Minnesota: Christians and Quistians in the GOP
Christopher P. Gilbert and David A. Peterson
In the post- World War II era, Minnesota has staked out a reputation as one of the nation's most progressive states. Its distinguished tradition of liberal leadership, exemplified by Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party figures such as Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Walter Mondale, has guided both the development of an activist state government and the ideals of the national Democratic Party. With this history as backdrop, the dramatic rise of the Christian Right as a potent force in Minnesota politics might seem to be an anomaly. In fact, the political culture of the state makes it well suited for electoral movements founded on social or moral grounds. Moreover, as the 1994 elections demonstrate, issues with strong social or moral foundations have the capacity to produce religiously motivated candidates and activists across the political spectrum.
Such issues and movements also have the capacity to lead the press and pundits to overreact. When Minnesota's popular sitting governor, a moderate Independent Republican (IR), was denied his own party's endorsement for reelection in June 1994, political analysts nationwide took notice of the shock waves emanating from St. Paul. But although a little-known fifth-generation farmer named Allen Quist may have embodied the national emergence of Minnesota's Christian conservatives, by no means did he represent its sole power base. In the wake of Quist's spectacular failure to win the party primary three months after his triumphant endorsement, many observers jumped the gun again, concluding erroneously that in Minnesota the electoral strength of the Christian Right was vastly overstated.
Following the November elections, a much more accurate portrait of Minnesota's Christian conservative movement has emerged, however. In looking beyond the gubernatorial race, it becomes clear that the Chris