I personally put Al Franken in the Senate

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Today is Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s Birthday. In honor of that, I’m reposting this historically accurate and important essay, which first appeared on this blog on April 23, 2009 at 3:56PM:

I personally put Al Franken in the Senate

Al Franken is about to be seated as the Junior Senator from Minnesota after a long and costly battle between loser Norm Coleman and Senator Franken. Al won the election by just a few hundred votes, and three of those votes are mine.

So, we have me and about 100 other people just like me to thank for overthrowing the Coleman Regime. Let this be a lesson to all of you who have the opportunity to vote and do not, or who have the opportunity to go out and work for a few hours for a candidate but do not. You are missing out.

How did I get three (or maybe more) votes for Al? Well, one of them was me. I voted for him, so that’s one vote. The other two were trickier.

For months before the election, numerous volunteers carried out a well organized campaign on behalf of a number of Democratic Party candidates. During this time, I did not do that much for Al. I blogged for him, and I donated some money, went to one fund raiser, and so on, but most of my grassroots work was for my local congressional candidate, Ashwin Madia. But the way things are organized here, you end up doing stuff for the whole ticket, so I found myself on the phone talking to people about Madia, Franken and Obama. For several weeks, most of those phone calls were to people who either hated Democrats or were already voting for the Democrats. I don’t think I convinced anyone to change their mind, and I probably didn’t convince anyone who was not planning to vote to go out and cast their balllot. But, I and thousands of other volunteers did, incrementally, add important detail to the database off of which we were making these calls. Which led eventually to the moment of truth.

The moment of truth was the weekend before election, when this database is used to deploy volunteers across the landscape to personally visit likely Democratic Ticket voters to make sure they are on board, make sure they know when and where to vote, and make sure they are really going to go and do it.

It was a breezy, sunny day with a lot of dead leaves laying around all over the place. The leaves are good because they bring people out of their houses. This way you can walk around on the streets and talk to people without having to knock on every single door. Most people you talk to while canvassing are in fact inside their houses and you’ve got to knock on the doors, but if you can get someone outside raking their leaves and don’t have to ring their doorbell the conversation almost always goes better because they feel less intruded upon.

So one of the votes I got was simple. This was a person who was totally into voting for Franken (and Obama and Madia). She was a fairly recent immigrant from East Africa. She had been informed, I think by a Republican Operative, that she could vote on line, and thus was planning to be out of town. I helped her to understand that this was not true, and got her to change her plans, and showed her where to vote and so on. I’m pretty certain she went and voted for Franken because of this conversation, and otherwise, may not have.

The other vote was a bit tricker. I was heading for one of the houses of possible Franken supporters but the guy who lived there was out in front raking leaves. So we started talking. He was a recently retired police officer. I started the usual patter by asking if he was going to vote for Madia.

“Sure, I like him. Definitely voting for him.”

Then I asked about Franken.

“No. What an asshole.”

He did say he’d be voting for Obama. On further questioning, he told me that he had gone to school with Franken, and that he was a total jerk, and he just couldn’t bring himself to vote for the guy. I agreed, hey, if you’re going to be an asshole in grade school, you’ve gotta pay the consequences later on when you want to run for Senator. Some people won’t vote for you.

And I left that issue to the side (for the moment) and we started talking about other things. We talked about veterans and the war, education, health care, all the issues of the day, and he had a pretty much straight down the line Democratic Farmer Labor party position on each one. As does Franken, for the most part.

Then we got to the idea of the Congress becoming Democratic and Obama winning. We talked about how the house was going to be overwhelmingly Democratic, but that it would be really close in in the Senate. Without mentioning Franken by name, we talked about how the difference between a filibusterer-busting majority of 60 and a not quite adequate majority of 59 would be one senator. We talked about how some of the races were going to be really close, and this could come down to just a few votes.

We had covered a lot of ground, and we stood there for a moment catching our breath, silently watching the leaves he had raked up redeploying themselves across the lawn in the erratic northeasterly Fall breeze that reminds us Minnesotans that Winter is never far away. Silently, we just let our own thoughts have their way for a moment or two.

Then I said to him, “Your voting for Al, arent’ you …” Not a question. Just a friendly statement.

“Yea. I will,” he said. “Damn him.”

“It will be funny if he wins by one vote,” I said.

“Yea. It would,” he said. And I walked away.

And at roughly the same time, on the same afternoon, one hundred other Democrats each stepped solemnly away from the lawn or front porch of a voter who, because of the conversation they just had, was now going to vote for Al.

It is too bad, in a way, that 99 of us didn’t fail to do our jobs that day. Because if Al actually did win by one vote … well, that would be really funny.

Photo courtesy of Chad Davis

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