Each year, on this day, I try to write something about the late Paul Wellstone who was one of the few elected politicians who really had a deep soul and compass when it came to representing the people. Nine years ago, Paul died in a plane crash, along with his wife, Sheila, daughter Marcia, and three campaign staff members--Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic, and Mary McEvoy--and the two pilots. Every day, he is missed.
Though it is hard to predict anything, I am pretty sure Paul would have loved the movement that has sparked uprisings throughout the country against Wall Street and the economic robbery of our times. He spoke out about these issues long ago, when they were not popular. I think he would have marched with us and spoken up and demanded that the Democratic Party fully embrace the movement in the streets.
We Occupy Wall Street because of the corruption of money in our politics.
The ethical issue of our time is that money has come to dominate politics and the democracy my father so deeply believed in is severely compromised. Campaigns match image-makers against image-makers, pollsters against pollsters and millions of dollars against millions of dollars. It is a superficial, trivialized politics of attack ads, manipulated advertising, and nine-second sound bites. It is a politics that treats people as if they are political nerds who know or care nothing about the issues of our time.
And most importantly, money corrupts the process. This is a much more serious corruption than the wrong doing of a single individual. This is the kind of corruption which results in too few people having too much wealth, power and say and too many people being denied a voice. It is a politics of democracy for the few, not democracy for the many.
Money, all too often, determines who runs for office. Should a person have to be a millionaire to run for the U.S. Senate? Money, all too often, determines what both Democrats and Republicans have to say on the issues for fear of offending big contributors. Should a candidate mortgage his or her vision to the wealthy and powerful and privileged. Money, all too often, determines how our elected officials spend their time in Washington.
Politics becomes about amassing huge amounts of money. Issues and accountability do count when it comes to the cozy relationship between a Senator or Representative and the political action committees who contribute the big bucks. They give the money to influence legislation and expect results. But during campaigns and elections most of what the people get is images. Not issues, not accountability. As a result people view politics as phony, irrelevant to their lives, and a game where the rules are rigged for the well healed and powerful interest, not ordinary citizens.
We stand up today because we have politicians who would rather talk about cutting Social Security and "entitlements", than deal with the real crisis of joblessness in America.
The second thing is I did not weave or bob on the important issues - I made it clear to people in Minnesota that I was opposed to privatizing Social Security, that I was strongly for Medicare and universal healthcare coverage, that I was for living wage jobs, that I was for investment in children and education, and that I was a reformer.
I did not weave or bob on any of those issues. And as the attack became more ferocious, I just said to people in Minnesota: some of this attack is true. Living wage jobs I'm for, health care I'm for, I'm opposed to Wall Street privatizing Social Security - I'm for fair trade but I'm not for trade policies that grinds working families to pieces in our country. And you know what, Minnesotans? Some of what these big oil companies say is true - they don't like me, nor do the big pharmaceutical companies, nor the Wall Street investment banks - but they already have great representation in Washington. It's the rest of the people that need it! I'm a senator for children, education, working families! [emphasis added]
We march because we are opposed to the obscene and immoral waste of lives and trillions of dollars in wars that should never be fought. Paul Wellstone was the only incumbent Democratic Senator running for re-election in 2002 who voted AGAINST the resolution to go to war in Iraq. The man had courage and convictions:
There is so much more to write about this man. I suppose I am particularly glad to write this today because many people who are Occupying Wall Street today do not remember Wellstone, some because they were just teenagers or maybe younger when Paul died.
This is just to remind us that WE CAN ELECT GOOD PEOPLE. WE CAN ELECT PEOPLE WHO WILL TRULY REPRESENT THE PEOPLE. WE CAN ELECT PEOPLE WHO WILL SAY THEY ARE FOR CHANGE AND, THEN, WILL RESIST THE URGE TO SELL THEMSELVES TO THE WALL STREET-FINANCIAL MANDARINS.