Editor’s note: Welcome back to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with input from a rotating cast of local characters.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity, but not unity. Any instances of agreement are accidental. Our respondents are comfortable sounding-off in any way, and about anything, and this is no place for them to stop.
Question 1: What are you expecting to see or looking for in coming weeks and months in the Republican presidential contest?
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington: I look forward to the race being narrowed down to eventually two candidates, and then Republican voters will have a choice between the directions they offer. Republican presidential campaigns usually boil down to an establishment versus an anti-establishment candidate. The question is going to be either one of those two candidates. Prediction: It’s not going to Donald Trump.
Don Ness, Duluth mayor: Most reasoned people are trying to speculate when the Donald Trump charade will mercifully be over. We’ve always assumed it’s a question of when and not if. And yet the longer it continues, the worse reflection on our democracy.
Sarah Janecek, lobbyist, former publisher, Politics in Minnesota: Leadership on the war on terror. I expect to get that from them all, given Obama is so weak. I really don’t [have a favorite]. I’m leaning Bush, Rubio, Kasich — probably in that order.
Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis: Even though these are weird times in which they’re playing to a hard-line partisan base, these are people who would ostensibly be the most powerful person in the free world and set the tone and the values and the moral center of our country, and I think they do real damage with all of these xenophobic and racist statements that they make. And it’s very corrosive to our country. So I hope that through some miracle, their higher angels are called upon and they snap out of it and start having a serious conversation about what it really means for our country to come together and not continue to persist in trying to divide our country against itself.
Question 2: What are you expecting to see or looking for in coming weeks and months in the Democratic presidential contest?
Garofalo: By all accounts, it appears the Democrats are working on committing political suicide and putting in the most unpopular presidential nominee in modern political history. If you look back at the disapproval ratings of each party’s nominee, going back to the 1950s, in an open presidential field, Hillary Clinton’s disapproval rating is in a galaxy of its own. But it looks like they’re really going to do this. All I can say is, you know, thank you.
Ness: I would love to see another strong candidate enter this race. I currently don’t have a candidate. I would love to see somebody like Elizabeth Warren enter the race to be a real alternative and provide a real contest. I like Bernie Sanders, but he is, in my mind, not a legitimate candidate in the long run. And I think it’s important for our democracy that we have a real contest as we enter into the primaries.
Janecek: I think it gets pretty interesting. We have Hillary’s email problem out there. We have Hillary served as secretary of state in an administration that clearly made the wrong foreign policy moves. It’ll be very interesting to see how she articulates her vision for what the United States should be in this era. The mainstream media has given her one pass after another, but I think the American public has pretty much had it now.
Dibble: I actually believe that it’s been a really good, for the most part, high-level, high-minded debate, on what it means to support economic opportunity and equality and fairness in our democratic system. That’s the fundamental question about the direction of our country. Is this going to be a democracy that actually upholds democratic ideals of access to opportunity and equality? That’s the fundamental existential threat to our system and our country and we have got to correct the course on that. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and — minor player but — Martin O’Malley, are talking about those things, continuing to really engage with each other, the Democratic Party and the larger American public about these questions.
Question 3: Is there one political topic you DO intend to talk about with family and friends at holiday gatherings?
Garofalo: None. My family is overwhelmingly Democrat. I’m one of the few Republicans. I get no joy out from getting the piss kicked out of me by family members.
Ness: I don’t think there is. Living in politics on a daily basis, I look forward to having a little break from that, especially over the holidays. We’ve kind of learned to mostly avoid those sort of conversations.
Janecek: I come from a rich tradition of talking politics at the Thanksgiving table. And we have people of all political stripes at that table. We’ve never had to pull a “Saturday Night Live” and play Adele at the Thanksgiving dinner.
Dibble: Religion and politics do not unite my extended family. My immediate family are all committed progressive Democrats. But the rest of my family is down the middle or in every camp you can imagine on religion and on politics. So we confine our discussion to what the kids are up to, what our latest trip was and that sort of thing. To the extent that we touch on politics, we try to make fairly objective observations about current events. And maybe try to nudge each other a bit on our core beliefs. My grandmother laid down the law one year on Mother’s Day that we stop talking about these hot button issues. We have a huge family reunion every four years in Colorado. We get these two huge family lodges that sit across from each other and the Republicans all sleep in one lodge and the Democrats sleep in the other. We mix well during the day and then at night when our defenses are down we go to our separate corners.
Question 4: Is there one political topic you DO NOT intend to talk about with family and friends at holiday gatherings?
Garofalo: Whether we should place transgender Syrian refugees in Edina.
Janecek: No — again, a rich tradition where all views are welcome. Except the only thing that’s frowned upon is not having a point of view.
Ness: We don’t have significant divisions politically within our family. No, it’s just that whenever politics does come up, it gets everybody in a more serious and businesslike frame of mind and kind of takes the joy out of it.
Dibble: Topics around reproductive choice and freedom, religion, and any random candidate we can’t talk about. My family is very politically engaged and very involved, just in very different ways. Fully formed, very engaged in politics and foreign affairs, and hold strong views and write checks and campaign and have strong opinions. We’re just kind of all over the map on that. Some of our relatives think Michele Bachmann is just absolutely fantastic and fabulous and exactly what our country needs, for example. So you can imagine how those conversations go.