Durenberger an example for today’s Republicans
David Durenberger, the former Republican U.S. senator from Minnesota, died on Tuesday, nearly 30 years after he left office. After three decades, he stands more now than ever as an example for politicians on how to serve their constituents.
Over his 16 years in the Senate, Durenberger made friends and forged alliances with senators on both sides of the aisle. He was a moderate, a progressive politician who believed in government making life better for people where it could. He wanted people to have affordable health care. He wanted disabled people to live without discrimination in employment, to have access to public buildings and workplaces, to have a level playing field with everyone else.
He lived in a time when politicians of both parties could work together to build a better nation. We don’t know how he would have fared in today’s political climate, where opponents are enemies, where compromise is capitulation, where extreme blocs of voters demand extreme representation in Washington.
Durenberger even set an example for his colleagues on dealing with scandal. His sterling reputation was tarnished in 1990 for financial improprieties, skirting Senate rules on income and expenses. He was found to have paid “rent” on a Minneapolis condominium that he partly owned. He disguised speaking fees as income from a publisher. Instead of denying the Ethics Committee charges, Durenberger accepted the censure from his colleagues and vowed to spend the rest of his term “scrubbing the stain” from the honor of the Senate. He did not resign, but did not seek re-election in 1994. He spent the rest of his career, from 1995 to 2014, teaching health care policy at the University of St. Thomas.
He earned the respect of Minnesotans throughout his political career, even through difficult times. Politicians today would do well to follow his example.