Reflections on the election

It was a fascinating unfolding of events last night, and I got far too much of it — staying awake until the final Mille Lacs County results came in at 3:30 a.m. so I could call them into the Associated Press.
I enjoyed blogging my reactions and updates into the wee hours and was pleased to see that a few people were actually clicking on them.
A few thoughts:
Proud Minnesotan
I wrote columns encouraging “no” votes on both amendments but predicted when they were first proposed that the marriage amendment would fail and the voter ID succeed.
I was surprised that voter ID actually got fewer “yes” votes than the marriage amendment. My guess is that once word got out that there was a cost associated with it, a lot of conservatives who liked the idea suddenly didn’t.
Whatever the reason, I’m proud that my fellow voters nixed both of these unnecessary, partisan and mean-spirited amendments. That said, my arguments didn’t sway the people of our region, who gave a hearty “yes” to both amendments.
A few surprises in local races:
We’re still waiting to hear who those write-in votes were for in Garrison. We can assume that most, if not all, were for Pat Charlson for mayor and Sue Foster for council, but if a handful were for other write-in candidates, then Mayor Bruce Pierson and council candidates Matt Biever or Jimmy Naegele may still win.
I’m not a big fan of spur-of-the-moment grassroots overthrows. I think good candidates tend to be those who are in for the long haul, are concerned about multiple issues, and do things according to plan — which includes filing for office. However, this is how Democracy works, and if the rebels win, I wish them luck.
It’s also true that there are significant problems in the Garrison area, but I don’t think fixing the roof is foremost. The bigger problem is with the sewer board that completely dropped the budget ball, resulting in drastic underpayment of fees and a giant levy increase apparently due to failed or postponed negotiations with Mille Lacs Wastewater. That board needs fixing more than the Garrison City Council.
County commissioners in the Princeton area (Jack Edmonds and Dan Whitcomb) got defeated by upstarts Ginny Reynolds and Tim Wilhelm. I think Edmonds and Whitcomb both did a good job, and I’m nervous about their replacements. I’ve been sitting in on the Mille Lacs County Board meetings longer than anyone in the county, and I’ve seen lots of “reformers” come in with high hopes of setting the locals straight — only to find that the incumbents have been very competent.
Keep in mind that this board built a much-needed justice center and completed much-needed restoration of the historic courthouse without raising taxes. Quite a feat during a recession, and outgoing Commissioner Frank Courteau of the north end deserves a lot of the credit.
In the Milaca area, Phil Peterson narrowly defeated Laurie Gahm, a well-known Milaca nurse who has served on the school board. Phil is competent and runs an efficient meeting when he’s chair, but he tends to let his anti-regulation attitude blind him to good policy — a problem across the board, and many county boards. Interestingly, Frank Courteau and Jack Edmonds became the board’s most liberal members when it came to (often necessary) government regulation.
Roger Tellinghuisen, whose district used to include Onamia but now only reaches to the townships south of town, handily defeated Greg McQuay, who didn’t seem to have much of a campaign. Roger is a good listener and thinks before he speaks. Like the rest of the board, he’s pretty conservative, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (Yes, I just said that!)
On the north end, I wasn’t surprised that Dave Oslin beat Bill Hill. Both men would’ve been good representatives of the people of the area, and I wish Dave the best.
In the state House race in Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties, Joe Walsh did better against Sondra Erickson than I expected. If he tries again in 2014, he may have a shot at unseating her, assuming the venerable Sondra runs again.
Dave Brown won more handily against newcomer Sally Knox, who didn’t make a strong case for herself (including never contacting the editor of a fairly significant paper in the district).
In the US House race in District 8, I thought Cravaack might pull out a second term. He did a good job of appearing to be accessible (by sending staffers on regular listening tours of the district), and calculated his photo ops and issues carefully (gun rights, Mille Lacs guide licensing, mining, etc.). I personally thought it was mostly transparent posing, and it bothered me that his family moved to New Hampshire and he acted like that was not an impediment to representing our district as a member of the self-proclaimed “family values” party. I also suspect that his BWCA land-exchange deal was meant mainly to gut regulation of one of my favorite places.
I wasn’t impressed with Nolan and thought the DFLers of the 8th district could’ve done better. I voted for Jeff Anderson in the primary, who could be groomed as a credible replacement for 69-year-old Rick.
The headline for our area, which may appear in next week’s paper, is something like “Mille Lacs out-of-step with state.” We went for Romney, Cravaack, Yes, Yes, and Republican legislators while the GOP lost control of both the House and Senate.
Urban/rural split
Speaking of which, the difference between Mille Lacs and the rest of Minnesota seems to mirror a national difference between urban and rural voters. The country music crowd seems to be diametrically opposed culturally to the hipsters and minorities of our urban centers.
( I shouldn’t make so much of this, since 30-40 percent of rural areas may be liberal and the same percentage of urban areas conservative.)
Much has been made of the Republicans’ white male problem, and it’s something they’ll need to deal with over the next few years as minority voters become a larger slice of the demographic pie.
Here in the Minnesota hinterlands, I think we’re seeing and will continue to see a trickling down of urban influence among younger voters. We’ve already seen more tolerance of homosexuality, and I think the power of conservative churches will wane in coming years because young people really don’t like morality imposed on them through politics (which to me is one of the lessons of this election).
The Tea Party revolution
It turns out that the big gains of Republicans in 2010 didn’t represent a dramatic change in the country’s politics but was a function of low interest and low turnout among those who voted in 2008 and yesterday. It should be a lesson to Democrats and Obama that in 2014 they need to work harder at getting out the vote.
That said, there are certain realities posed to bite us, and one is unsustainable government spending and debt. However, as Europe is proving more by the day, a slash-and-burn “austerity” approach can lead to more significant problems than a stimulus program like Obama’s. Our economy is recovering; theirs are in danger of falling into deep recession.
The two parties need to come together to reform the tax code (making the rich pay more), cut defense spending dramatically, and find a way to make Medicare and Social Security sustainable for the long term. In addition to dealing with climate change and growing global competition for dwindling fossil fuels.
But will they?
A continuing problem in Obama’s second term may be the irrationality of the anti-Obama crowd. They’ve created a straw man — a socialist pawn of the radical left — who doesn’t exist. If they’d read his books or actually listen to what he says with an open mind, they might find that the BS they’ve been fed by the right-wing media is toxic for them and for the country.
Obama is about as much of a socialist as George H.W. Bush and about as likely to take your guns as Bugs Bunny is.
Seriously, folks, if you’re getting your news from Fox and Limbaugh, Trump and Nugent, you need to stop. You’re making yourselves dumber, and repeating the crazy accusations and exaggerations of the right is not going to make them come true.

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