In search of a better campaign process

The last maple leaves have been blown into the corners of shadowed corners, dancing erratically with every wisp of wind. Trees stand naked, abandoned and stripped of their cover, with bony limbs reaching toward the charcoal sky.
Squirrels still scamper, searching for the last morsels of food to bury away for the impending winter. Box elder bugs dig deeper into the cracks and crevices of buildings, holding out hope for one more sun-drenched day when they can invade homes and cling to windows.
The wind, which had been mostly silent through spring and summer, now moans like an injured soldier, numbing our flesh every time we step out of our cars and into his bleak world.
There is a rhythm to life here and the election season is part of that process. As residents are hunkering down to survive or cheat winter from its icy grip, the election season comes to a grueling end.
Just as we have reached our limit, that moment when absolute disappointment in the campaign system overwhelms our senses because of one more destructive advertisement or wild accusation, it all screeches to a halt.
The election locomotive sits motionless, steam exhaling from her side vents. The anxious candidates de-board, waiting for final instructions on whether they are going home or reporting for service in St. Paul or D.C.
The natural tendency for a weary and battered electorate is to allow those who have been writing this carefully orchestrated script to drift peacefully behind the curtain. They were simply fulfilling a role, finding a way to get their candidate elected. But to forget about the non-productive nature of the most destructive campaign strategies would be the equivalent to giving them a green light to do it all again in another four years.
And for all those candidates who willingly followed the shoddy plot, even when it meant lowering the bar to the depths of an expanding cesspool, there is a personal price paid, and another that largely goes unnoticed by us all: the toll against citizens.
If it is not reversed, voters will become more cynical, disenfranchised and eventually ambivalent of the greatest freedom ever secured through the blood of our forefathers. It is the candidates themselves who must take a stand, make a pledge that it will end now.
We don’t want the negativity anymore. We want responsibility. Nobody is asking for anyone to restrict freedom of speech, but we are asking that candidates start using some common sense and start dealing with the obstacles that plague our state and country and not the sub-plots that unfairly stain an opponent.
We want solutions to problems, not stammering and roadblocks in the name of party solidarity. We expect that when we elect representatives to our government, they will represent all of us as citizens of Minnesota and the United States, Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike.
The winter season naturally causes many of us in the Midwest to slow our pace, to conserve our energy and to think long-term about how we will survive another winter.
Perhaps this year we should not be so eager to purge all that has contaminated our souls during the last several months of the campaign season. Now may be a good time to look beyond 2012 and ask as citizens what we want for our state, nation and our children.
The greatest country in the world can do much better at setting an example of democracy for her citizens, and the rest of the world. The best place to start is by fostering a more productive campaign season.
The first flakes of the dead season will soon start to fall. They will blanket the landscape in white and camouflage the damage inflicted in a year of life.
But that canvass is temporary, and when it evaporates we can ignore the wounds and allow them to scar or dig in with both hands and find a way to plant new life and a better world.

Keith Anderson is ECM-Sun Group’s director of news.

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