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October 25, 2002

Paul Wellstone. Dead in a plane crash. Son of a bitch.

I don’t trust myself to be reasonable at the moment.

UPDATE: Discussions active at The Daily Kos, in the comments sections attached to this post and this one. [02:02 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Paul Wellstone. Dead in a plane crash.:

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 02:14 PM:


If James Lileks makes one gloating comment on this in his Blog, I'm asking for my tip jar money back.

Greg Morrow ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 02:33 PM:


At least MN law is unambiguous about ballot replacements (although Dems could have hoped for something as favorable as Mel Carnahan's MO situation).

Still, this is going to make it a good three percent harder to maintain a Senate majority this election.

Seth Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 03:11 PM:

Though I lived on the wrong side of the Wisconsin border to vote for Senator Wellstone, I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions. He was a good man, and there aren't enough like him in politics to make his death anything less than a terrible loss.

Elise Matthesen ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 04:08 PM:

Stunned and almost speechless here.

Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 05:20 PM:

I have never before been this sad about the death of a public figure.

I've always admired Wellstone. He's always been my counterexample to claims that politicians are in it for self-interest alone. I've always hoped that some day I would be able to cast a ballot for him in a Presidential election. (Well, at least a primary.) And I'm frightened at the thought of what the Senate will be like without him.

As Mother Jones said: Mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 06:36 PM:

Who is he, what did he stand for, and why is the death of one politician significant?

(Speaking as a !USAnian, I'm somewhat puzzled.)

Mark T. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 06:37 PM:

A terrible loss. Wellstone was one of the very few true liberals left in the Senate; one of the very few still fighting the good fight for national health care, environmental protection, workers' rights, and a host of other issues that the Democratic Party has pretty much given up on. He seemed like a really decent man in his personal life, too. Political life in this country just got a little more dreary and depressing.

Neel Krishnaswami ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 07:27 PM:

Charlie: Paul Wellstone was a progressive social democrat. For better and for worse he had all of the virtues (such as a genuine concern for the disadvantaged) and all of the vices (such as a dangerous addiction to technocratic regulation) of the breed in full, unadulterated measure.

The thing that sums him up for me is his role in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act. The Wellstone amendment to this bill banned so-called "issue advocacy" ads within 60 days of an election. This was intended to give the spending restrictions actual teeth, by preventing campaigns from shifting contributions from restricted to unrestricted groups, but also had the side-effect of restricting political speech in a really scary way.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 08:34 PM:

No. I've been out of contact all day, and this is the first thing I logged on to, and I thought at first it had to be a joke or something. I mean, come on, this happens EVERY TIME.

Wellstone, Charlie, is a vital seat in the closely split Senate. The Republicans need to find a seat somewhere and all their attempts have been turning to crap. Wellstone's death could make the difference between complete Republican control of ...well, everything, and the chance to restore Democracy. Do you understand why this is extremely hard to cope with?

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 08:56 PM:

And it raises the possibility, unlikely though it is, that Jesse Ventura could be an influence in world affairs. Even if that doesn't happen, some surreal things are likely to happen in US national politics as a result of this.

If god had an editor, I think he'd be writing things in the margin like "not believable."

Goodbye, Senator Wellstone. We'll miss you.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 08:59 PM:

Charlie, Wellstone was also the only member of the Senate to vote against giving Bush the power to invade Iraq.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 09:52 PM:

Lenny, if I see one more American liberal assert that "Wellstone was also the only member of the Senate to vote against giving Bush the power to invade Iraq," I'm gonna open a can of regime change myself. It's not true. It's emphatically not true. And it's absolutely symptomatic of the deep self-pity of American liberals that so many of us believe it, IN DIRECT CONTRADICTION TO WHAT WAS CLEARLY REPORTED IN THE PAPERS. For Christ's sake.

Wellstone was the only Senator currently in a close race to vote against that resolution. Something like 23 or 24 other Senators voted No as well.

I cannot tell you how tired I am of the liberal habit of rushing to claim defeat. Out in the actual America that exists, there is more dissatisfaction with Bush, and more skepticism about our forthcoming Mideast Raj, than anyone seems to grasp. But liberals like you and me are still getting off on our fantasies of being a miniscule minority. STOP IT.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2002, 09:55 PM:

As for Randolph: no, it doesn't look as if Jesse will play a role at all.

They're still sorting it all out, but it looks as if:

(1) There's no immediate need to appoint a replacement Senator, because the Senate isn't in session;

(2) The DFL (that's the "Democratic Farmer-Labor Party," as the Democrats are known in Minnesota) has until November 1 to name a replacement candidate;

and (3), the winner of the upcoming election will take office immediately, rather than in January.

All of which is pretty clearly spelled out on newspaper web sites in both Minnesota and New York.

Elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2002, 12:14 AM:

If you want some background on the Farmer-Labor Movement, check out http://www.mtn.org/~fholson/fla0hist.htm -- it's apparently somebody's thesis from 1979, and it's an interesting read. What I skimmed looks reasonably accurate, and it might explain a few things about third party political traditions in Minnesota. I also rather liked the anecdote from the intro about Pete Seeger and former Governor Elmer Benson (he was Farmer-Labor governor from 1936-1938) at the event to honor Benson.

David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2002, 12:21 AM:

Patrick's description of the replacement-candidate and taking-office issues matches what the media here are saying, even.

For those that want to follow the local paper, the URL is http://www.startribune.com, since Patrick didn't mention it.

Not only did a number of senators (considerably greater than 1) vote against the war with Iraq resolution, BOTH of Minnesota's senators voted against it.

Paul Wellstone was a professor at Carleton College when I was a student there, and was a pretty good friend of my father's.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2002, 01:15 AM:


I skimmed the soundbyte on MSN that Wellstone had been the "only Democrat" in the Senate to vote against the Iraq resolution -- missing the modifying phrase "in a competitive race." I don't know whether that makes me more or less annoying, for careless reading or for not knowing the actual statistics before posting. Maybe that's what some of the other liberals you're lambasting did?

I hope that oversight doesn't have to make me the poster boy for all fatalistic liberals who've given up the hope of removing Bush & Co. from office.

I don't think I know whether the majority of eligible voters share the feeling that the Bush regime is way overboard and needs to be deterred -- let alone the stronger feeling that they're criminals who need to be removed from office.

I live in San Francisco, where you'd have to talk to a whole bunch of people to find someone who who disagrees with those basic sentiments.

I just came back from an s-f convention in Silver Spring, MD, where the opinions I overheard on the subject were divided.

I saw people interviewed on local DC news shows, last week, who were questioning Bush's Iraq policies. The interviewers seemed to be doing their best to portray themselves as pragmatic realists who were humoring well-intentioned idealists -- even on non Fox stations. Mostly, the TV talking heads struck me as seeking to reassure viewers that they represented a practical consensus: We Must Live With Whatever Bush Does and look for silver linings in his clouds.

San Francisco and Washington DC are probably both too polarized to represent any kind of popular opinion sample. Subjectively, I have the feeling that the majority of people in the United States *must* know how inconsistent and untrustworthy the current administration is -- and that Democrats will probably do well in the November elections.

I also see newspaper stories that detail Republican confidence: more outrageous tax cuts for the rich, more and more defense spending. I haven't thrown up my hands. I'm certainly willing to do anything I know how to do to move us in the direction of the New Sun, rather than the cold winter.

Mary Kay Kare ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2002, 04:09 PM:

As you know Patrick, I have an unfortunate background and sufferee a very unfortunate early life. Which has created in me the apparently unshakeable assumption that there are lots more of Them than Us. Which gets reinforced every time I talk to anyone I'm related to by blood. When they and everyone they know and everyone one grew up with and what seems to be whole vast swathes of the country think that nice Mr Bush is so much better than that last crew of lying womanizers we had before and is doing his best and we must support him and all. Well, it's dammed demoralizing. But I notice I'm talking less to my family since you pointed out how doing so invariable plunges me into despair. I'll try and believe you (and maybe I should go google for his current approval ratings) and not lose hope. But sometimes it's hard. Especially when the the sun doesn't even begin to lighten the fog until 8am and it's only October...


Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2002, 05:29 PM:

I was stunned, shocked, and overwhelmed when I read yesterday about the plane crash. I didn't mention "horrified" and "immensely saddened."

Though, naturally, I didn't agree 100% with Senator Wellstone, I admired him, along with Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, as one of the two foremost liberals in the US Senate. He was a unique figure, and that he was struggling to reconcile his easy stance against the Gulf War of 1991 with a new reflection on the facts, made me respect him ever further.

As minor facts, though he was in a touch-and-go race, and struggling with an anti-war left determined to bring him down for not being sufficiently anti-war -- which, by the way, enrages me about leftists now crying crocodile tears for him, since last week the Green Party was struggling to bring him down, which has been much written about, and all such people should fuck off and die -- he was, according to most polls, likely to squeak by, and his successor appointee is likely, according to polls, though surely not a sure thing,likely to squeak by. We can but hope. And Walter Mondale is a kid compared to Strom Thurmond.

We don't know. We'll see. But Wellstone would surely have won if not for the efforts of the Green Party. Gosh, I hope they feel good if Norm Coleman wins. Always let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don't let the fact that you, Greenies, pushed Bush over the line, and the idea that "he's no different from Gore" sway you. And then, fuck off and die.

And I worry, meanwhile, about planes carrying Russ Feingold and Barney Frank,while I still am dubious about conspiracy theories, while also being, frankly, shocked, about how they became a main topic on C-SPAN within hours.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2002, 04:38 PM:

There was an interesting tribute to Wellstone on Garrison Kiellor's radio show last night, in the form of a sketch set in a barroom full of anguished Minnesotans. My favorite line: "It says a lot about America that a liberal Jewish college professor can get elected senator in a state populated by swedes and germans."

Myke ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2002, 12:57 PM:

Politics aside, it's an awful tragedy. I was reading today about Mondale's role (honestly, don't know much about the man), and I kept getting mad at myself for even considering the political ramifications. I feel like a guy just died in a plane-crash with his entire family. I should be mourning the loss of human life, not playing politics in my pointy head.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2002, 11:36 PM:

Myke, I think you shouldn't get mad at yourself. Isn't politics how you knew Wellstone? Wasn't that your primary connection to him, and the significance that he had in your life? In considering the political ramifications, one of the things you are doing is noting the loss you have experienced.

I've listened to entirely too much Minnesota Public Radio, lately. I can't say who's more infuriating on the call-in shows, the ones who say that we shouldn't think about politics, we should mourn and celebrate this great man; or the ones who use his death as a springboard for their own political hobbyhorse. Fact of the matter is, he was a person and a politician. By all accounts, he was a pretty nice guy, with many of the virtues and flaws you'd expect from someone of his background. He was a force in the Senate, a pretty good politician, perhaps with more of the virtues and fewer of the flaws than one normally associates with the profession.

The fact is, losing him is a political tragedy. Whenever Wellstone would take a particularly hopeless stand, I'd say over supper, "Wellstone's being a loon again. That's what I voted for him for, to be a loon in the Senate." He didn't win those fights, and I didn't expect him to, but I was very proud when he fought them. He was unique in the Senate. Because of the way he was willing to "act like a loon" as I so uncharitably call it, the borders of possibility were expanded. He did good work, and there really isn't anyone on the horizon who'll be taking up that role.

Mourning the loss of human life is appropriate, but many people die. The reason so many people mourn Wellstone is because of his politics. It's unreasonable to expect people to ignore that when they react to the news. It's how we know him. It's what he gave to us, and what we lost when we lost him.

Andrea Harris ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2002, 10:23 AM:

Well, Stefan Jones, if it makes you feel any better, Lileks seems to think no better of "gloating" than you do.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2002, 12:03 PM:

That actually *did* make me feel better. (Although what impressed me most about Lileks lately is his description of a visit to a comic & SF store.)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2002, 10:01 PM:

Actually, that Lileks eulogy made me feel a bit slimey. He spent a good chunk of it inventing a phoney anti-Wellstone strawman so he could look like the reasonable centrist while trashing Wellstone's beliefs.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2002, 12:23 PM:

Well, after reading yesterday's bizarre Bleat about Mondale feeling homesick in D.C., I'm hoping Lileks goes back to postcard collecting and complaining about the sales staff at CompUSA.

Teddy Carroll ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2002, 08:54 AM:

After watching the shameful footage of a eulogy speech turned stump speech, I felt a little slimey. No, a lot slimey.

David Wilford ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2002, 10:23 AM:

Teddy, I watched the entire memorial ceremony and if you separate the two incidents that were inappropriate (the brief booing of Trent Lott and the second exasperating half of Kahn's speech) from the rest of it, there's no slime to be had. Life is kind of like that, and if you want to focus on the things that bother you, well, that's your choice.

Teddy Carroll ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2002, 04:05 PM:

And if you lack the desire to call people of a shared political persuasion to the carpet for an absurd display of political opportunism, then that is your choice.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2002, 12:19 AM:

Why is it only Democrats that are expected to apologize for being too political? At minimum, I want an apology from Bush for delaying the release of information on North Korea's nuclear bomb program until after the Iraq Resolution was passed.

I regret letting Rick Kahn rile me so much that I turned off the television. I missed a great speech by Harkin, according to all reports. Quite frankly, if the two Wellstone sons, who had lost both parents and their sister only a few days before, weren't offended, I don't think anyone else really ought to be.

I thought it was in bad taste to call out the Republicans by name. But bad taste isn't a crime, it's not even a sin. It just makes one feel a bit uncomfortable. If you really won't hang out with someone who wears a vest made of granny squares solely because of the vest, then that says too much about you and not enough about the person who likes that atrocity of a garment.

As has been said time and again, there's something intensely fitting about Paul's memorial being a living instantiation of "Don't mourn, boys. Organize."

I'll miss Paul Wellstone forever. And I'll vote for Mondale on Tuesday. I found his memorial inspiring. It gave me hope, again. After the election in 2000, I felt utterly helpless. I was reminded that I'm not. There is something so fitting about watching 15,000 clapping their hands in time to the music while weeping, that combination of grief and hope, despair and fighting spirit, that reminds me once again that the common man still outnumbers the rulers, and always will. Power to the people isn't a demand, it's a statement of fact. Hang together, or we shall all hang seperately -- you betcha.

"Don't mourn, boys. Orgainize."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2002, 02:24 AM:

A post has been deleted from this thread. It consisted of the entire text of this Peggy Noonan column. It's not just that it was a full-text reprint; it's that the poster didn't even credit Noonan as author.

I am about two inches away from eliminating comments from Electrolite.