Looking at the virtually implacable red/blue split of our nation — across and within states — that the electoral map in 2020 now so clearly demonstrates, I want to suggest that we have way underestimated the culture wars ... those deep inner-conviction splits about matters of sexuality, gender, sexual preference, abortion, personal and social values, and the perception of the validity and/or respect for religion in the public sphere.

Both sides, left and right, have functionally moved ahead as if their perceptions on these matters were correct and nonnegotiable, both working to push their agendas into legal dominance, without much, or any, genuine conversation beyond their own echo chambers.

The normal-curve theory of social change says that on most issues we the public want to be in the large middle of the curve, with small percentages at either end. And the way one can effect change — a shift of the curve out toward one end on an issue — is not necessarily by thoughtful (or “scientific”) discourse, but by some group moving one of the ends outward by taking an “out there” stance that then shifts where the middle is. Think of the significant moves in public opinion in recent years on a number of hot-button issues (pick your own).

The problem with this is that it exacerbates the moves outward and away from a genuine middle where we can live as if in some version of commonality and community.

It is time to face our culture wars, not flee from them, to begin to address the real issues and values that they represent, so that we can as a people find our genuine commonalities, and our community.

Leonard Freeman, Minnetonka Beach

POLLING

Fundamental flaws in that data

There could be several reasons the polls got it so wrong in 2016 and again in 2020. But there really is one overriding reason — people don’t always tell pollsters what they really think or believe. When people are asked what they think or how they will vote, they might tell pollsters what they think pollsters want to hear or what they think would be the right thing to say.

But whatever they tell pollsters, if they really believe something else, in the privacy of the voting booth they can vote their beliefs, their fears, their racism or their anger. Polling depends on respondents telling the truth. It also depends on asking the right questions. If either of those two elements are not valid, the results will not be correct either.

My guess is people who actually have racist beliefs or underlying fears or anger tell pollsters one thing, but cast their vote differently. Until pollsters can figure out how to overcome that basic problem, polling results will always be suspect.

Dale Trippler, Blaine

• • •

One of the many lessons learned from this year’s presidential election is that the pollsters and pundits are about as reliable as fortunetellers gazing at tea leaves.

Although the poll-takers hit some of their predictions, that was the product of the law of averages. Overall, having missed the mark so often and so badly, their lame postelection explanations and excuses cannot detract from the reality that it’s time for them to pack up their algorithms, analytics and percentage likelihoods and find a new line of sorcery.

Their work was the equivalent of a weather forecaster calling for sunshine overlooking thundershowers most of the day.

As for the pundits, they, too, ought to ditch their multicolored digital maps and get in the queue at the unemployment electronic platform.

If their surveys are so unreliable in political matters, how credible are they in assessing other forms of public opinion, ranging from consumer preferences to other measurements of likes and dislikes?

Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis

JUDICIAL ELECTIONS

Not the way toward justice

While the rest of the nation focused on the presidential election, roughly 2.5 million Minnesotans cases ballots for two candidates for the Minnesota Supreme Court. The result is a strong argument for the end of judicial elections. Why? Because almost 1 million Minnesotans cast their ballots for a perennial candidate whose own party had rejected her and who has faced discipline on more than one occasion for her actions as an attorney.

Notoriety is not a qualification for the highest court in our state. Nor are attacks on the integrity of our courts. Those were all Michelle MacDonald had to offer Minnesota other than a pro-gun, pro-birth agenda that in itself betrayed the commitment to objectivity and respect for the law that we are entitled to in all of our judges.

“Activist” judges are not what our state needs, of any stripe. There has to be a better way to select those who administer justice in Minnesota.

James M. Hamilton, St. Paul

COVID-19

It’s real. Mask up and space out.

To those who thought that the coronavirus would disappear on Nov. 3, it’s still here. This was not a political stunt. Our state infection rate continues to rise with winter closing in. Our brave, overworked medical teams are still struggling day to day for us. My father, who died of COVID-19 in May, is still deceased and will not return. For the sake of your loved ones and our common health, please mask up and distance in public. This is real.

Richard Stemper, Richfield

• • •

During this COVID-19 season, hospitals in Minnesota are at record capacity. I currently care for COVID patients at St. Joseph’s and Bethesda hospitals, both destined to close soon. It is natural to think that nurses staffing these facilities would be demoralized. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I go about my hospital rounds in the medical and ICU wards I continue to be amazed at the care and compassion the nursing staff continue to display for these very sick patients. Even though most of the nurses do not know if they will have a job in the future, they continue to show up each day with a positive attitude and a caring spirit. During this COVID crisis, the true heroes are the hardworking nurses who serve our hospital patients.

Greig Glover, Woodbury

SCHOOL SPORTS

Something is broken here

The Tuesday Nov. 3 lead sports story contains a significant factual error. The story, “Push builds to rethink state tournaments,” says the Minnesota State High School League “has asked its 506 member schools ... to pay up to 300% more” in membership fees. The league didn’t ask anything — it ordered that member schools pay those higher fees, and it was made clear at an MSHSL session last week that schools that don’t pay up will be bounced out of the league. In Winona, where I’m a member of the public-school board, the extra fees would nearly triple what we pay MSHSL, from $5,600 to $14,600.

Given everything else public schools have to deal with during this rotten pandemic, including the misguided decision to allow contact sports while COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, the MSHSL fee hike is a very bitter pill, one that leads me to conclude sports have far too much influence on the way education is delivered in the U.S.

Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.

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