Former GOP U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and Tom Horner — Durenberger’s former chief of staff and the Independence Party’s 2010 candidate for governor, recently asked on this page: “Minnesota Republicans, what are you going to do?”

I’m with them on one part of their suggested answer — vote for former Vice President Joe Biden. And I agree with their citing of the Lincoln Project’s mission: “Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not.”

Both Durenberger and Horner have become what can best be described as “politically homeless.” They’re not alone. All across Minnesota are legions of politically evicted Republicans, who for decades made the Minnesota GOP the dominant political force for good in the state that the two describe.

They write: “At best, the party’s role now is to control a portion of state government and be the brakes on the DFL Party.” Today that’s a more important role than many realize. To see this, let’s examine the authors’ timeline of doom featuring Newt Gingrich’s 1994 campaign for U.S. House Speaker.

I, too, see this as a malevolent turning point in American politics. But please consider that from 1994 forward, Minnesota has had divided government for 24 out of 26 years.

During that time GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty was arguably the single most impactful governor in 50 years — by breaking a fever of state spending. For the previous 40 years state spending had increased at an average unsustainable rate of about 10% a year. Pawlenty’s eight-year legacy was a painful downshift to a rate of 2.5% annual increases. It was an overcorrection in my view, but something had to be done.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s watch was somewhere in the middle. Most recently, DFL Gov. Tim Walz and Senate GOP Majority Leader Paul Gazelka have worked together constructively — and brought forth a budget closer to Pawlenty’s benchmark.

Today, Minnesota has a rainy-day fund and we’re looking at a $2.4 billion deficit. Even in the COVID-19 era that is far less than what Dayton faced in 2011.

Finally, it’s notable that the 2018 campaign for governor was one of the most civil in memory. The GOP’s Jeff Johnson won the second highest number of votes for governor in Minnesota history. However, a record-setting midterm turnout spike obscured that and Walz won comfortably.

Still, the Trump disaster truly is a disaster. Once the “party of ideas,” today’s Minnesota GOP has become a vacuous personality cult. The 2020 state convention platform committee’s recommendations shy away from foundational U.S. Constitutional values — such as the preamble’s “establish justice” and “promote the general welfare.” Social Security and Medicare are not mentioned.

In his most recent book, Sen. Durenberger wrote: “America’s political middle no longer has a party.” Fortunately, a lot of “politically homeless” Minnesotans have an opportunity to stand up and take action. Minnesota’s primary filing period began Tuesday and continues for two weeks.

If you are dismayed by what has happened to the Republican Party, please “take arms against a sea of troubles.” The filing fee for the State Legislature (House and Senate) is $100. Given today’s circumstances, please consider yourself qualified if you are a reasonable, prudent, open-minded person with some time to volunteer between now and mid-August. Warning: You might get elected.

We need to call out Minnesota’s GOP political militia.

After the filing period closes everyone has two days to withdraw. That would be a good time for people who have come forward to mask up and meet at some social-distancing gatherings around Minnesota, mull over the situation and then decide whether or not to go forward as a group — to restore the Minnesota Republican Party to open sanity. Fortunately, there still are a lot of hunkered-down, in-the-closet-sane Republicans — including in the Legislature.

To wrap up — Tom, please do something about the compelling case and plea you just made. Plop down $400 and file for the GOP U.S. Senate primary. Somebody has to take the initiative on this.


Bob “Again” Carney Jr. lives in Minneapolis.