Thursday, October 30, 2008

He is Too!

While chatting online tonight with a Georgetown college student, I was asked what I thought of Al Franken's chances in Tuesday's election. The student knew from my various Facebook postings, Prairie Pondering, photographs and exhortations for support that I am passionately supporting Mr. Franken in his bid to unseat Norm Coleman.

I responded that I thought it would be close (how's that for a limb?), but that I believe that if Barack Obama generates strong voter turnout among younger voters, it will result in Al Franken's victory. I went on to comment that younger voters are more accepting of Al as a candidate for the Senate than some older DFL'ers and that they were less likely to split the ticket than, say, my personal attorney, who has been drawn to the Dark Side in the race for U.S. Senate but not, no pun intended, in the race for the presidency. Too many of my contemporaries do not view Al Franken as being "senatorial enough" to justify voting for him.

And then it hit me: He is Too!

I worked in the U.S. Senate right out of law school so I feel like I have firsthand experience with what it takes to be a successful U.S. Senator. There is nothing in Al Franken's background, experience, demeanor, intelligence level, dedication to public service, or willingness to sacrifice for the public good that suggests he would not do a stellar job as the junior Senator from Minnesota.

Somehow, there is perception that Al is too contentious, too sarcastic, too inflexible and insufficiently serious to walk in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol and ride in the Members Only elevators. I am not sure where the perception comes from. However, as I ponder the situation (reality check: from my office downtown, not on the prairie tonight), thinking about the soft-spoken, frankly whining, tone Norm Coleman adopts in his "about me" campaign ads, and compare it with the images of an engaged Al Franken used in Norm Coleman's attack ads, I guess I should not be surprised at the persona thrust upon Al.

Forget about it not being fair. We all realize that fairness has no place in determining outcomes in this election season. More importantly, it is not relevant. It is not relevant because out of context depictions of a ranting Al Franken are not a true measure of the man. It is not relevant because, to the extent there is any contextual accuracy, we should be embracing passion in those who would serve the public interest, not damning it.

Without slipping into my President Shepard mode (cf. "Challenging a Culture of Mindless Hate", October 15, 2008 blog), why is there not more outrage and passion exhibited by Senator Now-that-the-Election-is Upon-Us-I-am-Bi-Partisan-in-My-Approach? The answer, of course, is that Norm Coleman being outraged over the loss of life, loss of prestige, loss of economic independence and loss of innocence experienced by the American public in the last six years would be akin to Captain Renault being "shocked, shocked" to finding gambling going on at Rick's Café.

Al Franken is cut from the mold of Paul Wellstone, my former college professor at Carleton College in the 1970's and, not incidentally, Norm Coleman's predecessor in office. It does not matter that Professor Wellstone challenged his students and that Senator Wellstone challenged his constituents to consider positions on issues far to the left of conventional wisdom. What matters is that he challenged us at all. As I noted in an earlier posting, there are more than enough worshippers at the Altar of Limbaugh to assure reaching middle ground. But if we deprive ourselves of voices like Franken and Wellstone and Humphrey and RFK and HST and FDR, then we deprive ourselves of voices of conscience.

Who among us does not wish we could turn back the clock and take better note of Senator Wellstone's warnings about rushing into armed conflict with Iraq? Who among us believes that having representation beholden to Bush/Cheney, and silent on the policies of the Worst Administration in American History, has not significantly contributed to the struggles and challenges we now face for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren?

Al Franken is exactly the kind of person we need looking out for our interests. We just spent six years relying on a Bush/Cheney puppet to speak out for the values Minnesotans have held dear and that have made us such a great state. What a waste. What a disgrace. What an opportunity to reclaim our self-respect and demand, young and old among us, by casting our ballot on Tuesday, that Al Franken be given the chance to use his wisdom, passion and social conscience on behalf of all Minnesotans.

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