Rod Grams, R.I.P.

Former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., died from colon cancer Tuesday. Grams, 65, who was one of the owners of Little Falls Radio, leaves behind many friends in Morrison County.

Grams’ political career was relatively short. He served one term each in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, from 1992-2000. There was nothing phony about him (a trait not all politicians share), and he remained true to his beliefs to the end.

At the time he served as senator, voters used to joke about the “Minnesota Twins” that they elected to the Senate. Grams was one of the Senate’s most conservative members and Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota’s senior senator at the time, was one of that body’s most liberal members.

What they had in common, however, was an appeal that resonated with Minnesota voters. Although diametrically opposed on most issues, the average person on the street felt that they were in their corner, that they didn’t go to Washington simply to help the wealthy and well-connected.

Grams’ lack of pretense probably came from growing up on the family farm near Crown. He went into broadcasting, and eventually became the anchorman on a Twin Cities TV station. He had a voice made for the media — or for politics.

Once he chose to seek public office, he proved himself to be a formidable candidate because he could boil down complex issues into the sound bites needed today, but also had enough depth so people talking to him off camera realized he knew what he was talking about.

His proudest legislative achievement was getting a larger income tax credit for dependents, money that helped many middle-class families buy extra school supplies or clothes for their children.

That’s what true conservatism is about — giving average citizens more freedom to seize the opportunities before them so they can better provide for their families. Too many politicians, both Democrat and Republican, curry favor with contributors by giving them breaks from the tax burdens or regulations unavailable to most Americans. Grams was not of that ilk.

Grams played only in the big leagues of Minnesota politics. After his initial two wins, he was defeated for re-election in 2000 and then was routed in a bid for 8th District Congress in 2006. However, neither victory nor defeat affected him outwardly; he was not a bitter person.

Instead, he continued to preach the gospel of free market economics, because he honestly believed in the blessings that would result if Americans had more of it.

He will be missed.