Tell me something I don’t know about the Minnesota Republican Party

Independent Republican State Central Committee Records of the Minnesota State Archives.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Independent-Republican State Central Committee records of the Minnesota State Archives.

In 1974, Minnesota Republicans “lost everything but our underwear”—at least that’s how 3rd District Congressman Bill Frenzel put it in an address to Minnesota’s Republican State Central Committee one month after a DFL drubbing that made for what Frenzel called “the worst Republican year since 1934.”

Frenzel had some advice for the party—advice that might resonate with today’s Republican leadership. The GOP had “too much democracy,” Frenzel said. What it needed was “a touch of despotism…We have plenty of leaders, but darn few followers.” The remarks, typed up and released to the media, were under the heading “Follow one boss!”

More than three decades later the State Central Committee finally heeded Frenzel’s advice. In a 59 to 55 vote, delegates imposed a two-year ban on 18 Republicans who supported Independence Party candidate Tom Horner over their own party’s pick, the now-conceded Tom Emmer. For all intents and purposes, it’s a blacklist. And the message is clear: “Follow one boss!”

Do you like thought experiments? Here’s one: Drop today’s Minnesota Republican Party leadership in a time machine and watch as they walk into party headquarters in the 1960s or 70s or 80s. For much of that time our Republican Party had “independent” in its name. In fact, it was in the wake of the 1974 defeat that the Republican Party in Minnesota became the Independent-Republican Party.

Party turned around
What happened to the Republicans of 1974? Well, things turned around for them and they started winning elections again. In 1978, Al Quie was elected governor; Dave Durenberger became a U.S. senator; and Arne Carlson was elected state auditor.

These men were symbols of the party’s revitalization, and they are all on the 2010 Minnesota Republican Party blacklist.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring the history of the Minnesota Republican Party through documents, photos, audio clips, and interviews with party members—some of them banned from participating in the party they love but not from talking about it.

Literature promoting Minnesota Republican Workshop membership from the Minnesota State Archives.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Literature promoting Minnesota Republican Workshop membership from the Minnesota State Archives.

I want you to help me explore that history. Minnesota Republicans, tell me something I don’t know about the Republican Party. Better yet, tell my readers something they don’t know.

Maybe you volunteered for the party in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or 90s. Or maybe you held office as a Minnesota Republican. What attracted you to the party? Who inspired you? What are some of your best and worst experiences with the party?

If you have photos, brochures, audio recordings, or other ephemera let me know. I’ll add what you have to what I’ve discovered in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 12/10/2010 - 10:40 am.

    Minnesota had a long history of republican governership. Probably from some of the better off farmers and small town lutheran political leaders. This is a start but Roe v. Wade, but even more so The Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer set the stage for even more political involvement from the evangelicals aligned with older ethnic catholics. A few tears ago I read an article from a journal where a 1960’s purge occurred at one of the evangelical colleges where older more liberal professors were replaced by younger more ideological profs. Sorry I can’t be more specific but I am continuing to look forward to your work.

  2. Submitted by dan buechler on 12/10/2010 - 11:39 am.

    For example after a very quick internet search I ran across this notice from a small (unnamed by me) MN Baptist Seminary. “Fundamentalism 101 is clear…spiritually christians hold nothing in common with people who deny the gospel. So Christians must never extend Christian recognition or fellowship to people who deny the gospel. Others however claim to affirm the gospel even tho they deny teaching that are essential to it.”
    Not too much room there for grey area (or grey matter in my opinion), though this was written in October 22 2010, this type of preaching has been going on for over 40 to 80 years. And it has proven to be highly successful in disciplining the troops or the ground warriors.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/10/2010 - 11:39 am.

    Let’s put this in perspective.

    Democrat Mark Dayton got 44% of the votes. Which means that 56% of the people wanted someone else.

  4. Submitted by dan buechler on 12/10/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    I read this about a year ago in The Big Sort. MN not so nice. “Hey Shela its time for you to run as a true independent”. With that Dick Day told state representative Sheila Kiscaden that she would have to vacate her office. This is big reason there is so much gridlock. You step out of line and you are literally taken to the woodshed. Steve Swiggum (search the Almanac archives) was taken to the woodshed once cuz he compromised with the democrats. He learned his lesson (from Bill Cooper?) and hasn’t strayed since. The threat of expulsion or removal of funds is a big fear factor. Blacklisting exists.

  5. Submitted by Laura Knudsen on 12/10/2010 - 01:39 pm.

    In 2002 the MN republicans in district 30 (Rochester area) turned against their incumbent State Senator Sheila Kiscaden because she would not declare her self pro life. She had served her district proudly since 1992 but was ousted based on a single issue. Kiscaden ran as a member of the Independence Party of Minnesota and defeated the Republican candidate and a Democratic challenger in a three-way race.

  6. Submitted by Tim Walker on 12/10/2010 - 04:32 pm.

    Mr. Tester: What a coincidence, Tim Pawlenty also got 44% of the vote in 2002!

    He did boost that up to 46% in 2006, though.

    But anyway, I guess your point is that under Tim Pawlenty’s governorship from 2003-2010, a majority of Minnesotans wanted someone else in the Governor’s mansion.

    Thanks for reminding us!

  7. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 12/10/2010 - 06:03 pm.

    ?? … “Democrat Mark Dayton got 44% of the votes. Which means that 56% of the people wanted someone else.” ???!!!

    By the same logic, though, Mr. Emmer was rejected by an even greater margin. I’ll let you do the figuring so the perspective will be set right, er I mean correct, again!

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/11/2010 - 06:35 am.

    Dan B (#1) — Typo or truth?

    “A few tears ago I read an article ….”

    That’s the same reaction I have when I read about some of the doings of what the Republican Party seems to have become under the infuence of “thinkers” like Grover Norquist and his Minnesota anti-tax/anti-government/anti-worker followers.

  9. Submitted by Anita Newhouse on 01/08/2011 - 08:51 pm.

    Ok, so then, MN Republicans are akin to the workings of a gang? It all sounds very “Chicago political machine” to me.

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