By endorsing former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, prominent politicians such as South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are legitimizing Trump’s antidemocratic, extremist ideas. By not confronting the former president’s lies and refusal to accept the credible 2020 electoral results, his framing of the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists as patriotic and his intent to intimidate or jail his opponents, possibly suspend the Constitution and invoke the Insurrection Act to quell demonstrations, these leaders are normalizing violent and authoritarian leadership. In their recently published book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” Harvard government Profs. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt argue that when political leaders like Scott and DeSantis fail to repudiate violent or antidemocratic behavior, they “become indispensable partners in democracy’s decline.” This reckoning with democracy’s future is real, and the Republican Party has once again failed the electorate.
Julie Holmen, Minneapolis
Dean Phillips had a lot going for him — intelligence, a likable personality, successful business background and an interesting family history. All vital for a successful political contest, but he missed the all-important sense of timing.
When first floating the idea of a bid, he received a lot of advice about this, most telling him that this was not the contest for him — his legislative accomplishments were few and in this all-important contest between democracy and creeping authoritarianism, an unknown didn’t have a chance. Perhaps he thought his would be the push to get other hopeful Democrats in the race and start a robust campaign with truly viable candidates.
Even more disturbing is his bullying and fearmongering, insisting that President Joe Biden cannot beat Trump. Who else uses the Big Lie tactic over and over? If he thought that he was really an alternative with any chance in this race, he must know that there would be some growing core of support, but instead he has become a pox on this already ugly campaign.
Phillips needs to use the ethics he espouses and gracefully bow out without more small drama.
Linda Zuidema, Columbia Heights
This is going to hurt
The commentary by Jacqueline Murray Brux on Jan. 22 (“Who’s afraid of the big, bad debt?” Opinion Exchange) made some spectacularly absurd claims punctuated with a condescending tone.
The tone was set with the opening words “OK, we get it” regarding the opinion that we need to start dealing with our continual deficit spending and ever-increasing national debt. Imagine starting a term paper with that sentence.
She says, “Never look at the zeros.” Never? The size of the debt never matters? Using wildly inflated spending and revenue figures as examples (concerning) she claims it’s all about percentage of debt to GDP. “Oh wow — the deficit doubled. Nothing to be alarmed about here though, as nothing ‘real’ has changed.” Deficits are not real? We never have to be alarmed? The example fails to comprehend that deficits are cumulative. The contemptuous “oh wow” is also a nice touch.
She queries the reader to “ask what is so bad about government borrowing” without ever seemingly asking herself. The claim that it is owed to the American public and Social Security is a (willing?) oversimplification. Is the author unaware of how much debt is foreign-owned? Of Social Security’s current financial situation? And “please don’t compare the government with a household,” you silly reader — It can just “‘[roll] over the debt,’ borrowing from someone to repay another.” Isn’t that the definition of a Ponzi scheme?
She has her ideas on how to spend all of this borrowed money on the well-being of the public and cannot conceive of any alternative to government borrowing until we’ve reached a “fully equitable economy” (shudder). Her politics are clear in only analyzing taxing and borrowing and never spending. As well as casually adding her concerns about “profitable corporations and the rich.” And if you still don’t understand her position, perhaps you should call your legislators “to rescind the 2017 tax bill.” If we did that, would it balance the budget? Did she even look into the actual numbers? Isn’t that what “economists” are supposed to do?
Serious discussion of the U.S. debt is needed. A condescending, politicized and poorly researched one did not add to the discourse.
Dave Vernon, Stillwater
A well-placed squad car
Hypothermia, you say? At 4 degrees I was stuck. My engine warning light said, “turn off the engine.”
Luck in an unlucky situation: A State Patrol squad car was on the same expressway entrance ramp, sitting on the side just in front of me. My car was cold; I was not dressed for the weather. After a few minutes and being sure he saw me, I approached on foot and gingerly asked if I could get in the back seat. Does anyone ever do that? “Oh, please let me in the police car.”
After a perfunctory pat down to ensure I didn’t have a weapon, I was allowed into the warmth of the squad. This was real luck — I am over 70 and not in the best of health. The officer was on a stakeout and would be there until my tow truck arrived over an hour later. We had a nice conversation; I was warm and counting my blessings. (Opinion editor’s note: See the Jan. 23 editorial on constructive interactions with the police, “A positive spin on policing?”) The officer, an 11-year veteran, said so far in his career he’s been in squads rear-ended four times by reckless drivers. Just a reminder: Slow down, get over and remember the State Patrol helps us.
Ralph Yehle, Minneapolis
Are pictographs the only solution?
If the “Feds don’t want people driven to distraction by funny signs,” the Federal Highway Administration had better focus on everything they put on their message boards (Jan. 16).
Whether its messages are “humorous” or serious, they always negatively affect traffic flow. Just after the spot where I enter Interstate 35W, there is a message board. Whenever there is a message, everybody ahead of me is braking. Amid the sea of red taillights, you know drivers are slowing down in order to read the message, even if it’s the usual two short lines of a minimal number of characters. Does that enhance safe travel?
Add in the increasing number of reckless speed demons weaving in and out of lanes at ridiculous speeds, and you get an even more dangerous situation. This can be further compounded by bad weather conditions.
I assume the traffic message boards aim to be concise and reader-friendly, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I guess trying to add some humor just exacerbates the already difficult task of RWD (Reading While Driving).
Laurie Eckblad Anderson, Minneapolis
No! The Federal Highway Administration has discouraged jokes on highway message boards. The people of Minnesota should rise in revolt. Funny road signs are a Minnesota invention. The Burma-Vita Company of Minneapolis was known for its humorous shaving cream signs. The first such signs were on Hwy. 65 near Lakeville. From 1926 to 1963, Burma-Shave’s sequential signs spangled our sights.
The bureaucrats say that funny signs cause accidents. I say the opposite. Consider these classic jingles: Past schoolhouses / Take it slow / Let the little shavers grow / Burma-Shave. How about: If you dislike / Big traffic fines / Slow down / Till you can / Read these signs / Burma-Shave. I am sure that signs such as these made driving safer and should be revived, not the opposite. I have a new one: Signs that make us / Crack a smile / Should be posted / At every mile / Apologies to Burma-Shave.
David Wiljamaa, Minneapolis