Senator Paul Wellstone, who was killed in a plane crash this afternoon, was a professor of political science at Carleton College in the early 1980s, when I went there. Even then he was a charismatic figure, with a cadre of student followers, the “Wellstoners,” who tried to stir up the usual lefty trouble, organizing the local farmers into coops or persuading the cafeteria ladies to strike.
Wellstone’s introductory poli sci course was the most popular on campus. Its core text was Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, and it was agitprop. This bothered me more then than it does now. Wellstone did openly what other professors did snarkily and on the sly. With him you knew where you stood.
In the Senate he was much the same way. Anti-corporation, sure; but he also refused corporate campaign contributions. Never saw a tax cut he liked. Advocated a seven-year freeze on defense spending. Voted the true-blue AFL-CIO line. Opposed war with Iraq. Always wrong, in short; but forthright too, and incorruptible. Few on the left or right were like him, and I’m sorry he’s dead.