Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Al Franken gives Senate Democrats the magic 60
Yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected all counts of the legal case that former Senator Norm Coleman brought to contest the results of the election last November to determine the Senator from Minnesota. Coleman finally conceded the race and congratulated Minnesota's soon-to-be junior Senator, Al Franken. Mr. Franken will be the 60th Democrat in the US Senate. And, in the Senate, 60 is a magic number.
The right wing base is crying foul, of course. In their minds, this election was stolen. After the initial tally, Norm Coleman was ahead by 206 votes. But after the recount, including all the legal maneuverings over the validity of various ballots, Al Franken's tally surpassed Coleman's total by 225 votes (out of some 3 million cast).
But the differences between this election and the travesty that occurred in Florida in 2000 are significant. First of all, in Minnesota, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty did not direct his Secretary of State to "cast as wide a net as possible" when purging voters (mostly black, Democratic voters) from the voter rolls as did Junior's brother, Jeb. Secondly, Minnesota's Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, was not a campaign chairman for Al Franken. In 2000, Florida's Secretary of State was the infamous Katherine Harris who, in addition to her duties overseeing the state election, was serving as Junior's state campaign chairwoman.
None of that will satisfy them. They'll believe what they believe. As long as the rest of us continue to reject their version of reality, things will be alright.
But, going back to the subject of Al Franken being the magic number 60, there is good news, and there is bad news.
Here's the good news: Republicans have their power in the US Senate significantly diminished. Their most potent legislative weapon, up to this point, has been the filibuster. This procedural tool allows for Senators to keep debate open on a particular piece of legislation unless 60 senators vote for cloture. Therefore, Franken's election means Republicans cannot sustain a filibuster without some crossover votes.
Here's the bad news: Instead of Republicans, we now have Democrats. No one should expect that the Democrats, in their new position of dominance, will stay above the ethical morass that has been the home of Republicans ever since Newt Gingrich and gang won congressional majorities back in 1994.
(For the record, I am a registered Democrat. But that is more the result of revulsion toward Republicans than support for Democrats.)
Anyway, in the short term, I think, this is good for the country. President Obama was elected because he advocated a change of direction from that set by Junior and the neo-conservatives. With a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and a dominant majority in the House and with Rahm Emmanuel twisting arms, the President can probably get nearly all of his agenda passed. After all, that's what the voters wanted.
This might be good for the GOP, too. The Republican party, with their obstructionist tactics, seemed not to have understood how utterly their views were rejected by voters. When they begin to fully comprehend how repulsive they are to the majority of Americans, moderate elements in their party can start to pry the reactionary forces (those I call the neo-Confederates) from the levers of power within their own party.
As Al Franken might say: Good luck with that, you schmucks!