Wobegon-mandering

Let’s leave Lake Wobegon in the world of radio.

In 1812, a new word was coined by the Boston press to describe an attempted political coup by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry. The phrase was âÄúGerrymandering,âÄù and it referred to a transparent effort to redraw the district lines and give his Democrat-Republican party more power in the state. Gerry was ultimately busted, his scheme blocked and the unsavory practice of politically-motivated redistricting placed into the repertory of political dirty tricks. This being Minnesota, it seems appropriate that our version of Gerrymandering would be tempered by our stereotypical âÄúMinnesota niceâÄù character that would appear to bear itself out if the recent legislation proposed by three St. Cloud legislators passes. The draft legislation would combine Stearns, Benton and part of Sherburne County into one large unit whose name would ultimately be decided by locals, but is currently slated to be âÄúLake Wobegon.âÄù The legislation is supposed to streamline government, but the Star Tribune reported that âÄúthe legislators could not document potential savings from a merger or how many jobs might be involved.âÄù While we have nothing but love and respect for âÄúA Prairie Home CompanionâÄù and its creator Garrison Keillor (who happens to be a former employee of the Daily and, we might add, has not yet commented on the matter) the proposal strikes us as more than a little silly. ItâÄôs not that we question the importance of efficient government but rather trying to color the state map with shades of popular culture. Defining your town or county as a novelty item does not engender an atmosphere of admiration but rather of flea-market kitsch, and cities like Riverside, Iowa âÄî future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk âÄî sell their character for the sake of a mild amusement. While this proposition seems like the kind of thing that the humble folk of the fictive Lake Wobegon would get behind, we canâÄôt. But we donâÄôt want to turn a caricature of Minnesota into its true reflection.