Sunday, May 1, 2011

You May Now Call Him Senator Franken

Originally Posted on July 7, 2009

Who knew he would become a United States Senator?

When I was a kid, Al Franken was one half of the comedy duo with Tom Davis. They appeared regularly on “Saturday Night Live” for extra comedy context in their skits. I thought they weren’t funny. Perhaps I never got their humor.

Franken continued doing solo comedy gigs on television, film and in print. Then, he turned his comedy into serious political discussion from the left side of the spectrum. This turned into more books and the prime spot on the Air America radio network. While he was going toe-to-toe with Bill O’Reilly, many of his listeners and fans wondered whether Franken would consider running for political office.

After a year’s worth of campaigning, a close Election Day tally and a prolonged legal challenge to the vote itself, Alan Stuart Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior member of the United States Senate.

Since Election Day, the United States Senate had 99 of its 100 seats occupied. They also had to deal with another contentious seating of a senator in President Barack Obama’s old place on the floor. Yet, the Democratic majority held onto 59 seats waiting for the outcome from Minnesota’s electoral challenge. The Democrats needed 60 members to stop a filibuster; however, it would still be not enough votes to pass legislation requiring two-thirds of the votes inside the Senate.

Without a second colleague, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) was the state’s lone representative in Congress’ upper chamber. While the President was pushing legislation to right the economy’s ship and introduce new concepts in healthcare, among many issues, Senator Klobuchar acted alone for the people of my state. She stood strong for our state while now-former Senator Norm Coleman preened and whined his way to reseat himself in Washington.

In the end, Franken prevailed by a thin line. A few hundred votes made the difference, but a 5-0 decision by the state’s Supreme Court sealed the deal.

A New York-native, Franken grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. Educated at the private Blake School and Harvard, Franken never forgot where he came from. Even as he married Franni out of Harvard, he would come back to Minneapolis to raise their two children. It would be in Minneapolis where Franken would discover his talent being an entertainer through his old Blake School classmate Davis and a stint at the Brave New Workshop.

Franni certainly witnessed a lot. Franken stuck by his family as they continued to root in Minneapolis. Sometimes outlandish, sometimes astute, you knew where Franken came from. You saw that in his campaign. He asked everyone to vote for him and made it genuine. That was the measure of Franken’s character: No arrogance, just forthright.

He is like me: A transplant to Minnesota with a Jewish heritage. However, he has the advantage of growing up in the area as a youth. In a state that has seen its share of transplants from around the country and beyond, it just seems appropriate that he would become the heir to the late-Senator Paul Wellstone’s legacy, another Minnesota transplant with a Jewish heritage.

But, don’t expect Franken to break out Wellstone’s green bus during his time in Washington. Franken’s style will be seen as a hard-worker fighting for the common Minnesotan. There’s no pretense in how he goes about his business. His show business career – forget about it!

It’s been a long time since I took pride in voting for two United States Senators representing the state of my residence such as Klobuchar (in 2006) and Franken. Not since 1992 when I was privileged to vote for Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) back in California. Not since both Feinstein and Boxer had I looked to a Senator to be my voice in Congress. I know there’s a lot of expectations here, but it is justified: There is now a Congress that can right this country’s ship back towards respectability, prosperity and equality.

Good luck, Senator Franken!

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