Saturday, December 20, 2008

Time for Coleman to step aside and let the healing begin

After fighting a series of bitter legal battles to ensure that every vote in the Minnesota race for the U.S. Senate, Al Franken is poised to win and become the 59th Democratic Senator in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans are already busy whining about a "stolen election," but consider the following. Two politicians are running for a political office. One politician is doing everything they can to make certain that every legal vote that was cast is counted. The other politician is trying to block otherwise legal votes on the basis of various technicalities, and most of his challenges are being thrown out when they are tested in court. Which of these politicians is trying to "steal" this election?

There is a powerful lesson for Democrats in this election. In the last two decades Republicans have built their electoral success on a combination of suppressing the vote in general, while driving a powerful turnout from their small (and shrinking) base. If no one votes except for the far right wing, then the far right wing gets to run the country. If no one is willing to fight back, you can disenfranchise all the voters you want to, and that's precisely what Republicans have tried to do.

Thankfully, in 2006 and 2008, the Democratic Party seems to have discovered a winning antidote for the Republican Party's voter-suppression tactics. Aggressive voter-registration drives expanded the pool of voters. Online fundraising provided funds to offset the GOP's big money donors. Tireless organization created a cadre of volunteers that swamped the GOP's handful of (mostly paid) "volunteers." Most importantly, and as a result of the combination of organizing and fund-raising, Al Franken was able to field a larger and better team of attorneys to knock down Norm Coleman's attempts to disenfranchise enough Minnesota voters to hang onto his Senate seat.

In less than two years voters will go to the polls again. If the Republican Party tries to run their same "suppress the vote" game plan again in 2010, it will be a bloodbath for the GOP. Democrats only need a net pick up of one U.S. Senate seat to achieve 60 seats in the senate. If Democrats get to the magic number of 60, they can impose cloture at any time, ending once and for all the Republican Party's ability to block reform and fairness. Three Republican senators have signaled they will retire rather than face re-election in 2010. Others are potentially vulnerable, and will be even more so if the Republicans try to obstruct the Democratic Party's reforms and attempts to clean up George W. Bush's messes.

So, for me personally, as a Democratic activist, I am really hoping that Republicans continue their current "Veruca Salt" strategy: whining, crying, stamping their feet, and generally demanding that they get whatever they want regardless of how voters voted.

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