From the Lefthand Corner: Remembering our moderate Minnesota Republicans of yesteryear

I miss those moderate, likable Minnesota Republicans, including former Govs. C. Elmer Anderson and Elmer L. Andersen. Gov. Luther Youngdahl, Sen. Dave Durenburger and Congressman Jim Ramstad also come to mind.


Overall, our Minnesota Republicans of the past have seemed to be mostly of the moderate variety and a far cry from the Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Rudy Giuliani and Matt Gaetz types we’ve seen too much of lately.

I was reminded of this last week when I saw a front page photo and read about former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Gov. Tim Walz sitting side by side getting their COVID-19 vaccinations together.

I didn’t think much of “no new taxes” Pawlenty when he was our Republican governor, but I appreciate his willingness to come back to Minnesota and make the positive joint effort to encourage reluctant Minnesotans to get their COVID shots.

I first remember our “boy wonder” Gov. Harold Stassen of the late 1930s, early 1940s. I don’t remember much about his performance in office, but I remember his bipartisan popularity as he left office to join the armed services in World War ll. We remember him best after his return and repeated unsuccessful runs for president.

During 50 years of living in Duluth, I recall a number of times joining with the then Eighth Congressional District Republican chair in appearing on public service TV programs and issuing joint statements to encourage attendance at respective precinct caucuses in February and voting in September and November of election years.


We’ve kind of lost that lately, with state Sen. Paul Gazelka and crew taking their monthly shots at Walz and opposing most every proposal that he makes. Our Republican congressional contingent all sticks to the National Rifle Association extremes on guns.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his national cohorts want a lot of the good stuff contained in President Biden’s recovery effort, but don’t lift a finger to reach agreement on how to pay for it.

I’ve written before that Dad was on the Loon Lake Town Board during the 1940s. The town supervisors also served as election judges for the township. It was one of the few townships in Cass County that had a Democratic majority with two Democrats and one Republican election judge.

The three took turns going home for noon dinner and evening supper on Election Day. Most all the farms were one car or no car families and very few of the women drove. So Dad, like the others, just took a ballot home for Mom to fill out and returned it and put it in the ballot box.

They, and their neighbors, all trusted each other and supported the informal process that saved a trip.

So far as I know the wives’ ballots retained their secrecy. It was probably a precursor or forerunner to our now heavily used absentee ballot.

We’ve had three Minnesota governors named Andersen/Anderson during my lifetime. Two of them were Republican: C. Elmer from Echoland and Elmer L. from St. Paul. Elmer L. Andersen left his very successful Fuller Co. to serve effectively in a bipartisan way, getting along with most everyone as he did so.

As an avowed “tax and spend liberal," I particularly like recalling his philosophy to first decide what is needed for good government purpose, then tax accordingly, and then spend such amounts as carefully and wisely as possible.


I was equally impressed as he continued in retirement by spearheading acquisition and setting aside lands in our Arrowhead region to be preserved for future public enjoyment.

I miss those moderate, likable Minnesota Republicans. Gov. Luther Youngdahl, Sen. Dave Durenburger and Congressman Jim Ramstad also come to mind.

There’s room for our diverse views, expressions and advocacy without berating and disparaging each other.

I hope our present officeholders can relearn the word "compromise" and induce consideration of, and maybe even a little compassion for, the other sides of things.

Don Bye - From the Lefthand Corner.jpg
Don Bye, columnist

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