Ex-Senator Addresses Future of GOP

After losing re-election battle, Coleman speaks on center-right America

Sara Joe Wolansky

Former U.S. Senator Norman B. “Norm” Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, delivers a public address at the JFK Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics yesterday afternoon.

Institute of Politics Visiting Fellow and former U.S. Senator Norman B. “Norm” Coleman explained his belief that the United States is an essentially center-right nation and answered questions about terrorism, social issues, and the future of the Republican party at an event last night.

Coleman—a former Democrat who was elected as a Republican senator from Minnesota in 2002 and lost a controversial 2008 reelection bid to Al Franken ’73—described center-right views as “moderate in tone” but “bold in scope and passion.”

“Center-right America has values that can lead America forward boldly,” Coleman said at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

According to data Coleman presented at the speech, 37 percent of Americans self-identify as political centrists, while 40 percent place themselves to the right of center and 20 percent to the left of center.

As of print time, a rolling average of polls showed 35.5 percent of Americans self-identifying as “independent,” 34.4 percent as “Democrats,” and 22.3 percent as “Republicans.”

In response to questions about health care, the economy, and social issues, Coleman stressed finding common ground as necessary to solving major problems. He commended the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56 for his ability to “find a path to something we can all agree on.”

Coleman also discussed the importance of using the “will of people as expressed by the legislature” to enact change rather than allowing individual judges to make decisions.

Christopher Frugé ’13, an IOP liaison to Coleman during his visit, said he “liked [Coleman’s] bipartisan approach to politics.” Coleman, Frugé added, believes most politicians “have the same goals but have different ways to get there.”

“It was interesting to have a Republican speaker at a university,” said Ariella E. Rotenberg ’13, another IOP liaison to Coleman.

The future of the Republican Party, Coleman said, depends on the GOP’s ability to reach out to such constituent groups as young voters.

According to this week’s Gallup poll, 66 percent of those within the age range of 18 to 29 currrently give Obama a positive job approval rating, far higher than those in other age groups. Only 45 percent of those 65 and older give him a positive raiting.

In response to a question about Republican viability among college students, Coleman said the non-intrusive philosophy of the GOP is a better fit with a generation that “is in such control of its lives.”

“We just aren’t doing a good job articulating it,” Coleman added.