Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Minnesota recount

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Wonderful article on the recount by Matt Taibbi. It begins:

On a Saturday in mid-November, Al Franken stands in front of a roomful of volunteers at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The former comedian and talk-show host knows that his campaign troops are fired up over the recount of his race to unseat the state’s Republican senator, Norm Coleman. The official tally ended in a virtual tie, with Coleman leading by only 215 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast — a margin of seven-thousandth of one percent. To Franken’s campaign volunteers, it seems like Florida 2000 all over again.

The ballot recount, which is mandated by state law, is expected to last well into December — keeping painfully alive the already insanely protracted season of electoral combat between Democrats and Republicans. But rather than throwing red meat to the assembled volunteers, Franken is actually trying to calm them down. Walking back and forth, he leads them in a mock war chant that tweaks the old red-blue outrage:

“What do we want?” Franken shouts.
“PATIENCE!” the volunteers respond.
“When do we want it?” Franken asks.
“NOW!” the crowd demands.

Franken turns to former Clinton adviser Paul Begala, whom he has invited to the meeting to talk about the recount. “You like that?” he says, beaming. “It’s the only dada version of that meme.”

Here’s where things start to sound a little less like Florida in 2000 and a little more like Grant Park in 2008. In the eight years since the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George Bush, there has been very little humor anywhere, on either side of the hottest political battles: Whether it was the launch of the war in Iraq, or the opening night of Fahrenheit 9/11, or the trial of Scooter Libby, the operating vibe has always been earnest, bitter anger. When it came to Blue against Red, you just didn’t joke about how much you hated the other side; you were just too pissed off to laugh about What They Did to This Country.

But there’s something different in the air now, after the election of Barack Obama. All that hating shit just seems old somehow. Republicans are in shock, while Democrats are stumbling around with goofy smiles on their faces, like dental patients walking out of the office still high on laughing gas. For both sides, there are other, more serious things to worry about, like the imminent collapse of the entire system of international capitalism. Which is what makes Al Franken seem almost the perfect person to be carrying the battlefield torch for the Democratic Party in the first Obama-era skirmish between blue and red America.

Like Obama — and in sharp contrast to other 2008 contenders like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, who were all wound so asshole-tight and were in such desperate psychological need of victory that they went to extraordinary rhetorical extremes to denounce their opponents and their supporters — Franken is not imbuing the process with unnecessary drama. In tune with the Age of Obama, he seems content to let the chips fall where they may.

“I have a lot of confidence in Minnesota,” he says. “And I think this process will do a lot to restore faith in the system.”

I try to goad Franken into saying something nasty about his opponent, but he won’t go there. He only gets really animated when he mentions that his post-election schedule now allows him to have a proper dinner. “Last night, for instance, I had cauliflower,” he says. “And zucchini. And lamb chops.” Then, as I’m in the middle of asking the next question, he interrupts me as though remembering something important. “I said zucchini, right?”

On the Republican side, meanwhile, the far less cheery Coleman hasn’t gone for any of this post-Obama bipartisan feel-good bullshit, and no wonder — having lost a humiliating gubernatorial race to wrestler Jesse Ventura 10 years ago, he now sits on the verge of becoming the first politician in American history to lose a major office to two different TV entertainers.

This nightmare scenario pushed the incumbent into full-blown war mode the instant a recount appeared inevitable. His immediate strategy was to attack the perfectly normal and legal recount process as illegitimate and “suspicious,” in particular implying that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is a left-wing radical bent on delivering the race to Franken. Republicans even went so far as to issue a press release accusing Ritchie of receiving support from the Communist Party of America.

It was behavior straight out of the red-blue death-match ethos of the past 15 years, in which Democrats and Republicans alike were willing to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of things like elections, confirmation hearings or court rulings to serve partisan ends. The notion that an elected official can’t count votes in an impartial fashion or conduct a lawful criminal investigation simply because he happens to belong to one party or another ought to be antithetical to our view of government, but we have gone there over and over in recent years, training the public to be almost reflexively paranoid about the legitimacy of government action. From independent prosecutors (Ken Starr) to the Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore) to bipartisan congressional investigations (the 9/11 Commission) to the attorney general (Alberto Gonzales), no wing of government was safe from charges of partisan politicization. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2008 at 8:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

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