Monday, August 6, 2012

Will they ever learn?

It was nearly 10 years ago that Senator Paul Wellstone and several others died in a tragic plane crash, and it was at his memorial service a few days later that Minnesota's DFLers pretty much ensured the election of Republican Norm Coleman as Wellstone's successor.

They did so with an incredibly tasteless display at the service, which they turned into a big pep rally for Walter Mondale, the replacement candidate for Wellstone. They booed Wellstone's Republican senate colleagues who had traveled across the country for the service. They led loud cheers for DFL candidates and pretty much made asses of themselves at what should have been a solemn occasion.

The backlash was big and immediate. Most Minnesotans are able to separate partisan politics from the events of everyday life, and they were turned off by the partisan tone of the service. Coleman went on to hand Mondale the only electoral defeat of Wally's career a few days later, largely because of the way Democrats behaved at the memorial.

Less than 10 years later, the Democrats demonstrated that they leaned nothing from that debacle. Saturday, at the unveiling of a statue of Hubert Humphrey near the State Capitol, they turned the event into another partisan pep rally.

The old intern mentor himself, Bill Clinton, showed up and used his speaking platform to decry Voter ID laws. (Because, you know, Hubert would have been in favor of voter fraud.)

Not to be outdone, the Senate's dimmest wit, Al Franken, got up and gave a little speech in favor of gay marriage, somehow linking Hubert's opposition to racial segregation to the effort to rewrite several thousand years of the Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage.

Clinton, Franken and others were remarkably tasteless in using an event designed to honor Hubert as a platform for their own political grievances. Which makes you wonder how they can be so tone-deaf and socially clumsy.

And the answer, I think, is found in the basic liberal mindset: That nothing important can happen without government.

Liberals believe - as demonstrated by the President recently telling business owners "You didn't build that" - that there is no higher power than government. Government is their church, it is their family, it is their reason for living, and because it's so omnipotent, no occasion can be inappropriate for partisan political talk.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to believe that government plays a much more limited role in ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And when you don't view partisan politics as the answer to every one of life's little problems, you tend to believe that there are some instances in which political grandstanding is inappropriate.

I never knew Hubert, but in my years working in the Senate I went out of my way to talk to a number of old-time staffers who had been around him, and the overall impression I got was that he was a heck of a guy. People loved him, and he loved people. Northwest flight attendants told me stories about him making the D.C.-Minneapolis flight without ever sitting down, because he loved spending those three hours meeting and engaging with people. His political "joy" was genuine.

Regardless of that, I think he would have been appalled to see Saturday's event turned into a partisan event, and to see that his party still hasn't learned anything about respect, grace and taste.

1 comment:

  1. During the '70s I worked for a Republican Senator from Michigan who because of his leadership responsibilities had to spend most of his time on the Senate floor, so I often represented him at events where we were seated aphabetically. That put me next to the (Democratic) Senator from Minnesota. I can assure you that your description of him is right on. He treated me as if I were a colleague rather than a lowly staffer. He really cared about people -- remember I was not a constituent, he needed absolutely nothing from me, but perhaps my respect, which he will have forever.