We could use a man like Paul Wellstone again

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

“Extremism” is supposed to be bad, according to our media establishment. Moderation and centrism are supposed to be good.

But I have the opposite disposition: the “extremists” are usually the guys you can trust — they actually believe in something and will work towards what they think is best for the country. The “moderates” are often “moderate” because they go along with the lobbyists, sell their votes to the highest bidder, and take whatever tack is most politically expedient.

Ten years ago, the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, Paul Wellstone, died in a plane crash while campaigning for reelection. Wellstone was my favorite Democrat. Since then, it’s been Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders. These guys are honest and principled.

My boss at the time of Wellstone’s death was Bob Novak. Here’s what Novak wrote at the time:

The decision by many endangered Democratic candidates this year to fudge on issues and even use the image of George W. Bush in their commercials was not for Wellstone. He was the only vulnerable Democratic senator to vote against President Bush’s Iraq resolution, and he did not agonize about it.

In my many television interviews and occasional private conversations with Wellstone, he never hid his concern with the pragmatic leadership of the Democratic Party. He often stated that the party was losing its soul under Bill Clinton. When I told him he was my ideal Democratic candidate, Wellstone shot back that I was looking for a loser.\

In contrast, look at the paths of sainted moderates Bob Bennett and Evan Bayh. Centrists like Bob Dole and John Breaux are corporate lobbyists, monetizing their public service. Also, the “center” gave us plenty of problems in recent years.

I was a bit sad to lose Russ Feingold last election (I hated his campaign-finance regulation, although I understood his motives). I have applauded Bernie Sanders as the only Democrat to oppose corporate welfare.

These liberals are often the wrongest on important issues: The want the most government intrusion, and sometimes they are the most doggedly pro-choice. But on many issues, like corporatism, government waste, and corruption, they are the best Democrats. And you can trust that they mean what they say and are working towards their view of what’s good.

I think we need a lot more Jim DeMints and Rand Pauls in the Republican Party. I also think we could use more Paul Wellstones in the Democratic Party.

View article comments Leave a comment