One major thought popped into my brain when I heard that Carl Levin had decided not to run for a seventh term in the U.S. Senate next year: “Class is a lot like pornography. You can’t define it, but you sure know it when you see it.”
Carl is a class act, through and through. And in today’s political culture in which self-importance, ideological certainty and noisy posturing are sadly the norm, he stands out from the crowd.
I had a chance to see Carl’s class in action way back in 1978, when I ran against him in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat then occupied by Republican Robert Griffin. At that time, Carl was the president of the Detroit City Council, and his name was well known to Michigan voters through his brother, Sandy, who had lost two close races for governor to Republican Bill Milliken.
Carl was the overwhelming favorite in that race, which also featured six Democratic hopefuls running around in his dust — including me. As we campaigned around the state, I found it hard to disagree with the things he said … and equally importantly, with the way he said them. Thoughtful. Well-reasoned. Sensible. He was an opponent, sure, but never hostile on a personal level, always carrying out the discussion as a reasoning adult.
I came in second in that race, and although no one likes to lose, I was happy to endorse him for election. I’ve stayed in touch with him ever since, throughout his 34 years in the U. S. Senate.
Levin’s announcement last week that he would not run again was right in character.
He and his wife, Barbara, “struggled” before deciding that he could best serve his state and nation by “doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for re-election.”