The Oct. 26 Star Tribune editorial endorsing Sen. Norm Coleman began, "Count this newspaper among the Minnesota voices that long for a lessening of partisan polarization and a return to constructive problem-solving in Washington." It continued, "We bank our hope for a less polarized America with Coleman, despite accord with DFL challenger Al Franken on some important issues."
But even as Coleman embraces bipartisanship and eschews attack politics, he is running a second campaign: an aggressive behind-the-scenes race to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate Republicans' campaign arm. Coleman sought the job unsuccessfully once before. So while he's claiming that he abhors partisanship, he is actively seeking the role of the Republicans' chief attack dog. As NRSC chair, Coleman's job would be to attack and unseat Democrats -- not work across the aisle with them.
Worse, the NRSC that Coleman wants to head is behind some of the most vicious smears that Minnesotans have seen in this election. For starters, it besmirched Sen. Paul Wellstone's memory by mischaracterizing Al Franken's loving impersonation of his friend Paul as an example of "anger."
This week, the NRSC's most recent mail piece is packaged as a children's comic book -- but it delivers vile and misleading attacks about decidedly adult subjects. The NRSC sent that mail so that your children would read it and ask you about rape and pornography -- all in the name of smearing Franken.
Maybe Coleman is right for the attack-dog job. He showed his chops as a partisan pit bull when he shilled for the Bush-Cheney campaign by attacking Sen. John Kerry in 2004. Coleman's behavior crossed the line so far that this editorial page said that Coleman had "demeaned the office and embarrassed his constituents."
And Coleman has been running perhaps the most negative campaign in Minnesota history, evading the issues while wallowing in personal attacks. Only when the polls showed that Minnesotans were overwhelmingly blaming Coleman for his race's negative tone did he declare himself against negative ads -- with a quick wink to his allies, who immediately ratcheted up their attacks on Franken. Coleman and his allies have spent $7 million on negative advertising, much of it since Coleman's convenient epiphany.
Coleman's long record of fierce and unabashed partisanship speaks for itself. His record of supporting President Bush nearly 90 percent of the time in Washington also speaks for itself -- and that record is the one that really hurts, because it's the one that really counts. Coleman has energetically supported the Bush administration's failed policies: deregulating Wall Street, privatizing Social Security, endless war in Iraq, obscene profits for Big Oil, tax giveaways for the wealthy ... the list goes on.
Minnesotans are ready for change. We need change. We deserve a senator who will stand behind his own principles and record, not throw mud on his opponent while he dodges both his record and the real issues that affect our lives.
But while Coleman has desperately tried to distract Minnesotans from his abysmal record, Franken has been offering real, concrete plans to restore prosperity for the middle class. From ideas for lowering health-care costs and the cost of college, to energy independence, to tax breaks for middle-class working families, to creating high-paying 21st-century jobs, he has been connecting with Minnesotans on the issues we care about the most. Minnesotans who care about getting out of the mess that Bush, Coleman and the Republicans have gotten us into will vote for the one candidate who will put the middle class first: Al Franken.
Brian Melendez is chair of the Minnesota DFL Party.