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Guest Editorial: ‘Purple Caucus’ an encouraging sign

     Funny thing about Minnesota in its glory days — the 1970s, the years when the cover of Time magazine touted “The State That Works”:

     It was neither a Republican- nor a DFL-dominated time. For example, on its web page devoted to the “Minnesota Miracle” — the 1971 restructuring of fiscal policy — the Minnesota Historical Society credits the 1967-1971 Republican legislatures as well as state Sen. Wendell Anderson, a Democrat who was elected governor in 1970.

     In other words, bipartisan policymaking not only has worked in Minnesota’s recent past but has done so extremely well.

     That’s why the creation by two Minnesota state senators — one Republican, one Democrat — of a new Purple Caucus is such an encouraging sign.

     Can the two parties really learn to sit down, forge deals and craft policy?

     They not only can. They have, and the result was America’s best-governed state.

     “Two state senators team up to create a ‘Purple Caucus’ as a way to bring change the political climate in the state and bring politicians from both parties together,” TV station KARE-11 in the Twin Cities reported.

     “State Sen. Jeremy Miller, a Republican from Winona, says he gets the same complaint over and over when he returns to his district.

     “‘Why can’t you guys get along? Why can’t you work together?’ constituents said.

     “Miller says it’s time to do something about it. He has teamed up with Sen. Roger Reinert, a Democrat from Duluth.”

        The name “Purple Caucus” derives in part from what happens when you mix red and blue and in part from the military’s interservice “purple groups,” said Reinert, a Navy Reserve lieutenant. If the armed services can put rivalries aside and work together for the national good, Democrats and Republicans can work for what’s best for Minnesota, he said.

     Easier said than done? You bet. In politics, after all, “service” very often takes a back seat to “getting reelected.”

     But here’s the thing: Greater cooperation is in both parties’ self-interest. For Republicans, that’s easy to see, although agonizing for many GOPers to accept. In November, Minnesotans passed judgment on Republican legislators’ hard-line rule. The result was Democratic majorities in both houses.

     As for Democrats, who hold not only the Legislature but also the governorship: Why should they bother to give Republicans even the time of day? Because of the dangers of overreach. The temptation to give in to interest groups’ pent-up demands is strong, as Democratic lawmakers should know.

     The DFL should promote bipartisan policymaking to keep the party’s own extremist impulses in check. The G.I. Bill, Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act of 1964: These and other landmark laws were passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress. That’s no accident. Compromise results in good policy because it forces lawmakers to take both parties’ concerns into account.

     Minnesota legislators used to live by that rule. With luck, the Purple Caucus will help them do so again.

— Grand Forks Herald