I want to thank Dr. Larry Schlauderaff for his recent letter. Most Americans, and most Itasca County residents, are not extremists. But the Republican Party has become more and more extreme.

Of course, it is easy for me to criticize the GOP, because I am not a Republican. Dr. Schlauderaff is, and it must not be so easy for him. It is not easy to criticize one’s own “side.” Dr. Schlauderoff should be commended for his courage and honesty.

I have not consulted with Schlauderaff, but I’m guessing that, while disagreeing on many issues, he and I would agree on at least one thing: Given the structure of our political system, we need a healthy and viable party of the moderate right, and we need a healthy and viable party of the moderate left. When either party starts to go off the rails, responsible party members should rein it back in.

Decades ago, in the 1940s, Hubert Humphrey acted as a gatekeeper on the left, leading the move to expel communists from the DFL This was not part of any Red Scare. The DFL was the product of a merger between Minnesota Democrats, and the Farmer-Labor Party. Some members of the latter were quite radical, and Humphrey and others forced them out.

There used to be gatekeepers on the right as well. William F. Buckley comes to mind. He and others pushed the extremist John Birchers out of mainstream Republican politics.

Today, there are still gatekeepers on the left. In fact, if you talk to progressive Democrats, they will tell you that Democratic gatekeepers are overbearing and are blocking important progress on important issues.

But the gatekeepers of the right are gone. Now, due to extreme redistricting and other factors, Republican candidates have to compete with each other for shock value, in the process moving ever more to the right. They have moved so far in that direction that the GOP is no longer a conservative party. Conservatives should be defenders of our form of government, but on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump-supporting Republicans tried to storm the Capitol. Conservatives used to be mostly pro-science and pro-education (well – at least there was lip service to that effect). Now, Republicans deny science and eviscerate education funding. Conservatives used to be hawkish on defense and wary of Russia. Now, Republicans like Tucker Carlson express favorable views of Vladimir Putin, while also fawning over the authoritarian Viktor Orban of Hungary. Conservatives used to champion free speech. Now, many Republicans want to ban books. Something has changed.

I am sure there are many other Republicans who, like Dr. Schlauderaff, would like their party to return to reason and sanity. I hope they will have the courage to follow the good doctor’s lead and reject extremism.

 

Brian Vroman

Grand Rapids

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