AL FRANKEN IS THE WEAKEST OF THE THREE VIABLE DFL CANDIDATES AND IF HE BECOMES THE ENDORSED CANDIDATE HE WILL LOSE TO NORM COLEMAN.
Policy issues aside, practically it just makes no strategic sense whatsoever to support Al Franken if Democrats are actually serious about challenging Sen. Norm Coleman in November.
The first thing that we must consider regarding Al Franken’s candidacy is the “Ventura Effect”. By this I mean that Minnesotans ended up being rather unhappy with their election of Jesse Ventura in 1998, a lot of which had to do with the fact that as Minnesotans we really didn’t enjoy being the laughingstock of the country. Due to this in a general election independently minded Minnesota voters are going to be very weary of sending another celebrity to office, especially a national office where the candidate would have a national stage to embarrass the state.
Secondly, in general terms the Republican Party isn’t exactly popular right now. President Bush’s approval rating has been hovering around his all time low for the better part of his second term, meaning that independent voters aren’t happy with him and Republicans (Norm Coleman included), and if you look at primary and caucus turnout nationwide you will see that Democratic voters are much more engaged in this election cycle than Republican voters.
With that said I am having a very hard time understanding why it would be strategically smart to endorse a candidate like Franken who is a hugely polarizing political figure (progressives need to think how involved they would be in stopping the candidacy of Anne Coulter, because that is how conservatives look at Al Franken). If DFLers want to jump start and energize the Republican base around Norm Coleman’s reelection then I would by all means suggest endorsing Al Franken, but I don’t see the logic in shooting yourself in the foot from the get go.
Thirdly an endorsement of Al Franken would only work to help Coleman in his reelection. As I noted earlier Minnesotans and Americans aren’t happy with President Bush and his management of the war in Iraq and other issues. Combine this with the fact that Norm Coleman’s voting record since he has been in the Senate demonstrates that he is an ardent supporter of Bush initiatives and policies. This is a goldmine for a Democratic candidate; so long as the focus can be kept on Norm Coleman’s voting record.
An endorsement for Al Franken would just open up the door for Coleman to change the focus from his abysmal voting record to Franken’s lack of experience and seriousness for the office, as is already evident from a recent Coleman ad, if Franken is the DFL endorsed candidate Coleman is going to focus on Franken’s political divisiveness. Furthermore, with support for the war in Iraq being very low in Minnesota it would be easy for a Democratic candidate to draw attention to Coleman’s unwavering support for this war, this becomes rather tricky if Al Franken receives the endorsement since Franken had basically supported this war until about late 2006 (check out Eric Black’s excellent summary of Franken’s position on Iraq), and Coleman is already attempting to do just that if you look at one of his recent campaign ads that appeared on his website.
Here is a quote from Paul Hogart concerning Al Franken’s support of the war:
“Not only will Franken’s position on Iraq depress anti-war progressives, it is really bad politics as the War continues to get more unpopular. We might forgive Franken for not matching Paul’s (Wellstone) progressive record on other issues, but the defining issue in 2008 will be the question of withdrawal. Unless Franken unequivocally renounces his earlier position on the War, and begins to take a strong stand on withdrawal, he won’t deserve progressive support. After all, Paul’s last act in the Senate before he died was to vote against the Iraq War Resolution.”
Again I don’t see the point in DFLers shooting themselves in the foot and endorsing Franken when they could easily endorse a candidate who has consistently opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and can take Coleman to task for his record. And the funny part is that Al Franken actually agrees with me, here are his comments from his radio show back on May 1, 2006 when Franken was talking about a possible run for U.S. Senate:
“We might need a candidate who actually said that (that they were against the war from the beginning) before this war, because this war is a debacle. It's one thing for somebody who voted for this war saying, you know, you have to assume the President is telling the truth. You can't assume the president is lying. But, then on the other hand, the American people want someone who is a better BS detector than they are. And, and, you know, I think I would have voted for the use of force because I would have believed, I believed Colin Powell."
The part that most baffles my mind is the fact that there are plenty of better and more viable DFL candidates out there, so I don’t see the point of settling for Al Franken.
One example would be Mike Ciresi. Basically Ciresi is Al Franken without the aforementioned personality baggage.
- Like Al Franken he did not originally come out in opposition to the war on Iraq.
- Like Al Franken he supports the use of new nuclear power plants to address our countries energy needs.
- Like Al Franken he supports a universal health care system.
- Like Al Franken he is a supporter of free trade initiatives such as NAFTA, FTAA and CAFTA.
- And like Al Franken he pays lip service to addressing climate change by supporting initiatives that do too little too late.
As opposed to Mike Ciresi and Al Franken there is Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.
Jack is the only candidate who did not support the war on Iraq in the beginning, has been opposed all along, and calls for immediate withdrawal of our troops over the next six months. Prior to the invasion Jack actually debated Congressman Jim Ramstad concerning the war and he also served as a foreign policy advisor to the late Senator Paul Wellstone and helped to shape Wellstone’s vote against the authorization of force.
Jack is the only candidate who is opposed to the use of new nuclear power plants to address our country’s energy needs and sees nuclear power as a distant last option.
Jack is the only candidate saying that we should have a single payer, universal health care system that provides comprehensive coverage free from the insurance industry.
Jack is by far the strongest proponent of fair trade, not free trade. For years he worked in the U.S. and Central America fighting for economic fairness and against NAFTA, FTAA and CAFTA.
Jack is also the strongest candidate when it comes to addressing climate change. Jack is the only candidate who has signed onto the One Sky Initiative on global climate change that meets what scientists say is necessary to save the planet. The One Sky Initiative calls for (1) the creation of 5 million new green jobs conserving 20% of our energy by 2015, (2) freezing climate pollution levels now and cut at least 80% by 2050 and 30% by 2020, and (3) a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. Jack describes global warming as our biggest national (and global) security threat and outlines a new “Marshall Plan” to rebuild our energy infrastructure in a sustainable and renewable way in the line of Paul Hawken which will place the United States as the world leader in sustainable industries and businesses.
Furthermore, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer simply brings a sense of hopefulness and inspiration that is lacking in the other two candidates. Additionally in my opinion he has the best chance of defeating Norm Coleman come November. To quote Rich Broderick at Twin Cities Daily Planet:
"This year, the DFL candidate with the worst chances of gaining the party endorsement for Senate (Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer) is the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election...As a result of this paradox, leading progressive DFL officeholders are torn. Though actively courted by the Franken and Ciresi campaigns, their hearts belong with Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer who, for whatever reason – lack of resources, a principled refusal to indulge in politics-as-usual – has not been as active in garnering their support. Now It’s not unusual for party activists to feel that their hearts belong to one candidate but their heads belong to another, with “electibility” usually trumping “idealism.” In the case of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, however, no such split between heart and head is necessary. If DFL-ers can shake off conventional wisdom and take a really clear-eyed look at today’s political realities, they will see that, this time around, Nelson-Pallmeyer is that rare electoral commodity, an underdog who is, in reality, the topdog – an outsider with the best chance of landing a Democrat in Coleman’s Senate seat."