Minnesota has long stood for progress, made clear most recently by Governor Dayton’s investments in education, protecting the environment, and his stance on refugees. And by putting president-elect Donald Trump in third place on Super Tuesday, and being one of the only Midwest states to vote for Hilary Clinton, Minnesotans soundly rejected the fear-mongering and isolationism that somehow became policy during this most recent presidential election.
While the president-elect was running on that platform, a different campaign was being run in Minnesota’s Distict 60B.
And while Hilary Clinton may not have made history, one woman in Minnesota certainly did.
Ilhan Omar was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives on the evening of November 8, 2016, and will represent one of Minneapolis’ most diverse neighborhoods. After escaping civil war in her home country of Somalia at age eight, she then spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before finally making it to Minneapolis.
Omar also happens to be the first Somali-American legislator in the country.
Omar, a strong force for women as progressive DFL activist, community educator, and Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, would have to be considered among the “problems” the president-elect called out during his brief visit to the state. Or his brief visit to a hangar at MSP airport, rather.
“…you’ve seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval, and with some of them then joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world.”
But we know better here.
While the United States was voting one way, Minnesota was voting the other.
It might seem like a small step forward in the face of the seemingly insurmountable tide turning backward, but it is important to note the positives. This, in the words of the president-elect, is huge. For women, for refugees, for minorities, for immigrants.
As House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said about the victory,
“It says something important about the future of Minnesota, and what it means to be a Minnesotan.”
Minnesota can, and should, be proud of this.
Minnesota also has a long history of actually coming out to vote, shunning the trend of voter apathy across the country. As the graphic below illustrates, Minnesota’s enthusiasm for voting far surpasses the national average.
Minnesota’s commitment to the political process is the result of a few local factors. For one, same-day registration makes it easy for anyone to get into the voting booth and cast a ballot. And the diverse political landscape, one that has welcomed both Al Franken and Michelle Bachmann, and now Ilhan Omar, has kept disillusionment at bay. We work together in Minnesota. This was perhaps made most clear when, in November of 2012, Governor Dayton worked closely with former Republican governor Arne Carlson to defeat a constitutional amendment on voter ID.
There is a long ways to go in creating equality for everyone in America. The leadership (or lack thereof) in the White House is only one piece of that. There is much that can be done locally. And, as it should be in a country like this one, it starts with us. The people. It starts with electing representatives that forego the irrational fear gripping the nation. It starts with actually becoming a part of the community, inspiring change, and working for the brighter future we wish were the present.
For those thinking about leaving the country, don’t. Just come to Minnesota.