Minnesota: where progress happens

Back during the Republican primaries earlier this year, a common cry from voters was their lack of a viable choice.

There was Donald Trump, hardcore Christian evangelist Ted Cruz, and the steadfast Conservative establishment choice that was being stuffed down their throats in John Kasich.

We all know what the outcome ended up being. But before that, one state broke the mold — Minnesota.

Despite having virtually no connection to the state, Marco Rubio won the Minnesota Republican primary. Now, he was far from a perfect choice, and his inexperience was on full display during the Republican debates, but the vote showed the willingness of Minnesota voters to be different from the mainstream.

And it was not an aberration.

ilhan-omar

Minnesota is considered a deep blue state (even though it nearly turned red in this year’s election). Republicans have the majority in the state House of Representatives, but Democrats lead the Senate, and their Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, has a high approval rating of about 61 percent.

One of their U.S. representatives, incidentally, is Al Franken, the comedian turned politician.

But what makes Minnesota unique is that they are often the first to break barriers in terms of diversity. At least in recent times.

In 2007, they elected Keith Ellison to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first Muslim to ever serve in Congress.

And this past November, voters picked 34-year-old Ilhan Omar to the state’s House of Representatives, making her the first Somali-American Muslim woman ever elected to a state legislature. It was one of the few bright spots to come out of Election Day.halima-aden

Now Minnesota is in the news again for positive reasons. Halima Aden, 19, is competing for the state’s title of Miss Minnesota. But what makes her unique is, as a Muslim immigrant from Kenya, she will be competing in a hijab and a burkini — an article of clothing that came under intense controversy in France earlier this year.

You see, in Minnesota, these things aren’t as polarizing. People there aren’t afraid of others for being different. And while it may take a while for the rest of the country to get there, it’s heartening to see it at least happen somewhere.

This, of course, is especially noteworthy in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that took place at Ohio State University on Monday. Fortunately, nobody died besides the attacker, who was a Somali Muslim who moved to Pakistan and then legally immigrated to the United States in 2014. ISIS has already taken credit for it.

It annoys me that we even have to point out when people from other countries are Muslim — especially when it’s the world’s second most popular religion.

Anyway, I’ve been to Minnesota. It’s a beautiful place. The people there are extremely polite and welcoming.

But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Just look at their recent history of openness towards people of different backgrounds and faiths.

Saturday Night Live joked the other week about liberals moving into a literal bubble.

Screw that. I’m going to Minnesota.

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