The late Hubert Humphrey will be honored with a 7-foot bronze statute. Sen. McCarthy deserves to be honored, too.
A new statue of Hubert Humphrey will be unveiled later this week on the State Capitol lawn. The bronze likeness of the "Happy Warrior" comes with a $620,000 price tag, $400,000 of which comes from the Legislature as a cost to taxpayers.
Humphrey is arguably the most popular Minnesota politician from the past century and deserves another statue in his honor. What's disturbing, however, is the absence of a statue for a Minnesotan who really deserves one: the late former U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
Who, some of you might ask? No, he wasn't the Commie fighter from Wisconsin. A cohort of Humphrey's in the Senate for years, McCarthy was the first elected official to forcefully challenge the war in Vietnam by waging a 1968 campaign for president against Lyndon Johnson, the sitting president of McCarthy's own party.
While others talked, McCarthy acted. During a conversation I had with him in 1993, McCarthy summed up his decision to enter the race by saying that just because no other Democrat was willing to challenge Johnson didn't mean that he shouldn't. McCarthy felt an obligation to run.
The Watkins, Minn., native and St. John's University grad mobilized thousands of antiwar voters, including many young voters who had never previously been active in politics. "Get clean for Gene," they said -- and they did, shedding their long hair and sideburns.
They helped propel McCarthy to a strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary that forever altered the political landscape of 1968. Without McCarthy's successful challenge to Johnson and the war, the president very well might have stayed in the race; Robert Kennedy might not have entered it, and Humphrey might very well have languished in the role of vice president.
Minnesota legislators, in their infinite wisdom, should find a way to create statue honoring Eugene McCarthy. That would be the right thing to do. After all, McCarthy showed us that, while certain politicians have a penchant for heartfelt rhetoric, what really defines leaders is doing what's right.
Rob Hahn is president of Hahn Publications, St. Paul. He ran for governor in the Independence Party primary in 2010.