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Paul Wellstone—10 Years Later | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Paul Wellstone—10 Years Later

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

It’s been ten years since we lost Paul Wellstone, a relentless champion, a true public servant and one of the very few social movement senators we’ve ever had. He was the first politician whose death made me weep. But in an era of craven compromises and bipartisan austerity, it seems almost unfair to call Paul Wellstone a politician at all.

This week marks the anniversary of the airplane crash that killed Paul, his wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia, and the plane’s crew. For countless Americans whose lives the Wellstones touched, the loss was personal. But the loss, and Paul’s legacy, are also deeply political as well.

A college professor who was fired for activism, and then rehired because of activism, Wellstone was a pioneer of conviction politics. He openly championed the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, and like George McGovern, his friend and a man he admired, he never apologized for his liberal beliefs.

Before he was ever a senator, Wellstone walked picket lines with farmers and workers. He got arrested defending causes. He taught his students about conviction and commitment. He was one of the few aspiring white politicians to “cross the color line” in 1988, serving as co-chair of the Jesse Jackson for president campaign in Minnesota. He was a constant proponent—and exemplar—of often-forgotten truths: Poverty is a national shame and an ever-present crisis.

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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