You were right, and they were wrong: The year in commentary

December 30, 2022 9:00 am

The Reformer published more than 200 guest commentaries in 2022. Illustration by Getty Images.

During an election year that again seemed like a make-or-break contest to preserve American democracy, it’s no surprise that our most read and most influential commentaries were election related. 

Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, argued that GOP candidate for governor Scott Jensen should have had his medical license revoked. Jensen minimized the dangers of COVID-19 and overstated the risks of vaccines. 

“The people and patients of Minnesota must be able to trust that physicians are putting the health and well-being of patients ahead of their own political aspirations,” Lichtsinn wrote.

Policy analyst Eric Harris Bernstein broke down who would have benefitted from Jensen’s plan to eliminate the state income tax. (Surprise! It was the wealthiest Minnesotans.) This is one worth saving for the next time someone proposes this idea. 

During a year when some Trump Republicans — either through corruption or plain ignorance — sought to spread misinformation about our election system, we ran a series of columns by Max Hailperin that explained election administration, and why and how our system works so well. 

And with inflation taking a chunk of family budgets, we started a series on how increasingly prevalent monopolies have augmented corporate power at the expense of workers, consumers and communities. Policy analyst Justin Stofferahn is our lead writer, but Dr. Elisabeth Slattery chipped in on the proposed Sanford-Fairview merger. 

Writers compelled lawmakers to act on issues of vital importance. Denise Fadina implored legislators to do the right thing by child care workers and give them the COVID-19 hazard pay they deserved. (And the piece has an amazing photo.) Vienna Wilson recently urged the new DFL-controlled Legislature to rein in payday lenders, which “are stripping wealth from communities that can least afford it.”

Our regular Iron Range writer Aaron Brown continued to share insights with his elegant essays about the tradition of early fascism on the Range; the reinvigorated labor movement; and how the global economy has eroded our self-sufficiency and the important virtues that come with it.  

Our most read commentary on a single issue was Jay Andersen’s piece arguing for banning the AR15. Alas, the nation is now swimming in as many as 20 million of these killing machines. 

Our most emotionally resonant piece of commentary came from Lauren Borrell, a young nurse at Methodist Hospital. She wrote about her burnout as nurses fought for a contract that would pay them fairly and end the chronic understaffing threatening patient care. 

We ran book excerpts from Jessica Nordell, whose book “The End of Bias” on addressing unconscious bias has special meaning in Minnesota, where police violence is now a tragic part of our identity. 

We recently welcomed a new writer, the Rev. Angela Denker, who shared an excerpt of her book about her time ministering to conservative Minnesotans while living in liberal Minneapolis, and the sad rise of idolatry of wealth, power and Trump in the American Church. 

Finally, forgive me, but now I gotta do a bit about my own columns. 

I wrote a number of election-related columns: Jensen’s disastrous choice of Matt Birk to be his running mate; Kim Crockett’s open display of antisemitism (and racism before that); and Jim Schultz’s bizarre ignorance about oil companies. 

Concerned about the risks of political violence, I wrote about the emerging paramilitary wing of the Republican Party. 

I had fun pursuing certain idiosyncratic topics, like Minnesota’s giggle-inducing path to legalizing THC — and the federal THC, er, hemp legislation before that. I lauded the incredible safety record of American domestic air travel as an example of the largely unrecognized miracle that is the United States government. 

The Reformer has published nurses, teachers, janitors and small business owners because the people who are most affected by public policies ought to have a say in them. If you have an argument you wanna make, read our guidelines and send me a pitch: [email protected]

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children