Is the term “progressive Republican” an oxymoron? With religious hardliners and anti-tax crusaders dominating the party in recent years, that would certainly seem to be the case. But a documentary airing this Saturday on Twin Cities Public Television makes the case that GOP politicians in Minnesota have a long tradition of advocating policies aimed at alleviating poverty and reducing inequality.
The program opens with a thumbnail history of progressive Republican governors who have shaped the state over the last 150 years. They range from John Pillsbury, who bolstered aid to victims of the Grasshopper Plague in the 1870s, to Harold LeVander, who helped create the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Polution Control Agency in the 1960s. But the bulk of the show focuses on a panel put together by Growth & Justice during the Republican National Convention in September.
The speakers — former Govs. Arne Carlson and Al Quie and retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (pictured) — couldn’t sound more at odds with typical Republican talking points. Quie bemoans the fact that the U.S. has more people in prison than any other country in the world. Ramstad criticizes President Bush for putting electoral success ahead of effective governance. Carlson lambastes Republicans for their intolerance of dissent within party ranks.
With the Minnesota GOP suffering repeated defeats at the polls in recent years it would seem like the party might be wise to heed such voices. Perhaps Ron Carey will tune in on Saturday night.