COLUMN: Wisdom to the victors, comfort to the defeated

This is my Sunday column for the Nov. 4, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Wisdom to the victors, comfort to the defeated
By Aaron J. Brown

As the old saying goes, “Don’t vote, you’ll only encourage them.”

Well, OK. You should vote. It’s more than just a civic duty. Important issues are at stake and the solutions simply cannot fit into a 30-second television commercial. But you know what can? Lumberjacks.

Our northern Minnesota 8th district is now rated as a toss-up. The one in northern Wisconsin is also close. Thus, we of the Duluth media market are subject to the ads of FOUR candidates and their various allies.

In WI-7, apparently the race is tighter than the belt on a new skidder. Republican incumbent and former professional lumberjack Sean Duffy is facing off against former TV news anchor and Democratic state senator Pat Kreitlow. Duffy gained notoriety in 2010 with his clever ads showing him performing various lumberjack skills. Kreitlow’s ads have shown him flailing about as a rather poor lumberjack, with the implicit message that he would be a better congressman than a lumberjack.

I like a good lumberjack yarn, but it’s been a long time since we’ve sent a practicing lumberjack to Congress. Since Duffy is actually a lawyer, and Kreitlow actually a journalist, Wisconsin won’t be sending one this year either. But, lumberjack ads persist.

Polls show a very tight race between Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) and former Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL) for our own congressional seat in northern Minnesota’s MN-8. Legislative races on the eastern Range are considered to be relatively safe for the local DFL, but out on the west Range where I live we have several drum tight races that have left a pound of heavy stock campaign mailers in our recycle bin.

The tragic and violent storms this week out East have altered the tone of the election. Last week a Senate candidate in the affected area implored his supporters to take down their yard signs “so they do not become projectiles.” Wouldn’t that be a fair warning in any state, though, discourse being what it is? Not all storms are atmospheric in nature.

This natural disaster has done one important thing; it’s taken the presidential election out of the hands of spinners, spewers and bloviators and shown the world for what it is: almost, but certainly not within our control.

Scientific studies have shown that the results of an election have a psychological impact on the supporters of various candidates. Men, in particular, experience a decrease in testosterone if their candidate loses. And of course, I think I’m not alone in finding myself anxious on the nights of big campaign events. I lay awake for hours the night my candidate did poorly in a debate. I lay awake hours the night he did well. It didn’t matter either way.

My thoughts turn to red and blue maps any time my day idles. I imagine the states turning color under the very ground on which we stand, changed forever by the narrow decision of some neighbors over the will of other neighbors.

This is not helpful.

American politics have often been contentious and sometimes even nastier than we see today. No one has accused anyone of eating babies, for instance, which happened a couple centuries ago. But our politics are also more insistent than they once were. The darkest matter of every campaign is hurled toward our retinas for as long as our eyes are open and pointed at the TV, the mailbox or our computer screens. For many of us, this is a significant part of our day.

This Tuesday, we’ll go the polls alongside people whose views we abhor. About half of us will be in mourning on Wednesday morning. By Thursday, they’ll be talking about potential candidates for the next campaign. Life goes on and there is only so much we really control. One thing we can master is whether or not we inform ourselves fully and vote, without fear, in hope for our future and that of our children.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show. Find the podcast from the recent Eveleth show or more about the upcoming Dec. 15 show in Bigfork at

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.