minnesota nice?

Ever since I’ve gotten here, I’ve been hearing about this phenomenon called “Minnesota Nice.” According to Wikipedia:

Minnesota nice is the stereotypical behavior of Minnesota residents described as hospitality and courtesy to others. The term is also sometimes used in a derogatory way, to connote a sort of smiling stubbornness, forced politeness, false humility or passive aggressive hostility.

I was speaking to some of my students, asking them about this behavior. They laughed. They said that the Twin Cities area is not renowned for its Minnesota Nice behavior.

This behavior does not translate into Minnesota politics either. Not at all. I’ve seen some aggregious political ads having lived in California (Arizona politics doesn’t come close to these levels of aggressiveness), but I’ve never seen such mean-spirited attack ads, especially in the Senate race.

Here in Minnesota, there are several candidates (Charles Aldrich (L), Dean Barkley (IP), Norm Coleman (R), Al Franken (DFL), and James Niemackl (C)) running for the U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by first-term Senator Norm Coleman (who replaced Dean Barkley, who replaced the late Paul Wellstone). While Barkley has been a part of the debates, it is really the race between Coleman and Franken (yes, that Al Franken) that has been the worst. This summer, the first ad that I remember seeing was against Franken and included accusations of being involved in pornography. While Coleman has suspended his attack ads and has tried to portray a compassionate, family man who understands our hardships, the ads have not stopped (fueled by money from the Republican National Committee, the National Chamber of Commerce, and others). Coleman has also been attacked with low-blows (but by most accounts, not nearly as often, as harshly, or as personally as Franken).

So imagine my concern when John McCain visited the Twin Cities a few weeks ago and the people attending this rally talked about “being scared” and Obama being “an Arab.” McCain’s response wasn’t much better. He states, “No ma’am. No ma’am. He’s a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.” Ummm..those of Arab decent can’t be decent family men and citizens (of somewhere)?

I actually respect Senator McCain. I wouldn’t ever vote for him because our belief systems are not compatible at all, but I do think that he believes that he can give this country what it needs and that he does care about what happens to the people of this country. However, when a major political candidate makes a statement like that, it makes me wonder what he really believes.

All of this in Minnesota, where Minnesota Nice is supposed to be the acceptable behavior (the positive Minnesota Nice, not the derogatory aspect of it).

Where is the nice?


  1. Sage

    I haven’t been around much to see what you’ve been up too… I’ve always thought that MN would be a great place to study politics–as they’ve had some interesting characters elected to office over the years. I’m amazed about Franklen running and wonder what kind of politican he’d make and if I could listen to him with a straight face… I think McCain was trying to tone down the rhetoric of his followers. I feel sorry for him as I think he’s caught between trying to appease the far right and a desire to win and also knowing that as a candidate, he’s not who he has been in the past. That said, I ain’t voting for him. I really wished he’d won the Republican nod in 2000, that was his year and had he been President, I believe we’d be a lot better off.

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