Dire warning: This column is about politics. (Yikes!)
I spent my last 25 years of active journalism working on the opinion pages of this newspaper. In that role, I met and interviewed just about every politician and political aspirant from this region as well as statewide office seekers and incumbents — including a couple of vice presidents of the United States. You know the names of those two Minnesotans.
This is not to boast about all the important people I’ve met — governors, U.S. senators, congress members, legislative leaders, city leaders, dog catchers — but rather to illustrate that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time around politicians from both major parties (and a few from minor parties, including one who shares a given name with Jesse James).
You pick up on certain traits in people who seek public office, some of whom succeed. After the successful ones have been in office for awhile, they all, regardless of party, seem to have read the same playbook about how to be a politician.
For example, when speaking publicly, they never refer to this country simply as the United States; they always thunder “United States of America” in case there is any confusion about which United States they mean. And they say the people they serve are always “hard working” Americans who “roll up their sleeves” a lot. I have known many Americans I wouldn’t consider hard working, not excluding myself. I roll up my sleeves for a COVID-19 shot. They are also very quick with “thoughts and prayers” when the occasion suggests it.
Incumbents above a certain level never appear on TV or before a gathering of constituents without American flags (a.k.a. Old Glory) behind them, preferably several, in case there was any doubt about their patriotism.
Some things have changed, though, in recent years since I left active journalism — mainly the widening gap between the two major parties. Once opponents were referred to as “worthy” when referenced, and their party “the loyal opposition.” No more.
Thus, I have compiled a list of ways I see how Democrats and Republicans differ these days on major, and some minor, issues. I am not favoring one side over another here, although I obviously have a political ideology. These are just things I notice as I observe the political divisions play themselves out today, especially in Washington. Here goes:
— Republicans think Democrats are socialists or communists. Democrats think Republicans are autocrats or fascists.
— Democrats are for abortion and against guns. Republicans are against abortion and for guns.
— Sticking with guns, Republicans like AK-47 assault weapons with high capacity magazines. Democrats like squirt guns and read high capacity magazines such as Time, Newsweek and Mad. (What, ME worry?)
— Democrats are concerned about climate change. Republicans are concerned about diaper change.
— Republicans like Fox News. Democrats like Wolf…Blitzer. (Never allow either one in the hen house.)
— Republicans say Democrats are soft on crime. Democrats say Republicans are hard on the poor.
— Democrats like electric cars. Republicans like electric chairs.
— Republicans oppose all forms of taxation and are against government spending. Democrats are quick to support taxation and expand government spending.
— Traditional Republicans like creme brûlée. Democrats like peanut butter. (Serious caveat: There are indications that this has been reversed in recent elections.)
— Democrats embrace critical race theory. Republicans defend the Indianapolis 500.
— Republicans are wary of the federal bureaucracy, calling it the “deep state.” Democrats are less concerned about the deep state than the deep throat.
—Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans want to raise the roof.
— Republicans embrace “replacement theory” promulgated by Fox News. Democrats don’t care if they go bald.
— Errant Republicans get in trouble over sex. Misbehaving Democrats get in trouble over money.
— Republicans claim the Jan. 6 march on Washington was as innocent as a Sunday school picnic. Democrats say the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection threatening our democracy.
— (Here’s one that won’t surprise you.) Republicans hate President Biden and want to see him impeached. Democrats despise ex-President Trump and want to see him jailed.
So here we are.— a country divided against itself. How long can it stand?
Finally, I suppose there are committed politicians who will resent some of these observations of the differences between the two parties. That’s fine. I believe more politicians should be committed. Pick your asylum.
Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and maintains a blog at www.jimheffernan.org.