Bipartisan efforts harken back to Webster

Published 8:34 am Monday, September 15, 2008

During a very turbulent time in our country’s history, Daniel Webster stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and uttered, “In highly excited times, it is far easier to fan and feed the flames of discord than to subdue them. And he who counsels moderation is in jeopardy of being regarded as failing in his duty to his party.”

When he made this statement, Webster knew that slavery and the unity of our country were at stake. He knew that it would take people of extraordinary courage and leadership to carry the day and save our nation. And because of the bravery and perseverance demonstrated by leaders like Webster, our union was strengthened.

Last year’s debate on transportation, although not rising to the level of Daniel Webster’s day, showed that here in Minnesota we have elected officials who have the same courage of conviction to the people and not to a political party. Every DFLer supported the compromise package to better fund our transportation system. Some of us have taken the heat for increasing taxes to provide for safe roads and bridges — a choice that was easy for some and extremely difficult for others.

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Eight Republicans, eight courageous Republicans, crossed party lines to stand with their convictions. Two senators, Dennis Frederickson and Steve Dille, put aside partisan politics, ignored the threats from their party, and displayed Herculean fortitude in casting a vote for a better future.

Six representatives did the same in the House. They were stripped of their leadership positions within their caucus, and several were denied party endorsement as a penalty for placing their constituents before party politics.

The constituents of these legislators should remember their courage in standing for what they felt was right, but against the wishes of their party leadership. These eight Republicans stood up to our governor and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, endured personal demonization by certain special-interest groups, and withstood other intense pressures applied from some very powerful sources.

As a Marine, I can clearly say that their selfless acts were indeed courageous to ensure that our roads and bridges will be fixed, lives of Minnesota motorists will be saved, and our state’s economy improved. Their actions would have made Daniel Webster proud. Our state is well-served by these legislators, and I am honored to serve with each and every one of them.

And although this investment in transportation is the most recent example of laying aside our partisanship for the betterment of the state, it certainly is not the only tale of great Minnesota accomplishments. The “override eight” followed the examples of such great leaders as Democratic state Sen. Linda Berglin, former Republican Rep. Duane Benson, and Gov. Arne Carlson, who in 1992 worked together to establish an affordable health-care option for thousands of working families. As a result of their bipartisan efforts, we have the nationally praised and recognized MinnesotaCare program. And who can forget the Minnesota Miracle of 1971, where Democratic Gov. Wendell Anderson and the Republican-led Legislature, after years of work, came together to restructure education funding to ensure that all Minnesota kids got a high-quality education, no matter the property wealth of their community.

Hallmarks like these need to be remembered in our state’s history, for as much as the media likes to point out when our ideologies collide and cause roadblocks in the legislative process, they are often quick to forget the good we accomplish when we can come together.

Steve Murphy is a DFL state senator from Red Wing.