2008 Republican national convention at Xcel Center in St. Paul,
Many Americans are deeply troubled
by the nation’s politics and by the two major parties
especially. Both seem to have been captured by deep-pocketed
Contentious social and cultural issues advanced within
these two parties keep people divided and angry. Political
is highly polarized. It seems that our elected officials
are incapable of addressing problems in realistic, non-contentious
Many people, including myself, have
believed that supporting a third party could bring us out of
this political morass. In
Independence Party and Green Party have both achieved a measure of
electoral success. However, from an Independence Party perspective,
we have been through three state elections since Jesse Ventura’s
amazing campaign victory in which the party has run strong candidates
for Governor but finished, at best, in low double digits.
In my opinion,
the Independence Party’s failure to build a strong
grassroots movement dooms it to disappointing electoral results.
To build a strong grassroots movement requires standing for
something that is important to people. Merely being a centrist
party and adopting certain “good government” policies are
not enough. You need issues.
Remember that when Ross Perot started
the Reform Party in 1992,
he embraced two sturdy, politically balanced planks: (1) concern
reducing the deficit, and (2) opposition to NAFTA and free trade.
Party remains faithful to the first objective but not to the
There are so many causes out there
in which people deeply believe but which fail to find a home
in partisan politics. Some
9/11 truth movement, legalizing marijuana, the peace movement,
shorter-workweek advocacy, and opposition to free trade. The
energy and passion are
there but not the supporting structure in electoral politics.
Causes that matter to people have been marginalized by the
and the major media.
An alternative to third-party politics
is to create strong dissenting, centrist factions in the
two major parties. We
have the conservative “blue
dog” Democrats (who sustained some major hits in
Congressional election) and a few surviving liberal,
moderate, or progressive Republicans. These people, too,
are more or
less in the middle of the political spectrum.
Bob Carney and I ran in Minnesota’s
2010 Republican gubernatorial primary as progressive Republicans
and finished second among four candidates,
well behind Tom Emmer. Many Republicans of a moderate persuasion
supported Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate.
He finished a distant
third with 12 percent of the general-election vote. Still,
that redirected vote may well have been the margin of Mark
Dayton’s victory over
Having affliated with the Independence
Party of Minnesota for the past decade, I agreed to run for
Lieutenant Governor in this year’s
Republican primary primarily out of friendship with
Bob Carney, the gubernatorial
candidate. Having been through the process, however,
I now think Carney’s
on to something with his progressive Republican stance.
It now seems to me that a faction within the Republican
Party called “progressive” can
be a political home for some of the causes currently
outside the political mainstream. Progressive Republicans
a grassroots movement
by standing for policy proposals, even controversial
ones, in areas that matter to people.
I have created a
that puts together a package of sixteen issues which
I think could
a progressive Republican platform. Each is differentiated
from what Democrats and conservative Republicans embrace.
the opening page is a cute cartoon picture of our mascot, “Ray
the RINO”. When Ray grows up, he’ll be
a formidable contender.
More seriously, the progressive
can boast of U.S. Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln,
Eisenhower. On the state level, it can boast of Minnesota
Governors such as Harold Stassen, Elmer L. Anderson,
Al Quie, and Arne Carlson. I’d match these
elected officials against today’s
Republican crop any day.
what about Reagan?
Party today remains under the spell of Ronald Reagan and the
during his Presidency.
Having lived through that period, I think I can
appeal. I, too, admired him. Why? Because he
stood for something. Because he endured ridicule
for holding fast to his beliefs.
Reagan at the time was considered a mere actor.
The idea was that his chief talent
a script. Reagan
therefore had no intellectual depth, no capacity
for independent thinking. Take away his cue
cards and he
would be lost.
What a surprise it was,
then, to many people that Reagan became a highly
successful two-term President. He even managed
to win the Cold
At the time, back in the 1960s and
1970s, conservative Republicans were considered to be persons
in past delusions.
The term, “Neanderthal”,
was often used to describe them. Conservative
Republicans were a species that would soon
become extinct, the knowledgeable people
That, however, said more about their
opponents than it did about conservatives.
smug individuals who chose to dismiss the
conservative position than treat it with
someone a “Neanderthal” meant
that you did not have to take his ideas
seriously. You just gave him a short, contemptuous
and then resumed the serious business of
I remember back in those times
the ascendant moderates and progressives
with the idea that
might be passé.
In a technologically advanced society,
technocrats rather than career politicians
the best rulers.
Political ideologies could
serve no constructive end. But then a
conservative ideologue and an
actor to boot, Reagan, came along and
proved these people wrong.
Being on the wrong side of history, history
somehow went his way.
Maybe liberal or
progressive Republicans have an image problem dating back
to those times.
were the self-styled
They were the leaders of business
and the professions. But that also made
people. Their respectability
them from taking gutsy political
positions as Reagan did. They were telling people that issues
no longer mattered. (Trust us with the competence and maturity
to govern.) They therefore squandered their advantage while
History turns in strange ways.
Reagan, the battle-tested conservative, has
for more than six
years. His ideological heirs
did not have to go through the
same humiliating ordeal as he. Hooked up with
forces of Big Money, these conservative
Republicans have settled comfortably
in the governing
party’s chair. Now it is
they, rather than moderates,
their opponents with disdain. “RINOs” are
what they call the moderates
of their party; and “progressives” are
even worse. The RINO, whose homonymic
partner is a rhinoceros, is this
version of “Neanderthal”.
It is a creature that has scarcely
evolved beyond the dinosaur.
this all looks familiar. The
two ideological positions have merely
was appropriate for
one generation may not be for
the next. Today, what we need
is more compassion
poor. We need a longing for
peace rather than war. We need to hold
the leaders of business and
finance accountable to human society. This
means that the
moderate or progressive
to be more in line with the
No, history did not “end” with
the end of the Cold War. We
will not be people who smugly assume
that it did and our ideology
see whose picture is on the
Chinese currency that grows stronger against
the dollar each passing year.
Lincoln, Eisenhower, and
Theodore Roosevelt, I would nevertheless propose
Reagan be enlisted
as a progressive Republican
It is not Reagan’s
ideas but Reagan the man
now be embraced. For, we
are in that
time that Reagan was in before
he became President.
Our type of political character
is likewise presumed to be
on the verge of extinction.
up to us to show the toughness
to persevere in our beliefs,
as Reagan did.
Like Reagan, we
need to state
our beliefs forthrightly,
jokes every now and
then. For Reagan was
a role model
for persons of all political
persuasions who are treated
the pampered champions
of the status quo. His economic and
may be different than ours
but this one-time actor could teach
us a few things politically.
was the candidate of the Indepependence Party for Congress
in Minnesota's 5th Congressional district in 2008.
He received 22,300 votes, or 7% of the total, in a race with
Democratic and Republican candidates.