Despite Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent vision of a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” our government bears little resemblance to the people. At least not the people I know.

I come from a rural community where government lives just down the block. We suffer the consequences of disagreement, yes, but face them across a table, not across a cavernous partisan divide. “Reaching across the aisle” still refers to grabbing the mayonnaise on the second shelf at the grocery store.

My father served for several years on the county board back in the ‘70s and managed somehow to make more friends than enemies. When he finally lost an election, no one felt worse than his opponent, who came to me to share his angst for having defeated a man he respected.

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Eric Frydenlund

How that mutual respect and collegiality, albeit mixed with differing opinions, gets lost on the road to Madison or a plane to Washington remains one of the great tragedies of our republic.

We assume this tragedy, the utter chaos in our state and national capitals, merely represents a concentration of those local differing opinions. “This is politics,” we say. This, we surmise, is a reflection of irreparable divisions of the people.

Well, not necessarily.

According to the experimental project America in One Room conducted by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, people are able to significantly reconcile their differences if given unbiased facts and the time and setting to discuss them together.

Tackling the most controversial topics, 500 participants from across the political spectrum spent a long weekend discussing health care, immigration, the economy, foreign policy and the environment. The project found that “policies at the far ends of the ideological scale generally losing support among the partisans most apt to favor them while policies closer to the middle gained backing from prior opponents.”

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Partisan politics, then, represent an aberration of human behavior, a systemic cul-de-sac that fails to reflect the willingness of the people to meet in the middle. “Deliberative” legislative bodies – and I use that term loosely – employ a toxic mix of power and single-mindedness exacerbated by money and perpetrated by gerrymandering. Whether well-meaning or mean-spirited, politicians get pulled into the vortex of governing by partisan consideration.

Within that partisan vortex, the middle gets lost. Ideology supplants ideas.

The illusion of government resides in the belief that it serves as the instrument of our ideological desires, ranging from health care for all to the deregulation of business.

The nobility of government lies in the tempering of ideology. James Madison said, “The real power lies in the majority of the Community.”

He saw representative government as a check against “factions” which “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

While serving as a page in the state legislature during the 1970s, I saw nobility occasionally win over illusion. I also saw Madison’s “community” held hostage to the partisan factions that he so feared. I witnessed the very best and worst of government, without deference to nobility or illusion, in a single day.

Yet at the end of the day, after hard-fought battles, legislators and staff would gather at the Shamrock Bar for a burger and beer; not unlike the collegiality experienced by my father. Is that possible today? Yes, if we explore the large uncharted region between ideas and ideology and resolve to make a visit. Spend a long weekend. Sit across a table rather than across an aisle and explore the middle; a place so dreaded by partisans it must hold promise.

Whether we gather “America in one room” or at the corner bar, these are the conversations, both passionate and civil, and most important nonpartisan, that will save America from its worst fears. And create a government that resembles the people.

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Eric Frydenlund is a columnist who lives in Prairie du Chien and writes about nature, politics and social issues from a systems perspective.


(40) comments


Mr. H, was just trying to apply your own subtle style caution in my last. Did not intend any harshness. I now wonder how many readers can see the similarities to POTUS, and how they expose the many ironies of Mr. Bolake's retort?


Bo, as we scribed earlier, "Whatever you say!"

_The "Tool!"


Tool: (noun)

1.) A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get un-due attention for himself, will act like a jackarse, because, in his deluded state, he will think it's going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him. The person may even insincerely apologize later on, but only in an attempt to get more attention, or to excuse his blatantly intentional, and unrepentantly tool-ish behavior.

2.) Someone whose ego FAR exceeds his talent, intelligence, and likeability. But, of course, he is clueless regarding that fact. He erroneously thinks he is THE MAN!


Yes! The "so predictable" refuge of Trump-ty and minions: The ad hominems.

And, you are correct in calling me a tool!

I strive to be a tool of the "Lady of the Harbor," a Wallenburg, a Basil Leary and those deemed by peers to be "righteous among nations;" the decent, mannered, and collegial. Those who disagree may do so without fear.

My house is glass. I know it is dangerous to throw stones, though I fail at times!


Hive - You’re sycophant. Everything you write is your bullroar spin. You have proven time and time again you can’t handle the TRUTH!

“ The thoughts below, yours, mine, everyone, are here without fear, because of the Constitution.” Yet you tell me to “ Keep your reinterpretations or spin to yourself! So basically when it comes to opines on WDN site it’s Hives way or the Highway.

You are a tool Hive, a real tool and that’s your problem not mine.


Mr. Hive, not to dog you, just to clarify. The below comments appear without fear because of the people who back their Constitutional law, even if some law is too narrow and restrictive, as have a few past cases have been... "Nation of Laws." Of course, Mr. Trump prefers a "nation of Trump laws."


One thought occurred to me, after I pushed "return" key...

The thoughts below, yours, mine, everyone, are here without fear, because of the Constitution.

Would that be the case if things were done by Himself's choice...? Think about it!

Also, I have a copy of a call t-scrpt, is that "the one;"

and if the WH releases another, how do we know it is "the" legitcopy?"

Liars like DT, always lie!


What is written is it...that is it...not altered to fit your view. The rest of what you wrote is your bullroar, and your problem, not mine. Keep your reinterpretations or spin to yourself! DT does not admit mistakes because, like Bo, none exist, in his mind! Amen!


Hive - So what you are saying is “do what I say not what I do.”

O hand many very good traits. Good husband, father figure, speaker, etc. He did not treat Law Enforcement well and did not do well to advance race relations. Took them a step back, IMO. In regards lying, we we don’t know how much he lied. Media was on his side and provided him with great cover. He wrecked health care insurance with his Obamacare and his Iran Nuke deal is a disaster. I’m sure his intentions were good but the results not so much.

Trump is Trump. His behavior is far from perfect. He is a snake oil salesman with a shady reputation. He likes to play “ Let's make a Deal”. So why don’t Democrats (Pelosi & Schumer) use that to their advantage and make some deals with him to move the country forward. USMCA, prescription drug cost, health care, Infrastructure, the list is long. Surely they could find some common ground. Unfortunately Democrats insist on impeachment and for what? If quid pro quo is the bar for impeachment, then any president could be impeached.

You often say “ We are what we do, not what we say we do.”. Trump says a lot of stupid stuff and does a lot of good things (some bad to). Yet all you focus on is the bad.

I don’t know why he can’t acknowledge mistakes. Perhaps he thinks it would show a sign of weakness. I don’t think many people in a position of power ever admit to mistakes. Did O ever admit any? Don’t recall him saying Obamacare was a mistake and should have been done differently.


Bo, Two things, maybe three.

We are what we do, not what we say we do.

Politics is the current name of the game in DC...guilt or innocence is Kaput!

O was O, but he did not lie that "much"...which, to me is the sin. Trump lies all the time.

Dems should be calling a spade-a-spade, instead of calling what is going on with conservative minorities a bent stick...same with DT. Why else all the commotion? If he is/was so innocent, and committed no attempt to zero-sum the contest, why not say "I did this, sorry, it was wrong!" and stop all the bullroar.

We all know why! Don't we, the dinger plays "Let's make a Deal, all the time...


Hive - “ The village can do without bullies! I do not bully, do I?”. I believe you answered you own question.


Kill - I generally treat people how I would like to be treated. That is until they are an arse and treat me ill, at which point I assume that’s how they want to be treated. Some people just like to name call, bully and disrespect others who have a different opinion. If that is how they want to be treated, so be it. It is what it is. I do respect and appreciate your civility.

Some dingers profess “ make the other guy look good or try to do so” but never do. I guess “ We are only what we do.” Right? I was never an Obama supporter but I never resorted to calling him names and even I said good things about him from time to time.

As bad as some say POTUS is I find it amazing that Trump has such strong support from Veterans. Are these men and women dingers? Truly they must see some good in him.

Impeachment was never intended to be used as a political tool. In regards to quid pro quo a persons concern or a feeling about What they thought about a phone call does not make it factually correct or true.

If Democrats want to take back the WH they need to have a platform and candidate that can beat Trump. So far they are coming up short on both.


Kill, forgot, I agree with rest of what you wrote...

"Congress is the enemy!"


Gee Kill, I thought my lack of vituperation was civil.

Dingers are dingers! I do not fee that that classification differs much from self-described tea-drinkers (I have never used the accepted term, nor used high-case for these extremists, which is what they are.)

Cannot give these mean minorities that credit.

We are only what we do.

If one does not "make the other guy look good or try to do so, then they are dingers, to me!

The village can do without bullies! I do not bully, do I?

I may not be a liberal per se, but I cannot shy from calling a spade a spade. I am not so PC as thee!


Mr. Bolake, the bait POTUS used is given evidence. As a matter of a number of facts, rendered by a number of judges and peers, Mr. Trump is as sneaky a businessman as imaginable, exemplifying reasons oversights and lawsexist and why applied to this POTUS. Business conduct is too-often underhanded. What is confusing is why Congress allows so much legal leeway to the Executive. If a POTUS cannot be trusted, then narrow legislation is needed to assure that oaths of office are followed, not high crime and misdemeanors. "Deniable culpability" must be removed as an impediment to rapid and permanent prosecution of errant officials, as in RICO laws. Mr. Hive and Mr. Bolake should be more civil.


Yeah, like the fact that there was no quid pro quo. Read the transcript , “moron”.


Yeah, I am a moron for relyng on facts.... a quick thinking dude once told us facts count, if the facts don's fit, then eithjer move on or begin to make up stuff (lie). Opinion and lies are not substitutes for facts. I think cops call this "squirming perjury," which is what we hear a lot of when it comes to Trumpitie's bullroar rabble-rousing. Beliefs in Jesus' divinity only means that it exists as mindful belief. Like I implied, would love to have a real thing to attend.


Hive - Are you a “moron” or what?

deep state


a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.

Surely you have read that DOJ is working on a criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Unlike the 2 year Muller investigation that targeted Trump and turned up nothing. This investigation is about government officials involved in “Deep State” and has now turned into criminal investigation. Only a “moron” would be in denial that unelected officials were out to get Trump even prior to him taking the oath of office. Did you forget Peter Strozk and his insurance policy on Trump?

Interesting that in 2017 whistleblower attorney tweeted “the coup has started, impeachment will follow”


Forgot, Pompeo is a dinger, plain liar (former elected official) from Kansas, with brown nose...like others seeking moola, he suffers a similar disease...Munchausen/Stockholm Syndroms. And yes I'll plead to being a dinger...for truth...not a play ground-dinger, whom we all know as Trump backers.

I'll say this, I was thinly a Clinton fan, dinger played, but he did not endanger America or lie as a practice, and Congress allowed him to reduce Reagan spending to zippo...

And negate the deficit. POTUS, dinger DT adds nearly a $trill...this year, nice!

Boy, when the Fat Lady sings its gonna be a finger pointing circus...but conservatives will have to take more blame for screwing America.


Bo, you a "retard " or what?

Very few, if any, "agents" are "elected."

Simple works, but too-simple is not quite it...

Still waiting for a definition of "deep state."

Seeing is a an oft-used trumpian talking point, be nice to know where this "conspiracy bullroar" is coming from, and means!


Hive - “ Brennan said we rely on unelected officials to "protect our liberties, freedom, & democracy."

Brennan himself admitted it and once again you have proven that you cannot handle the Truth. Always passing it off as bull roar.

What I also find amazing is that you would call Pompeo a dinger. It’s an obvious trend of yours to call everyone you disagree with a “dinger”. Did you ever think the dinger May be YOU? Duh!


Hive - Clinton rode the Dot-Com bubble which gave us years of surplus. Once the bubble burst tax revenue shrunk.


Hive - You have proven again that you cannot handle the facts, or should I say anything that makes Trump look good.

Historic U.S. Job Market Continues as African-American Unemployment Rate Hits New Low”


“U.S. Wage Growth, for Second Quarter 2019, Accelerated to 4 Percent Over the Year”


Stock Market Hits Another Record High, As Recession Fears Ease”


What you call”bull roar” I call Truth.


Despite being dorky, Clinton gave us years of surplus (no deficits) now what?

Still wonder what this "deep state" conspiracy crappola is?

And why WH seems to "buy" current CIA stuff?

Pompeo (another dinger) does not know it, but he is soon going to be under POTUS-driven bus.

Swamp draining? Typical dinger bullroar is making larger swamp!!!


Just saw on TV, Virginia's vote...forget party, different pressures arose. Paraphrasing a Dune (novel) quote...The sleepers have awakened! We hope. No more dinger tea drinking minority neocons in Wash DC's closest VA county, Fairfax...

But if dems get cocky...nada.


Bo, such bullroar...you believe that stuff, just you wait, whilst you wade.

POTUS has all the rope he needs, to hang Himself. Your alleged, January taxes will expose a simple truth.

The shoe is dropping.


Hive - “ but none have sucked so much wind out of their nations as has this low-life POTUS has done to America.” That’s quite a bold statement considering the stats don’t confirm your statement. What facts do you present to make such a claim? Lowest unemployment in over 50 years, largest wage increases in over 20 years, stock market at all time high. You want to see the wind get sucked out of our economy, (which by the way is doing better than China, Russia, Europe and any other country on the planet) just keep supporting the Democrat Socialist Agenda.


Kill - How is it that you have found Trump guilty of crime when he hasn’t been charged with or convicted of a crime? Mobsters were charged, tried and found guilty. Perhaps you forgot, this is America and how our criminal justice system works. Muller along with 18 or 20 of the best and brightest angry Democrat prosecutors investigated Trump for two years and came up with NOTHING. Shifty Shifter claimed to have concrete proof that Trump committed crimes but presented NOTHING. Now he is given green light to go after Trump again in search of a crime. If Democrats and Media can target political opponents and deem them guilty of crimes with out trial what kind of Republic do we have?


Mr. Trump is no less a criminal than were any mobsters known and tried under RICO provisions, uses position and legal tax monies to hide. If POTUS can do so with impunity, what's to stop the White House from going after any persons deemed a threat, including corporations and individuals. I keep thinking of Mssrs. Hitler, Allende, Batista, Stalin and Reagan's Central American buddy's. All literally are criminally dangerous. America must remove Trump to get back to its legal stature, and regain its former world-stature.


Bo, Boyo, your examples are thin, way thin but unlike Bush, our lying POTUS has not yet got us into a war, but his lies and egoistics howls may do worse.

I have seen the (Adam Clayton) Powells, Illinois crooks and thieves, Hitler etal, Tojo, and South Vietnamese crooks, but none have sucked so much wind out of their nations as has this low-life POTUS has done to America.

No doubt, Trump is a product of his upbringing and offers example of what a human must never be...

A pathological liar or, as stated often, a bullying bullshidter, which we all have seen, who has alienated the most respected of us.

Not saying HRC or Romney are any better, at least she has some etiquette and respect.

She and, even 9/11-Bush display manners/morals.

Trump is a loser who would do anything to "up" Himself. Traitor that he has displayed himself to be.

But, perhaps Trump is us?


Jd Voltaire is correct...We, the People (Americans) are two things, the majority and the voters.

The pendulum swings, the pit remains in place...think about it, whilst lemmings rush...

The poet got it right.

"Welcome to our world called Earth; where the greatest cause of death is birth." - Jack Lucas, Winona. Says it all, simply.

Current affairs 1930s Germany-deja? Duh!

"Righteous Among Nations," or "Wealthy Grifter?"

We are only what we do; not what we say we do!


Hive - Guy May be a Total Dork but 3 years in and he hasn’t broken anything or gotten us into senseless wars. Which cannot be said when it comes to Obama. IMO


"If a majority view, I personally do not believe American ideals and law will fail. Perhaps Mr. jdinfinity is correct, that anarchy awaits? That lack of unique glue is a terrifying prospect for a peaceful world community." - kill

Kill, when one goes down the routes of exceptionalist, nationalist sentiment, tyrants and despots, what else is waiting at the end? A giant statue to rip down after chopping people's heads off wasn't good enough? The cycle will always continue...

“Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” - Voltaire


Bo, I will patronize a POTUS as a DIC-bully who loves Himself all the time and says so so often he is a PIA..."the greatest" PIA, of course. Might be why he is so disliked? Guy is a total dork.


Hive +1. “ Let's hope more readers "get it" and can "back" into manners and respect...”

“ Been saying for years, "make the other guy look good!" EF +1.”. Perhaps you could say a few favorable words about Trump and make him look good. Even biased media throws the POTUS a bone once in a while.

“ What I find difficult to understand is how any reasonable person can accept the obvious WH attempts to game their history...”. Maybe some reasonable people have more reasonable sources for getting information on POTUS and WH.

Instead of Penalizing people that don’t vote, how about requiring a license to vote. People should be required to pass a basic civics and economics test before license to vote is issued.


Did not wish to plead as a liberal...they all lie and are all self-serving. What goes around comes around...

Something most pols never seem to tie to simplicity, as truth offers.

Like we remind...we like too much to "pretend!"


Kill, intriguing conundrum we face, isn't it?

What I see as "the" great fear of the Founders, especially John Adams, which is an apathetic majority too lazy to resist an assault by self-interests, or an attack on an apathetic majority by an unusual grouping of minority interests.

Some religious, political and racial (same thing) people accept only that coming from known sympathizers.

What I find difficult to understand is how any reasonable person can accept the obviius WH attempts to game their history...

Maybe Australian law should become ours...a legal requirement to vote?


Mr. Hive, you imply the founder's greatest fears. If people do not care, and accept the pronouncements of political leaders, then Americans now live in a dark age. It seems POTUS is a reflection of that and about half the nation backs him. Like this author says, we are what we do, as you say. If what you and this author are correct, those who agree are committing Sepuku or a ritual suicide. If a majority view, I personally do not believe American ideals and law will fail. Perhaps Mr. jdinfinity is correct, that anarchy awaits? That lack of unique glue is a terrifying prospect for a peaceful world community.


Boy, if there is an arrow pointing at us "pretenders" EF makes it clear...+1.

Been saying for years, "make the other guy look good!" EF +1.

Let's hope more readers "get it" and can "back" into manners and respect...


OIpiner, "ow that mutual respect and collegiality, albeit mixed with differing opinions, gets lost on the road to Madison or a plane to Washington remains one of the great tragedies of our republic."

Governance is "We, the People..." We lost it long before it became obvious to me.

The "Greatest Generation," which save Europe and Asia from doom, forgot to teach manners to its own...

Future generations cannot teach what they never (were taught) knew.

Manners (respect) counts!

Ask yourself, why a teadrinker or Trump or PC bullroar? Go look in mirror.

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