Like many people, I watched with hope as the protests in Minneapolis and across the country made possible the idea of significant police reform. I also watched with horror in 2021 as those reform efforts stalled in the Minnesota Senate. Being a white farmer living in rural Minnesota, I felt removed and powerless as all this happened. I couldn’t take the time to go to a march or rally in the Twin Cities. And I didn’t have the capacity to organize a rally in my local town. However, the then President of the Senate (now Senate Majority Leader), Jeremy Miller, is my Senator. I didn’t need to drive three hours to a protest; I could just pick up the phone.
When we think of an abuse of power, we typically think of politicians enacting racist and harmful policies. However, an abuse of power is also not using the power given to you to enact positive policies. My Senator, Jeremy Miller, is guilty of the latter. However, I am also guilty of same abuse of power. I live in Senator Miller’s district, and I have not been pressuring him to act for significant change. I sent him an e-mail, and I let it go at that. I didn’t give him a telephone call, I didn’t encourage others to do the same, and I didn’t schedule a meeting with him. Would Senator Miller have passed more police reform bills if he had more pressure from his district? I don’t know, which is why I finally reached out to set up a meeting with him — we have one now for May 7, from 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m., at Miller Scrap Metal & Iron Co.
Many LSP members live in districts with legislators who hold a lot of power to make significant change for our state, yet they do not act in their communities’ interests. And because of white supremacy, those politicians give more weight to concerns held by white, rural, farming voters. We are in a unique position to push these lawmakers towards considering more transformative policies and to upend their assumptions about us. We are also in a position to vote them out when they are unwilling to listen.
You may think that you hold a minority view in your community; however, most policies championed by LSP in fact are very popular ideas. Which of your neighbors wouldn’t want cheaper healthcare, more money for farm conservation practices, or a convenient local butcher shop? The reality is that most political races are won or lost on voter turnout. In other words, how excited and engaged are the voters in your district? Because of this, apathy towards the political system only strengthens the incumbent. Politicians take our silence on these issues as consent to the status quo. However, by doing simple things such as writing an e-mail or making a telephone call to our local representative, we can demand that they use their power in a responsible way. As farmers, we are called to be stewards of our soil, and this also means being good civic stewards.
The truth is political work can be boring. I started farming because I love working outside, interacting with soil, and seeing simple tasks completed. On a nice sunny day, I would rather have my teeth pulled than sit down and send out an e-mail or make a telephone call to an apathetic politician. But if we write off the political process, we give up so much potential power to improve our lives. Now, thanks to Zoom meetings, I have been able to attend LSP town halls while making dinner or watching my daughter. Just like with doing my farm bookkeeping, I now set aside a small amount of time every week for political work. And just like my bookkeeping, I always dread doing it, but feel much better once it is done.
Police reform, health care reform, action on climate change, and agriculture reform are actually in our grasp. As members of LSP, we have seen that politicians can change their opinions and policies can change. Minnesota needs transformative change on so many issues, and as rural citizens, it is our representatives that are often blocking this progress for our communities. I invite you to join me in talking with Senator Miller on May 7 for positive change in our community and our state. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in coming.
Dan Wilson is an LSP member and farmer in southeastern Minnesota.