Hey Northeastern Minnesota: How About Voting Like Wellstone Would Vote Again?

Gary G. Kohls, MD

“Paul Wellstone was a mensch among a Senate filled with mice.” – Rabbi Michael Lerner editor of Tikkun magazine (October 26, 2002)

16 years ago, on October 25, 2001, (just two days short of 16 years prior to the Pittsburgh massacre) one of the infamous Republican “October Surprises” seemed to have been orchestrated by nefarious forces deep within the national Republican Party. The event changed the course of politics in America, and not just in Minnesota, for Paul Wellstone was killed, along with his wife Sheila, his daughter, several staff members and two pilots in an inexplicable and highly suspicious plane crash that occurred within miles of the landing strip at Eveleth, Minnesota. 

Wellstone was running for re-election for the US Senate and was comfortably ahead, as anticipated, leading the race against his GOP opponent Norm Coleman, who had been hand-picked to run by the GOP national committee. Wellstone had interrupted his campaign schedule, with just 10 days to election day, to attend the funeral of a friend who lived on Minnesota’s Iron Range in northeast Minnesota, an area of the state where miners had been his loyal supporters and consistent Democratic Farmer-Labor Party voters.

Wellstone, a practicing Jew, had been the recipient of a hateful campaign that was reminiscent of what Democratic candidates are receiving from Donald Trump and his Republican Party operatives, GOP SuperPacs and vicious NeoConservative think tanks. I attach a few of paragraphs from an essay that I wrote right after I had attended a deeply moving tribute gathering for Paul the day after the crash. It sounds eerily familiar to what is still going on in Republican politics under Trump today. There was hate speech happening back then too.

“Paul, as we all know, was gleefully hated as a mortal enemy by the National Rifle Association, anti-environmental groups, anti-choice groups, the Bush administration, the anti-union Big Business Complex, the Pentagon, and by warmongers, gunrunners and right-wing conservatives everywhere. He was in a tight race for his third term in the US Senate against the GOP’s hand-picked Norm Coleman, who was heavily subsidized and campaigned for by the shadowy bunch surrounding Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

“Wellstone was a true friend of the little people and of us idealists, and it showed tonight at the tribute rally. The Mitchell Auditorium on the campus of Duluth’s College of St. Scholastica, was packed, on very short notice, with a diverse and sorrowful group of people, including progressive Jews, progressive Christians, feminists, labor union members, Native Americans, people of color, military veterans, the young and the old.

“It was naturally a sad event. A lot of tears were shed, a lot of hugs shared, but songs were sung and wonderful tributes were given to this great man, regarded (and generally respected) even by conservatives as a rare person of conscience. Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, said earlier in an email tribute to Paul that the diminutive Wellstone was “a mensch among a Senate filled with mice.”

“It occurred to me after the tribute that the loss to the peace-seeking world could have an impact similar to the 1995 murder of Israel’s peacemaker Itzshak Rabin. That assassination by a right-wing extremist, led to the demoralization and retreat of the Israeli peace community and the rise to power of the far right-wing Likud Party, ultimately leading to the Israeli Defense Force and Mossad atrocities that Sharon and company, with the blessings of the Cheney/Bush administration, are perpetrating against so many innocent, unarmed and defenseless Palestinian civilians.

“But there was something this evening that told me that maybe the demise of Wellstone’s altruist agenda isn’t a foregone conclusion. For tonight, there was a palpable energy that said to us: ‘Don’t stop now, carry on with the program.’
“Paul would surely have said: ‘Don’t mourn too long for Sheila and me, there’s a lot of work to be done; so get off your duffs and get on with it. Paul would surely have reminded us: ‘There are impoverished people out there who can’t speak for themselves. They still need your voices, so keep on speaking out against their oppressors, and crank up the decibel level a bit for me!’

“After the event, there was a lot of talk about not giving up. The rumor that the Democratic Farmer Labor party might be drafting Walter Mondale to take Wellstone’s place on the ticket was received with excitement - a highly probable winning strategy. 
“There was also a lot of talk among the politically astute that whatever the cause of the plane crash, sabotage or pure accident, the vicious right-wing attack ads that had been used relentlessly against Wellstone could backfire big-time against all the GOP candidates in Minnesota and lead to the defeat of many conservatives here and elsewhere.

“So there continues to be reasons for hope for those of us who see the serious threats against democracy from the extremist pro-war conservatives, the strangely pro-war Christian Fundamentalists, the understandable pro-war corporate war-profiteers and the pro-war militarists both here and abroad. We anti-war, anti-violence progressives have to keep on keeping on; keep on courageously speaking truth to power and take every opportunity to alert those in the ‘undecided’ groups in the middle of the road that the death of this good man, this courageous battler for human rights, this liberal patriotic hero, must be taken as another warning sign of the impending corporate/military complex takeover of our government and the possible demise of democracy as we know it.

“So, starting tomorrow, I encourage everybody, with your friends and neighbors, to get out to the world-wide anti-war, anti-violence, pro-worker, anti-fascist rallies downtown - and don’t be ashamed of your altruism - flaunt it. 
“Paul and Sheila would want to see us flaunting it.”

Jesus, Gandhi, Lincoln, the Brothers Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Itzshak Rabin and Wellstone all Qualified as “Libtards” in the 
view of Trump Supporters

I still get tears in my eyes every time I think of read about the death of Paul Wellstone, which was highly likely to have been an assassination of “just another” one of the many threatening liberal politicians (threatening to the conservative and corporate opposition, that is). Wellstone was a politician in the mold of any number of silenced/murdered progressive leaders like Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Kennedy, Itzshak Rabin, etc, etc. 

Given the proximity of the October dates of the Jewish Wellstone’s death to the Tree of Life massacre, I can’t help but wonder if there is some special significance there. The anniversary date of the humanitarian Paul Wellstone’s 2002 death - on October 25 – was just two days from the October 27 -date of the massacre of innocent, humanitarian Jews by a sociopathic anti-Semitic man who had likely been inspired by the hateful campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump and his many Republican Party operatives.

If there is some meaning to the coincidences it is likely to be more about the epidemic of barbaric acts of American citizens during America’s increasingly brutal political campaigns that target humanitarian folks (Jewish and non-Jewish) like Wellstone and HIAS and less about and calendar coincidences.

The challenge that I would like to make in this column is to the many conservative/Republican Party-leaning Iron Range folks that a couple of decades ago were logically devoted Wellstone supporters. 

Wellstone, Contrary to Today’s Democratic and Republican Parties, Would have Opposed PolyMet

I am certain that Wellstone would have been appropriately alarmed by the threat of global warming (which the GOP denies [!]), and he would also have been against allowing experimental Copper-Nickel mining by sociopathic foreign corporations (which both the DFL and GOP are willfully and tragically ignorant about [!]) because he would have studied the known legitimate science (not the corporate pseudoscience that the mining companies use) concerning both issues and he would have come to the conclusion that both issues were among truly the most serious threats to the global and local environment and couldn’t be risked – for the sake of the children and the planet.

Paul Wellstone was a “Libtard”

So my plea is for northern Minnesotan voters that desperately need to adhere again to Paul Wellstone’s legacy which is to reject hatred, enmity, violence and barbarity and to strive to be supporters of truth, peace and justice. Paul Wellstone, by the way, meets the definition of one of his hated “libtard”, just as the above assassinated heroes were.

I end this column with excerpts from an earlier draft of this week’s column, which I decided to change a couple of hours before my Reader deadline. GGK

Throughout history, cunning politicians, militarists, wealthy elites, business leaders and authoritarians have known – and bet their futures on the fact - that fearful, confused, traumatized, propagandized, naïve citizens can be easily bamboozled into believing half-truths or even totally implausible claims if they are repeated to them over and over again, especially if those claims are uttered by authoritarian politicians; authoritarian military types,; bought-off pseudoscientists that work in controlled government agencies; previously-believed talking heads in the corporate-owned mainstream media; and civilians that are actually planted “eye-witnesses”. 

One only has to read some of the comments made by some infamous political leaders of the past that so easily misled millions of “Good German Christians” into becoming barbarous cult followers that willingly committed war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity several generations ago:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” - Joseph Goebbels Joseph Goebbels, German Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment

“The rank and file is usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious. The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly... it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” - Joseph Goebbels

“It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.” - Adolf Hitler

“What good fortune for those in power that the people do not think.” - Adolf Hitler

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” - Adolf Hitler

Of course those  principles are the very ones that America’s Madison Avenue propagandists use to 1) convince voters to vote for devious political candidates that many not be good for the nation; 2) get consumers to purchase useless and/or unaffordable items; 3) get hungry people to eat nutrition-less, often toxic, synthetic fast food; or 4) get bored or tired people to watch less than useless bits of entertainment.