Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Paul Wellstone's plane crashed on October 12, 2002, less than a month before what would have been his third election to the U.S. Senate as a representative for Minnesota. In the weeks that followed his death, and particularly now as the Presidential election draws near, Wellstone's silence is particularly abysmal.

Minnesotans remember Paul Wellstone as a progressive, populist, organizing machine. He raised money to run for Senate with a record 122,000 individual donors giving an average of $50 each, and spent the money training organizers rather than running television ads. He got on a big green bus and went into communities all over Minnesota, garnering support and, more importantly, listening. He built deep support among many diverse constituencies-farmers, labor, environmentalists, communities of color, educators, students, new immigrant populations-and involved all of his supporters into what became a force to be reckoned with. Whether or not you agreed with his politics, his convictions were clear and he stood behind them without fail. He opposed Bill Clinton's welfare reform bill in 1996 and Bush's Iraq resolution in the days before his death with criticism, but without apologies.

And he was a Democrat.

"What? A Democrat?!?" you say? The same democrats who have suffered defeat in elections all over the country; those who have overwhelming responsibilty for social justice and well-being and yet fail to appeal to people who could get them into office; those who toe the line on issue after issue in an effort to placate the more middle-of-the-road folk with money to spend on political campaigns; and those who have put up John Kerry, a man whose biggest criticism is that no one knows what he really stands for, up for the preferred Democratic candidate against George W. Bush, who is favored for reelection at the end of this year.

Many people will tell you that Paul Wellstone was assassinated. He would have been a powerful Democratic candidate for President, and would have been able to rally the support necessary to win an election against Bush. Sadly, conspiracy theories will not bring him back. Or will they?

I submit that John Kerry has been hired by the Bush campaign to lose this election. How else can you possibly explain the fact that it is nearly a mere 4 months until the election and Kerry remains an enigma to the voters on virtually every issue there is? That over and over again his most enthusiastic supporters say, "I don't really like him - but I'll vote for him anyway"? That the Democratic party actually believes that Kerry riding a motorcycle on to the set of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno means that he's got the dynamic energy to win this election?

The optimist in me hopes that the Democrats are playing a bait and switch. That at the last minute, they will pull John Kerry aside and bring forward the most amazing, dynamic organizer the world has ever seen and we will all live happily ever after. Perhaps Paul Wellstone didn't die in that plane crash...perhaps he's in hiding, waiting for the perfect moment to come back and win this election.

All you kids with birthdays coming up, make THAT wish.

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