Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune, October 31, 2020
Edvard Munch: The Scream 1893
Holy smokes! This is the scariest Halloween in my entire life, and we’re talking a lot of years here. Instead of being frightened by people wearing masks in the past, this year we’re frightened by people NOT wearing masks.
Who’d have thought that could ever happen?
I don’t need to document why this is the scariest Halloween in history, but I will anyway. First there’s the global pandemic, thank you very much. Covid19 for short. Have you had a nose test yet? I’ve had two.
The other day I got a call from an office I had visited recently advising me that one of their people had tested positive and they were reaching out to everyone who might have had contact with that person recommending they get tested. So I arranged to drive through the Sears Roebuck Quick Covid Testing site at Miller Hill Mall where a guy wrapped in ghostlike protective gear, seemingly in keeping with Halloween, ran a projectile up my nose and sent me packing. I never left my car.
“We’ll let you know,” he said as I drove out of sight, Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night.
Backing up a bit, I should explain the site is in the former Sears auto service center at the mall. I used to drive through it for such things as new tires, before Sears went out of business there.
But I digress. Covid 19 isn’t the only thing making this the scariest Halloween in modern history. There’s that election in three days, in case you forgot. And what an election. I’ve been through a lot of them but I’ve never seen anything like this one.
This year’s election has caused me to reflect on a lifetime peripherally associated with politics and politicians. As a former journalist, I have met and interviewed numerous aspirants to political office, as well as many of those who actually made it. It has given me insights into people who seek to lead us in government, and, regardless of their political affiliations, have some things in common.
Aside from nobly wanting to help people, the main trait they all share is they love it. Absolutely love it. This is most true of those who have been elected at least once and enjoyed serving in the position they sought. It’s true at most levels of elective office, but people who make it to Congress come to adore being there.
And little wonder. The pay is good, the benefits are great, and some of the perks are mind-boggling. Like free handy parking places at Washington’s main airports when flying back home at taxpayers’ expense. Once back home, of course, they vow to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work for you while spouting the word “jobs,” “jobs,” “jobs” wherever they appear. They never take a vacation because they’re working for you all the time. Hmmm.
And woe betide any male politician who doesn’t sport a flag lapel pin. This is in case some voter somewhere might think them unpatriotic. Plus, big flags must surround them whenever possible when they appear in public, presumably reminding voters what country they are citizens of, just in case they forgot.
Each Congress member gets upwards of $1 million to decorate their office and hire a staff. They are kowtowed to everywhere they go, especially in their offices by staff and lobbyists who visit all the time. It could make a person feel pretty important.
But there’s one pesky problem: Elections. U.S. House members have to face the voters every two years, which means they’ve got to be campaigning to stay in office for at least half that time, maybe more. And then there are those upstarts from back home who challenge them in the next election.
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously said “All politics is local.” That statement is quoted all the time, and it’s largely true. But I say all politics is personal, and you can quote me on that.
It extends beyond Congress, but staying at that level, if you had a job you absolutely loved with great pay and benefits and people falling all over you and making you feel important and somebody tried to take it away from you, how would you like it?
Of course that’s true at the presidential level too. And they can’t hide the resentment of their challengers. There used to be such phenomena as “my worthy opponent” and “the loyal opposition” but that has long since disappeared, replaced by contempt and, I hate to say it, downright disdain.
Never have these things been more at play than in this election. This is the first time that an election has actually seemed scary to me. This strange Halloween will be well over by election day on Tuesday, but will the election be over after election day? You wonder.
Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com and maintains a blog at www.jimheffernan.org.