“They talk about freedom and values, but they really don't believe in representative government.”

Former Minnesota Senator and lifelong Republican Dave Durenberger on the rise of the new Bush Republicans in Minnesota and elsewhere

And what Keillor is saying is, "You know, you guys wouldn't have those opportunities. Your girls wouldn't be playing for national basketball championships and things like that. You wouldn't have 911 to call to save your kids' life or your own life, if there hadn't been Democrats or liberals fighting for those things." Those are some of the examples he uses. And he's right.

He's really saying, Give credit where credit is due. And there's a value in universities, there is a value to big old cities. There's a value to the Hmong or whomever. Here they are. And there's a value in that that doesn't exist in the golf course community, where everybody is the same. You can't possibly say you can represent everybody in your district, everybody in your state, everybody in your nation if have this golf course community mentality.

CP: You and Arne Carlson used to be the faces of the Minnesota Republican Party, but there's no room for you in the party anymore.

On GWB: "In my view, the problem is a chief executive who will never acknowledge a mistake, an error, or a fault. We saw it in the debates with John Kerry. I don't think the man believes that he's capable of making a mistake."
Bill Kelley
On GWB: "In my view, the problem is a chief executive who will never acknowledge a mistake, an error, or a fault. We saw it in the debates with John Kerry. I don't think the man believes that he's capable of making a mistake."

Durenberger: Well, I think that's true. I could not get endorsed. It's a different generation. You're going to keep creating the more dogmatic [brand of politics] for some period of time, until you run into crisis conditions. It might come internationally, or it could come in this country. I cannot predict where it will come. It could be the deficit; it could be the value of the dollar. It's likely to come in the economy.

CP: Are there old-guard Republicans going along with this because at the end of the day they'll get no new taxes and smaller government, regardless of the other costs?

Durenberger: Basically they can't challenge it. There's no way an [Pennsylvania Sen.] Arlen Specter can take this one on. There's no way a [Indiana Sen.] Dick Lugar can take this one on. Or [Virgina Sen.] John Warner. They can't do it and keep their jobs.

I saw John Warner take on Oliver North in our caucus, so I know where John Warner comes from. He is not a right-wing, national security über alles kind of guy. John is a moderate, like I am. But John values his role in our national security policy. As does Dick Lugar, who is another moderate. And guys like [Nebraska Sen.] Chuck Hagel. He'll be popular on television shows, and he'll be admired by those of us who admire independence. But he's not going to be a factor. John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, people like that, will not be factors. They will have an influence in some parts of the Republican Party....

CP: But their influence is so much window dressing when you talk about the inner workings of the party at this point.

Durenberger: Yeah.

CP: We've been talking about what amounts to a decline in the traditional role of government. How did the old idea get hijacked?

Durenberger: It was hijacked by a combination of things. I mentioned Roe v. Wade. And by a negative vision of the future, best portrayed by the no-new-taxes vision. That's not a vision, because it doesn't bring people together. It started in 1980 with Ronald Reagan, with the notion of getting government off our backs and out of our lives. The idea was, don't give them [government] any money, and they won't have any to spend.

At the same time, you saw the rise of people like Mitch Pearlstein and Center of the American Experiment. That became just a negative way of defining government. It's a tool to get attention. Mitch is a thought leader; Mitch is not a politician. He gets [Norm] Coleman and Vin Weber on the podium, putting ideas out there. It's the same role from [former state GOP chair Bill] Cooper, [current GOP chair Ron] Eibensteiner, and groups like the Taxpayers League.

But here's the catch. Those are the people who have, in effect, rescued the party because they brought money to the party. When I came in, in the '60s, the party had a broad fundraising mechanism. We had a door-to-door network and a wide fundraising reach that would drive the Democrats crazy. We would go out debating policy: Should we have outcome-based education standards or should we have a Met Council? It was legitimate debate.

By the '70s and into the '80s, the single-issue dominance of the so-called platform changed that. You had to stand for these things to get endorsed, and that drove a lot of people out of the party. If you felt like it was useless to go to precinct caucuses, then you felt it was useless to give them money. So, when Rudy [Boschwitz] and I were in office, the party collapsed financially.

Rudy and I used to say, let them go bankrupt, and reform the party, and bring all kinds of different Republicans in. That never happened. Rudy tried to raise money, but it didn't happen. Then it evolved into what we would call the conservative business people. Not the conservatives of old who worked at General Mills or 3M. These were people you didn't know, people who weren't active in the community, who inherited their money or made their own from scratch. And these people wanted to get government off their backs and restore some kind of values to society. And suddenly that meant working and investing in schools--but not public schools, private and charter schools. And then there was the rise of faith-based enterprise. Then, as I mentioned before, everybody was going to the evangelical churches to get a political base.

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