When Republicans were Progressive

With Dave Durenberger

Monday Night Philosophy revives an almost forgotten aspect of 20th century American politics, played out mostly in the Midwest. The progressive Republican Party that came to power in Minnesota with Harold Stassen’s election in 1938 had already faded into near obscurity by the 1990s, but Minnesota’s modern success story sprang from the ideas and ideals of that dynamic political movement, which emphasized effective government. Issues that are anathema to today’s GOP—environmental protection, assistance for vulnerable citizens and economic opportunity for low-wage workers and the middle class—were at the heart of the party’s agenda. Minnesota Republicans held that working across the aisle was a mark of strength, not of weakness or disloyalty.

Senator Dave Durenberger grew up in and helped build that party and explains how Minnesota’s progressive Republicans earned voters’ trust and delivered on their promises. Progressive Republican ideas only fell out of favor when an increasingly anti-government, anti-tax national party shifted Republican thinking to the Right. In the ensuing partisan realignment, both the Republican and the Democratic parties have lost public trust. Durenberger argues that the principles and practices of progressive Republicanism are a fitting remedy for what ails American democracy today.

Author Dave Durenberger is interviewed by George Hammond.