Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paul Wellstone

Today, October 25, marks the 10th year since the death of Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota in a plane crash near the iron mining community of Eveleth, MN.  In addition to Wellstone himself, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and four others died in the crash.

As has been the case with many other politicians, Wellstone's untimely death has actually enhanced his standing among his supporters.  Even today, a decade later, bumper stickers bearing his name are visible on cars, especially on the streets of progressive enclaves like St. Paul.

New cars sold in St. Paul are required to have this bumper sticker attached.

Be that as it may, the semi-deification of this "working class hero", who was actually a community organizer, academic and eventually elected politician seems to be at odds with what progressivism actually reveres, which is the collective.  The collective, the community, society in general, is more important than any one individual according to the progressive view.  The individual is a part of the collective and his aspirations are secondary to the well-being of the whole.  Public policy must be oriented toward the good of the collective and individual achievement channeled in that direction as well.

Worship of the Wellstone memory doesn't seem to jibe with the "rule by laws, not men" theory of John Adams and other advocates of democracy.  That's because the idea that society can be governed, or more realistically, controlled, by a system is wrong.  All societies, large and small, throughout history, have been dominated by personalities.  This is because humans identify with other humans, not abstractions or even identifiable groups of humans.  Politicians, for instance, represent ideals and abstractions that are held by their supporters independently of what those politicians may actually believe.  Once a politician has established an image, an image that's accepted by a significant portion of the electorate, that image has a strong residual power, both positive and negative.  It will take precedence over the general and particular  philosophy of the party that he represents.  Franklin D. Roosevelt employed many of the failed strategies of his predecessor but was perceived as having a much different approach, the "New Deal", and having been the US president during the success of WWII has been venerated ever since by those ascribing to what they feel are progressive ideas.

So, on October 25, those with fond memories of Wellstone won't celebrate the supposed democracy that brought him to office, but will instead honor the man himself, even though they would be unlikely to be able to enumerate his accomplishments and beliefs in any but the most general terms.

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