Magazine article The Christian Century

Liberal in a Conservative Age

Magazine article The Christian Century

Liberal in a Conservative Age

Article excerpt

THOUGH HIS OPPONENTS tagged him as "embarrassingly liberal" and outside mainstream politics, Paul Wellstone won two terms as a U.S. senator, and he had a strong chance of winning a third term until he was killed in a plane crash while campaigning in Minnesota on October 24.

Wellstone was an unembarrassed, unapologetic liberal in an era when the term has been used as if it were an epithet. His attitude was: if trying to raise the minimum wage, increase government support for child care and education, provide medical care and health care insurance to those without it and require insurance companies to cover mental illness on a par with physical illness--if those efforts made him a liberal, then so be it. He often noted that businesses, banks, insurance firms, pharmaceutical companies and tobacco producers were already well represented in Washington; he was there to represent the laid-off worker, the single mother who needed child care, and the person who couldn't afford medical insurance.

He probably won't be remembered for his legislative accomplishments. He would quickly admit that he was mostly forced to play defense in the Senate--trying to block cuts in programs rather than expand or implement them.

He might well be remembered for his courage, his willingness to be on the losing end of a 99-1 vote. He was the only senator up for reelection this year who voted against the bill authorizing military force against Iraq. Voting with President Bush was the politically shrewd thing to do, but he voted his conscience. …

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