Friday, October 25, 2002

from, an article titled 'A Mighty Heart'

This actually really ruins my week. If one could love an elected official one didn't know, Wellstone was loved by me. I feel really fortunite to have seen him a few months ago at my sister's commencement speech.

Oct. 25, 2002 | Win it for Wellstone Our country lost a hero today. Paul Wellstone personified the progressive tradition at its most hopeful and humane. He was a tough but never bitter competitor, a passionate but always pragmatic advocate -- a smart, fearless, dedicated politician who stood up and fought for ordinary people. The sadness of his sudden death, along with his wife, daughter and staff members, is overwhelming.

What a mighty heart Wellstone had. To continue the struggle that defined his commitment, he had surmounted serious illness and was on the verge of winning yet another election that he was expected to lose. Despite a truly vicious campaign against him this year, and even though he started his third Senate campaign as a decided underdog, the Minnesota Democrat was pulling ahead on the day he died.

Ever since his first stunning victory in 1990, the former Carleton College professor has endured relentless attacks by conservative bullies who seemed to think his small stature and earnest demeanor made him an easy target. But those who trifled with the former wrestler learned how mistaken they were to underestimate him. He was the very rare politician who always felt that even at moments of political defeat, there was victory in holding onto principle. During the past decade there was simply no politician of greater integrity in this country.

In a time when Democratic leaders seem to value caution over courage, Wellstone proved that fighting back leads to victory. He risked a vote against the war resolution, knowing that he would do better defending what he really believed. That conviction is his legacy.

He had much to teach the left as well. His patriotism was the profound love of country that emerges as deep, passionate concern for the people and the land. His lack of pretension and his dedication to healing the injuries of class belied the stereotype of the "limousine liberal." File footage running on the networks today showed him being welcomed into the union halls of his state by big, burly men who knew that this liberal intellectual was their best friend.

When nine miners trapped in a hole became a national news story, politicians and pundits suddenly asked a few questions about mine safety. They found Wellstone already there, demanding better funding and exposing the deficiencies in the federal mine safety bureaucracy. Mine safety wasn't a hot issue until that moment, and it quickly lost its momentary cachet once the miners had been saved. That didn't matter to Wellstone, who pursued the issues he cared about -- mental healthcare, minimum-wage increases, the lobbyist gift ban, national health insurance -- not the fads and fashions that attract TV cameras.

Wellstone's Senate colleagues in both parties mourn his passing. Democrats will miss him, of course, but so will many Republicans. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., was so choked with grief for the Wellstones this afternoon that he was literally unable to speak; Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., issued an astonishingly warm statement of condolence.

Those conservatives, who had regarded him from the beginning as a rather dubious radical, came to know a quintessential American, the son of immigrants who loved sports and married his high-school sweetheart. His own heroes were Eleanor Roosevelt and Robert Kennedy, who like him represented an idealism that is our best national tradition.

Foolish critics could be heard in recent years saying that Wellstone had compromised himself by learning the ways of the Senate and by befriending his ideological adversaries. They didn't begin to understand what he had become -- the happy warrior whose enemies could not help but love him. He wanted to get things done, and he did.

There were moments when Wellstone's liberalism seemed anachronistic, even to sympathetic observers. He wasn't always right. Although his instincts were usually correct, he sometimes resisted changes that made sense. Yet on the fundamentals of compassion and fairness, his insistent voice was indispensable.

This fine man cannot be replaced, but in 11 days there will be an opportunity to honor his life and work. Facing difficult odds, as he always did, the Democrats should pull themselves together, pick up Paul Wellstone's banner, and win this one for him and his family.
[2 p.m. PDT, Oct. 25, 2002]