October 30, 2002

MINNESOTAN MITCH BERG blogs his impressions of the Wellstone-themed campaign rally.:

If you don’t live here, it’s hard to describe. Maybe it’s like this elsewhere in the country. All I know is, it’s totally on the sleeve of this state, and showed in spades last night. It’s something that started as a vague sense of unease seven years ago, when I first started becoming active in politics in Minnesota. It grew to a more coherent notion in 2000. It whacked me over the head when the mob booed the assembled Republican senators.

Hatred of Republicans is part of the majority, *mainstream* DFL culture in Minnesota.

Not dislike. Not disagreement. Hate.

You see it in bits of day to day life in this state: women theatrically holding their noses when talking about Republican candidates at the coffee shop; people who put “No Republicans Need Apply” at the top of personal ads; a mob of 15,000 mainstream, work-a-daddy, hug-a-mommy Minnesotans baying at the moon at the recognition of Republicans.

This is not the lunatic fringe; it’s not analogous to the rantings of those Republicans who act from hate, the party’s loud but isolated homophobes, anti-immigrants, clinic-bombing-coddlers. This is the mainstream of the Minnesota DFL.

I’m not there, so my objection isn’t quite the same. To me, it was more like this.

UPDATE: TAPPED, by contrast, found the rally “inspiring.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: This piece by Will Saletan captures it well:

But the solemnity of death and the grace of Midwestern humor are overshadowed tonight by the angry piety of populism. Most of the event feels like a rally. The touching recollections are followed by sharply political speeches urging Wellstone’s supporters to channel their grief into electoral victory. The crowd repeatedly stands, stomps, and whoops. The roars escalate each time Walter Mondale, the former vice president who will replace Wellstone on the ballot, appears on the giant screens suspended above the stage. “Fritz! Fritz!” the assembly chants.

“Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning,” Wellstone declares in a videotaped speech shown on the overhead screens. “Politics is about improving people’s lives.” But as the evening’s speakers proceed, it becomes clear that to them, honoring Wellstone’s legacy is all about winning the election. Repeating the words of Wellstone’s son, the assembly shouts, “We will win! We will win!” Rick Kahn, a friend of Wellstone’s, urges everyone to “set aside the partisan bickering,” but in the next breath he challenges several Republican senators in attendance to “honor your friend” by helping to “win this election for Paul Wellstone.” What can he be thinking?

There’s a salutary practicality about many of the liberal clich├ęs repeated and applauded tonight. But there’s a creepy arrogance about them, too. The ceremony’s closing speaker, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, says Wellstone “never took himself too seriously” and “never had to proclaim his decency.” Yet tonight, the men and women who purport to represent Wellstone’s legacy are taking themselves quite seriously and constantly proclaiming their decency. “We can redeem the sacrifice of his life if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone,” Kahn tells the crowd. Somewhere, Wellstone must be turning on his cross.

Nice metaphor.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wellstone’s campaign manager has apologized.

Now Robert Musil wonders if this is in response to overnight polling, and implies that it must be given that the apology pulls the rug out from under those who have been defending the rally.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The Minnesota GOP Chair is demanding equal time.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus emailed that I’ve used the word “tacky” a lot to describe this event. But I just saw DNC spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri use the same word in describing the behavior of people who booed Republicans there. Hey, it fits.

THE LAST UPDATE: John Cole predicts how this will play out over the next days and months.