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Can Blue States and Cities Recover?

Posted on Sunday, June 9, 2024
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by David P. Deavel
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I’m back in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I lived for over two decades, but oddly enough, I’m thinking of Detroit. It may seem a mere local story, but the “Live From Detroit” concert, which drew 15,000 fans to hear Diana Ross, Eminem, and other music legends—and thousands more at other nearby watch parties in bars and restaurants—ought to be a beacon of hope for those who are in languishing blue states and cities. After all, this was a celebration of the reopening of the Central Michigan Station, a “long-abandoned building” which was purchased by Ford in 2018 and will be used “to anchor an advanced mobility technology office hub, with 2,500 employees working in Corktown.”

Anybody who’s been to Detroit over the last five decades knows that the place, while still holding priceless gems such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, knew that they were set in rings that were corroded and dangerous. The first time I visited Detroit in the early 1990s, the streets reminded me of nothing so much as the pictures from war-torn Lebanon. And yet, as the Detroit News quotes Roland Haile, a 67-year-old native of Detroit who left for Ohio about forty years ago, “Detroit gets prettier and prettier” each time he returns to the city in the summer. What will it take to make other blue places like the Twin Cities start getting prettier?

St. Paul went from a “most livable city” to a place where murder records were broken back-to-back in 2021 and 2022. We’re back with most of our kids so that my wife and I can attend the annual conference of the University Faculty for Life, which is in its thirty-fifth year of gathering scholars to present biological, legal, medical, political, psychological, sociological, and religious research to aid in the fight against abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide. These are live topics after the 2022 elections, in which the DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor) party took full control of the state and made it a “sanctuary state” for abortion and a hotbed of leftist insanity generally. The PRO Act, passed in 2023 and signed into law by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, said that “every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health.” Of course, “reproductive health” is only about contraception and abortion. Last week, Minnesota’s Supreme Court denied an appeal by a pro-life group to defend one of the few remaining restrictions on abortion—a parental notification rule—not struck down in 2022 by a district court judge’s ruling.

The left in Minnesota, as in other blue states, is set on forging ahead on all the issues of “personal autonomy” that we are gathered to fight against at our conference, truly ominous signs that our culture is not just seriously adrift. Charlie Camosy, a professor of medical humanities at Creighton University, gave a thought-provoking keynote lecture on Friday night about the use of language in the battles for life. He suggested that pro-lifers pivot from Pope John Paul II’s warnings about a “culture of death” to Pope Francis’s language of a “throwaway culture” in which people are considered disposable. It’s not clear to me that either is inaccurate or without use in today’s culture.

Blue states and cities are usually unconcerned about the throwaway culture when it comes to people, anyway. They’re usually “solving the climate crisis” or perhaps solving the Middle East, tasks that are not within their job description or their competency. Meanwhile, their actual tasks of providing safety and public order are often left in the dust.

Minneapolis, which makes its twin across the Mississippi look relatively sane, is in a world of hurt. Center for the American Experiment president John Hinderaker wrote on the fourth anniversary of the George Floyd arrest about the “world of hurt” that is a city he came to in 1974 because of its “easy commutes, low crime, pleasant neighborhoods, cultural amenities and relatively good schools.” Now, if commutes are still ok, that’s only because the city is a hollowed-out shell of itself with a high percentage of vacancies and very little foot traffic. One local at the conference told me he met someone for lunch in Minneapolis for the first time in years. He described it as many do—a “ghost town.” At the very nice restaurant he went to, there were only about five tables with customers. He shook his head and muttered, “This can’t go on.”

Another old friend who works in Minneapolis described his own company’s downsizing of their office space due to an inability to get workers to come into town. He is six feet, four inches tall and about 240, but he’s afraid of becoming a crime statistic, too. As Hinderaker observes, the declines in crime over the last year or so still haven’t brought the city back to pre-2020 levels. Even before I left in 2021, a colleague told me that police wouldn’t respond to his daughter’s mugging because she wasn’t hurt. Indeed, the recent ambush and murder of Minneapolis Policeman Jamal Mitchell happened in part because the hero was working without a partner on a mandatory overtime shift due to the staffing problems.

The continued problems of police recruitment are no surprise, given the hostile attitude to police officers shown by officials such as Hennepin County prosecutor Mary Moriarty.  Moriarty was recently pressured to give up prosecution of Minnesota State Trooper Ryan Londregan for murder. Londregan’s partner was trying to arrest a man named Ricky Cobb, whose reaction was to drive away while Londregan’s partner was partly in the car and reaching for his gun, prompting Londregan to fire. In stopping the case, Moriarty attempted to portray her decision as motivated by “new evidence,” but Londregan’s attorney put the lie to this in a fiery press conference in which he showed that Moriarty had enough facts to judge rightly all along.  There’s a reason Hinderaker describes Moriarty as “pro-crime.”

Minneapolis’s economic doldrums resemble the greater state of Minnesota, where recent data show that the state’s per capita GDP dropped below that of the United States for the first time in 2023 and tax revenues showed the second largest decline (next to California) in the country as compared to their long-term trend. And though CNBC has touted Minnesota as a top state for business, Chief Executive magazine’s annual survey of over 500 CEOs and other business leaders ranked the state as number 41 this year—down from 40 in 2023. As economist John Phelan noted last year, the claims for Minnesota would be more persuasive if the data matched them. But in the areas of new business formation, job creation, capital investment, and attraction of workers from other states, Minnesota lags other states by far.    

So, can Minneapolis, St. Paul, and broader Minnesota recover? The depressing part is that, like Detroit, it may well take fifty-plus years for Minneapolis (which some now call “Detroit on the Mississippi”) to come back. But there are signs of hope.

On those hot-button life topics, Jason Adkins, director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC: a public policy organization sponsored by the Catholic bishops of the state), summed up a number of positive developments in the Minnesota legislature in a recent podcast. A very radical euthanasia that MCC called “one of the most aggressive physician-assisted suicide bills in the country” did not make it to a floor vote. A state Equal Rights Amendment to Minnesota’s constitution, aimed at leveling any distinctions in law based on sex, did not pass and will not be on voters’ ballots next year. And the Minnesota Human Rights Act, to which an amendment was passed last year establishing “gender identity” as a protected status and threatening religious liberty for schools and churches that do not hold to the current gender ideology, was itself amended to restore a religious exemption. Those are all defensive achievements, but the foundation for a good offense is a good defense.

That Trooper Londregan was not charged is also a good sign. The state whose dubious (to say the least) prosecution of an officer in the public arena and the judicial system began a multi-year increase in crime in America may well be starting to reject the pro-crime atmosphere.

There is enough hope that Donald Trump has campaigned there in May and declared he could win. It’s not impossible since he lost on a razor thin margin in 2016, and Minnesotans are feeling the pinch of the Biden economy, too. But it will be very difficult. The large numbers of people leaving the state over the last few years were, as my family is, supporters of the GOP or at least opponents of Democratic craziness.

One friend I talked to this weekend said he thinks national divorce has already happened. The question is how nasty it will be. Though I fear he’s right, I still hope he’s wrong. Those of us who want to make America great again would like this to be true for red and blue alike.    

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. A past Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, he is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X (Twitter) @davidpdeavel.

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G. Goode
G. Goode
6 days ago

What will save blue states is the destruction of the Democratic party.

John
John
6 days ago

I disagree with this article, I think the people of Minnesota deserve exactly what they voted for, which is decline.As someone who lived and worked in Detroit for 3 decades I can tell you that it was the voters and especially Black voters that keep Detroit down and made it a sh’t hole.They kept voting in Coleman Young for decades when everyone knew he was corrupt and Wayne county was the worse managed county for decades.Keep voting for corrupt Totalitarian Communist Democrat Party comrade’s and you will continue to get worse.

Milo Hawkinson
Milo Hawkinson
5 days ago

I am from outstate Minnesota which is pretty much Red. We don’t do any business or go to the Twin Cities if possible. They are a disgrace to the rest of the State shoving their terrible political agenda on us whether we like it or not as we are completely disregarded in the legislative sessions. Oh the Mall of America sends out advertising to come and business there; nope! No way ever! So please be aware for us in outstate MN the Twin Cities is a cancer to our society.

Theresa Coughlin
Theresa Coughlin
4 days ago

Full disclosure: I live in the blue state of New York. The only way blue cities will recover is if they learn from their mistakes and change their policies.

TRUTH
TRUTH
6 days ago

Minnesota was teaching kids in High Schools back in the 1960’s about the Beatles in their History classes instead of teaching U.S. History and Minnesota history. FACT. Know people from that period that said that’s all they would teach. Minnesota became full blown Socialist when clinton was in office.
At one time it may have been a nice play but hasn’t been for decades.

Myrna
Myrna
5 days ago

So far all evidence is that sanctuary cities are on a down-hill course. If nothing changes, the answer is NO.

USN Retired
USN Retired
4 days ago

Problem I see is the majority of the crazies get out to vote, and in great numbers, they are the radical left. Conservatives tend to stay home thinking their vote does not matter. Well folks, it DOES matter. Get out and vote. Conservatives outnumber the socialist, WE need them to vote! We need ALL the conservatives to the polls!

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
4 days ago

Only if we vote out those in Govt, then Yes, otherwise No

CarrieJ
CarrieJ
5 days ago

I live in western Wisconsin and use to shop all the time in Minnesota. Now days I don’t go to the cities with all the crime. I no longer feel safe shopping at the malls with all the gangs/kids hanging out. I spend my money as much as I can in Wisconsin. Our sales tax is 5.5% versus MN 7.124%+ depending on where you shop. I found that over the years, I don’t need to be in fashion and wear the latest trends. I dress the way I want and don’t care what people think. Since working from home, I really don’t need much of a wardrobe other than jeans and shirts. Many MN people are trying to move into western Wisconsin to escape the taxes and crime. Sadly, many of them bring it right with them. My small town now has more crime than it did years ago. Lots of drugs, break ins, high speed police chases through town are happening. Small towns are suffering too! Don’t move, stay and fight for your beliefs!!!

Bob
Bob
6 days ago

They should be allowed to fail, learn and change their direction.

Jim
Jim
4 days ago

Who cares if they recover, They’ve voted for what they’ve got for years. I don’t feel sorry for them.

John Shipway
John Shipway
4 days ago

It is literally “spooky” in the Twin Cities now. I live in west-central Wisconsin and as seldom as possible I have to venture to the anus of Minnesota occasionally for auto purchases at big but shrinking dealerships and other transactions that are less costly than one finds in large metro areas. When I go I go heavily armed with my head on a swivel yet still find my heartbeat elevated during such visits. America is dying but the Twin Cities area died a number of years ago and is in full decay mode now, complete with stench.
Heard of the Mall of America? If you ever feel suicidal yet fear the eternal consequences of taking your own life, visit that mega mall and let one of the creatures that haunt the place do your dirty work for you. Yes, its that bad.

anna hubert
anna hubert
4 days ago

Destructive policies will destroy the community Tell people they are not responsible for bad decisions and choices enable them to make bad and irresponsible decisions let them get away with the murder and crime and you have a failed community If that was the aim of democrats they succeeded 100% If people are not happy with the outcome they must do the deep cleaning of the house If they let government do the cleaning they’ll end up with the same This is generational Why would anyone work when the alms been available for decades?

Jim
Jim
4 days ago

Minneapolis used to be a great place but, when you change voters things go to hell: that happened in the Twin Cities. I think people (voters) need to learn from their mistakes with NO bailouts. When you vote stupid you pay the price for that.
NOTHING IS FREE, and any politician who says that should wind up in a dumpster!

Morbious
Morbious
5 days ago

Two things: one is that Pope John Paul meant what he said and the current marxist says whatever the moment calls for like a press secretary would. This creates a word salad wherein there’s something for everyone. Second is that as i understand it, amish on welfare invaded the place forty years ago to take advantage of generous handouts. They’ll be voting dem till the sun turns cold. Ultimately, Scandinavian generousity and semi socialism caused this.

Fran
Fran
4 days ago

I wonder if the people that are leaving blue states are doing so to create havoc in red states…I know sounds crazy but that’s how a cancer spreads…..

corbin douthitt
corbin douthitt
4 days ago

Blue cities survive? only if they remove all Democrats- stop the DEI-PC-common core -LGBTQRSTUV+-& idiocy. Remaining Democrat is to get on the freew… – toll road to communism/

Ted
Ted
4 days ago

I wish I could say i feel for these people but can’t. You keep voting for slime then slime is all you’ll get. Perhaps after the state is totally gone maybe china will buy it, I’m sure the dem/commies will help facilitate such a deal. Who will know the difference in that state it’ll just be same oh same oh.

uncleferd
uncleferd
4 days ago

I’m sure, if all the honest, clean-living people in blue states are skilled in hand-to-hand combat, have invisibility cloaks, concealed carry permits, AND a demented, disgusting old relative who’s President of the United States, AND is a serial liar, AND a criminal who gives young women and toddlers the creeps…. THEY ALL WOULD MOVE TO A RED STATE.

Robert
Robert
4 days ago

As long as these cities stay “True Blue” they won’t make it and they will have brought it on themselves. Self inflicted wounds merit little pity!

Joanne4justice
Joanne4justice
5 days ago

It will take many years and much effort to repair the damsge .

Myrna
Myrna
6 days ago

It is realistic to fear and American to hope. As long as rational, law abiding people leave cities, there is more to fear (but we should never give up on hope).

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