TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — A Bad President Is Better Than A Good Dictator

I rarely write anything political in this space these days — these columns are published in three states as well as in the two newspapers I own. I much prefer writing stories about the people I’ve met and the experiences we share on the northern Plains.

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a political slant in our news coverage. On the opinion page, we do carry 90-year-old former Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl, a Democrat who knows more about government than almost anyone and to survive in North Dakota politics, you have to be a moderate, common sense, for-the-people politician, and that’s Lloyd. Me, I’m a fiscal conservative and social liberal. Live and let live.

Many of you are aware that I write another column Wednesdays for Forum Communications, which owns numerous dailies in the three-state area. That one’s often satirical, sometimes heartfelt, but almost always political.

I’m often asked how a liberal can survive and even thrive in such a conservative clime. A friend of mine saw me sitting beside another Democrat on a local sports broadcast a few years ago and called it a quorum. However, I often tell the story of the ice storm we had some years back that knocked out power for 14 days in much of the area. I had two small kids and a wife in the house. The first person to pull into my yard with a spare generator was a neighbor with whom I’d bitterly argued about George W. Bush. Now, I already had a generator going, but that action explains everything. We’re friends and neighbors first. Politics is way down the line.

Besides, my district elected the late Billy Kretschmar, a beloved member of the state Legislature for decades, a (wink) Republican who could have just as easily called himself a Democrat. Voters supported the man more than the party in this case, although admittedly it would have been tough sledding for him to win with a D behind his name. I voted for him more than once.

I usually support Democrats because almost every enduring program that supports farmers, the elderly and middle class, came from Democrats. Medicare, Social Security, crop subsidies and worker protections.

Only once did I veer from human interest columns for any length of time, and that was when the nation was building up for a war with Iraq, something I adamantly opposed. Some editors ran scared and dumped my column. As a well-informed teen, I opposed the war in Vietnam. So give me that. I was right on both counts.

After that excruciatingly long preface, let’s get to my point. I’ve been probed recently by conservatives wondering how I think President Biden is doing. Not great, but better than his 42 percent approval rating. Americans are an impatient lot and a little obtuse when it comes to the slow machinations of democracy. It’s give and take and a lot of gridlock.

On the border, Biden signaled a “kinder, gentler” approach to immigration, and that encouraged even more people to flood there. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was messy at best. Still, he brought sanity to the effort to control the pandemic, and God love him, he’s toned down the divisive rhetoric coming out of the Oval Office. But much has been done to divide us, with a lot of help from Russia on social media. Wise up, Americans.

It’s early, and circumstances test the merits of any presidency. Will they rise to the occasion? Lincoln did. FDR did. Kennedy, with the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, did.

I wanted Trump to do well. He divided us. I wanted Bush to do well. Well, you know. … I would have been satisfied with McCain, Romney, Kasich (a favorite of Billy Kretchsmar’s), or any number of Republicans.

Biden may prove to be a caretaker president, but I’m OK with that because I don’t believe for a minute that he’d try to steal an election — and elections are the very heart of our democracy. And I love America and democracy.

On Jan. 6, and in the days after the election, Donald J. Trump clearly tried to overturn the will of the American people, and he’s continued to undermine the integrity of free elections by continually spreading the lie that the election was stolen. The facts don’t bear that out.

Causing people to lose faith in legitimate elections is an assault on our freedom. An attempt to steal an election, to destroy our democracy, is where I draw the line. I’ll take a bad president over a dictator every time because democracy can survive a bad president. What are we without democracy? Just another failed promise in the history books.

© Tony Bender, 2021


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