Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Legacy to be Tended

On the post below I dealt with the numbers of "just folks" who turned up all around the country to protest our presence in Iraq. While there may be differences in opinion as to how quickly we should get out, a vast majority of Americans believe we should leave. They were all well represented yesterday in such places as DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and smaller towns. I'm not ancient, but I am older (nearly 60) and there were plenty of men and women older than I am. There were people of all ethnicities in addition to all ages. It was the kind of gathering that spoke to the desires of the majority in the country, most of whom don't really believe that anyone in power is paying the least bit of intention to them and to their desires and needs. Still they congregated. I firmly believe that yesterday, for the first time in nearly forty years I saw the concept of 'grassroots' embodied.

It mustn't stop with just one day, however. That's why I was so heartened to see an article in the Star Tribune this morning. It was about the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, who died three years ago next month.

Nearly three years after his death, Paul Wellstone's legacy shows no sign of diminishing. Two books about the senator were published this month alone. Wellstone Action!, a liberal political training center based in St. Paul, boasts 8,500 alumni across the country and now is adding "advanced placement" classes.

And at least a dozen buildings are named after Wellstone and/or his wife, Sheila, including schools, a housing complex and a battered women's center. ...

The epicenter of the growth industry spawned by Paul Wellstone is the St. Paul office of Wellstone Action! a few blocks from the senator's 2002 campaign headquarters. Headed by Wellstone's longtime campaign manager, Jeff Blodgett, and staffed by many ex-Wellstone aides, it aims to become a powerful national training center for progressive political candidates and organizers.

In Minnesota, at least, it's already left a mark. Eight of the 13 freshman DFLers elected to the state House last year were Camp Wellstone graduates. Likewise, at least six graduates of a January training camp advanced in September primary elections for various city councils, said Ralph Remington, the top vote-getter in Minneapolis' 10th Ward and one of those alumni. ...

Meanwhile, a series of "civic dialogues" honoring the Wellstones continue. Held in private homes, coffee shops and libraries, they explore political themes and chart action plans.

Last Thursday, about 30 people gathered at Old Man River Cafe in West St. Paul to discuss combating domestic violence. Sheila Wellstone, who championed the issue, had spoken at the coffeehouse a few weeks before her death. ...

This is the kind of organizing and training and work the Democrats and other progressives need to be doing if we are going to take back our country from those who believe that who already has deserves more, regardless of who suffers. The successes cited in the article are testimony as to what works.

Now is the time for progressives both within and outside of the Democratic Party to get busy. Paul Wellstone showed us the way. As one historian noted,

...Wellstone was unlike most politicians, in that his chief legacy is grassroots community organizing," [historian Hy] Berman said.

Howard Dean, Paul Wellstone would have agreed with your approach.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"just folks"...thanks for speaking down to (i mean, speaking for) us ignorant masses. thanks to the socialist elites that there are those like you looking out for us folks.

8:43 PM  
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