Down the Ballot

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paul Wellstone for President 2000

2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Paul, his wife, Sheila; his daughter, Marcia; Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, Will McLaughlin, and the flight crew. As friends, family and the public take time this year to remember them, I thought it might be interesting for those that are not that familiar with Paul Wellstone to have a chance to learn some interesting presidential history. Did you know Senator Wellstone considered running for President in 2000?

Paul Wellstone, was a United States Senator from Minnesota. He was elected in 1990 and served in the United States Senate until his untimely death in 2002. Ten years after his passing a small conclave of Wellstone collectors have sprung up around the country. Many are devotees to him and his causes. Some were represented by him by virtue of living in Minnesota and even others encountered him long before he entered politics, while he was a Professor of Political Science at Carleton College. For many coming of age even just 10 years after his death, most will only learn of him and his families works through the Wellstone Foundation.

Minnesota is one of the more interesting places for politics in the United States. Traditional party labels seem not to apply as they do in most of the country. One of the dominant parties is the Democratic-Farmer Laborer Party (DFL). It is a fusion of the old Democratic party and Farmer Laborer party. It was formed in 1944, when the two parties joined forces. From this, the DFL'ers have given us progressive liberal leaders like Hubert Humphrey, Orville Freeman, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone. Let's take a look at his year long presidential campaign from 1998-1999.

Paul Wellstone was in that great tradition of DFL Senators who had risen to national prominence. Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale were both Vice Presidents, and along with Eugene McCarthy they had all ran for President of the United States. Wellstone himself even explored the possibility of running for President in 2000. He formed an exploratory committee, that allowed him to travel the early primary states to get a feel for what his national message might be.

David Broder, of the Washington Post  covered candidate Wellstone at the Americans for Democratic Action breakfeast in 1998. At the time liberals were attempting to figure out who would be the best messenger to run against Al Gore. One liberal at the meeting, quipped, "He doesn't have a clue about what running for President is like, and I don't see anyone around him who does". While it may be true that running for President the traditional way was a little out of reach for the campaign, running a Wellstone campaign was not. Energetic, feisty, gritty, and above all else frugal! (cheap is just to cheap a word to use right here) These were all components of a grassroots Wellstone campaign.

In Iowa, he met with Democrats, union members, and everyday people trying to get a gauge on how his message was working. One such meeting took place with Tom Glenn, an old school Kennedy Democrat. Glenn spoke of a stirring, deep in his soul when he heard Wellstone outline the makings of his grassroots campaign. Wellstone would tell audiences, "It's time for the Democratic Party to reassert itself" and "I believe a lot of issues that are important to people have been taken off the table" and "They are not even on the political debate screen anymore." And of course his rallying cry of "I'm representing the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" according to Wellstone, "I get a twinkle in my eye every time I say that, and people seem to understand it right away."

Several campaign items can be found from his one year exploratory campaign as well as a draft movement from 1996. Minnesota collector and Wellstone enthusiast Paul Bengston has one of, if not the best collection of Wellstone items in the country. The following images are all in his collection.

These two pins are very rare Wellstone 2000 items.

 These two pins were from 1996. They voice a very frustrated progressive movement over the direction of the Democratic Party and its policies in the late 90s.

While he eventually decided not to run for President, he did break with the establishment to endorse New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. He was Bradley's first congressional endorsement, according to the Telegraph-Herald. His Democratic wing of the Democratic party line would later be adopted by Vermont Governor Howard Dean in his 2004 campaign.

Both in 2004 and 2008 activists attempted to channel the progressive populist message that had attracted many to Wellstone in hopes of it rubbing off on the party nominees. Minnesota would cast electoral votes for each of these candidates carrying on in the Wellstone Tradition.

These are by far not all the items, just items we have photos online for right now. The hope is soon to do a Keynoter article expanding this post. Us Wellstone collectors just have to organize and get our photos and articles written.
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