Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remembering a sane Republican Party

I mentioned before that I've voted for one Republican in the last 38 years. His name was Arne Carlson and he served two terms as Minnesota's governor (I only voted for him in his first election against a Democratic incumbent who was anti-choice and behaving erratically in office). Carlson has since been kicked out of the MN Republican Party and continues to argue for some sanity from the right.

Last night something reminded me of his personal blog so I decided to take a look. What I found is an article he wrote two months ago titled Bedford Falls or Potterville... Tell me if you too wouldn't welcome back this kind of Republican Party as the loyal opposition.

At this time of the year, many of us replay the marvelous Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It is a lovely and meaningful story about the impact of a community oriented focus versus the selfishness of accumulating personal wealth. The choice is between a vibrant inclusive community of Bedford Falls where everyone is important and realizes the value of the big “we” as opposed to “Pottersville” which represents a decadent and dying town ravaged by one individual’s greed.

The choice is simple: everyone loves Bedford Falls and the wholesomeness of its community. In so many ways, it is the realization of the American Dream...

Today, we must decide whether we want to build a Bedford Falls or a Pottersville. Increasingly, this is becoming the debate...

Yes, the Republican Party went from moderate to what I call “the new Right”. But it was more than a shift in political philosophy. Leaders like Sutton and Pawlenty [former state party chair and governor] and numerous others saw the party as representing not only a different and more narrow philosophy but also as having the power to rigidly enforce that philosophy on its elected members. Orthodoxy prevailed over representativeness and the result has been that cooperative governance with Democrats, Independents and Republican moderates is not possible. It is either the way of the “new Right” or not at all.

Politics is no longer a contest of competing ideas with respect for dissent but increasingly the imposition of an authoritarianism that all too often is cloaked in patriotism and religion. In this environment, the party and its beliefs are paramount and elected officials serve the party. Any deviation is defined as “traitor”, “Rhino”, “disloyal”, etc....

However, my memory of Republicanism in Minnesota goes back to a party that was always building a better community...So many of our leaders came out of the progressivism of Harold Stassen while still committed to the conservative virtues of prudent financial management. Policies ranging from consumer and environmental protection to human rights to metropolitan governance bore the fingerprints of an endless array of community oriented GOP Governors from Elmer Andersen to Harold LeVander through Al Quie and on....

The Republican Party both in Minnesota and nationally has a choice to make. Does it want to build a true Bedford Falls with a commitment to the well being of the whole or does it want to lead us to “Pottersville” where the quality of life rests with the privileged few?

There are still some of us in Minnesota that remember the Republican Party former Governor Carlson is talking about. During his time in office I was pretty active on some issues with the state legislature and had some run-ins with his staff. So it wasn't all sunshine and roses. But it WAS a rational conversation. With the party he's describing these days (both nationally and at the state level), that's not possible.

I recognize that there may be parts of the country that might have never seen a Republican Party like the one that used to exist in this state. But for me its important to remember that its possible. That's why I'll keep listening to people like David Frum and Arne Carlson - in order to see if these few lonely voices have a chance to call them back from the wilderness they currently inhabit. I think our country could use a dose of sanity like that.


  1. I remember sane Republicans that were against the VietNam war like Pete McClosky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_McCloskey. Back when there were liberal Republicans.


    1. And my hero - Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield.

  2. Nah, ain't gonna happen. Used to be, a candidate that was win at any cost was cut off at the knees after a time or two. Now, its just the way things are done.

    I don't believe in, nor do I advocate that both parties are the same. The R's candidates over and over and over are win at any cost, say anything to win. 2010 showed that. It's not impossible to find D's who do this, but it IS somewhat difficult.

    We just don't have Ken Buck, Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina ... and anyone who says Ds are just as bad is lying. Period.

    Until the Rs kick the worst of the TP out of their tent, it won't change. And that means getting rid of the sidelines cheerleaders: Rush, Savage, Beck, Fox, ...

    It won't happen until a new conservative party emerges. Which I figure to be 2016 as a nascent adventure and 2020 as a for real party followed by 2022 as the death and dismemberment of the current R party.

    We'll see.

    1. I agree.

      If there's any hope for something like this - it will only happen in the very long term.

  3. I still remember them, since I'm in the state that gave rise to the term "Rockefeller Republican."

    Just for a (sad) laugh:

    1. OMG Norbrook - trust the Onion to always be on top of the story! LOL

  4. I live in Oregon, the home of such sane Republicans as Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall. McCall was a great advocate for environmental sustainability (the bottle bill passed during his time as governor). Hatfield was once on a short list for Reagan's veep. He'd be lucky to be elected dog catcher now.

    I swore off even sane Republicans after the impeachment fiasco. I won't give votes to someone who will then enable a party that is so obviously a threat to the stability of my country.

  5. Good post, but you brought back memories...I voted for Perpich in that election because I didn't follow the republican primary enough to know who Arne Carlson was--I was still voting against Grunseth. What a weird election that was! Calrson is one of those guys that, if he were still in politics, would have to run on the Democratic ticket, like they do in places like Kansas.

    1. That was a weird one. Its the only time I walked into the voting booth not knowing who I was going to vote for - I just kept going back and forth.

      As I said, I'd never voted for a Republican before. But Perpich was anti-choice and had been behaving so erratically. In retrospect, I feel like I made the right choice - even though Carlson's staff pissed me off a few times. Now he's one of my heroes. I think I'd vote for him again - depending on who his opponent was.

  6. I remember William Miliken and George Romney in Michigan, although I was just too young to vote for them.