Minnesota. Fine state. Minneapolis-St. Paul. Prairie Home Companion. Hubert Humphrey. Democrat Farmer Labor Party. Eugene McCarthy. Paul Wellstone.
For millennials, you probably think there is nothing out of the ordinary about politics - particularly democrat - politics in Minnesota. Ah, but that's where you're wrong.
I would suggest, from personal experience, that Eugene McCarthy may have been one of the most significant figures in American politics over the last 50 years. Unassuming, avuncular, apolitical in appearance, McCarthy was a guy who challenged the status quo - in the form of Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War - and ultimately forced LBJ to withdraw from a re-election bid. His candidacy was viewed as frivolous, a distraction, but it galvanized the anti war left in a stunning way.
He also paved the way for Robert Kennedy. Kennedy was reluctant to take Johnson on, given his brother's relationship to LBJ (although it was patently obvious that neither brother could stomach the Texan), but with McCarthy taking the early arrows, Kennedy saw an opportunity to assume the mantle of anti war activists to take Johnson out.
We know the tragic story which ensued, but Gene McCarthy is known more as a footnote than the heroic figure he really was. In fact, I would suggest that McCarthy was a Founding Father of the modern democrat party which has become uniformly left wing and thoroughly anti war. In McCarthy's day, the party was far less doctrinaire and remarkably diverse compositionally. There were military hawks, members who favored tax cuts and reductions in government spending and - holy mackerel - clinging segregationists who had led the charge against voting rights and integration.
Yes, they were democrats, not Republicans.
My, oh my, how times have changed, right? Now, we are blessed with one of the century's blazing intellects as a United States Senator from Minnesota. With all that wonderful history. The Honorable Al Franken. Author of insightful political analyses, like "Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot". Or my personal favorite, "Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them". Is there anyone alive who watched Al Franken on Saturday Night Live who didn't cring a bit when he did his Stuart Smiley routine? Humor was clearly not his professional destiny, so he turned to the next best thing.
Al is the epitome of the 21st century Democratic Party. There is nothing even remotely bipartisan about what he does or says. He is the #1 Senator in that esteemed body to fall in line with his party. He votes with democrats 98.8% of the time. It is interesting to note, if he joins candidates Clinton and Sanders on wanting to rid politics of "big money" (and his 98.8% voting affirmation would suggest as much) that his largest campaign contributor is a law firm, Susman Godfrey, specializing in "commercial litigation", a very fancy term for tort attorneys. They have offices in Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.
What?? Not Minneapolis? I mean, that doesn't make any sense.
You and I cannot fathom what might link Senator Al Franken to a law firm that is his largest campaign donor and does not maintain an office in his home state. Can we assume, perhaps, that the industry of tort trial lawyers which is deeply intertwined with the democrat party and resists all efforts undertaken by Republican to limit tort litigation and damage awards might be inclined to support someone like Stuart Smiley? Doggone it. People just like me!
Al Franken is the personification of what's sick about American politics in 2015. Hyperpartisan, bombastic in his dismissal of opponents, blindly in lock step with his president, unconcerned seemingly with his active participation in doubling our debt, nearly invisible when it comes to meaningful legislation. In all fairness, Franken seems to be pretty solid in his support of veterans issues and all credit to him for that. But his support of other legislative initiatives are predictably and strictly ideological.
Do not misunderstand: I could just as easily have picked an " establishment" Republican like John McCain, but, wouldn't you know it, he votes with his party only 81% of the time. It is a sad factual commentary that Republicans are far more likely to join their colleagues on legislation than vice versa. And no one captures that with the singularity of Senator Al Franken.
If you kids check out Gene McCarthy on your smart devices, you will read about a quiet, humble man who was willing to sacrifice his political career and challenge a sitting President from his own party because he believed deeply in principle. His affectionate nickname was "Clean Gene" because he seemed to be uniquely unsullied.
Today's Democrats won't even challenge their sitting President to follow constitutional mandates to present treaties to the Senate for advise and consent; no individual with the courage to speak out against a President who follows the laws he chooses and allows those with which he disagrees to go unenforced; and who mock their opponents for their willingness to challenge their own party's leadership on matters of principle.
Nothing ever will change until lemmings like Al Franken are swept from power. We need more men like Gene McCarthy, whether you agree with their positions on policy or not, because they challenge the status quo and are not led by their noses with threats of losing seniority. Voters want to know what candidates really stand for and they utterly reject poll-tested platitudes and stump speeches read from a TelePrompTer.
You'll recognize a political player with real principles. They are generally solitary figures, rejected by their own party's establishment because their causes are intended to bring down those in positions of authority. Drawing attention to their cause is all that matters and they are willing to sacrifice their own positions of power or authority for the cause's sake.
That definition is the complete antithesis of Al Franken and others like him. Including Donald Trump and, especially, Hillary. But there are people on the political scene who do fit this definition. And they must supplant those who do not in order for this ship to begin a change in direction.