The Descent of the Senate

The United States Senate has produced remarkable Americans.  Regardless of party or of ideology, this chamber of our national legislature has been the parent of true greatness.  Mike Mansfield was wrong on many policy issues, but he was honorable, wise, noble, and good.  Robert Lafollette was also wrong on many things, but not on courage and character.

Barry Goldwater was thought an extremist by many Americans, but when Goldwater died no one doubted that he was a giant.  Robert Taft, son of a president and a chief justice, graduated first in his class at Yale and then first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He was a strong conservative but, like Goldwater, he sometimes held controversial views:  He opposed American entry into the Second World War and he opposed the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Yet Taft, known as "Mr. Republican," was considered by JFK, a Democrat, to be one of the five greatest senators in American history.

Look at the Senate today.  Harry Reid appears genuinely silly.  Robert Byrd, a former Democrat floor leader, was also a former official in the Ku Klux Klan.  Republicans can hardly be proud of their most senior senator in the last Congress, the felon Ted Stevens, or Larry Craig, convicted sex offender who promised to resign from the Senate and then changed his mind.  Why is anyone shocked that the crooked Blagojevich tried to auction off a Senate seat?   

Perhaps most sickening is the unfolding nightmare in Minnesota.  Al Franken is nothing but an unfunny joke.  Once senators from Minnesota were a special breed.  Hubert Humphrey was wrong on many political issues, but he opposed Democratic Party racism in 1948 and he carried himself with such good cheer in public life that he was known as the "Happy Warrior."  Humphrey twice volunteered for military service in the Second World War and twice was turned down for medical reasons.

Eugene McCarthy was also wrong on many things, but opposed the Vietnam War on conscience, taking on his party leader and his president.  He was a poet, an economist, a professor and someone who cared about what was right (even when his politics were mistaken.)

Those of us who opposed Paul Wellstone's liberalism did not doubt his goodness.  He was yet another example of a Minnesota Democrat wrong on ideology but right in terms of his personal conscience and his genuineness in trying to do good.

Minnesota produced some wonderful Republican senators.  Knute Nelson, who served as governor, congressman, state legislator (in Minnesota and in Wisconsin), and finally in the Senate (the crowning achievement of his career), had been selected to deliver the Oration of the Day at the United States Centennial in 1876 -- quite an accomplishment for a Norwegian immigrant.

Senator Kellogg was Secretary of State under Coolidge, President of the American Bar Association, a member of the French Legion of Honor, and a judge on the International Court of Justice.  Kellogg is one of only three sitting senators to win the Nobel Peace Prize (all when these awards and honors really meant something.)

Rudy Boschwitz, a more recent Republican senator, fled the Nazis with his family when he was three.  He established a successful business and became a true example of the American Dream, a popular and familiar Minnesotan.  Boschwitz organized "Operation Solomon," through which over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were able to escape to Israel. Humphrey, McCarthy, Wellstone, Nelson, Kellogg, Boschwitz and others represented how seriously, once, Minnesotans took the office of United States Senator. 

 Seriousness about good government, interest in honorable politics, well-thought principals of public policy - - all these have been lost.  Norm Coleman, a good mayor of St. Paul who has had a respectable career in the Senate, is about to lose his Senate seat to seedy Democrat partisans panting for any Democrat, even an absurdity like Franken, to replace a serious, moderate Republican.  This perversion of democracy in Minnesota is about to be confirmed by a perversion of democracy in the United States Senate itself, where Franken indecently (but predictably) began his campaign to have Senate Democrats seat him even before the recount of the senate race in Minnesota.

Mike Mansfield must be rolling over in his grave.  Hubert Humphrey must be looking at his beloved home state and weeping.  Kellogg must be overflowing with contempt.  Wellstone must be wondering what happened, in a few short years, to Minnesota Democrats.  Good government was once a byword of Minnesota.  The United States Senate used to be the most distinguished legislative body in the world.  The unbridled lust for power, the cynical insistence on a Leftism that bears no resemblance to the liberalism of Humphrey, the willingness to sacrifice every principle to win - this is what has become of the United States Senate.  The noble tradition of Minnesota senators has morphed into muck.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
The United States Senate has produced remarkable Americans.  Regardless of party or of ideology, this chamber of our national legislature has been the parent of true greatness.  Mike Mansfield was wrong on many policy issues, but he was honorable, wise, noble, and good.  Robert Lafollette was also wrong on many things, but not on courage and character.

Barry Goldwater was thought an extremist by many Americans, but when Goldwater died no one doubted that he was a giant.  Robert Taft, son of a president and a chief justice, graduated first in his class at Yale and then first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He was a strong conservative but, like Goldwater, he sometimes held controversial views:  He opposed American entry into the Second World War and he opposed the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Yet Taft, known as "Mr. Republican," was considered by JFK, a Democrat, to be one of the five greatest senators in American history.

Look at the Senate today.  Harry Reid appears genuinely silly.  Robert Byrd, a former Democrat floor leader, was also a former official in the Ku Klux Klan.  Republicans can hardly be proud of their most senior senator in the last Congress, the felon Ted Stevens, or Larry Craig, convicted sex offender who promised to resign from the Senate and then changed his mind.  Why is anyone shocked that the crooked Blagojevich tried to auction off a Senate seat?   

Perhaps most sickening is the unfolding nightmare in Minnesota.  Al Franken is nothing but an unfunny joke.  Once senators from Minnesota were a special breed.  Hubert Humphrey was wrong on many political issues, but he opposed Democratic Party racism in 1948 and he carried himself with such good cheer in public life that he was known as the "Happy Warrior."  Humphrey twice volunteered for military service in the Second World War and twice was turned down for medical reasons.

Eugene McCarthy was also wrong on many things, but opposed the Vietnam War on conscience, taking on his party leader and his president.  He was a poet, an economist, a professor and someone who cared about what was right (even when his politics were mistaken.)

Those of us who opposed Paul Wellstone's liberalism did not doubt his goodness.  He was yet another example of a Minnesota Democrat wrong on ideology but right in terms of his personal conscience and his genuineness in trying to do good.

Minnesota produced some wonderful Republican senators.  Knute Nelson, who served as governor, congressman, state legislator (in Minnesota and in Wisconsin), and finally in the Senate (the crowning achievement of his career), had been selected to deliver the Oration of the Day at the United States Centennial in 1876 -- quite an accomplishment for a Norwegian immigrant.

Senator Kellogg was Secretary of State under Coolidge, President of the American Bar Association, a member of the French Legion of Honor, and a judge on the International Court of Justice.  Kellogg is one of only three sitting senators to win the Nobel Peace Prize (all when these awards and honors really meant something.)

Rudy Boschwitz, a more recent Republican senator, fled the Nazis with his family when he was three.  He established a successful business and became a true example of the American Dream, a popular and familiar Minnesotan.  Boschwitz organized "Operation Solomon," through which over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were able to escape to Israel. Humphrey, McCarthy, Wellstone, Nelson, Kellogg, Boschwitz and others represented how seriously, once, Minnesotans took the office of United States Senator. 

 Seriousness about good government, interest in honorable politics, well-thought principals of public policy - - all these have been lost.  Norm Coleman, a good mayor of St. Paul who has had a respectable career in the Senate, is about to lose his Senate seat to seedy Democrat partisans panting for any Democrat, even an absurdity like Franken, to replace a serious, moderate Republican.  This perversion of democracy in Minnesota is about to be confirmed by a perversion of democracy in the United States Senate itself, where Franken indecently (but predictably) began his campaign to have Senate Democrats seat him even before the recount of the senate race in Minnesota.

Mike Mansfield must be rolling over in his grave.  Hubert Humphrey must be looking at his beloved home state and weeping.  Kellogg must be overflowing with contempt.  Wellstone must be wondering what happened, in a few short years, to Minnesota Democrats.  Good government was once a byword of Minnesota.  The United States Senate used to be the most distinguished legislative body in the world.  The unbridled lust for power, the cynical insistence on a Leftism that bears no resemblance to the liberalism of Humphrey, the willingness to sacrifice every principle to win - this is what has become of the United States Senate.  The noble tradition of Minnesota senators has morphed into muck.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.