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Minnesota, we hear, is divided into the Midwest and the rest.

Minneapolis, with its bike lanes and its Spoonbridge and its black Muslim congresswoman? Not Midwest.

That’s according to a top political editor at the New York Times. And who would know us better than a top political editor at the New York Times?

Jonathan Weisman, deputy editor in the Times’ Washington bureau, was arguing on Twitter. His first mistake.

After Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, Part I, former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill tried to explain to other members of a CNN panel why a proposal like Medicare for All would never play in Peoria.

“Free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest, because they are just convinced that they are never the ones getting the free stuff,” McCaskill said.

The claim might surprise any farmer who’s gotten a subsidy check or any Midwesterner who’s had Medicare pick up a hospital bill.

Unless those folks convinced themselves they worked hard and deserve the leg up from the government, whereas others in the big cities are looking for a government handout so they can blow it all on health care and spoon bridges.

When progressive activist Waleed Shahid tweeted out that Detroit Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Minneapolis Rep. Ilhan Omar strongly support un-Midwestern Medicare for All, Weisman rendered his verdict.

It was time to clarify which Americans are real Americans, and which issues matter and whose votes count in 2020.

“Saying @RashidaTlaib (D-Detroit) and @IlhanMN (D-Minneapolis) are from the Midwest is like saying @RepLloydDoggett (D-Austin) is from Texas or @repjohnlewis (D-Atlanta) is from the Deep South. C’mon,” he tweeted Wednesday morning.

The implication of the since-deleted tweet was that cities with majority-minority populations like Detroit or Atlanta aren’t really Real America.

Certainly no Midwestern city would elect someone to Congress who was born in Somalia and wears a hijab.

That doesn’t sound like the Midwest at all.

This marks the rudest thing a New York Times journalist has written about Minnesota since they told everyone our signature regional dish was a bowl of grapes mixed with sour cream and sugar.

Minnesota went to considerable effort to rebrand as the Bold North during the Super Bowl and if we’re not the North, what are we going to do with all these Askov Finlayson hats?

We didn’t even want to be the Midwest.

The Midwest gets defined by what it’s not. Not the coast, not the coolest, not everyone’s first pick for a summer vacation destination.

But the Midwest is going to pick your next president.

So political reporters will keep flying into flyover country, trying to figure out who that president’s going to be.

Some of them seem to have a very specific idea of what a Midwesterner is supposed to look like.

Nobody from Minneapolis, of course. We’ll have to check with the New York Times on St. Paul.

They’ll want to talk to the farmers, but probably not Hmong farmers in Dakota County. They’ll look for factory workers, but maybe not the people on the line at JBS packing plant in Worthington, who work each day in fear of immigration raids.

Minnesota is farms and cabins and reservations and suburbs and skyscrapers linked by skyways. Three-point-six million Minnesotans live in the Twin Cities metro area, 2 million Minnesotans live everywhere else.

Your race, your creed, your orientation, your politics, and your Norwegian grandma don’t make you a Minnesotan.

Refusing to take the last bite of a pan of bars in the breakroom makes you a Minnesotan. Complete inability to zipper merge makes you a Minnesotan. Living in Minnesota makes you a Minnesotan. Living in the Midwest makes you a Midwesterner.

Don’t let them define us by what we’re not.

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Jennifer Brooks is a columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about the state’s residents and issues.

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