Nine years ago today, they announced on the radio that Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane had gone down in northern Minnesota. It was one of those days that etches itself in memory, as you wait for more news to come in, trying to find a way to disbelieve what you’ve already heard, until you finally have to admit that a planeload of people who have dedicated themselves to public service are gone.
Wellstone wasn’t a saint. If nothing else, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act on religious grounds. But he fought hard for most people who needed a champion, and he fought smart. Compromise was always the last tool in his chest, not the first. Not bad for a history wonk who looked every bit the academic he was.
If he’d lived, even if he were no longer senator, Wellstone would have been at the Occupy Minnesota protests, and the protests would have grown with him there, as people knew someone was listening very closely to their concerns. That was what he did. Unlike many of the politicians who claim to be “just one of the folks,” Wellstone actually was, as demonstrated by the ads from his first campaign.
There is a reason people still talk about these ads.
Also unlike many politicians, he never pretended he wasn’t involved in politics. Once he made it to Washington, he didn’t pretend to be an outsider. This ad from his second campaign shows how much and how little he’d changed.
Minnesota still misses Paul Wellstone. I still miss Wellstone.