Posted on November 21, 2020

How a Minneapolis Suburb Turned Blue, Despite Trump’s Law-and-Order Pitch

John Eligon, New York Times, November 16, 2020

As some protests over police brutality and systemic racism descended into vandalism and looting in Minneapolis over the summer, President Donald Trump insisted that he was the candidate to restore “law and order” to the city. In the nearby suburb of Chaska, Minnesota, Mike Magusin bristled. In his view, he said, the president had fueled the unrest.


In all, Trump lost Chaska by 9 percentage points — a steep fall from 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton in that city by 6 percentage points. And although Trump captured Carver County, which includes Chaska, he did so by just 5 percentage points, down from a 14-point margin of victory in 2016.

The shift was so drastic that it helped Biden easily win Minnesota, by more than 233,000 votes. His performance in Chaska, as well as in other outlying Twin Cities communities, mirrored his success in suburbs across the country, where voters turned out in such significant numbers that they helped fuel Biden’s rise to the presidency.

Indeed, Biden improved on Clinton’s performance in suburban counties by an average of 5 percentage points, representing the places with the biggest shift in vote margins from 2016, according to a New York Times analysis. His gains were largest in traditionally Republican strongholds in battleground states, in the suburbs of Phoenix; Dallas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Atlanta, to name a few.

As was the case nationally, Trump got more votes in Chaska this year than in his first presidential run. But he also drove thousands of opponents to the polls.

Some residents said they were repulsed by Trump’s attitude and his divisive rhetoric on race, leading them to vote for Biden or a third-party candidate.

Over the past couple of years, the city has grappled with racism after incidents at its high school, which included white students who dressed in Black face. Those episodes, residents said, liberalized some people’s views and fostered a greater understanding of racial justice issues that stands in contrast to Trump’s denial of systemic racism.

A shift in the city’s demographics, too, seems to have given Biden a boost. More nonwhite families and professionals who used to live in cities — groups that tend to lean more Democratic — have settled in Chaska — population 27,000 — for its affordability and high-performing schools.

And although the occasional acts of vandalism and looting in Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd in police custody might have stoked some anxiety in Chaska, it did not seem to evoke serious concern, even among Trump’s supporters. In fact, the main takeaway, some residents said, was not that the country was descending into lawlessness, but that systemic racism was a major problem in America.

“That was a huge turning point for me, I think, in general of really understanding the Black Lives Matter movement and just embracing it,” said Amy Olsen-Schoo, a white Chaska resident who voted for Trump four years ago but for Biden this time.

Olsen-Schoo, 45, was raised in the Twin Cities suburbs as a moderate Republican — fiscally conservative but more liberal on social issues. Until this year, she had voted Republican her entire life.

When Trump campaigned four years ago, Olsen-Schoo was drawn to his lack of political experience and his pledge to “drain the swamp.” She said she brushed off his most offensive remarks. When he spoke harshly of immigrants, she took it to mean that he was championing immigration reform, which she agreed with, she said.


Once Trump became president, Olsen-Schoo quickly saw his rhetoric as inciting hatred, she said. She was horrified by comments that she read from Republicans on social media, she said, such as suggestions that Muslims were going to destroy America.

Although 83% of Chaska’s population is white, its racial and ethnic diversity has slightly grown over the past decade. Latinos make up 8.4%, Asians 3.5% and Black residents 2.2%.

The divisiveness of the Trump era hit close to home, residents said, after a series of racist incidents at Chaska High School and after critics of a new equity program in the school district argued that it would lead to discrimination against white students.

From those racial tensions, residents formed a racial justice group in Chaska, a city of sprawling subdivisions with single-family homes, surrounded by walking trails and lakes.

Donta Hughes, 38, said that after Floyd’s killing, support grew for the group and for Black residents like himself. He began receiving supportive messages on Facebook, he said, and more white residents became willing to have difficult conversations about race. {snip}