Minnesota 5th District
From almost nowhere in Minneapolis today can you see the geographic feature that created the city: the Falls of St. Anthony, the head of navigation on the Mississippi River, where waters rush in rapids beneath low downtown bridges. In olden days, every riverboat had to stop here, and the waterpower generated by the falls was the energy source first for the pioneers’ grist mills and then for the giant grain mills that processed northern Great Plains wheat into food for the United States. By 1890, Minneapolis and St. Paul made up one of America’s largest urban areas, living mainly off grain. Today, Minneapolis is a center of high-technology industry, banking and finance. It is the center of an economic region that extends almost 1,000 miles to the Rocky Mountains in Montana.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The city of Minneapolis, plus a few of its older, adjoining suburbs, make up the 5th Congressional District. In the southwest corner are the affluent neighborhoods around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet—long built-up and proudly maintained, amidst trees that turn beautifully golden in early autumn. Not far away are Minneapolis’s skywalk-laced downtown skyscrapers, the museum quarter on the hill above Hennepin Avenue, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, nicknamed the “Homerdome.” Straddling the Mississippi River is the University of Minnesota, which has fostered the area’s cutting-edge biotechnology research and medical innovations, and nearby Dinkytown, a student area where Robert Zimmerman discovered folk music and reinvented himself as Bob Dylan. Most of the 5th District is low on the income scale. Many of the working-class neighborhoods of small frame houses and ample parks are now kept up by new immigrants. The city is a haven for single young people. According to 2008 Census Bureau figures, it ranked second highest among cities for households of people living alone, and fourth lowest in elderly population.
For a place often thought of as monochromatically white and Scandinavian, the city is surprisingly diverse. To the northeast, behind the railroad and warehouse district along the Mississippi, are many Hmong from Laos. Hennepin County is home to the largest number of African immigrants in the state, following a decade in which African immigrants to Minnesota jumped sevenfold. The Jewish community here has increased as immigrants have come from the former Soviet Union. Ticket machines on the new Hiawatha Avenue light-rail line, from downtown to the airport and the Mall of America, do business in four languages—English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali. The 5th is the most heavily Democratic district in the state. Minneapolis’s political liberalism is drawn from the Yankee tradition of clean government, the Scandinavian tradition of cooperative enterprise and the industrial-labor tradition of economic redistribution. Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry carried this district by more than 2-to-1 in 2000 and 2004 respectively. Barack Obama did better yet, with 74% to Republican John McCain’s 24%.