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Woster: The peace of silent politics

I very much liked it that way. I had no desire to hear any more political talk for a while. I had my fill.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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The morning after the general election, I sat in an eye clinic waiting for my appointment and listening to other patients’ conversations.

I thought I would hear thoughts on the voting. I wouldn’t have joined those conversations. I keep to myself in waiting-room situations. I like to hear what others think, though. With the 2022 election so hard fought, sometimes so angry, I figured I would get an earful.

Not a word. At least from where I sat, I didn’t overhear a single conversation involving ballots or vote totals, winners or losers. People talked about patches of freezing rain they had driven through to get to Mitchell. They talked about the price of groceries and prescription medicine. They talked about high school sports. More than one of the conversations involved someone’s history with eye injections. But I didn’t hear politics.

As I waited for my own injection, the third in as many months, I realized I felt peaceful. And I think it had less to do with hearing others describe their positive outcomes from injections than it did with the fact that campaigns and partisan politics were nowhere to be heard. I didn’t see a television or hear a radio. Even though I knew from early-morning checks of my favorite news sites that counting of votes was still going on and would be for some time, that topic didn’t invade my waiting room. It seemed normal.

I am sure that a fair number of coffee shops and cafes and convenience stores around town hosted group of self-styled election analysts. I’m sure politics dominated the talk in certain groups across the state and nation. I know the voting and counting were being tossed every which way on all manner of social-media sites. Where I sat, though, all seemed calm and peaceful.

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I very much liked it that way. I had no desire to hear any more political talk for a while. I had my fill.

Don’t get me wrong. I follow politics. Because I spent much of my professional life reporting on the state legislature, the executive branch, campaigns and elections, perhaps I follow the subject more closely than does your average older guy. Keeping up was part of my job for years and years. I really didn’t think about whether I enjoyed political activity or not. I just covered it.

But never during my career of covering campaigns and elections were the politics as relentless, as non-stop, as during the last few election cycles. The political spots run back-to-back-to back, sometimes with one candidate’s ad airing and the opponent’s ad right behind it. Cable channels run spots. Radio airs spots. The mailbox delivers full-color campaign advertisements, day after day. I haven’t seen one of those things since election day.

It isn’t just the volume, either, although that suggests that maybe too many people have way too much money to spend on campaigns. Don’t even let me start on how many other, more beneficial ways all that money could be used.

The tone of so much campaign information is so negative. Everyone is too extreme these days. I saw campaigns in which each side said the other side was too extreme. Can they both be too extreme? And the photos and other images one campaign will use to depict the opponent are more terrifying than the worst of the Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi horror films. Goodness, give it a rest.

Campaign literature these days makes me long for the simple approach taken back in 1970 by soon-to-be-Gov. Dick Kneip. Although he was the Democrats’ Senate leader back then, not that many people outside of Pierre and his hometown of Salem knew him. He ran a simple spot that said “What is a Kneip?’

I remember a 1972 campaign image used by Jim Abdnor as he ran for Congress. The image was his face, completely covered by names of his supporters. He all but giggled as he described it to me during an interview.

I thought it was kind of goofy at the time. Now I wouldn’t mind seeing that sort of campaign spot, although seeing no campaign stuff isn’t bad, either.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTERCOMMENTARY
Opinion by Terry Woster
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