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Young people wrestle with politics in Minnesota

November 09, 1998

I read over the weekend that the leading cause of hospitalization in Washington County is mental illness.

Be honest, how many of you saw the front-page story and thought "This is news?" Too bad USA Today wasn't writing the headline - they might have settled on "We're Nuts!"

For a long time, mental problems have been swept under the rug, so it's good that they are attracting media attention. Mental illnesses can be treated just like physical illnesses, allowing people to lead normal lives and be elected governor of Minnesota.

Speaking of which, as a native Minnesotan, lots of people in Washington County have come up to me and said "What in the world does it say about the people of your state that you would elect someone like Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, a man so far out there in left field you have no idea what his positions are, who he's going to cozy up to, how he's going to govern or what he's going to do?"

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For them, I have a two-word answer: "Parris Glendening." That usually shuts them up.

Now that he's governor, he says he wants to be known as Jesse "The Mind" Ventura. He could go for the trifecta after he leaves office - become a minister and be known as Jesse "The Soul" Ventura. Hey, it worked for Marion Barry.

Here's what bugs me about the Minnesota elections. For years now, we've been hearing pundits fret and wring their hands over the lack of youthful participation in elections. Here, the young people voted, voted for the former pro wrestler, and the elite, fretting classes are all saying "Mon Dieu, c'est terrible what happens when young people vote."

Personally, I think it's great when young people get involved. You learn some interesting things. For example, locally, school board candidate Herb Hardin, a former principal, was the second leading votegetter among adults.

But in the Kids Vote program, Hardin was the only candidate who didn't break triple digits. Parents want discipline in the classroom. Students want anarchy. Nothing wrong with that. It shows an informed electorate.

Another example was evident in this Sunday's Washington Post. As is custom, a week ago the Post asked 13 pundits - professional babblers like Laura Ingraham and George Stephanopoulos - to handicap the national elections. A 14th entry was a 10th-grade high school class from Montgomery County. And guess what? The kids mopped up. Wiped the floor with the so-called experts.

But the Washington Post didn't learn anything by it. When they needed someone to break down the results and tell us what happened in the mid-term elections, did they get the high school kids to offer analysis? Of course not! THEY GOT LAURA INGRAHAM! The very same person who over the course of a week proved purely and conclusively that she doesn't have a clue about what American people are thinking!

Given all this evidence, I am willing to propose a constitutional amendment:

Raise the voting age to 26 and by that I mean only allow people under the age of 26 to vote.

What are they going to do, elect Barney? And if they do, Barney would be worse? It's not like people our ages have chosen such a bang-up crew. Kids' hearts are lighter. Their votes would be more imaginative and mirthful. And is there anyone out there still silly enough to believe that the country would be so much the poorer for having the lead singer of Pearl Jam in Congress instead of Dick Armey?

America succeeds despite the people who are elected to office, not because of them. And if an actor can be president and a pro wrestler can be governor, what heights can't a newspaper columnist aspire to?

Even people like me or Laura Ingraham.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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