Iron Range is perfect example of how all politics is local

President Trump is heading to Minnesota’s Iron Range for a Wednesday evening rally, which had to be moved to a larger venue because so many people wanted to attend.

That’s not particularly noteworthy, but this factoid from today’s Star Tribune assessment of the region still is: the Iron Range is Trump country. Historians will tell you that the politically volatile Iron Range once put the blue in a blue state. The DFL could always count on the Range.

Those days are over.

“Obviously the entire economy up here rotates around the mines. So if the mines are doing good, then we all do good,” Erik Leitz, who opened the BoomTown Brewery & Woodfire Grill in Hibbing six months ago, tells the Strib.

The paper’s poll in January found 70 percent support for Trump, and there’s a fair chance the number would be higher today because of the trade wars that have been sold as helping the mines of the Range, even though the paper reports the fallout could hurt some industries there.

Republican politicians who might have considered distancing themselves from the president in the past, are jockeying to get on the stage in Duluth this evening.

“I don’t know what my role is going be,” said state Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, to the Pioneer Press. She’s running for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat. “I would love to get on stage with the president and have a chance to address the crowd. But I just don’t know.”

For sure, there’s still some blue to be found in the 8th District: Duluth, certainly. But the Range’s latest pivot is even taking DFL politicians with it, as Sen. Tina Smith’s Senate amendment of a land swap to help the PolyMet sulfide mine project would seem to suggest. That ticked off a reliably DFL base: environmentalists.

But the Iron Range is much like America itself. No matter what is shown on TV that’s happening between families seeking refuge in the United States, if the times are good in the wallet, politicians and voters can shake just about anything else off.

Related: Duluth restaurants face backlash for hosting Fox News (Duluth News Tribune)

  • Gary F

    It will be interesting to see what happens this fall in the MN 1st and 8th Congressional districts. Even more interesting to see what happens when Colin Peterson retires.

  • I hope visiting “up north” this season doesn’t start to feel like an incursion into enemy territory. If all it takes is a temporarily good economy to ignore the trainwreck in Washington, the morning hangover will be epic.

    • Rob

      My 401K is busy thanking T.Rump’s Brown Shirtish policies for erasing all of the stock market’s YTD gains.

      • My 401K feels your 401K’s pain.

      • Jeff C.

        If you are blaming Trump for erasing the YTD gains, are you also crediting him for the market’s surge in late ’17 and early ’18?

        • Rob

          Nope. That was momentum from pre-T.Rump era. The current drop is directly related to The Trumpster Fire-In Chief’s whackoid tarriff wars.

          • Jeff C.

            Wha? Look at the graph of the Dow since the end of the last recession (January 2009) and have the scale be logarithmic. Ignoring the short-term ups and downs, the slope of the line is very consistent. The momentum hasn’t really changed since Oct. 2009. Yes, Trump has done a lot of bad things, but causing the drop in your 401k isn’t one of them.

            http://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart

          • Rob

            You make my point. The momentum started in 2009. There was no T.Rump bump, but the recent volatility and gain wipeouts can be laid right at The Trumpster Fire-In-Chief’s White House door.

        • As Kai Ryssall likes to say to attempts to assign credit and blame for short term market swings: “the market goes up. The market goes down.”

        • jon

          I’ll give him credit for the surge in jan ’18 that was driven by the irresponsible tax breaks… because that was the first real change from the obama years (Though really credit goes to Paul Ryan more than Trump…) but since that has all been lost at the moment the economic reports came out after the tax break were in place I suspect that credit nill…. effectively I give trump credit for turning a upward trending market into a flat one.

          BUT I’ll also credit trump with the inflating deficits and national debt caused by those same tax breaks.

          • Sonny T

            A surging economy can quickly wipe out the deficits, as it did for Bill Clinton.

          • Jeff

            That’s a part of the story. It was also tax increases mostly for the wealthy and budget balancing. None of this of course happened in the latest tax cut.
            https://www.factcheck.org/2008/02/the-budget-and-deficit-under-clinton/

          • Sonny T

            Thanks, but the article cited is very distorted. The tax increases were modest (which the article accurately points out), but these had virtually nothing to do with the deficits. Simple math reveals this.

            You could tax us from here to kingdom come and you wouldn’t scratch the deficit. Not without growth.

          • jon

            Or we could just slash military spending to a rate of the next largest military budget in the world and eliminate the deficit immediately, and wipe out the national debt in about 20-30 years… (last time I ran the numbers, which was before the tax cuts.)

          • Jeff

            I thought factcheck.org was unbiased. The point being that massive tax cuts and dramatic increases in spending did not lead to the elimination of the budget deficit. Increasing revenues and constraining the budget did (in addition to a strong economy).

          • Sonny T

            Quoting the article: “An EQUALLY (referring to tax increases, emphasis mine) if not more powerful influence was the booming economy…”

            Equally? A fine piece of wordsmithing here. Again, tax increases had almost nothing to do with retiring the national debt.

            Factcheck is pretty reliably left-leaning.

          • Jeff

            Can you substantiate your claim? From what I can tell Factcheck.org is rather well-regarded, e.g., https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/fact-check-resources/.

            FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Fact Check is similar to Politifact in their coverage and they provide excellent details. The only drawback is they lack the simplicity of Politifact.

          • Sonny T

            Again, the tax increase had little to nothing to do with retiring the debt, and Factcheck is playing partisan word games to imply that it did.

          • Jeff

            If you can provide some evidence rather than stating this categorically, that would be great. But that wasn’t my point, increasing revenues and holding down the budget was the formula for eliminating the deficit during this time. It was not solely the economy. Decreasing revenues, hoping for economic expansion, and increasing spending is what we’re doing now.

          • Sonny T

            As for evidence it’s simple math. What was the tax increase, a few percentage points? On select taxpayers? At pre-boom performance levels the effect would be minimal, as it would be today.

            We don’t know what’s going to happen. But with a Clinton-esque boom, say goodbye to the deficit.

          • Jeff

            Well, if you don’t want to be bothered to look it up, I won’t either. Otherwise, it’s conjecture at best.

          • Sonny T

            Why goof around with the internet. Let’s just look at today:

            US Debt: 20 trillion
            Taxpayers: 140 million

            Even if we taxed everyone $10,000 more a year, an impossibility, it would take how many years to retire 20 trillion? And don’t forget, the deficit is growing several trillion every year.

        • Erik Petersen

          I’ve made 30% in my IRA since April 24th. Buy quality stocks on trade war panic selloffs, sell when things stabilize…. repeat.

          • Sonny T

            What? The market’s up 1 % in that time period. How’s this possible?

          • The high water market of the S&P 500 was in mid-January.

          • Erik Petersen

            Its possible because its volatile and there’s a pattern to it + compounding.

            Not for everyone though.

          • Sonny T

            See my question for Bob. 30 % in a market that has 1% growth will put you on a yacht in the Riviera pretty quick.

          • Erik Petersen

            I’m not going to espouse trading around like some hokey slick exploitational talk radio ad…. There’s a reason that the most prudential wisdom is to buy and hold. BUT…. One can trade around in volatility, WITHIN QUALITY STOCKS, and have great returns in a short time.

            I’ll never buy a yacht and I’ll never manage anyone else’s money and obviously the greater a nestegg I have the more risk there is in taking single positions.

          • Sonny T

            I WANT IN. Except I have no money.

            Whenever the market plunges I always tell the person I live with, “Good thing we have no money.” She’s not impressed 🙂

          • Erik Petersen

            Well, that’s basically the core peice of insight. Buy on pullbacks.

            Sell off when volatility swings to the upside and has provided you with a return that would otherwise be considered good for an entire year.

            Repeat.

          • Not on a $6500 annual contribution limit it won’t.

          • Even though I’m close to retirement, I converted a small piece to a Roth, then loaded it up with health care and IT funds figuring I’d just make it an all-out agressive mood.

            Ditto on the 30%. The rest of the portfolio is fine too.

          • Sonny T

            What?? Even hedge fund managers, taking enormous risks, can’t claim anything like that. What health care or IT fund is up 30%?

            I’ll become a Democrat for that 🙂

  • Gary F

    I see March for Our Lives will be in town this week. Will they be holding a rally in the 8th District? Will David Hogg be coming to campaign in the First and Eighth Districts?

    • Jerry

      Why? Are you looking for a chance bully a shooting survivor too?

      • Gary F

        Just wondering how the anti-NRA narrative will sell for the candidates in those districts. That’s all.

        • Jerry

          It depends whether they value their guns more than their children. Sadly, I know the answer.

    • Rob

      Will you attend the rally if there is one? Will you go see David Hogg speak if he comes? We await your answers with bated breath.

      • Gary F

        If he speaks in the Twin Cities I would try to see his rally.

  • AL287

    The looming trade war will likely play a role in both the 1st and the 8th district because of the steel tariffs and the loss of international markets in agricultural products, especially soybeans.

    Why any blue collar mine worker or farmer would continue to vote Republican clearly against their own interests is beyond me.

    It remains to be seen how many more top Republicans will break ranks with Trump over trade and immigration policies.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      Certain sectors of the American population have been voting against their interests for at least as long as I have been able to vote and that’s pushing 40 years.

      Trade and immigration won’t be the cause of top Republicans breaking ranks (if they haven’t already). It’s more likely if some of the witch hunts actually turn up a broomstick or two that will cause them to wonder about what they are doing. (or simply bail out if they haven’t already.)

  • >>“I don’t know what my role is going be,” said state Sen. Karin Housley<<

    I'm pretty sure that role can be summed up by the word, "sycophant."

    • Rob

      I was thinking feckless toadie, but sycophant works.

    • RBHolb

      I’ll go with “coward.” She can neither distance herself nor embrace him, so she will make a spectacle of doing nothing.

      • Sonny T

        This is not accurate. She has been a consistent supporter.

        • RBHolb

          How is that going to play with the Trump-skeptics or anti-Trumpers?

          • Sonny T

            An excellent question. THE question for the coming mid-terms.

            My take? Republicans who go all in on Trump win. Those who don’t, lose.

          • RBHolb

            She has to win the Metro to win a statewide election.

          • Sonny T

            Just like the presidential election, it will be a nail-biter. IF she goes all in. If not, no chance.

    • Jeff

      She is critical of the family separation policy and said she would mention this to Trump if she gets a chance. I’m sure he will bow to her considerable influence.

  • Rob

    //If the times are good in the wallet, politicians and voters can shake just about anything off.// We have well and truly lost our way.

    • NG

      I think this has been reiterated a number of times. I think it was once stated this way: “It’s the economy, st#pid.”

  • The Resistance

    In these debates, it’s important to understand that America
    is no longer a democracy. It retains the historical trappings of a democratic
    republic, but has gradually transformed into a disunited plutocracy.

    While the American experiment was once a model for other
    nations, there are very few countries that want to emulate a democratic
    republic in which the losing party retains the executive branch of government ,
    then used that power to illegally control the judicial branch of government, and also to manipulate the electoral framework to control the legislative branch of government and state and local offices.

    Once that occurred, the plutocratic ruling class further divided the electorate by promoting racial, economic, and social divides, which paved the way for leadership by a demagogue.

    The founding fathers warned us to be aware of this possibility, but we chose to ignore that message. Rather than protect ourselves against this threat, we collectively opted to stop participating in democracy, which further allowed the plutocratic class to become entrenched.

    Madison, in Federalist 14, warned (possibly predicted) that wealthy
    citizens (and presumably wealthy corporations) and other anti-republican forces will seek “to weaken their opponents by…taking advantage of all prejudices, local, political, and occupational, that may prevent or disturb a general coalition of
    sentiments.”

    What does all this blather have to do with the 8th district? Not much. Except that those who believe in a democratic republic need to participate in its survival and be aware that if they support plutocracy and demagogues they are actively participating in liberal democracy’s collapse. It’s the role of anti-plutocratic forces (presumably the Democrats?) to sound the alarm bell. Amy, Tina, Mark, Collin, etc. that should be you. And citizens need to participate in the re-establishment of democracy. Minnesotans do better than most. But for the most part, I hear crickets with feeble voices.

    • AL287

      Sadly, it will take another looming Great Recession (or God help us a Great Depression) to pull the great majority of Americans out of their stupor and complacency.

      We never have learned from history and we never will.

    • Mike

      The Democrats used to be – from the 1930s through the 1960s – the party of anti-plutocratic forces. Those days are long gone. It’s delusional to believe that today’s Democratic Party represents anything but “me too” oligarchy, mass surveillance, militarism, and imperialism.

      • Sonny T

        Well stated. But a pessimist might say that the party between 1930s through the 1960s was merely a Progressive-themed bulwark against real change.

      • You’re speaking of the party as an organization or Democrats?

        • Mike

          Definitely the party organization. With individual politicians, it just depends. I would not say that a majority of the party is committed to doing anything about corruption, wealth inequality, or any of the other issues I mentioned.

      • The Resistance

        I don’t think the window has closed for the Democratic Party to re-establish itself as a force against authoritarian plutocracy, but it is closing quickly and a renewal of the party will take time. And there isn’t much of that. A single event could easily close that opportunity.

        Demagogues summon, validate, and thrive on fear. We’ll see that on display tonight in Amsoil Arena. While this event will be disturbing to many of us, it will be only on a small scale, designed to condition the 8th district and others to greater fears in the future that will make it much easier to accept complete erosion of democracy. If the demagogue can convince us that it is acceptable to cage Guatemalan children who are infesting the country, it is so much easier for us to accept much greater abuses of power in the near future that we cannot quite imagine yet. All demagogues at all times either await or plan events that instill fear in order to consolidate power. If Democrats and others cannot counter that message effectively, it’s a sign that the battle is mostly lost.

        As dark as all that sounds, we still have have a voice. We can still use it with our representatives (and anyone else we can influence) on a regular basis. The event at Amsoil will be a chance for us all to use our voice in whichever way we think is most effective.

        • Mike

          It seems to me that the Democrats themselves started closing that window in the 1970s, and there’s barely any daylight left today.

          As I repeat (ad nauseum), Trump is the symptom of a dysfunctional political system, not the cause. This has been brewing for a long time. It was going to happen sooner or later given all the softening of the ground that came before him.

          For my money, the corner was turned after 9/11, when the already leviathan military-industrial complex metastasized, and joined forces with emerging surveillance technology that effectively allowed eavesdropping on everyone.

          All of that occurred with barely a peep of protest from any officeholder, Republican or Democratic. Then, when it became apparent that we were all being lied to about certain aspects of that surveillance (thanks to Snowden), no one was prosecuted or even lost their job.

          Today the Democratic Party celebrates miscreants like James Clapper (who lied under oath to Congress) and the rest of the national security state (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) just because those organizations have a few objections to what Trump is doing.

          With all due respect, “The Resistance” is mostly an effort to deflect accountability away from elites who have no one but themselves to blame for Trump.

          • Sonny T

            Very accurate.

          • NG

            See: “Wedge Issues”, “Culture Wars”, and “Borderline Personality Disorder” for further reading.

      • NG

        Wow. Projecting much?

  • AmiSchwab

    hey minnesota, when you see trump just think “tender age” camps for babies. stolen from their mothers. again babies being stolen from their mothers. think about that while reading your bibles.

  • Neil B.

    Bob, you write that Housely is running against Smith. Well, the election is for Franken’s / Smith’s interim seat, but I’m suspicious that as much as Smith is snuggling up with corporate interests (PolyMet / med tech), that Painter will be chosen as the candidate Housely will face. He’ll get more environmentalist votes for sure. Any polling on that race yet?

    • Sonny T

      Painter, unfortunately, has little chance against the party regulars, and the evil cabal of cigar smokers who control them. And he’s not taking financing, which dooms him. He’s not Trump.

      The two parties are more alike than different.

  • lindblomeagles

    I think the Iron Range is in trouble, not because they support Trump, but because they haven’t learned from history. Mines come and go. They aren’t infinite burials of precious minerals still longing to be found and manufactured. Don’t believe me? San Francisco was a mining town, but as gold fields disappeared, San Fran became something more. The entire spine of Central America, from the 1500s to the 1800s, from Mexico to Bolivia, were mined, making this area of the world one of its richest. But when the mines stopped producing so too did Latin America. Known colloquially as the “banana republic” in the early to mid 20th century, Latin America’s economy hasn’t turned itself around since those gold and silver mining days. Trump is just 1 of another handful of politicians selling hope to worried families and economies. The solution isn’t the DFL OR TRUMP. It’s embracing change with optimism, fervor, and determination to turn the Iron Range into the next San Francisco.

  • Deb Mathiowetz

    Sadly many on the Range believe tariffs will bring in sorely needed jobs. Not the case since mining has become more and more automated. It is just like all the jobs they believe PolyMet will bring. Once the mine opens the Range will be lucky if 50 long term, high paying jobs are created. They will be left with the messes created by sulfide mining. The environment will be impacted as will as drinking water quality. Joblessness on the Range desperately needs to be addressed but it needs to be jobs with a future not the finite jobs created by mining.

  • Sean Quinn

    I would like to think that MINNESOTA Public Radio would know that Duluth, where Trump spoke, is NOT the Iron Range (as the very first sentence of this article says).

    Sadly for me, as an ardent follower of MPR – for news and music – like most other institutions of this great state – the M no longer stands for Minnesota, and instead stands for Minnespolis. I suppose MPR is headquarteresd in Minneapolis (given that if the Iron Range is Duluth, then St. Paul must be Minneapolis).

    • Thanks for your feedback, Sean.

      • For the record, there isn’t an online effort in Minnesota that does a better job of spotlighting the variety and diversity of life across the huge expanse of non-metro Minnesota than this blog does. I suspect this must be your first time here or you’d realize that. Come back again.