It seems that President Donald Trump forgets he works for the people, rather than the other way around. In threatening the newly elected Democratic majority in the U.S. House (“Trump says government will halt if Dems investigate him,” StarTribune.com, Nov. 7), Trump is essentially insulting the voters who elected them. We the people just finished sending this set of representatives to Congress for a reason — to restore necessary checks and balances in our government. It’s not up to the president to decide whether and what Congress should investigate. It also was our decision to elect them to represent us, and it will be up to us to decide if they (and the president) should be retained or fired. Sorry, Mr. President, but it’s our call, not yours.
Jeff Dols, Inver Grove Heights
Third District outcome brings good news: Negativity doesn’t work
Well, it’s over. Most of us were sick of political advertising before the leaves turned. By Election Day, we had stopped paying any attention. It was just background noise; fair-minded Minnesotans of all political persuasions ignored the mean-spirited exaggerations.
But here’s the good news. We now have proof that it doesn’t work. It failed miserably. The proof is in the Third District campaign for Congress. Both incumbent Erik Paulsen and challenger Dean Phillips are two competent and relatively moderate Minnesota candidates far from the extremes in their parties. From press reports, I calculate that Paulsen and the groups supporting him spent more than $10 million on negative ads. The outrageously misleading charges in these ads were publically repudiated by local media and business leaders. But the cynical politicos didn’t stop running the ads.
Cynics in political advertising have always claimed that attack ads work. Attack ads, they remind us, are especially effective in influencing undecided voters by demonizing the opponent. (Never mind the collateral damage; these messages sour voters and tend to make all of us distrust the political class.)
Let’s hope those responsible for messaging to Minnesotans in the future study this blunder.
Paulsen’s supporters invested more than $10 million to demonize Phillips. Paulsen got 160,000 votes. Do the math. They spent more than $60 per vote and lost by 12 percentage points in what was predicted to be a tossup. I know there are many factors beyond advertising to consider in analyzing a race like this. But we’ll all be better off if politicians take this lesson to heart.
Fred Senn, Edina
THE MIDTERMS IN GENERAL
Circumstance played as big a role in the outcomes as anything
Two thoughts about the results of the midterm elections:
First, we need to be careful about overinterpreting what was largely a chance effect. The pundits made a big deal out of the contradictory results in the House and Senate races. But we do not have two different populations voting for the two houses. In fact, most people tend to vote the party line. The divergent outcomes were simply the result of the chance occurrence that Democrats were defending far more Senate seats than were Republicans. If this had been a year in which an equal number of Senate seats were up for both parties, the Democratic Party would have flipped both houses, and we would be viewing the results as a repudiation of “Trumpian” politics.
The second thought is that the much-ballyhooed rural/suburban divide is consistently being misinterpreted by the media. While it is true that there is a correlation between these demographics and voting preference, one needs to include all potentially significant factors to have a valid statistical model. After all, essentially the same demographic very recently comprised the “Farmer” in Democratic-Farmer-Labor, with essentially the same education and income disparities. Our beliefs are largely determined by whom we associate with and whom we listen to. When we attribute our political differences to education and income, we tend to create false, unhelpful labels that only serve to demonize the other side and tear us apart as a nation.
Steven M. Pine, Hopkins
• • •
I, like so many, am relieved that this election is over. It’s now time for the winners to reflect on what needs to be done.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz, you won because of the strong support in the Twin Cities and Rochester. You have a lot to do to gain the respect of the rest of Minnesota. I think you are up to the task.
To the Democrats who now have control of the U.S. House: Please don’t waste energy on investigating Trump, even though I think there is a lot to uncover. What we need from Congress are tangible results, not symbolic gestures — a budget, sensible immigration policy, improvements to the Affordable Care Act, deficit reduction and, yes, campaign-finance reform. It’s tempting (and sometimes satisfying) to gloat, but it does no one any good. Be focused on what really affects your constituents. That’s how we as a nation can start to come together.
Dorothy Hanson, Minneapolis
• • •
For the past two decades, one political party has not been able to control the presidency and both parties of Congress for an extended period of time.
While the far left and far right generate headlines, most Americans fall somewhere in the less-exciting middle. While the idea of total control may appeal to those whose party rules the day, ultimately Americans of different political leanings will exact their own checks and balances upon the system.
Pundits have described this as volatility; I call it common sense.
Jason Gabbert, Plymouth
It was heartening to see voters’ commitment to participating
I worked the election as a judge in Plymouth. I realized what a privilege I had been given as I observed all of the voters who came through.
Plymouth is usually thought of as a “white-bread” city, but I saw such diversity and in numbers that were really heartening. Many were first-time voters.
I saw people who were struggling with enormous disabilities, people who were trying to circumvent language barriers, people with difficult aging challenges, young mothers trying to manage their voting with clinging fretful children. They all waited with infinite patience through difficulties and sometime delays due to complex voting regulations.
All wanted nothing but to vote, and it was a privilege and gift to me to be able to aid them.
Elaine Sachi Watson, Plymouth
• • •
What a travesty that Native Americans, the only original, non-immigrant Americans among us, are denied the right to vote by suppression practices such as, in North Dakota, requiring a street address. Congress should pass, and the president should sign, legislation to guarantee all Native Americans their right to vote with no conditions or credentials required. After all, they are the first American citizens and were here before the rest of us — all immigrants.
Heather Bjork, Golden Valley