Voices of Minnesota: Rudy Boschwitz - Part 2 of 2

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A Voices of Minnesota feature with former Senator Rudy Boschwitz about his work in the US senate. Part 2 of 2.

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RUDY BOSCHWITZ: I think that liberal tradition came on more as an anti-government tradition, because in the 19th century, when our people were so persecuted-- of course, they were in the 20th also, but when they were persecuted by tsars and kings and noblemen, and always those were governments of the right, and there were no governments of the left in those days.

There were no democracies, with the exception of England and the United States. And so the Jews were among the leaders among socialism and any alternative other to this rightist government, and so the liberal tradition perhaps developed as an alternative to the rightists, who were so brutal with our people.

But I have interpreted that to mean that, really, what we wanted was less government, because whenever there was a totality of government, be it communism or the governments of the right, our people have always been victimized, so that I think we fare better under less government. I mean, business never really victimized people or threatened their existence, their very existence. And so I'm a less government kind of guy.

BOB: Do you think the political climate has become nastier, the rhetoric harsher over the past several years?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: No, I do not. Bob, I love history, and you're here at my house. If you look through my library and the books that I read and what I'm reading now, I like history. And read about Abraham Lincoln, how he was treated by the press, and if you read during the time of yellow journalism, Teddy Roosevelt and others, how they were treated by the press, or what they said about one another. I don't think that politics-- I think that that's an exaggeration, very frankly.

BOB: Why do you suppose more and more citizens are turned away from politics, even declining to vote?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Well, it's not clear to me that the voting participation percentage-wise is that different than it has been at other times in the history of our democracy, and I think that people begin to take the democracy for granted and that people, the numbers in the United States, a quarter of a billion people, are so huge that the single vote doesn't seem to count for much anymore.

But I don't know that-- I think that when people say, well, they're turned off this or that, I think that's more rhetoric. And beside which, my experience is Minnesota, where in a presidential year, 72%, 75%, 76% of the people will vote. The voting participation in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin is the best in the nation. So I don't perhaps have as much of a sense of that as they would in Louisiana, where a third of the people vote.

BOB: Do you think the DFL and GOP parties in Minnesota have become too captive of the extremes on the political spectrum?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Yes. Yeah, I do. But I understand it, Bob. People who take their politics and their philosophy very, very seriously, as opposed to moderates, have a much, much greater tendency to get involved. And as a result, in my experience, it's now 25 years, the people who get involved in politics are those who take their philosophy very seriously. They tend to be either more conservative or more liberal, on the left or the right end of the spectrum, and that in the party process at least, people who are on one extreme or the other tend to be more dominant.

BOB: What are the consequences of that?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Well, the consequences of that are that they sometimes shoot themselves in the foot, and they're more interested in expressing their philosophy than in winning. And the consequences are also that sometimes third parties arise. But by and large, it works its way out, and if you look at the Senate-- the Senate is fairly moderate.

BOB: What do you think the prospects of a serious third party movement are these days?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Not good, and that suits me just fine. I think that one of the great strengths of our democracy is that it is a two-party system. If you look at other democracies in the world, the French, the Italian, even the English, the Israelis, the Indians, and others, the Germans, they have this multi-party, regional parties sometimes, and they just have a terrible time governing. And our tradition of two parties rather than a multiplicity of parties is a very healthy thing for our democracy.

BOB: Do you think that will be maintained, given what's happening?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Yes, history seems to indicate-- well, once again, I don't think what's happening is very much different than what's happened in earlier days. But history seems to indicate that third parties are not long lived. I mean, if you have a guy like Ross Perot come along and he's got a ton of dough, then he can make his voice heard. There's no question about that. But third parties have not fared well, and I think that fact has strengthened our democracy.

BOB: How well do you get along with the Christian right in the Republican Party?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Well, you know, I get along with them OK. The Christian right-- most people who talk about the religious right or the whatever you want to call it don't have any experience with it. First of all, I think religious motivations are good.

I think that the likelihood of the United States becoming a theocracy is somewhere between 0 and minus 10. That's just not going to happen. The mixture of church and state simply doesn't go constitutionally or within our democratic tradition. So I don't look upon the religious right as a threat of changing the nation and making it a theocracy, with which I certainly would not agree.

I think that many of those people are very well motivated. The things that bring them into the political wars, I don't agree with them on all their issues, and I haven't voted for prayer in school, for instance. But, nevertheless, I think, very frankly, that they're well motivated, that they come to the political process because of family issues and because they see a deterioration of that in this country, and in this respect, they're very, very right.

They're considered to the right, I guess, but they're very correct as well. So that I don't always agree, and they have their own agenda, and may well be that I stumble along with them and run into some problems in my efforts to resurrect my political career, but they're OK.

BOB: Who have you admired over the years in public life? Who were your mentors, if there were any?

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Well, not everybody I have admired has been my mentor. One of the people-- I really got out of politics after my law school stint there that I spoke about. Jack Kennedy inspired me, and so did his brother Bob. And I almost thought of going to work for Bob Kennedy in his presidential campaign, and I was not identified at that time with either party.

I liked Hubert. I liked Hubert. I thought that he was a very, very warm person. I liked Eisenhower. I thought that he was an effective president, and I liked--

BOB: What did you like about the Kennedys? I mean, if you talk about big government people.

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: He inspired me. Well, government was small at that time when Jack Kennedy in 1960 was running, I suppose the federal budget was-- in 1960, I bet it was about $30 billion, 1/50 of the size today. And beside that, of that amount, probably 2/3 was spent on defense, so that it was a very, very different government then, and government was not so intrusive, and government didn't try to be all things to all people. And, interestingly, both Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy talked as Republicans now talk, and so that it wasn't inconsistent.

BOB: Rudy Boschwitz, Thank you very much for your time.

RUDY BOSCHWITZ: Thank you. Nice to have you in my home, Bob.

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