Friday, September 30, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: How Will Mid-Terms Turn Out?

The long-brewing 2022 national mid-term elections are

now only a few weeks away, and expectations are high for

Democratic and Republican partisans with control of both

houses of Congress at stake.

Depending on who is read or listened to in the punditocracy,

there are grounds for optimism on both sides, but the

long season of widely differing and controversial polling

now enters a period of relative sober results as pollsters

and pundits who themselves are not partisan seek to

foresee what voters will do when they actually cast votes.

There was at the outset of the cycle a commonplace

anticipation, in light of President Biden’s chronic 

disapproval, of a red (Republican) wave in U.S. house

and senate races, accompanied by gains of the already

dominate GOP control of most state governments.

Over the summer, however, President Biden’s numbers,

still in negative territory, rose; the U.S. superme court

overturned Roe vs. Wade, returning the abortion issue to

the individual states; and a U.S. senate stalemate was

broken, enabling the passage of a trillion dollar plus

spending legislaion — all perceived by Democrats as

game changers in voter mood, as was the strategy of 

making former President Donald Trump a campaign


Until Labor Day, there were some polls which indicated

that some vulnerable Democratic candidates, especially in

U,S, senate races, had significantly improved their 2022

prospects, reinforcing the new Democratic optimism.

Since Labor Day the news has become mixed. State

races for governor and legislative candidates remained

positive for Republicans who are still expected to pick up

a few governorships, state constitutional officers and state

legislators.  Red wave results in U.S. house races seem

also likely — although the forecasts for GOP gains still

vary widely. Control of the U.S. senate, now split 50 to 50,

with Democratic Vice President Harris giving her party

control, remains, however, uncertain — with new polling

indicating up to 11 seats, six with Democratic incumbents,

five with Republican incumbents, as toss-ups.

Each mid-term cycle has its own set of issues and 

political circumstances.  When an incumbent president

and his policies are net unfavorable, as they, are now,

the results are almost always good for the opposition

party. On the other hand, when the leader of the 

opposition is a lightning rod for disapproval, the impact

on voters can be mixed. The abortion issue brings out

partisans of both sides, and perhaps helps Democrats

more, but the economy, battered by inflation, gives

Republicans an important advantage.

All polls are inexact, some are indeed erroneous, but the

polls close to the election usually are more accurate than

earlier in the cycle, and from mid-October on could signal

2022 voter mood and direction. Voters are now paying

much more attention to the election, candidate and party

advertising is filling airwaves and mailboxes, and political

strategies have been decided.

It now depends, as it always does, on which party’s voters

are most motivated, and which party wins the most

independent voters.


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022


The United Kingdom is a small island nation which has

had an outsized influence on much of civilization for

more than a thousand years, impacting forms of law and

government, language, literature and culture, first as a

conquerer and colonizer with an imperial reach across

the globe, and finally, at a dark hour in 1940, as brave

and gritty last-ditch defender of freedom and democracy

against a malevolent totalitarian threat. 

For the past 70 years, the once global superpower has

settled into a more normal pattern for a nation its size,

still an influence in diplomacy and trade, but superseded

by much larger and powerful nations. Its one-time colony,

the United States of America, inherited its role as global

military and economic power, and vied first with Soviet 

Russia, and now with mainland China, for global military,

economic and cultural influence and dominance.

Without political power any longer, the royal family of

Great Britain, has presided over the recent transition

under a single figure known popularly as the queen of

England — and named Elizabeth II.

Unlike many preceding European monarchs, ranging

from several English forbears to Empress Catherine

of Russia to Emperor Napoleon of France, she had no

outsized ambitions which precipitated conflict. She was

thus the ideal figure to accompany the natural transition

from supremacy to normalcy these past seven decades.

One story tells it best. Soon after becoming queen

after the death of her father, King George VI, she was

visiting her rural Scottish residence, and decided to drive

her car alone into the local hills without her security detail.

When she didn’t return after a few hours, there was  a

frantic search made to find her - which they did on a 

deserted road, under the car trying to fix it after it had

broken down. Before she had become queen, and during

World War II, she had served as an auto and truck

mechanic in the military — and now with the auto 

breakdown on an isolated road, she simply rolled up her

sleeves and set about to fix the problem herself. There

no cell phones in those days, but she didn’t panic or feel


Many members of her royal family, including her children,

were often controversial or dysfunctional, but through it

all, Elizabeth II remained outwardly calm and solidly

traditional, and fulfilled her public duties tirelessly as she

had promised she would on taking the throne 70 years ago.

There will now be many words written about her in eulogy,

many ceremonies culminating in an elaborate state funeral

and interment. She has been succeeded by her eldest son,

King Charles III. Following a millennium of tradition, her

grandson and great-grandson now await their turns as

monarchs. As the oldest and one of very few monarchies

remaining in a politically changing world, it isn’t certain they

will become king, but the British royal family endures for

now — thanks in great part to its just departed queen.


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Gorbachev in Minnesota, 1990

Mikhail Gorbachev made two visits to Minnesota, but only

one while in power, and that 1990 appearance was an

epic seven hours of celebrity meetings, crowds, photo ops,

and very brief global attention to an orgy of local hospitality.

Now 32 years ago, the visit remains indelible in the memory

of those Minnesotans who were part of it — although many

of the principals, including Governor Rudy Perpich, his wife

Lola, legendary tycoon Robert Maxwell, Raisa Gorbachev, 

and now Mikhail Gorbachev himself, are no longer with us.

The Minnesota stopover was the idea of Governor Perpich

who, between terms (1976-79) and (1983-91) had served

as a businessman in Europe and worked with the new 

post-communist Croatian government. He had befriended 

media billionaire Maxwell, and proposed a multi-million

dollar Maxwell-Gorbachev Institute to be located  in

Minnesota as an incentive to Gorbachev to add the midwest

the state to his planned New York and San Francisco stops

on his official U.S. itinerary. Robert Maxwell, also a friend of

Gorbachev, was to accompany him on the trip, and he helped

persuade the Russian leader to do it.

As a veteran local journalist, I was given three options to 

cover the visit, albeit from distance because no press 

conferences or interviews were planned, nor as I was to learn, 

even permitted with the Russian leader.The three venues were 

the airport for the arrival, the governor’s residence in St. Paul 

where the visitors were to have an elaborate Minnesota 

luncheon, or the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis 

where Mr. Gorbachev was to meet local and national business 


I had a special reason to try to actually meet Gorbachev. A year

before, not knowing he would visit Minnesota, I had ordered and

received an advanced reading copy of his speeches translated

into English. I now thought a signed copy would be a special

treasure, so I was determined to have him sign my copy.

The days leading up to the visit on June 3, 1990, were a civic

madhouse. Souvenirs of all kinds, includes dozens of different

embossed T-shirts, appeared for sale and trade. Signs in 

Russian script were erected along the travel route across

the Mississippi River between the Twin Cities.The media was

choked with stories anticipating the seven-hour visit and its


I opted for the event at the Radisson Hotel where I thought I

might have a good chance to encounter Gorbachev. All media

(thousands from around the globe, it turned out) were assembled

at the now-torn-down Metrodome Stadium where most of the

media could watch everything on giant TV screens. The few of

us allowed to go to the Radisson Hotel were put on a bus and 

driven there.

One of the reasons I had initially been optimistic that I could have

my book signed was that those in charge were friends of mine,

but on arriving at the Metrodome, each of them assured me that

there was no chance at all I could get close to Gorbachev with all

his security, and that they could not help me. Many of my fellow

journalists, at the Metrodome, seeing the book, derided my 

chances to get it signed. No way, they said.

Before Gorbachev arrived at the hotel, those of us in the media,

including reporters and photographers, were ushered to the back

of the large ballroom where he was to speak. Political celebrities

were everywhere, including President Nixon’s chief of staff H.R.

Haldeman, who had worked later as a businessman in Moscow.

Finally, Gorbachev arrived, but after only five minutes, we in the

media were led out and sent to a second floor room where we 

were to watch the proceedings on TV screens. My book-signing

goal now looked very bleak.

Then I overheard a conversation between a photographer and the

staffer in charge of the room. There was to be a short photo-op in 

a nearby room with Gorbachev and Ann Bancroft, the Minnesota

explorer. Seizing the moment, I then went to the staffer, told him

I spoke Russian (not fully true, but I had taken a Russian course 

in college), and pleaded with him to let me accompany the 

photographers to the photo op. Amazingly, he agreed I could go.

Led to another room, four of us waited for Gorbachev to enter. I

stood with book and pen in hand, ready to act.

The entourage began to arrive. Suddenly, a loud voice in front of 

me said, “Where did you get that book?”

The voice came from a tall, striking man who identified himself as

Robert Maxwell. He then said, “I published that book in England; 

it’s not for sale in the U.S.” I told him it was a review copy, and I 

wanted to have Gorbachev sign it. He then said, “Well, I wrote the 

introduction, so I’d better sign it, too!” Which he did.

A few moments later, Gorbachev walked by, and I was ready with

“Mikhail Sergeivitch, please sign my book” in Russian. Startled, he

stopped, and the photographer behind me, who was fluent in 

Russian, began asking questions. With TV cameras broadcasting 

all of this live worldwide (and back to the Metrodome), we then 

held the only (albeit unscheduled) press conference of the U.S. trip.

Gorbachev then dutifully signed my book, and was hurried off to 

the photo op.

Returning to the Metrodome, I was cheered as I entered — they

had watched the signing and impromptu press conference on TV. 

Several asked me how much I wanted for the book.

“Not for sale,” I said.


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.