In the Jan. 5 opinion piece titled "Our Flag is still there," Virginia Heffernan, while bucking up our spirits with examples of good news ("The stock market is buoyant") does not fail to acknowledge bad news ("huge number of casualties from COVID ... [and] a serious blow to democracy with Trump's effort to disenfranchise and defraud us"). But her point is this: "[K]ey to these statements is the use of the past tense. ... The breakdown happened, and ... the flag was still there."

I am not convinced that the threats to our democracy are behind us. A recent Star Tribune article ("Wisconsin GOP sows new doubt about vote," Dec. 26) quoted a Republican appointee to that state's electoral commission as saying, "It's really irrelevant whether there was any fraud or not, the point here is that there are many people who do not have faith in the elections ... ." Since countless judicial reviews, audits and other investigations have revealed no fraud, this overseer of elections is really saying that it's irrelevant that widespread voting fraud doesn't exist, the point here is that many people believe it.

Whether the topic is election fraud, the severity of COVID-19 or climate change, Americans don't simply disagree over the nature of these problems, we disagree over their very existence. So long as this is true, future conflicts — rhetorical or physical — lie before us.

Roger B. Day, Duluth


It's way past time to play hardball. Our intrepid vice president ought to point out clearly that she will be the one presiding over the counting of Electoral College ballots in 2024 — and that she just might be the Democratic presidential nominee whose ballots she's counting. The goal would be to arm-twist the Republicans into modifying the 19th-century electoral count law to ensure that we never again have to rely on the vice president's patriotism in order to not have one person decide who is to be president.

Stephen Partridge, Edina


I love Steve Sack's insurrection tour of the Capitol, but he's missing a frame for the supplemental tour of the Oval Office — the room where it was planned.

David Witte, Plymouth


I see in Thursday's editorial ("Recognize, repair Jan. 6's damage") the Star Tribune Editorial Board used the word "insurrection"! What happened on Jan. 6 last year does not come up to that standard. I would call it a "peaceful protest" as were the peaceful protests St. Paul and in other cities across the country. Why did we have this protest? Well, we did have the harassment of a sitting president for over four years that is still going on. Why? They did not like him, is the answer. Well, I did not like Barack Obama, and I don't like Joe Biden.

In my opinion the Republicans should play the same game as the Democrats, harassing them endlessly when in office. At that point it would stop.

Edward McHugh, Lindstrom, Minn.


I am a 30-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department. I understand why the protests occurred in 2020. I do not condone the destruction of people's properties or livelihoods. It was wrong. Many who engaged in the destruction have been held accountable.

I understood the anger and why it was happening.

I understood the historical context.

But those people, that summer, in past decades, were looking for equity, accountability. They were not encouraged to violence by the president of the United States.

They did not move to overthrow a legitimate election. They did not rise at the behest of the most powerful person on earth. No police officer died because of those riots. Many were badly injured; I personally know some of them.

Protests, civil disobedience based on racial inequities, seek inclusion.

Those who committed insurrection at the behest of Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, sought exclusion.

America has never stopped fighting the Civil War. The war has continued beneath a thin American veneer.

Pundits remark, "This isn't who we are." Yes. It is. It will continue if a cancer like Trump is allowed his clarion call regarding the lie about the election. On Jan. 6, 2021, his followers, claiming to support law enforcement, called police protecting the U.S. Capitol traitors — using American flags as weapons against those same officers.

Some give Trump an out, saying he wasn't explicit in his call for violence. He didn't need to be. For months he sowed doubt with seditious speech. That is what a con man does. Trump is a con man, a grifter of unique skill.

A con man never robs his mark. He convinces the mark to rob themselves. Trump achieved this. He convinced American citizens to rob themselves of understanding of what he was doing to our country. America must shed this con man. Like those held to account for actions during the riots of 2020, Trump must also be held to account.

Erika L. Christensen, Lake Elmo


How to reverse the decline

It seems Andy Brehm's core concern ("Minnesota, in decline, needs a turnaround," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 4) comes down to a question of investment and return on investment.

According to Brehm's piece, citing data from the Center of the American Experiment, we spend $30,400 in public welfare for each Minnesotan in poverty — nearly twice the national average. OK, so if these dollars are seen as an investment, what are our returns? Are our streets today safer? No, at least not in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Are our students smarter? Well, our test scores are among the highest in the nation, but our racial achievement gap is embarrassingly high as well. Is Minnesota's water cleaner? Are we healthier than other states? Happier than other states? Um, yes? Yes? Yes?

But crime is up, no question. And too many of us are struggling. So how do we improve on our investment returns? According to Brehm, we should lower state spending, lower taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans and then hope to retain and perhaps recruit more businesses. But how would cutting state taxes improve Brehm's city (St. Paul) and mine (Minneapolis)? Would lower taxes reduce crime? Would lower taxes improve schools? How? Would lower taxes make our lakes and rivers cleaner? Would lower taxes make our state healthier? Happier?

Brehm and I do agree on one key point: Minnesota is in decline. But I would take this one step further: The United States is in decline. And one step further still: Our planet is in decline. To respond, should we Minnesotans reminisce about our halcyon past while we sit on our hands and ignore the present? No. But is the cure to our problems cutting taxes on our wealthiest residents? Again, no. Changes in leadership may help. And, absolutely, we should champion new and smarter ideas. And most important, we must bond together as a people — as a state — because for my money supporting the poorest among us, more than cutting taxes on the wealthiest, gives us the best chance to climb our way out of our troubled present and into a brighter tomorrow.

Timothy Hennum, Minneapolis


Republican policies allow guns to be nearly everywhere by everyone, allow cuts to local government aid, allow the siphoning of public education dollars in the name of school choice and allow piping more dollars to greater Minnesota than the metro in bonding projects — and then a Republican writes a commentary calling for us to vote the GOP into the governor's office because the urban core has gone to crap.

Don't be fooled. Sure, we got issues — let's fix them. But know their root cause by the likes of the radical GOP and their scare tactics. The GOP can only dream of a mass exodus of urban folk to Ham Lake and Farmington similar to the 1950s-1970s by screwing the urban core solely in the name of winning elections. Despite Brehm's attempts at a negative narrative of life in the city, I safely walked to work this morning in downtown St. Paul from my house in the West 7th neighborhood and still plan to re-elect Gov. Tim Walz this year!

Adam Yust, St. Paul

The writer is a legislative aide at the St. Paul City Council.

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