The Left Hook! Archive


Fri., Oct. 25, 2002

In Memory...

One of the things you don't run across much in American politics is a genuinely good man. Sure, many of us, when whipped into a partisan lather, will claim "our guy" belongs in that category. "He's a good man, and he needs to be elected." Or "He's a good man, and deserves our support." Or some variation. For the most part, this is bullshit and, yes, whoever is saying it knows it, too. There are no angels in politics. It's a nasty, grubby business, full of compromises, betrayals, phonies, graft, CYA-ism. Among others, it draws a cast of fiends who, as their country burns, delight as much in adding fuel to the fire as in helping extinguish it. Once in a very blue moon, however, someone will manage to worm their way into a position of prominence in the political class who doesn't really belong among such company; someone who isn't a vulture; someone whose motive may even be honorable, and who seems to see public service as something larger than picking a corpse clean. A good man.

A good man will try to do the right thing. He isn't in the game for self-aggrandizement. He genuinely cares about what he does and about those he serves. He wants to make things better. He can't always succeed at this, of course,, but he'll try. Such men are rare, indeed, in our politics, but if our politics are to have any future, it will be such men that will lead the way to it.

We won't always agree with a good man, of course. People of character can and, in fact, will intevitably disagree on any number of things. And anyone in politics, regardless of their character, is going to face a machine that corrupts everything it touches.  It will demand compromises from the best. It will wring outright betrayals from most. While most of the political class makes selling out a matter of routine, though, a good man will resist the machine. He won't always succeed, and we'll chaff under the betrayals, and we'll give him hell for them, as well, because if he is a good man he can feel shame, and if he can be made to feel shame, he'll more vigorously resist the machine in the future. Unlike most of the political class, a good man is worth this effort.

Malevolent fate has left America shy a good man today. He'd engaged the beast of politics and with some success in his final years. His record wasn't perfect--it was far better than most. Our country and our politics need such men, and we are a poorer nation for the loss of them.

Sen. Paul Wellstone

1944 - 2002

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