WE MAY AS WELL NAME THESE FEARS
I fear that this election, and our times, require the coining of terms. First, as applied to the candidates …
• Madamepresidephobia: The base-level fear of a Clinton victory.
• Megalomaniaphobia: The essential fear of a President Trump.
… and to their key faults (though not theirs alone):
• Transparephobia: The fear of having one’s record available for scrutiny, since something, somewhere is bound to explode.
• Notsobiglyaphobia: The fear of framing anything in its proper perspective.
Then there are concerns about the voters …
• Patellarreflexophobia: The fear of discovering some underlying legitimacy to beliefs that otherwise present as a poised knee to naivety’s rubber hammer.
• Selfsaboplebeiaphobia: The fear of entrusting one’s interests, or society’s, to people with expertise.
… and worries about the vote:
• Rigandorrigormortiphobia: The fear of an illegitimate electoral process; for instance, ballots cast by dead people.
• Ryanandorrubiophobia: The realistic fear that one’s desperate write-in literally will not count.
Finally, there’s transitional dread:
• Nobamaphobia: The fear of admitting you might come to miss the Worst. President. Ever. (It tends to occur with worst presidents, which are all of them.)
• Noboomophobia: The fear that Giant Meteor 2016 is just another empty promise.
In any case, remember: The strict definition of “phobia” is an irrational or excessive fear or aversion, a real-life issue for some. Yes, elections have consequences, sometimes tragic. But this country has an amazing foundation. Whatever happens, we’re going to be all right.
• Nowheretowhingeaphobia: The fear that whatever happens, we’re going to be all right.
DAVID BANKS, assistant commentary editor
TOO STRONG A DOSE OF DEMOCRACY?
“The best argument against democracy,” Winston Churchill said, “is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” America’s lately had an earful of the average voter’s sensibility, largely channeled by Donald (‘I am your voice!”) Trump.
But I fear we can’t any longer even comprehend the obvious lesson — the old truth that democracy is strong medicine, healthful only in measured doses. America’s framers, understanding this, left us a complex government contraption that allows the majority to govern only with its will filtered through a mellowing mechanism of “checks and balances.” Gridlock gives a timeout to the passions of the mob.
Over our history, other filtering institutions arose. One was political parties, whose selfish institutional interests made old-time party bosses prefer to nominate safe, pliable, moderate candidates. This frustrated visionaries of all varieties.
So we’ve gradually and increasingly “fixed” things, in line with a softheaded modern faith in the natural wisdom of the people. Over time we’ve “democratized” the process of picking party nominees — taking the keys to the ballot away from bosses and giving them to voters in direct primaries.
This year, the symptoms of hyper-democracy struck. Radicalism and circus showmanship hijacked the 2016 election. Trump is in the center ring, of course, but the near-takeover of the Democrat nomination by an avowed socialist is also a warning.
We need to restore our political parties’ ability to govern themselves, shape the choice of candidates and steer clear of the worst mistakes possible in pure, unfiltered popularity contests.
Yet this year, of all years, Minnesota chose to join the democratizing trend and re-establish a presidential primary come 2020.
However this abysmal election ends, the unfiltered popular voice has spoken. Will it take an even worse campaign to convince us we’ve heard enough?
D.J. TICE, commentary editor
TOO MANY CAN’T PRIORITIZE THEIR INFO, THINK CRITICALLY
Nobody changes important viewpoints, political or otherwise, after an argument on social media. So the regrets — “Do I really want to waste my time on this?” — were kicking in even as I posted links to medical journal articles in a Facebook spat with an anti-vaccine activist a while back.
No, peer-reviewed evidence of vaccines’ safety from the world’s most-respected medical journals didn’t change the anti-vaxxer’s opinion. He and others simply dug in, citing rumors from “Big Pharma” employees of coverups. They also pointed to obscure websites detailing one person’s belief about vaccines’ supposed harm.
Hearsay and unvetted anecdotal evidence, it seems, is for some people as good or better than published academic research from medical doctors and Ph.Ds. I don’t believe that, but the presidential campaign has made it alarmingly clear that many people do. They’re either unable or unwilling to prioritize information sources, a disturbing mind-set that does not inspire confidence in our nation’s future.
The problem is most evident at the top of the Republican ticket. Donald Trump considers the National Enquirer tabloid a credible source of information. Even worse, he’s on record lauding the laughable InfoWars site, which helped spread misinformation about detention centers run by a federal emergency agency and the supposed “Jade Helm” military takeover — and, more recently, declared that President Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are demons. Not a metaphor, but actual demons.
Voters should laugh off lunacy like this but instead have embraced it. That critical thinking vacuum has allowed fringe organizations to resurrect dangerous old myths about Jews or the United Nations swooping in to seize the nation’s sovereignty. Or, in Trump’s case, explain away polls as evidence of a “rigged election,” an untruth battering away at our democracy’s foundation.
The Information Age has brought us an abundance of choices for which we are stunningly ill-prepared. Teachers, the onus is on you. A classroom provides abundance of opportunities for students to learn how to evaluate information. Honing this basic skill is more critical than it ever has been.
JILL BURCUM, editorial writer
KNOCK ON WOOD IF YOU MUST, BUT THIS, TOO, WILL PASS
Spare us, please, from the incessant fearmongering over possible outcomes of the 2016 presidential election.
Thanks to the brilliance of its founders and the strength of the majority of its citizens, the U.S. is stronger than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the worst-case-scenario thinking that has so many Americans on edge as we approach Nov. 8.
Sadly, Trump and Clinton haven’t helped. Both love to remind voters that the nation will know certain ruin if their opponent is elected. Trump has predicted that Clinton would start World War III in Syria, while Clinton resurrected “Daisy” from the iconic 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign ad to suggest Trump would be jittery with the nuclear codes.
The darkness seems to have enveloped some of their followers. “I believe America will go into a Greece-like collapse,” one Trump supporter from Eagan told the Star Tribune last month when asked what a Clinton victory would mean. Meanwhile, 84 percent of Clinton’s supporters in a September Star Tribune Minnesota Poll said they were “very alarmed” that Trump could become president.
Let’s take a breath. The U.S. has endured a Civil War, the Great Depression, the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War, Watergate, Bush v. Gore and 9/11, not to mention two world wars, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq (twice). Oh, and don’t forget disco.
In the words of the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter, who admittedly was not commenting on the 2016 presidential race when he wrote the lyric, “We will survive.”
The next four years may not be a textbook exercise in democracy, but somehow the country will persevere through either a Clinton or Trump presidency. It has to: The 2020 campaign is just around the corner.
SCOTT GILLESPIE, editorial page editor
IN MINNESOTA, URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE IS BEING EXPLOITED
In the last half of the 20th century, Minnesotans took for granted an asset that many other states lacked — a strong and functional state government. Minnesotans habitually aggregated their resources and allowed their legislators to allocate them in service of the common good.
That asset can no longer be taken for granted. State government hasn’t been very functional since 2000. And an election like this one could make matters worse.
A huge regional divide is evident in the Oct. 20-22 Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. Residents of Hennepin and Ramsey counties preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a whopping 33 percentage points. Outside the 11-county metro area, Trump was up by 4 points.
“Place-baiting,” an apt term coined by the Bluestem Prairie blog, risks widening that rural/urban rift. Some Republican candidates in Greater Minnesota are casting the metro area as an enemy encampment to be resented and resisted. Take the flier that GOP state Senate candidate Mike Goggin is distributing in Red Wing, and that’s showing up in a few other districts, too. Goggin’s version criticizes DFL Sen. Matt Schmit for voting “with Minneapolis liberals 95 percent of the time.”
Is that contrary to Red Wing’s interests? “Metro liberals are not for Red Wing,” Goggin said.
His example: Schmit favored a transportation/bonding bill that would have allowed Hennepin County to pay a larger share of Southwest light rail transit costs. That vote denied Red Wing funding for roads, Goggin claimed — incorrectly. The bill Schmit supported would have been a “win-win.” It would have paid for projects in both Greater Minnesota and the metro area.
To stay functional, state government needs a “win-win” ethos that benefits both metro and rural Minnesota. That ethos will be harder to sustain if voters elect legislators who campaigned on “win-lose.”
LORI STURDEVANT, editorial writer
A MEDIA-DRIVEN CAMPAIGN, WITH POLICY IN SHORT SUPPLY
The disconnect between this surreal campaign and the real issues the next president must address is dangerous for America’s democracy. One of culprits for this detachment is the morph between media and politics, which has made the once-distinct dynamics nearly indistinguishable.
Both candidates, for instance, were defined largely by their use of media.
Developer Donald Trump built his image not through elected experience or policy mastery, but through multimedia ubiquity: Best-selling author; tabloid and talk-show fixture; reality-TV star.
Media exposure also exposed the GOP nominee, be it a lewd, leaked video, indiscreet tweets, or other media missteps that became campaign flash points. But he hardly had close associates to redirect him to policy prescriptions, since his top operatives aren’t policy wonks, but media creatures, too.
Policy perspectives were supposed to supersede voters’ constant concerns about Hillary Clinton’s character. But in a late-breaking development fitting this election, media, too, eclipsed Clinton’s campaign narrative and upended expectations of a clear Clinton win. That the e-mails now in question came from the serial reckless use of media by Anthony Weiner is a twist no novelist would have credibly dared.
Meanwhile, more menacing is Russia’s alleged involvement in WikiLeaks’ release of other embarrassing Clinton campaign e-mails, since it would indicate Moscow meddling in an U.S. election.
Russia is just one formidable foreign-policy challenge for the next president; daunting domestic problems await, too. And yet the election has been mostly a meta-narrative on the campaign itself. Media-driven issues, for instance, were exhaustively hashed over in the debates. But not a single question was asked about climate change.
How, or whether, to react to that threat is just one of the profound presidential decisions awaiting Tuesday’s winner, who will have to quickly pivot from campaigning to governing a deeply divided nation through known and unknown crises.
JOHN RASH, editorial writer
CROSSED LINES, DISUNITY, AND AHEAD, MORE OF SAME
Dangerous precedents have been set in this election that could put America on a path it may regret in years to come. Worse even than the scorched-earth tactics that now threaten to taint the Justice Department and the FBI, is the very real possibility that Nov. 8 will be only a speed bump in what is becoming an unceasing war between red and blue.
Claims of a rigged election have paved the way for both sides to lawyer up for a challenge of the results. Even after we elect a new president, the hostilities could go on, with investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and other vulnerabilities, with more digging for the nasty debris that litters Donald Trump’s career, with the possible ouster of a House speaker considered insufficiently loyal. The positioning for 2020 has already begun.
There may be no honeymoon at all for this new president, no “Hundred Days,” when a new agenda benefits from a little goodwill honoring the people’s choice. If Clinton is elected, we may see a president who starts out under both a federal probe and a congressional investigation. Already the Republican Senate is openly contemplating allowing the highest court in the land to shrivel, lest a justice who reflects a duly elected president’s values be permitted to ascend.
When then, is the nation to bind up its wounds and move forward, to call a cease-fire in our undeclared civil war? This election has unleashed forces of hatred and bigotry tamped down for decades that now threaten our basic values. I won’t indulge in any calls for fake unity here. The political parties have different goals and ways of getting there, and that ideological tussle gives spark to democracy.
But there must be some lines that aren’t crossed. We must, after hitting a nadir in politics that extends beyond the presidential election, recommit to integrity in our institutions and higher ethical standards for those who represent us. We cannot accept that the behavior exhibited in this election cycle is the new standard.
PATRICIA LOPEZ, editorial writer
FORGETTING EVERYTHING WE LEARNED AT AGE 5
Nearly 30 years ago, Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’’ became a beloved bestseller. His collection of observations through the eyes of a child reminds us in sweet, simple terms about the value of civility, kindness, finding joy, and living by the Golden Rule.
That message is as meaningful now as it was then. Yet elements of the 2016 Clinton/Trump campaign violated several of those sandbox lessons we still strive to teach our young. New lows in discourse offered such horrible examples of adult conduct that I worry about how the insults and ugliness affect children and teens.
Fulghum’s collection included an oft-repeated poem/list of 16 things he learned that first year of school. It included cute things like take a nap every day, and warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. But it also stated basics such as don’t hit people, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone and play fair.
We tell our kids not to be violent. Yet in this campaign, hundreds of adults cheered wildly when a presidential candidate condoned sucker-punching a protester.
Apologies for hurtful comments have been nearly nonexistent in this “please-let-it-be-over-now” election season. Rather, it has given voice to some of Americans’ worst racist, misogynist, xenophobic feelings. What does it say about a campaign in which “Trump that B---h’’ is splashed across T-shirts and placards? What message do young people get from a race that reveals a candidate who grabs and forcibly kisses women, and says insulting things about Mexicans and Muslims as campaign themes?
It is certainly fair to disagree and support one’s views with facts when running for office. But there have been so many blatant, easily provable lies and misleading half-truths tossed around during this campaign that it is tough to keep track of them.
As the Star Tribune recently reported, many Minnesota teachers have had a hard time dealing with this campaign, with some opting out of discussing it in class altogether. Parents, communities and adults interacting with kids have the same problem. What kind of model is this for our young people?
No matter who wins the election, this nation has some soul-searching, readjusting and healing to do. As we pick up the pieces of this election and attempt to fulfill the promise of America, we would do well to take one the last pieces of advice on Fulghum’s list:
“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands — and stick together.’’
DENISE JOHNSON, editorial writer