Skip to comments.Mourning in America
Posted on 11/01/2002 5:16:44 PM PST by Pokey78
IT IS NO GRAVESIDE cliché to say that the death of Paul Wellstone leaves a gaping void in American politics. Let's be clear about exactly where that gaping void lies. Iowa senator Tom Harkin's tribute to Wellstone as a man who "made a miner up on the Iron Range know that he was as important as the president of the United States" may have been true for some miners (and some presidents). Harkin may have been right to say that Wellstone fought "for those who mop our floors and clean our bathrooms, for those who take care of our elderly, take care of our sick, teach our kids, help our homeless." But the poor were Wellstone's topic, not his constituency. Wellstone's constituency was academic leftists. We don't doubt that his struggle helped rescue the poor on occasion. But the help they got was incidental to his larger struggle, which was to rescue the consciences of his fellow professors.
This is not an observation we make sneeringly. The tendencies Wellstone represented are a real and serious corner of our political landscape. We won't pretend to like this politics: With its obsessive focus on sexuality and race issues, its embrace of the anti-Western side in all conflicts, its combination of class privilege and class envy, its political correctness and its authoritarian speech codes, the leftism espoused almost unanimously on university faculties (and elsewhere) most often strikes us as irresponsible. And yet it can be granted that our professors are under-represented in the political system. For decades now, America has employed far more people in education than in agriculture. This is a country with more gender-studies professors than cowboys, more guidance counselors than stevedores, more admissions officers than sleeping-car porters. So who represents them in our Senate? It's true that there are a few senators in near-total sympathy with their university constituents; Hillary Clinton comes to mind. But Paul Wellstone, a Carleton College political science professor, was the only senator the academic Left could call its own. As such, he was the living symbol of the most important, most elite, most interesting--and possibly most dangerous--wing of our contemporary "progressive" politics.
It is in this context that the nationwide outrage over last week's "memorial service" for Wellstone at Williams Arena in Minneapolis is best understood. Millions of Americans--and 55 percent of Minnesota households--tuned in on television to watch a solemn commemoration and found a rally devoted to a politics that was twisted, pagan, childish, inhumane, and even totalitarian beyond their worst nightmares. The crowd of 20,000 booed a succession of people who had come to pay their respects to a dead colleague: Senate minority leader Trent Lott, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, and former Minnesota senators Rod Grams and Rudy Boschwitz. Vice President Dick Cheney was disinvited from the affair. Former president Bill Clinton appeared on the Jumbo-Tron yuk-yukking and giving thumbs-up signs, looking happier than he had since . . . well, since Ron Brown's funeral. And most bizarrely, Wellstone's treasurer and friend Rick Kahn staged a confrontation with Republican representative Jim Ramstad and three senators (Domenici of New Mexico, Brownback of Kansas, and DeWine of Ohio) that was reminiscent of a Maoist reeducation camp. With the help of the mob, Kahn sought to bully and shame these Republicans into abandoning their party and supporting Walter Mondale, taunting: "We can redeem the sacrifice of his life, if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone." And if they don't help. . . ? Small wonder Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd was said to have apologized afterwards to his Senate colleague Domenici. It was a sinister incident, unexampled in recent American politics.
Most of those who watched this spectacle felt a disgust bordering on shame. Lott and Ventura walked out of the service, and Ventura announced he had changed his mind about appointing a Democrat to hold Wellstone's seat for the next two months. But such feelings arose from decency, not partisanship. Minnesota's Republicans, after all, have every reason to be delighted with the political fallout from this "memorial service." The Democrats' beyond-the-pale politicization of Wellstone's death opened the way for Republican Norm Coleman to begin campaigning again, his only chance of making up an 8-point poll deficit against Wellstone's replacement, former vice president Walter Mondale. Television stations were flooded with angry calls, and the GOP received $150,000 in spontaneously generated phone contributions since the service. GOP leader Ron Eibensteiner asked for equal air time, on the grounds that Minnesota's Democrats had exploited their colleague's death to bamboozle networks into running a three-and-a-half-hour campaign ad--and hardly anyone thought that was going too far. One journalist at WCCO in Minneapolis-St. Paul said his station felt "hoodwinked and embarrassed."
The real sin was not against Wellstone's political foes (or the people his "mourners" cast as his foes) but against Wellstone himself. As has often been remarked in the days since, one clip in the video portion of the event showed Wellstone saying, "Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives." The service blew a gigantic raspberry at that worldview. The late senator was treated as little more than one broken egg in a great get-out-the-vote omelet. The pilots and aides who died with him were barely treated at all. This Machiavellian glibness in the face of death was what left viewers most uneasy. One of our major political parties, or at least a sizable wing of it, appeared to be dancing a jig on the grave of a particularly beloved fallen comrade. What must they think of the rest of us?
As his own campaign got underway towards the end of last week, Walter Mondale urged us to be forgiving of the affair. He asked us to remember that the people on stage "were talking about loved ones in their family who lost their lives." He's right. There can be no question of condemning Wellstone's own sons for the chants they led onstage, reeling as they are from the loss of both parents and a sister. Even Rick Kahn's Maoist denunciations may quite well have been the product of genuine grief. On a personal level, excesses in time of mourning are something all decent people will both understand and forgive.
But that does not make them any less frightening as expressions of mass politics. Even as we mourn Paul Wellstone--a man of integrity, candor, kindness, and wit--we ought to be on our guard against the aggression and inhumanity acted out in his name.
--Christopher Caldwell, for the Editors
To say it was disgusting would be too kind.
Die Strasse frei, den Hil'ry Bataillionen!
Die Strasse frei, der Klintonglaubigmann!
Es schauen aufs Monika voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.
Der Tag fuer Feiheit und fuer Brot bricht an!
You get the idea. Not much really has to change to give the DFL its traditional anthem.
Zum letzten Mal wird nun Appell geblasen.
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit.
Bald flattern Hill'ry-fahnen über allen Straßen.
Die Freiheit dauert nur noch kurze Zeit.
Cato, shouldn't it be "erschoßen" to rhyme with "geschloßen"? 'Course I haven't spoken with Mr. Wessel lately ('course he's dead, but . . . ) :-D
AAM, yes erschossen rhymes and was in the original. It's just that Arkancide has taken so many forms, and I wanted some alterations, that I went with the broader ermoerdert.
Wait 'til you see what we can do with Heil Hitler Dir!
3. Du hast das Volk verschreckt,
Du schaffst das Höllesreich
Knechtlich und sondergleich.
Schurkens Erretter hier,
Kind of a rough first effort. I'm sure it can be improved. Somebody else want a shot at verses 1 & 2? We could "heil" somebody else too, or stick with Hitlery throughout . . . ???
The rally reminded me of that videotape of Saddam Hussein speaking in a large auditorium, calling out politicians by name for being disloyal, followed by guards ushering them away by the arm to be executed. I hadn't seen anyone else fully describe the true perverted spirit of the event until now.
As bad as the media reaction was, they avoided what it meant when somehow it took place within the borders of the United States. Scary to watch
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