CHASKA, Minnesota – As some protests against police brutality and systemic racism turned into vandalism and looting in Minneapolis over the summer, President Trump insisted he was the candidate to restore “the law and order ‘in the city. In the nearby Chaska, Minnesota suburb, Mike Magusin bristled. In his opinion, he said, the president had fueled the unrest.
“He said a lot of stupid and stupid things that deeply upset people, ”said Mr. Magusin, 51. “This is what is dangerous because people are upset. They fight. And here’s this guy making it even worse with his words.
Four years ago, Mr. Magusin voted for the Green Party candidate, in part because he assumed the nation would generally be fine even if Mr. Trump won. This year, he left nothing to chance.
Although he was not thrilled with Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Magusin voted for him, helping the president-elect become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Chaska in nearly 25 years.
In all, Mr. Trump lost Chaska by nine percentage points – a steep drop from 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton in that city by six percentage points. And although Mr. Trump captured Carver County, which includes Chaska, he did so with just five percentage points, down from a 14-point victory margin in 2016.
The change was so drastic that it helped Mr. Biden easily win Minnesota by more than 233,000 votes. His performance in Chaska, as well as other communities far from the Twin Cities, reflected his success in the country’s suburbs, where voters turned out in such large numbers that they helped fuel Mr. Biden for the presidency.
Indeed, Mr Biden improved Ms Clinton’s performance in suburban counties by an average of five percentage points, which represents the places where voting margins have changed the most since 2016, according to New York Times analysis. . His gains were greatest in traditionally Republican strongholds in battlefield states, in the suburbs of Phoenix, Dallas, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, to name a few.
As was the case nationally, Mr. Trump got more votes in Chaska this year than in his first presidential election. But he also led thousands of opponents to the polls.
Some residents said they were repelled by Mr. Trump’s attitude and controversial race rhetoric, leading them to vote for Mr. Biden or a third-party candidate.
For the past two years, the city has grappled with racism after incidents at its high school, which included white students who wore black faces. These episodes, residents said, have liberalized the views of some people and fostered a better understanding of racial justice issues, in contrast to Mr. Trump’s denial of systemic racism.
A shift in the city’s demographics also appears to have given Mr Biden a boost. More non-white families and professionals who lived in cities – groups that tend to be more democratic – have settled in Chaska – 27,000 residents – for its affordability and high performing schools.
And while the occasional acts of vandalism and looting in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd in custody may have fueled some anxiety in Chaska, it does not appear to cause serious concern even among supporters of Mr. Trump. In fact, the main thing to remember, according to some residents, was not that the country was falling into anarchy, but that systemic racism was a major problem in America.
“It was a huge turning point for me, I think, in general, to really understand the Black Lives Matter movement and just embrace it,” said Amy Olsen-Schoo, a white Chaska resident who voted for Mr. Trump there. four years ago but for Mr. Biden this time.
Ms Olsen-Schoo, 45, was raised in the Twin Cities suburbs as a moderate Republican – economically conservative but more liberal on social issues. Until this year, she had voted Republican her entire life.
When Mr. Trump campaigned four years ago, Ms. Olsen-Schoo was drawn to his lack of political experience and his promise to “drain the swamp.” She said she brushed aside his most offensive remarks. When he spoke harshly about immigrants, she believed it meant he was defending immigration reform, which she approved of, she said.
“I saw him as someone interesting, something different – it was attractive, ”she said. “You look past some of these transgressions. I can’t believe I did this. I am ashamed.”
Once Mr. Trump became president, Ms. Olsen-Schoo quickly saw his rhetoric as incitement to hatred, she said. She was horrified by comments she read from Republicans on social media, she said, such as suggestions that Muslims were going to destroy America.
Although 83% of Chaska’s population is white, its racial and ethnic diversity has increased slightly over the past decade. Latinos represent 8.4%, Asians 3.5% and blacks 2.2%.
The Trump-era division has struck near their homes, residents said, after a series of racist incidents at Chaska High School and after critics of a new school district equity program argued that this would lead to discrimination against white students.
Out of these racial tensions, locals formed a racial justice group in Chaska, a town of sprawling housing estates with single-family homes, surrounded by walking trails and lakes.
Donta Hughes, 38, said that after Mr Floyd’s murder, support grew for the group and for black residents like him. He started receiving messages of support on Facebook, he said, and more and more white residents became willing to have tough conversations about the breed. Chaska’s police chief gathered community members, including Mr. Hughes, to discuss race issues.
Yet when a group of high school students staged a Black Lives Matter protest in Chaska, there was a backlash. Some residents have warned it could get out of hand as protests elsewhere in the country. Some businesses have boarded up their windows in the quaint downtown district of shops and boutiques housed in low-slung brick buildings.
To ease tensions, Mr. Hughes, who moved to Chaska eight years ago with his wife and four children for schools, told residents he would patrol the community during the protest. The protest was peaceful, which helped people see that Mr. Trump’s public order concerns were overblown.
“I think the voices we’ve heard here have just spoken loud enough to combat this,” Mr. Hughes said.
In many ways, the sharp left turn in Chaska – and the higher Democratic turnout in Carver County – stems from years of efforts by local Democrats to increase their visibility in deeply Republican territory.
When Mary Leizinger became president of the Carver County Democrats four years ago, she saw an opportunity to gain support in the eastern part of the county, which is more developed and closer to the Twin Cities than the part western rural.
Ms Leizinger said she had focused heavily on tackling disinformation on Facebook by posting reputable news articles on the county party page. She increased the participation of members of the county’s Democratic Party in festivals and community parades, carrying large banners bearing the party’s name and signs addressing specific issues.
“Five or 10 years ago we were walking the parades and they would be icy faces,” said Ms Leizinger, 63. But last summer, they marched with placards denouncing the Trump administration’s child separation policy on the Mexican border “and received standing ovations,” she said.
The party also bought space on five billboards in the western part of the county and covered them with messages attacking Mr. Trump and urging people to vote Democratic.
In some ways, Mr. Trump was his own worst enemy.
Coming from a farming family in Illinois, Rachel Frances said she was drawn to Mr. Trump as the first voter in 2016 because of his speech to the working class. But once he took office, she quickly came to believe that he didn’t know what he was doing, she said.
“He doesn’t know anything about what it means to be the working class,” said Ms Frances, 22, who moved to Chaska three months ago with her boyfriend and voted for a third-party candidate in that election. “It quickly wore off, all of its appeal.
While it remains to be seen whether Chaska’s Democratic swing will continue beyond this election, some liberal residents say they have found alliances where they least expected them.
Ashley Tike and her husband William represent the demographic shift that has made the suburbs bluer. They met in Los Angeles, where Ms Tike moved after attending the University of North Dakota, where she grew up in a conservative Catholic home. Her political views became more liberal as she lived on the west coast and for a year in France, where her husband is from.
They moved to Minnesota last year when she was pregnant so they could be closer to her parents, and they chose Chaska because it was quieter and more affordable than a big city.
But for all of her perks, Ms. Tike, a 26-year-old figure skating coach, felt politically out of place. Still, she thought the stakes in this election were too high to remain silent, so she nervously planted a Biden sign in their front yard.
“I was just kind of like, ‘Well, I haven’t met any of the neighbors really anyway because of Covid, and so if they hate us, they hate us,'” she said. “I just felt Trump needed to get out. Every time I saw him on TV my fists clenched.
Shortly after Ms Tike unfurled the sign, a neighbor on one side came up to her and told her that her own Biden sign was on the way. Then the neighbor on the other side also approached Ms Tike: Where could she get her own Biden sign, she asked.