ONEsk Larry Cuffe why, after decades of voting for Democrats, he voted for Donald Trump four years ago, and he will talk about his distrust of Hillary Clinton and the need to get northern Minnesota mines back to work.
Ask the former police officer why he is sticking with Trump in 2020, and the list is much longer.
“The Democratic Party left us. Even in the last four years, it has changed so much. Do people support riots? Do the police deter? It is brittle. I think many of us up here are Democrats in Republican clothes now, ”he said.
Cuffe, who twice voted for Barack Obama, is one of six mayors from a part of Minnesota̵
The mayors said that after decades of voting for Democrats, they no longer considered the party an advocate for workers.
“Lifelong politicians like Joe Biden are out of touch with the working class, out of touch with what the country needs, and out of touch with us here on the railways and in small towns like ours throughout our nation,” they said.
Mayors praised Trump for standing up to China, cutting taxes and saying he was “fighting for the working class.”
“Now, four years later, the railway is roaring back to life, and for the first time in a very long time, the locals are hopeful because of this president’s policy and willingness to fight for us,” the mayors said in their support.
After losing Minnesota by less than 1.5% of the vote four years ago, Trump imagined he might take the Midwestern state this year. It was a potential prize that, if it fell into the lap of the president, would almost certainly mean that Biden also lost the important neighboring swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan.
That now appears to be more and more unlikely for Trump, as opinion polls consistently give Biden a lead in Minnesota of six points or more with early voting already underway.
But mayors are clinging to the hope that Trump can once again pull out the unexpected with the help of a region where many traditionally Democratic voters who supported the president four years ago have not withdrawn to the party this year. A large number were alienated by Clinton as a candidate in 2016, but since then a loophole has opened up with the broader Democratic Party, and Biden has failed to bridge that.
The once heavily unionized railroad is part of one of the few congressional districts facing Republicans in the otherwise disastrous 2018 midway for Trump, as voters in the region liked his showdown with China over steel dumping and a promise to clear the way for big new mines blocked by Obama.
Two years later, support for Trump appears to have been further strengthened following protests and civil unrest in Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, in the wake of George Floyd’s death and amid demands to avert police. Cuffe is also hostile to a new breed of democratic politicians who talk about “socialism” and scrap enforcement of immigration.
But the immediate issue that drew mayors and other Democrats to Trump in the iron ore was mining, the source of the region’s dwindling prosperity, and on it they say he has delivered.
Andrea Zupancich, a real estate agent and part-time mayor of the small town of Babbitt who also voted for Obama and signed the letter in support of Trump, testified twice before Congress that China dumping cheap steel on the United States killed its community.
She said imports drove down demand for iron ore from the mines around Babbitt, which cost jobs, hit the local economy and caused people to leave the city.
“We asked Obama to do something about this. He started doing a little bit, and then it just jumped a little bit, ”she said.
Zupancich credits Trump for standing up to China by imposing tariffs on its steel, which she says has injected new life into U.S. industry and the railroad.
“The tariffs that create a level playing field for the sale of our steel, so we have noticed an increase in the production of the mines. We see that they hire people, they put money back in the mines. They plan to extract for a while, ”she said.
The Trump administration claims to have increased iron ore production in the region by nearly a third, to have created hundreds of new mines, and to have increased miners’ wages.
Steve Bonach, president of the local union branch of United Steelworkers, said Trump’s claims are exaggerated.
“I’m not saying Trump is saving the steel industry. He promised in some of the commercials that he would open six new steelworks. He has not opened new mills, he has closed them down, “said Bonach, who emphasizes that he speaks for himself and not the association. “We have a mill in Detroit that is closed. It got all its [iron ore] pellets from here. He talked to them there and said he would make it run and it does not run. There are still two other turbines of ours that are down. So it’s still struggling. It is still a challenge. ”
But Bonach acknowledged that many of his members, who may have voted Democratically in the past, now support Trump.
“He has thrown out the things of the tariff. He’s driving it up here. I’m not saying he did not help. It has helped. But in general, I’m not sure it has changed much, ”he said.
There was also widespread anger in the region after Obama blocked a large copper and nickel mine in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest that owners said would last for decades. Trump lifted the bloc.
“We are sitting on half a trillion trillion dollars of copper and nickel,” Zupancich said. “We import all our nickel, whereas we could supply 90% of the world’s nickel, and the state would really benefit from it. The mine tax pays for our schools for the entire state. ”
The plan ran into opposition from the Minnesota Democrats over environmental concerns. For Zupancich, it did not make sense if a ban on mining in northern Minnesota means that the minerals then come from countries like China or Russia with lower environmental and other standards.
Minnesota has the strictest standards in mining and safety. Green energy, turbines, need copper, nickel, platinum, cobalt, which we have here. We import it from countries that have child labor, no strict safety standards, no environmental standards, and we have that here. So we want to make sure it’s done and we want to make sure it’s done right. Trump understands that, “she said.
But if it was mining that drew Democrats in the Iron District to Trump four years ago, many are clinging to him because they feel even more alienated from their former party.
Cuffe, a military veteran, followed with despair the protests and devastation in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death and what he considers the Democrats’ involvement in it. He mocks the calls to reject the police. He is shocked that the Minneapolis Council passed an executive order to undermine the city’s strength.
“I think reform is always a good route, but when you vote to simply avert the police, it creates a myriad of problems. We are an armed society. We are a very troubled society right now, a very violent society and a very divided country. We need the police, ”he said.
Cuffe ticked off other frustrations, including a claim that “we are heading toward the actual erasure of our entire history with the United States by pulling down these monuments.”
But he acknowledged that the bill with the past is a reflection of the changing priorities and policies of many Democratic voters in other parts of the country.
“You have millennia and younger people who want to come in and try to shape their lifestyle. You could support it or not support it, ”he said.
Zupancich is also concerned about the conversation about democratic socialism and what she sees as an overly radical wave of young Democrats, exemplified by Ilhan Omar – a congressman in Minnesota who is the first colored woman to hold the national election. in the state.
Yet mining remains the core of the presidential race in the iron ore. Bonach said he does not believe Biden is against mining, but he said there is a strong perception in the region that Democrats as a whole are, and that has a big impact.
“The perception hurts Biden, there is no doubt about it. USW wants to make sure Biden does the right thing, ”he said.