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Why Search for Jesus? We've Got Wellstone
August 6, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta

I'm always a little confused when I hear the phrase "What would Jesus do?" Why go searching for Jesus? We've got Paul Wellstone.

Wellstone would laugh not only at the absurdity of the statement - he has a peerless sense of humility - but also because he's Jewish. An examination of Wellstone's record reveals not another Jesus but quite simply one of the best politicians in the United States. It also displays a rich irony that this liberal Jewish Democrat, light years away from the behavior and voting record of the religious right, is in fact one of our best Christians.

Part of that record is his book, Conscience of a Liberal, published last year. I immediately bought it on a cruise through Border's when it came out, but just two days later got an erroneous email listing Wellstone as a Democrat who had voted for Bush's tax cut. I wanted to throw the book out but for some reason didn't. Two months ago I was honored with an email from John Nichols of The Nation, who straightened me out.

I'll smoke a few turds in purgatory for ever thinking you'd vote for that tax cut, Senator Wellstone.

Needless to say I read the book. Every time a politician publishes a book I immediately buy it, for there's no way to hide in the text like so many do in 30 second commercials or some manipulative campaign slogan. That's why books by elected officials are so rare. [1]

I've admired Wellstone's voting record from afar - he consistently gets 100% approval ratings from some of the best advocacy groups in the nation, [2] but I'm ashamed to say I had no idea how admirably this guy walks his talk.

Wellstone is appalled at how money has perverted our democracy and refuses to genuflect at the altar of American corporatism. He wins his elections the real way: passionate convictions that ignite and stir the yearnings of justice in ordinary citizens, who then work their butts off for him every campaign. No matter how sleazily his opponents go after him with mountains of national GOP cash they still lose. An army of committed grassroots workers cements that most valuable of political elements - real human contact - that GOP sleaze doesn't have a chance against. Check out wellstone.org.

And oh, does it get sleazy. In 1996 the GOP plastered Minnesota with billboards that just said "Wellstone: Embarrassingly Liberal." As if just being liberal was cause to be ashamed. Knowing they were losing, his opponents desperately went after his religious heritage in the final days, which gratifyingly backfired. Make no mistake, the national GOP truly hates Wellstone and will do anything possible -I mean anything - to take him down.

What motivates this hatred? Passionate defense for the health, safety and living conditions of ordinary workers. Through many, many years of activism Wellstone has proved there is no greater friend to the working man and woman than he. Wellstone passionately believes in the American ethos of equality, justice and fairness for all citizens, not just rich Republicans. Then he goes out and truly fights for those men and women: environmental regulation to keep kids healthy, taxation that invests in citizens, not Republican wallets, and safety hearings for mine workers [3] - just to name a few.

Unbelievably, the Greens find Wellstone wanting and have fielded a candidate against him this year. It was fascinating to watch some of the best journalists in the country (Meyerson, Nichols, Alterman, Conason) cover the news in their genteel professional way, noting the lunacy of the logic that produced the Green [4]. The fascination occurred with the utter opposite contrast in style of the GOP spin machine concerning Wellstone - vicious, dishonest, sneaky, brutal.

An exception occurred with Alexander Cockburn of The Nation, who defended the fielding of a Green against Wellstone so he could be held "accountable." I've appreciated Cockburn's contribution to American journalism over the years, but I desperately wanted to lock him in a room and make him watch every vicious, sleazy commercial the GOP ever put out against Wellstone, every nasty, lying, scummy press release (trust me, it's really bad in Wellstone races). Wellstone is accountable for that? For being a passionate man who never wavers from principle? For mobilizing ordinary people to the point he could win elections against impossibly long odds? For God's sake, grow up already, Alexander. Didn't these Greens ever learn that no human endeavor is ever pure?

God willing, I will spend eight days as a worker bee for Wellstone in October. Screw my Christmas vacation. It'll be the best vacation I'll ever have, I'm quite sure. I'll do whatever they ask 16 hours a day, and every day I'll put a fresh face in my mind. Day one will be Katherine Harris. Day two will be Antonin Scalia. Day three will be Judge Sauls. By the time I get to Howard Baker and George Bush I'll probably be working 24 hours a day.

Whatever pain and exhaustion I go through will be ameliorated by one simple truth: if He looked at Wellstone's voting record, his campaign style, his refusal to take corporate cash and his passionate advocacy for the poor, well, that's what Jesus would do.


[1] I read Al Gore's Earth in the Balance when I was a sophomore in high school. BACK

[2] Nichols, The Nation. BACK

[3] Conason, Salon. BACK

[4] Meyerson, The American Prospect. BACK
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