We could use more like Rod Searle

Rod Searle died this week at the age of 93. But the obituary for his kind was written long ago.

Searle was a moderate Republican, you see. As state representative from?Waseca in the 1970s, he believed in “balance, cooperation and mutual respect” in his legislative dealings, rather than “gotcha” politics. He and others like him, on both sides of the aisle, could find the middle ground on issues, work together on legislation and pass laws that made sense for the people of the state.

After the 1978 election, when the Minnesota House was evenly split, with 67 seats each, Searle was the center of the political power sharing deal that Republicans and DFL worked out. Searle was voted speaker of the House, and the two parties split committee chairmanships, with Democrats taking the more crucial committees. It was a system that worked well the next two years, thanks to Searle’s calm, plain sense demeanor and even-handed leadership.

He could talk tough, to be sure. We recall that after the DFL regained control of the House in 1980, some DFLers demanded Searle step down immediately as House Speaker, even before the new session started and they could elect their own Speaker.

“Tell them to wipe the slobber off their chins,” Searles told one reporter.

Searles retired after that, and over the next couple of decades the Legislature became increasingly partisan, increasingly tied to conservative or liberal philosophies, more and more unable to bridge the gap between parties to forge compromises.

Today’s legislators could learn a lot from the example of Rod Searle.