Smart Politics from the Grave
The nation is incalculably poorer for having lost Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) just a few days before the 2002 election. But something of his inspiring message lives on in the Wellstone Action Network.
Paul Wellstone was above all else a man of principle. This is especially remarkable when you consider how many politicians these days -- and, I am sorry to say, John Kerry among them -- try so hard to fashion pragmatic messages designed to capture votes from the (shrinking) Center. (I omit Bush from this crowd because he and Cheney belong in a group by themselves, one that depends on Orwellian lies.)
Now, Wellstone Action Network's executive director Jeff Blodgett offers a timely reminder that The Politics of Conviction can be more pragmatic than the mushy posturing of those who would like to be all things to all people. Writes Blodgett, in part:
In countless conversations with Minnesota voters, Wellstone heard comments like: "I don't always agree with you, but I like it that I know where you stand."
This sentiment was voiced particularly when he took very politically risky stands like his vote against the Iraq resolution less than a month before the election, and his vote against Clinton's welfare reform bill late in the 1996 Senate race.
When faced with these difficult votes he would ask himself a simple question: Can I live with my decision after it's made? For Wellstone, there was no option but to do what he believed was right, tell the voters where he stood, and let the chips fall as they may. It was a model of rare principled leadership that made donors and supporters from other states often claim that Paul Wellstone was their senator too.
It turned out that the right way--this Wellstone way--was smart politics. A perfect example was Wellstone's announcement of his opposition to the Iraq resolution: his approval ratings actually went up. Minnesotans, even if they didn't agree with his position, expected nothing less from him. For Wellstone, conviction politics were winning politics.
Here's hoping Doug Sosnik will make a difference in fashioning as well as delivering Kerry's message this Fall.