Steve Berg’s commentary on Sen. Al Franken (“Who’s the real Al Franken?” Feb. 9) seemed in many ways to reflect the tragic political era that has gridlocked Washington, D.C. Berg seems to argue that Franken deserves re-election simply because he hasn’t embarrassed Minnesota during his time in office. Forgive me for expecting more.
During the past six years, Franken’s political handlers have, for the most part, curtailed his trademark caustic humor. Before his election, Franken had a storied career in television and a stint in talk radio, and he even penned an infamous book, “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.” Since joining the Senate, he’s let our state’s senior senator make a name for herself while he has stayed mostly on the sidelines.
Yet if Franken’s tenure thus far is any indication, he has little inclination to work with anyone who doesn’t share his own political views. A recent study on bipartisanship by the independent government transparency group GovTrack found that Franken was the least likely senator to sign on to legislation sponsored by someone from the other side of the aisle. GovTrack labeled him the most partisan senator on Capitol Hill, which, considering the decidedly partisan bent of many of his colleagues, is quite an accomplishment.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, by contrast, ranked 62nd out of 100 senators in her willingness to reach across partisan lines to solve problems. Clearly, these statistics from 2013 show quite different attitudes that Minnesota’s two senators take toward their jobs: Franken views politics as the art of partisan purity, while Klobuchar sees it as the art of the possible.
As Prof. Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota rightly pointed out in Berg’s column, Franken’s “fingerprints are all over [Obamacare].” Simply stated, without Franken, Obamacare never would have become law. His very presence in the Senate gave Democrats enough votes to override Republican opposition to the bill and pass it on a straight party-line vote.
While this law may be a crowning achievement for President Obama and Franken, it has been a nightmare for thousands of Minnesota families. They are furious about the federal and state government’s tragically incompetent implementation of the law, and the broken promises that allowed it to be passed in the first place. And they have every right to be furious. They were promised repeatedly by the president that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” But that wasn’t true for the 140,000 Minnesotans who received cancellation notices because of Obamacare.
I should know — I’m one of those Minnesotans.
As if canceled policies weren’t bad enough, a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week estimated that Obamacare would result in at least 2 million fewer Americans in the workforce. Experts at Americans for Tax Reform estimate that at least 50,000 of those 2 million will come from Minnesota — that’s equal to the entire city of Apple Valley.
But don’t judge Franken on one vote. In 2013, Congressional Quarterly’s analysis found that Franken voted with President Obama 100 percent of the time. And National Journal has consistently ranked Franken as one of the most liberal senators in Washington. As journalist Josh Kraushaar noted, “This isn’t new for Franken. He has ranked as one of the most liberal senators since he was first elected in 2008, coming in third in 2012, and he was an outspoken critic of conservatives before serving.”
The “real Al Franken” is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with Washington.
Annette Meeks is a Republican activist in Minneapolis.