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Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough...

So there is some disagreement over the spectre of an Al Franken candidacy against Norm Coleman. Some people think that it would be great, others less so. I'm in the latter camp, although I didn't explain why.

Like I said before, I think Al Franken is quite funny. I have several of his books, I like his comedy, and I think he is good at what he does (since I never listen to his radio show on Air America, I can't really comment on that). But running for senate? That's not something I think I can agree with.

Yes, Jesse Ventura and Arnold won, as Luke points out in comments. However, as Chris said also in comments, Jesse and Arnold are completely different, and this is the truth. Jesse "ain't got time to bleed." Arnold talked about "terminating" the deficit and said that his opponents were "girlie-men." There is a certain segment of the population that laps up this tough-guy crap. After all, they were pretty successful movie actors; somebody was buying tickets to those things. Al Franken is not one of those people. Maybe there is a segment of the population that likes Stuart Smalley; even if there is, it's far smaller than that "other" segment of the population (nobody went and bought tickets to Al Franken's movie. I just don't see voters in Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids coming out and voting for Franken to prove a point like they did for Jesse, and there isn't anybody who will seriously argue differently.

Second, I hate it when parties draft or agitate for candidates that are famous. Especially if they don't have a long track record in politics. To me, all this does is scream out "Hey, everybody! Our party is so bereft of talent that we have to get a big-name candidate because we don't have anybody else!" Some people may argue that Franken does not fall into this category because he does have a history of political activism. He does and he doesn't. Yes, he's been attacking Republicans and conservatives for a while, but only recently has that led to a concerted effort on his part to campaign for Democrats. More importantly, this political activism is by and large not in Minnesota. He has moved here, yes, but that's a recent development. While it may not be entirely accurate to say that Franken is a liberal Hollywood carpetbagger, that's not going to stop Republicans from saying so anyway.

Norm Coleman is a spineless blob out there who doesn't seem to have any principles to speak of, except for maybe "Watch out for number one." I think the candidate that could best campaign against Norm is a strong candidate that can clearly articulate his or her values and point out that they match the values of the vast majority of Minnesotans, as opposed to Norm whose values change depending on the weather and the polls. Franken has his strengths, but I don't see him running this kind of campaign. Can his beliefs and values connect with the voters? I'm pretty unsure of that.

It would be a mistake to ignore the positives of a Franken campaign. Of course, such a campaign would instantly be high-profile, making it probably one of the top tier races to go along with the presidential campaign. Along with that comes the money: a high-profile campaign like this would undoubtedly bring in a lot of money, for both sides. There would be no danger of Franken's message getting lost in the noise.

However, I think there are a lot of good Democratic candidates out there who could run a very good race against Norm and win, and do it by running a good campaign that connects with voters. Sure, it may not draw the attention and money that a Franken campaign could draw, but star power is not all there is to winning office.

As great a comedian and writer Franken is, he definitely has not sold me on Franken the candidate. Maybe in a few years if he shows that he is serious about settling in Minnesota and getting involved in the political scene from the ground up. I think Minnesota is still a place where voters want to see a candidate come in and earn their votes, instead of buying them.


At 10:43 PM, February 27, 2006, Anonymous FBO said...

I'm interested in your comment that there are many other good DFL candidates to run against Coleman. Who are they? I'm not trying to be snide, but although I don't like millionaire or celebrity candidates any more than the next progressive, we do have a gap in terms of candidate development. Who is ready to step up? Let's name names.

At 5:34 PM, February 28, 2006, Blogger Wm said...

and don't say "R. T. Rybak"

At 9:15 AM, March 01, 2006, Anonymous AHW said...

I find it odd that in your argument against Franken for Senate you neglect to mention the issue of what kind of Senator he would be. Has that lost all meaning?; or is "electibility" and Republican reaction the only factors in deciding who the Democrats should nominate. I don't know about you, but today too many career Democratic politicians have let me down. I always urge intellectuals, writers, and activists to throw their hats into the ring and get some fresh discourse into politics. Franken is articulate, principled, and funny (which is an enlightening quality in today's rigid, scripted political environment), and would make a great campaigner and a great Senator (which should go hand-in-hand).

At 3:59 PM, March 01, 2006, Blogger Hammer said...

One more positive for Franken: he's a very, very smart guy.

One more negative for Franken: he cries way too easily.

At 1:19 PM, August 03, 2006, Anonymous Kelsey said...

If you never listen to his radio show, how can you say that he won't be a good candidate? He has sound judgement, he's well-informed, and yes, he adds humor, but that's so people see that politicians aren't always stuffy.

And I'm from Coon Rapids... you'd be surprised how many people out here actually listen to his radio show, read his books, and like what he says and what he does. He's an honest, good man... we need more of those people in Congress.


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