Pryor and McCarthy

The comedian Richard Pryor and the politician/philosopher Eugene McCarthy both died today. The news broke when I happened to be watching CNN. Oddly, they had a live interview with Pryor's grief-stricken widow who had tried to give her husband, who was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis, CPR before the paramedics arrived.

I couldn't listen to the entire interview. I thought it was unbecoming of CNN to put her on live and ask, "so, what happened?" only a couple of hours after her husband died. But, that's journalism.

McCarthy is known for his early opposition to the Vietnam War and his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. His strong showing in New Hampshire caused Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from the race.

McCarthy was a United States Senator from Minnesota at the time. Leave it to Minnesota to elect somebody like McCarthy, a true curmudgeon, usually, but not always liberal, but always cranky. That's what endeared him to Minnesotans, I suspect.

Later, Jesse Ventura filled the same role, in a lower-brow way. Blunt. Tell-it-like-it-is. Erratic. Minnesotans have a taste for the unusual and the forthright in their politicians. They like characters.

Rudy Perpich was somewhat strange. So was Rudy Boshwitz. Wellstone was far from run-of-the-mill. Go father back and you have two boy governors: Harold Stassen, a liberal Republican, and Floyd Olson, who was pretty much a socialist. Stassen was elected when he was twenty-nine. Olson, who said, "I am not a liberal, I am a radical," was elected at age thirty-nine and held office until he died of stomach cancer in 1936.

All to make the point that Eugene McCarthy was a typically atypical Minnesota politician. Stassen ran for president eight more times after nearly taking the Republican nomination in 1948. McCarthy ran for president six times. In between, he wrote books of poetry. Neither Stassen nor McCarthy seemed to mind losing.