Election Day hangover

I joined hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans yesterday to vote for our next governor and several U.S. Congress seats.

First thing this morning, I went online to see the results. I was so disheartened that I immediately went back to bed: Some of my district’s best and most dedicated public servants had been voted out, simply because they were on the wrong side of the partisan fence.

I’m not disheartened because these candidates lost their posts. I’m frustrated because the public seems to have cast its ballots based on a general sense of dissatisfaction and discontent, rather than the leaders’ actual performance.

The theme of so many campaigns over the past few months has been, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” And the message seems to have tapped into a deep well of disillusionment among many Americans: The masses have responded.

But why are so many Americans so unhappy? Is it because they don’t have jobs? Because they’re concerned about immigration? Is it because they feel that their values aren’t respected by their society? Or because they don’t like the ratio between their taxation and the services their government provides?

I don’t know. Neither do the newly-elected officials — nor, I suspect, even the mad-as-hell voters who are voicing their displeasure at the polls.

And that’s what worries me: To solve our problems, first we must know what they are. Then, we must have rational, intelligent leaders who can help us set priorities and find practical solutions.

I understand the impulse to make reactive decisions when life isn’t going as you’d planned. It’s natural to be angry, and it’s understandable to want change.

But real progress is seldom achieved in a pique of anger and discontent. Rather, it requires thoughtful contemplation and a solid plan of action.

I dream of the day when our political campaigns follow suit.

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