I looked into flying up to Minnesota to attend Paul Wellstone's memorial service, but all the flights that would have gotten me there in time were too expensive. So I watched the service on C-SPAN 2 instead.
It was very ... interesting. I've never seen anything quite like it. For one thing, the first hour or so of the memorial service was devoted to Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, Will McLaughlin, and Marcia Wellstone Markuson. It's hard to imagine that happening at a memorial service for any other member of Congress. On the other hand, Paul wouldn't have had it any other way.
And then there was the way it turned into a political rally at the end. Again, that's totally consistent with Paul's personality, but even so, it must have come as a shock to some of the Republican senators and representatives in the audience when one of the speakers mentioned them by name and urged them to work to "help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone." And sure enough, the state Republican party criticized the event as being too political.
But you know what? Fuck 'em. It was the kind of service Paul would have wanted, and one that his supporters needed. At the beginning of his re-election campaign, Paul said,
I think people realize that there's a lot at stake, and there is. I mean, it's control of the Senate, it's the future direction of the Supreme Court. It's Roe v. Wade. And more importantly than that... decisions are going to be made that are going to affect the quality or lack of quality of our lives and our children -- Sheila and I have six grandchildren -- our grandchildren's lives. Are you going to continue to have these Robin Hood reverse tax cuts, more of them -- or are we going to invest in kids and education and health care?
If Paul had been speaking at that service last night, he would have said that there was no time to sit around grieving. He would have said that we have to pick up the slack. He would have said that we have to get out there and fight every bit as hard as he always fought, to make sure that what we believe in gets done. He would have said that now, more than ever, we needed to do everything we could to help the hungry, and the homeless, and the mentally ill, and the working poor, and the abused women and disabled veterans and Hmong immigrants and farmers and everyone else he devoted his entire life to helping.
And he would have said that we shouldn't have gone to all this trouble for someone like him. He would have been happy to see Tom and Will and Mary and Marcia and Sheila get the recognition they deserved, but for himself, he would rather see us out there, doing what needs to be done, fighting the fights that need fighting.
But he wasn't there, so Rick Kahn and Tom Harkin and Mark Wellstone had to say it for him. And if that makes some Republicans uncomfortable, that's just too damn bad for them.