Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Franken, My Dear, Gives a Damn

Nearly eight months simmering, we finally have to give grudging thanks to ex-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman for showing the kind of sense that Republicans claim but can't often show. He conceded last November's election to Al Franken when the Minnesota Supreme Court rang the gong on him.

What this definitely does not mean is:
  • Having a theoretical 60-vote margin in the Senate changes the game
  • Democratic Senators will suddenly show honor and courage
A standard game played by Republicans at national and state levels is to shake the big, bad liberal doll in the air to scare the gullible. Here in Massachusetts, the standard lie is unless citizens elect a Republican governor, there will no check on rampant tax-and-spend Dems. That is not only laughable from the perspective of Republicans in Washington, legislative and executive branch alike, being borrow-and-spend wastrels. The local joke is that our many DINOs are at least as socially and fiscally conservative as their GOP counterparts here and elsewhere. Moreover, the GOP governors are far less likely than Dem speakers of the House and Senate presidents to derail progressive and liberal legislation.
Pic Note: I claim fair use of a small portion of Star Tribune photog Brian Peterson's snap of Al Franken and his wife Franni Franken. They are either a fun or a scary couple or both. She looks like she makes a mean Jell-O mold.
Likewise, in the U.S. Senate, Dems are not about to suddenly become brave, progressive and equality minded because a comedian from Minneapolis will join their clown troupe. They have shown a decided lack of leadership on fundamental protections for broad classes of citizens without any help or hindrance from Republicans.

Instead, Franken's tenure will quickly get over the 30-plus week puerile delay by Coleman and his GOP puppet masters. When he comes in as the most junior of Senators, he won't have impact either as a policy maker or even a swing vote. Don't expect the theoretical 60-vote, filibuster buster majority to mean much.

Only if the Dem Senators decide they really care about civil rights (think DOMA and don't-ask/don't-tell for two) will there be some positive change. We have a fairly timid and only moderately progressive President, who has yet to lead any charges against discrimination or for constitutional protections.

However, emotionally it is still good to have the chalk marks up on the good side of the board. We still are missing ailing Bob Byrd and Ted Kennedy, who are rarely able to vote or even show. Obama and the Senate leaders still need to horse swap with the GOP Senators to do anything.

Without GOP cooperation, there's no 60 votes for anything. Now though the least doctrinaire of the Republicans have an out. They can say they knew the Dems has the votes (even if it was debatable) to excuse their lack of opposition to decent legislation.

Welcome, Al. I hope you become a player in the next two years or so.
Thursday Follow-Up: For those we like vetting, the NYT provides quotes and examples of how limited this 60-seat majority is apt to be.

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