In his May 21 commentary (“Showing ‘respect’ won’t help Dems win over white Republicans”), Paul Waldman should have limited his advice to Democratic candidates to this one sentence: “Advocate for what you believe in and explain why it actually helps people.”

Regrettably, almost everything else in Waldman’s piece ignores this advice. Should Democrats try to appeal to white Republican voters by showing them respect? Waldman contends it’s a waste of time. As one of many examples of the apparent futility of respecting white Republicans, Waldman rhetorically asks “How many times have we seen Democrats try to show respect by going to a NASCAR event or on a hunting trip, only to be mocked for their insincerity?”

Really ? If that was the case, those Democratic candidates deserved to be mocked. (My advice to Democratic candidates would be only go to NASCAR events if you’re a fan or go on hunting trips if you’re a hunter.)

Fortunately, Democrats in the elections over the past year seem to be ignoring the call to write off the white Republican vote. A prime example of this is Danica Roem, the openly transgender candidate who won in Virginia in a 2017 race pitting her against what the Washington Post called “Virginia’s most socially conservative state lawmaker,” a 13-term incumbent. If you caught any clips of Roem’s speeches, it is pretty clear that she had a laser focus on local issues that mattered to her constituents. She largely let her opponent’s reprehensible statements (such as calling himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe”) speak for themselves.

Maybe Roem was “stunningly naive” to have thought she could win in that conservative district. And no doubt much of her victory can be attributed to newly energized Democratic voters or to Democrats new to the district. But my bet is she also drew in more than a few white Republicans who appreciated the respect she gave them.

John Lampe, St. Paul

• • •

According to the press, the Democratic Party is suffering from a split personality, with moderates in combat with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. In this Democrat’s opinion, it’s no contest, or should be so.

A few key points. First, Sanders almost took the nomination for 2016, and it can be argued that he would have if the Democratic Party hadn’t thrown its weight behind Hillary Clinton and undermined Sanders. For sure, he drew crowds that dwarfed Clinton’s. Second, it can be argued that Clinton lost because she was Republican Lite, running right down the center with very little passion. Finally, the Democratic Party at the moment stands for nothing discernible that I can see. Despite having an unhinged would-be autocrat in the White House, there is simply no detectable passion on the left.

My advice? Go progressive and embrace the party of FDR. If Democrats are to prevail, there has to be a material difference between the parties, and simply not being Trump won’t cut it. There has to be real contrast between what Democrats and Republicans stand for. Simply look at Social Security. Democrats would expand it, while Republicans would cut it. Medicare? Democrats would move toward Medicare for all, while Republicans would cut it. Food assistance? Republicans are trying to cut it in the farm bill. Democrats would expand it. Children’s health insurance? Same conclusion.

I could go on, but the conclusion is obvious. The contrast is stark and dramatic. So use it! Do so, and we can flip Congress.

John F. Hetterick, Plymouth

SOCIAL SAFETY NET

Let’s break out of our box and create a truly equitable system

A May 20 commentary (“You can ignore the myth about that stingy U.S. social safety net”) stated that the U.S. social safety net is effective while still being inadequate. It recommended more aid in the form of tax credits, food stamps, drug benefits, housing assistance and so on. I’m not knocking them. We need more of the same, but it would not correct what’s wrong — the structure that perpetuates injustice.

Our whole tax system needs an overhaul, and more comprehensively than politicians admit. Why not tax transactions on Wall Street? Why should a family pay sales tax on the purchase of a washer while a tycoon pays none on moving millions of dollars?

Why not eliminate tax brackets, which promote cheating? Surely the computer whizzes who contrive incomprehensibly complex algorithms can figure out a graduated and progressive tax without brackets.

How about eliminating corporate taxes and taxing the profiteers themselves? It would strike a blow to trickle-down ideology and inject equity into the system that punishes small-business owners while coddling the obscenely wealthy, most of whom gain wealth by capitalizing on others’ wealth, not by being jobmakers. Capital gains and dividends should be taxed as robustly as income.

Passing these measures may not be as impossible as it seems, because conservatives as well as liberals see merit in them. But they are unfamiliar and need airing for consideration by the public.

An underpaid worker should not have to fill out form after form to get relief. While she strategizes in pursuit of government benefits, a tycoon strategizes to gain more profits and pay less tax. The two apply the same type of intelligence, but one begins with vastly more fortunate circumstances. And, I dare say, often with less honesty

Jeanette Blonigen Clancy, Avon, Minn.

WATER USAGE

To put it dryly: When it rains, a facility doesn’t need to sprinkle

On May 24, we received about 0.70 inches of rain, yet on the morning of May 25 I saw irrigation sprinklers running at the Eden Prairie Mall. Given the area’s climate, the recent rainfall would accommodate about five days of turf growth. Additionally, the sprinkler heads were not always directed properly — some were spraying the road.

Automatic rain sensors that turn off irrigation systems during periods of rain have been around for decades. Why have they not been installed? I thought fresh water was a precious commodity. Let’s treat it as such.

Ralph Hollander, Eden Prairie

The writer is a certified landscape irrigation auditor.

THE NFL AND ANTHEM

Here’s your walk-up music

There is a simple solution to the problem of NFL players choosing to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. Discontinue the display of patriotic symbols such as the flag and the anthem at sporting events. Or, more appropriately, play ABBA’s song “Money, Money, Money” before games.

Judi Sateren, Minneapolis

PHARMACEUTICALS

Hey, what’s in this stuff?

I went to the pharmacy recently and looked at “inert” ingredients in major drugs. Can anyone explain to me why baby Tylenol contains high-fructose corn syrup as well as a host of other junk? There is propylene glycol and red dyes and whatnot. I tried to order a substitute for Pepto-Bismol without the junk from a compound pharmacy, which wanted $130 for a 16-ounce bottle. Even doctors tell you to stay away from many of these additives. What is the reason for it and why doesn’t anyone in the medical field speak up about it?

You might say this is a naive question. I don’t need a lecture about the dangers of Western medicine. I want bismuth subsalicylate without unnecessary junk added.

Harold Samtur, St. Paul