“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

This has happened nationally, but it's synonymous with what's happened in this community: There's the new people with money. [In Minnesota] there's a group of business people who've been meeting for 15 years, who talk about giving money to certain Republicans. But it's a very conservative group that's played a role in the last seven, eight, nine campaigns. I know Gil Gutknecht has gone to them looking for financial support and they say, "No, first we need this, this, and this." Money talks in politics today.

Elmer Andersen endorsed Ann Wynia rather than Rod Grams for my seat. At the time, I was working for Rod, and I went to Elmer and said, "What's going on here?" Elmer said, "Would you tell me one thing that man has done for the community?" And he meant something that was about giving advantage to the disadvantaged. The idea was that giving builds character, and that community involvement was key to entering politics and understanding how policy could be shaped. We're talking volunteering here, and service. And not just in the church.

CP:There's a slew of Republican candidates and officeholders in Minnesota who put their religious beliefs front and center in their public life.

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: Yep. It's television. Televised evangelism. Do they all come from their own churches and such? Yes. But look. I have very strong feelings about faith as a motivator. You can have your faith, and you can't just check it at the door when you go to work, but there's got to be enough respect to keep it out of what you do. When you start to rely on The Book to set policy, I begin to have a problem with that. I can't handle that one, the business of legislating your faith.

CP:Isn't there political expediency involved for some of the people pushing a religious agenda in politics?

Durenberger: It's political necessity. I had a conversation with Randy Johnson, the chairman of the board of Hennepin County, eight or ten years ago. Remember in our sort of young Republican days, the power structure was MAC: The Minnesota Association of Commerce and Industry was aligned with Republicans. The AFL-CIO was aligned with Democrats. If you wanted to get elected on either side, you go to one of those, the MAC or the AFL-CIO. I said, "Where do you go today?" And he said, "You go to an evangelical church." The power structure has changed.

And there's the What Would Jesus Do platform.

CP:How durable is that as a political platform?

Durenberger: It's not. It won't last. It can't last. It's not foundational as far as America is concerned; it's not foundational as far as representative democracy is concerned. You can bring your faith to your life and your work, but that should also include respect for other people and respect for other opinions. You know, love your fellow man and all of that. But what you see [from religious conservatives in politics] are the dictates, and the things those same people are doing to people they consider to be their opponents.

I think the kind of evangelical politics we're talking about finds it much easier to raise money and define politicians on black-and-white issues. Other issues are a little more difficult. Health, education, welfare--you don't debate whether people should have access to health care. That debate is about how to get people there. Abortion, on the other hand, or the death penalty: very clear. You are either with us or against us. You're with What Would Jesus Do, or you're not.

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