Paul Wellstone & the Greens

Northfield, Minn.

I was shocked to open my Nation and read the ill-informed and superficial June 17 “Beat the Devil” column, “The Future Wellstone Deserves,” by Alexander Cockburn, who isn’t generally ill-informed or superficial.

To begin, there is no one–no one–in Washington more efficient than Wellstone in supporting green issues. Why is there no drilling in ANWR today? The answer: Paul Wellstone. As a freshman senator on the Energy Committee he made a scathing attack on the Johnston-Wallop bill, put forth by chairman Bennett Johnston on behalf of the oil companies. Of course, Wellstone didn’t win many of his points against the powerful Johnston then, but he stood firm on ANWR and won that one, and that victory has given us a dozen years of no drilling.

As for healthcare, it is simply not true that he has abandoned support of single-payer health. But insurance is not the only health issue: Wellstone has worked for several years to gain parity for mental health insurance, and this year the Wellstone-Domenici bill finally passed in the Senate; and what about his success on the domestic violence bill? As for campaign reform, Wellstone is working on Clean Money-Clean Elections Bills, which promise reform far better than the swiss-cheese bans on soft money.

As for the statement about “some timid Greens…backstabbing McGaa”: If Cockburn were in Minnesota, he’d realize that no backstabbing is necessary; McGaa is already self-destructing with progressives.


Sequim, Wash.

“The suggestion that progressive politics will now stand or fall in sync with Wellstone’s future is offensive,” says Alexander Cockburn, who apparently has not realized that the principal sequitur of the election is control of the Senate. If the Democrats lose a single seat, control will pass to the Republicans. George W. Bush could, as he has promised, appoint Supreme Court Justices in the image of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. Progressive politics would have to cope with a reactionary Court for the next quarter-century. Like Cockburn, I have differences with Wellstone and every other Senate Democrat. Unlike Cockburn, I realize the price we would all pay for handing the Senate to the GOP.


Bentonville, Ark.

Yes, Minnesota Greens may mess up Paul Wellstone’s chances for re-election and end up electing a Republican in his place. But Wellstone needs to realize something–he’s clinging to a party that doesn’t represent the same things he does. Jim Jeffords jumped ship, and Wellstone can do the same. Why not ask the Minnesota Greens if he can join them and if Ed McGaa would graciously step aside and let him run as their candidate? Let’s abandon the Democratic Party the same way they’ve abandoned us and stand behind a party that cares about the things that matter most in our lives.


Kelso, Wash.

Our warmongering Administration appears to have both barrels aimed at Paul Wellstone, a senator who stands up with the courage of his convictions. Why don’t we dig into our wallets and send our $5, $10 or $50 to Wellstone’s campaign and give him and the Administration of sleaze an overwhelming message that we’re not going to take it anymore?


Keene, NH

On my desk I had a check for $50 for the Wellstone Senate campaign. Then I read Alexander Cockburn’s column, and I ripped it up. Wellstone may be a liberal, but unlike Abourezk, Metzenbaum and Feingold, he’s no fighting liberal! No one wants to see the Senate go Republican, but perhaps we in New Hampshire can send Jeanne Shaheen. She has never advertised herself as the savior of the left, but if in one stroke she can get rid of the troglodyte Bob Smith and prevent the possibility of a “Senator Sununu” her value to the left will far exceed Wellstone’s.


Tempe, Ariz.

Like Cockburn, I’m disappointed that Wellstone didn’t stay firm in his commitment to a single-payer national health program, but as a Congressional contender once told me: “The only way you can be sure a candidate agrees with you on every issue is to run yourself.” As a result of Cockburn’s column I’m sending Wellstone another contribution.


Manchester, NJ

So, Alexander Cockburn thinks that Minnesota voters should deny Senator Wellstone a third term because he isn’t perfect. Well, who is? Senator Feingold, of whom Cockburn seems to approve, voted to confirm Ashcroft as Attorney General! In 2000, while I voted Green for President and Representative, I voted for Jon Corzine, a Democrat, for senator. Perhaps he isn’t perfect either, but if I and others in New Jersey hadn’t done that, we might now have a Republican Senate and twins of Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme Court.



The future Paul Wellstone deserves is to retire after two terms, as he promised Minnesotans when he first ran for office. In 1996 Wellstone voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, nullifying the chance for same-gender couples to have their marriages (or civil ceremonies) recognized by the federal government. Wellstone boasts of his advocacy for working families. But his voting record indicates that he is not willing to give legal recognition to working families headed by same-gender couples.


Lynnwood, Wash.

Senator Wellstone says, “I am a civil rights senator.” If and when Wellstone takes a more honest and humane stance on US foreign policy–i.e., even Iraqi and Palestinian civilians have civil rights, and Israel does not deserve full support for its inhumane policies–I might believe some of the rest of his rhetoric. Until then, I will believe he is for civil rights for some (in this country) but not others (not in this country, particularly if Arab).


Salem, Ore.

Alexander Cockburn didn’t point out Wellstone’s greatest failing: a no-show as the Congressional Black Caucus needed just one senator to challenge the Florida “election” results. How progressive is it to ignore the voting rights of African-Americans, much less stand silent as this coup went forward?



I find it odd how cannibalistic some in the progressive left can be. Before Alexander Cockburn was so quick to highlight Wellstone’s “failures” he should have read John Nichols’s May 27 Nation article, which accurately highlighted Wellstone’s role as one of the few true fighters against the regressive legislation continually proposed by the Bush White House. And there is nothing “supposed” about the irresponsibility of Minnesota Greens in this race. It’s one thing to vote for Ralph Nader over Al Gore but entirely another to say a Green is needed in Wellstone’s Senate race. Cockburn and those like him need to end the cannibalism. If the left can’t come together behind Wellstone, one of our strongest leaders, then maybe we do deserve to be marginalized. Minnesota Greens should remember that, as Winona LaDuke said, Paul Wellstone is your friend.