Politicians play nice (for now) | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Politicians play nice (for now)

Civility in government is the latest buzz phrase and if it causes politicians to actually curb some of their wilder, less than accurate statements, I'm all for it.

Many Republicans and Democrats have decided to cross the aisle and sit with members of the opposing  party during the president's State of the Union speech. That's a small gesture and one that seems like a no-brainer from the perspective of a small town journalist. It's not unusual for political rivals in Crow Wing County to see each other in church, at service club meetings or at the grocery store.

Minnesota's  congressional delegation this week announced they will conduct a bipartisan hot dish competition. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., will host the event as a way to bring the Minnesota delegation together as the new congressional session begins. Why not celebrate the traditional Minnesota practice of bringing a hot dish to pass at a social event? Although we note the news release writer felt it necessary to explain what a hot dish is ("similar to a casserole") for non-Minnesotan observers.

Back here in Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton exhibited considerable civility at Saturday's tourism roundtable at Iven's on the Bay. He offered each of the Republican legislators in attendance a chance to make brief comments at the session. He even poured and delivered coffee to Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, before heading out to Gull Lake for the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza. For their part the Republican lawmakers talked about how they appreciated the governor's forthrightness and the speed with which he has made staff available to discuss legislative business.

Political posturing will never be fully eliminated but the continual name-calling and characterizing one's adversaries as evil enemies of democracy is unproductive. Minnesota and the United States need frank, robust discussion of the issues and pragmatic problem-solving. Office-holders who engage in overblown rhetoric when they should be tackling tough issues may miss crucial opportunities for progress.