Trump Rally
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Donald Trump has planned a campaign rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis, MN on Thursday because he thinks he can win the state in 2020. When the rally was announced, the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, released a statement.

More recently, the mayor has informed the Target Center that the city will assess a $530,000 fee for security at the rally, a cost that the center will pass on to the Trump campaign.

Right wing media has erupted at the news and the president began his attacks by tweeting about the controversy five times on Tuesday morning, starting with this.

We should begin by pointing out that no one is blocking anything. Mayor Frey is simply trying to assure that the city of Minneapolis is not stiffed for security costs associated with a Trump rally the way that other cities have been.

A report in June by the Center for Public Integrity found that 10 cities, including Green Bay, Wis., Mesa, Ariz., and Erie, Pa., all claim Trump’s campaign committee never reimbursed them for public safety costs associated with the rallies, some of them dating back to before his election in 2016.

In typical Minnesota fashion, Frey responded to threats of a lawsuit over all of this by saying, “Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills.”

But the map of Minnesota counties from the 2016 presidential election that was tweeted by Parscale is even more interesting because it represents a theme we are starting to see from Trump and his supporters. For example, the president recently tweeted this.

As Ronald Brownstein pointed out, Trump doesn’t seem to understand that “dirt doesn’t vote.”

Trump’s fixation with the county map shows, not for the first time, how he equates geography with the size of his coalition. While counties that supported Trump accounted for fully 85 percent of the nation’s landmass, according to calculations by The New York Times, he won just less than 46 percent of the total votes cast in 2016. Clinton’s counties covered only 15 percent of the nation’s landmass, but she won 48 percent of the vote. In other words, despite Trump’s cartographic claims of political dominance, dirt doesn’t vote.

Given that I live in Minnesota, I know a thing or two about the map Parscale tweeted and thought that it would be worth taking a closer look. The population of Minnesota is about 5.6 million spread out over 87 counties. However, the nine counties that are colored blue encompass over 51 percent of the population. That might help explain why the election in Minnesota was so close. What happened here mirrors what Trump did nationally in 2016 when he won over 80 percent of the counties, but lost the popular vote by 3 million.

Other than the blue areas around the Twin Cities metro area, you’ll see a sea of blue in the northeastern part of the state. In addition to the city of Duluth, that area includes what we call the North Shore of Lake Superior. What is going on in that part of the state could be instructive for other areas of the country. Here is what James Fallows once wrote about Duluth.

Through the past generation Duluth has fit anyone’s definition of a struggling Rust Belt city. Its grand homes and faded-glory downtown buildings were from a lost era of wealth from timber, ore and grain shipments, and heavy manufacturing. Through much of the late-20th century Duluth’s factories closed, its downtown decayed, its population aged and shrank.

Fallows provided that snap-shot of history because Duluth was one of the cities he highlighted in a 2016 article about reinvention and renewal across America.

The Duluth area has new firms in aerospace, medical equipment, environmental tech, and other fields. “Ten years ago there weren’t many start-ups,” Dave Benson told us. “Now it’s buzzing.” If you saw this operation in San Francisco or Seattle, you would think: Of course! Where else could you combine the product-design talent that can appeal to a worldwide market, the emphasis on sustainability that has made the firm a leader in recycling techniques, and the production skills necessary to create a rapidly changing line of items? But you find it in Duluth—“because we just like the quality of life here,” Dave Benson said.

When most people think of “quality of life,” the weather along the North Shore of Lake Superior would be a major disqualifier. But on a recent trip to the area, I came away with this little gem from the hills just above the town of Grand Marais.

Actually, dog sledders are just a portion of those who are attracted to the area for winter, as well as summer recreation. What is going on in northern Minnesota is the same transition highlighted by Ryan Cooper in the Mountain West: an economic movement away from extraction industries and towards recreation—a $650 billion industry that currently employs over 6 million people.

Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior demonstrate one of the reasons why, as Brownstein noted, “a map tying the election results to economic vitality would tilt toward Democrats nearly as much as the county map leans toward Republicans.” The kind of economic vitality he is referring to isn’t limited to big coastal cities. As Myles Shaver, professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, noted, what attracts innovators and entrepreneurs to an area more than low tax rates are quality of life measures. That includes not only recreational opportunities, but even more importantly, things like good schools and quality health care. Those happen to be areas where Democrats excel.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.