Liberals in Minnesota are alarmed about their loss of support in the rural and small-town parts of the state. The same phenomenon that is occurring across the country–everyone is abandoning the Democratic Party except urban dwellers–is going on here. Two Sundays ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an op-ed by two liberals about how “city mice” and “country mice” can get along better. The key, they suggested, was for all of us to be united as recipients of government largesse.
That prompted me to write a response, which the Star Tribune printed today. My op-ed includes a vision statement for Minnesota which will also appear in the next issue of Thinking Minnesota. Here is my op-ed, in its entirety:
In “Bridging our city mouse/country mouse divide” (March 5), Dane Smith and Vernae Hasbargen of the liberal policy group Growth & Justice write that they “have witnessed far too much warfare between metro and rural mice. We are worried that it’s getting worse.”
Smith and Hasbargen see a cultural divide between urban and rural Minnesotans. They diagnose “metro condescension” in the cities and “rural resentment” in Greater Minnesota. Some metropolitan progressives think “rural people are gullible hayseeds,” while some rural voters have “wrongheaded sentiments” and are “excessively fearful and resentful of the Twin Cities.”
On top of all that, they think that “too many Minnesotans in all regions are unfriendly to newcomers and people of color.”
To remedy the friction between city and country, Smith and Hasbargen offer a series of proposals that have one thing in common: They all involve the state spending more money, as though higher taxes and more spending were the solution to all problems. Residents of town and country will be united, in this vision, as cashers of government checks.
Smith and Hasbargen accept the idea that urban and rural Minnesotans are fundamentally unalike: “mice from different places like different things, and that’s just as it should be,” they say. This is not how we conservatives view our state.
We see urban and rural Minnesotans as having the same needs and desires, and as benefiting from the same basic policies. Less government and more freedom is a formula that works no matter where you live.
Conservatives have a vision of a Minnesota whose citizens are united by a love of liberty, an ambition for prosperity, and an appreciation of our state’s natural resources and beauty — not by a shared goal to become government dependents.
Our vision for Minnesota’s future is a state where:
• A thriving economy creates the best job opportunities in America for our children and grandchildren.
• Economic growth inspires people and businesses to move into Minnesota rather than out of Minnesota.
• Small-town values are respected, and a farmer’s biggest worry is the weather, not regulations coming out of St. Paul.
• The state’s natural resources — minerals, timber, farmland, game and fish — are optimally developed for the use and enjoyment of Minnesota residents.
• Families can choose health care plans and programs that best meet their needs, without being dictated to by government.
• The state’s transportation system is designed to help Minnesotans get where they want to go efficiently, not to serve the cause of social engineering.
• Cities and counties can govern themselves without undue interference from state and regional authorities.
• Minnesota’s sparkling, sky-blue waters are a model of environmental quality.
• Parents can choose the schools that best suit their children from among multiple public and private options, knowing that wherever they go to school, their children will be safe.
Is that a vision for urban Minnesota? Yes. Is it a vision for rural Minnesota? Yes. It is a common-sense vision that all Minnesotans can share.
While I wrote this vision statement specifically for Minnesota, with a little adaptation it would do for any state, or for the U.S. as a whole.