Arne Carlson Speaks On Rift Within Republican Party


Calls GOP “Propaganda Machine”

Following his endorsement of DFL candidate Audrey Britton for State House last night, Arne Carlson (himself a member of the GOP) spoke about a growing rift within the Republican Party between right-wing Tea Partiers and moderates.

Carlson has been called a traitor and “Benedict Arne” by the local Republican establishment for endorsing Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, and not Tom Emmer, earlier this week.

Transcript of the interview:

Arne Carlson: The truth is both political parties have splits but it’s much more apparent in the Republican Party. And I would argue that part of it goes back to when the South slowly moved out of the Democratic party into the Republican Party and became a dominant player. That automatically gave us a more rural and southern touch.

Then you get the further splintering going to the right. And what you’ll notice is the moderates have long left the Republican party. That’s not a new thing, it’s just a question of degree.

Now the old conservative wing is under attack. John McCain was under attack in Arizona. He was just the standard bearer for the party a couple years ago. Likewise Senator (Bob) Bennett in Utah, one of the most conservative members of the Senate. He was ousted by the Republican party on the grounds that he collaborated with Democrats. I mean that’s astounding.

Barry Goldwater who was the conservative standard bearer in 1964, but the great spokesman for the conservative movement of the Republican party and the godfather of Ronald Reagan, was no longer welcome in the Republican Party. So as you go more to the right and get more ideological you start slicing it off.

Now Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is under fire. And tonight we have elections in various states that will identify whether the Tea Party is going to throw out more normal Republicans.

So as a Republican moderate, we’ve had years of being unwelcome in the Republican party. And its a bit hypocritical for the official party to say “gee you’re a traitor.” No, my belief system, my core belief system is the same. Their core belief system has changed. They’ve gone much more into the bedroom and away from the budget. And that’s one of the reasons you don’t see balanced budgets anymore. They used to be very good. You could always count on a Republican to be fiscally conservative and that meant a balanced budget. Now you can’t.

Jacob Wheeler: What ultimately will happen to the Republican party? Is there any…

Carlson: That’s a very fair question. I truthfully don’t know. I mean that most sincerely. It may have to play out. It truly may have to play out. Because at some point they have to start to identify what they’re for. And I think the electronic media, through this whole subsystem of the internet has allowed a lot of recklessness with accuracy and truth to occur. A lot more demonization of people than we’ve ever seen before. But if…say… let’s say Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in Congress, all of a sudden they’re going to have to start talking about what they are for. That would be an interesting development.

Wheeler: Were you to start out in politics again today, and I know you have no plans to…

Carlson: No. You’re right. Where would I start? Well I was….that’s (inaudible) I was originally a Republican as a kid. I loved Fiorella La Guardia, the Mayor of New York, a very progressive Republican Mayor. And then I left the Republican party or my allegiance, I’m only a student, during the era of Joe McCarthy. Very upset with that wing of the Republican party on their communist or anti-communist witch hunt.

And then was brought back into it by Elmer Anderson, the Governor of the State of Minnesota who I thought was just a remarkable person. But both conservative on the fiscal side, but very moderate, if you will, on the social side. And I was not nominated by the Republican Party of 1990, I had to run against it and likewise I was not even nominated as a sitting Governor in 1994. So for them to claim some hold on me, and I’m talking about the organized Republican party, is a little bit silly.

Wheeler: So perhaps you felt outside of your box like Tom Horner does?

Carlson: Oh absolutely. And by the way, I was at a fundraiser last night in Edina and it looked like the who’s who of the Republican party. (laughs) I mean, who would have thought the Pillsburys would be outside. They’re outside now too.

Wheeler: What were some of the (inaudible)

Carlson: For moderates to be non-Republican has been normal for the better part of 10-12-15 years. So nothing. But there were business leaders and everything.

Wheeler: Are you taking grief from the Republican Party?

Carlson: Well of course. (Republican Party Chair) Tony Sutton and that little propaganda machine and… There’s the usual “you’re a traitor” “Benedict Arne”, all sorts of silly things. That’s so silly.

You know, if I were to die tomorrow the deficit wouldn’t go down one penny. Why not discuss the deficit? And why not be truthful? And the answer to the question I did raise with them “why don’t you enforce the law requiring the Governor to submit the balanced budget through 2012 and 2013?” And since when… I thought we were the party of law and order. Why are they so silent on that?

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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