans spent the last four years staking their entire election strategy on Trump-loving white rural voters who a) are declining in number and b) won’t turn out if Trump isn’t on the ticket?
Seems likely. In a recent Forum Communications Co.-sponsored legislative discussion, Republican leaders Sen. Paul Gazelka and Rep. Kurt Daudt doubled-down on Trump's claims of election fraud — even after the terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.
They also continued their attacks on DFL Gov. Tim Walz's COVID playbook.
GOP strategy looks obvious: Ride Trumpism and fight masks. Neither is likely to increase Republican support where they need it — the metro and small cities.
Maybe if Republicans disassociated themselves from a racist, misogynist, serial liar of a president whose approval has cratered the last couple of weeks because he incited an attempted coup of our government, they'd have a shot to gain popularity where they need it.
The conundrum, of course, is that if they do that, Republicans will lose support in the rural areas they've worked so hard to dominate.
It's quite a bed the Minnesota GOP has made for itself.
Far be it from somebody who leans left to tell Republicans what to do, but maybe somebody in the party needs to ask how they can become more popular among city-dwelling voters who aren't into conspiracy theories and racism.
Nowhere is there evidence Minnesota Republicans are questioning how to attract voters who aren't white, aging and rural. Doesn't seem wise, but we probably shouldn't expect wisdom from a party that continues to be all-in on the seditious loser who is Trump.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655