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Nick Coleman: Can't we please bring an end to the Great Mud Fight of 2008?

  • Article by: NICK COLEMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • January 5, 2009 - 11:01 PM

The state Canvassing Board, meeting Monday in an underground mausoleum, certified the results of the recount in the Great Mud Fight of 2008 between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Is our nightmare over? Nope.

The Canvassing Board consisted of four judges who left their robes at home but wore the gravity of the Dred Scott decision on their faces, plus Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who has become as familiar to Minnesotans as Dick Enrico of Second Wind fame. The board took just nine minutes to wrap up the most painful campaign since Hannibal crossed the Alps and was so eager to put the Wreck of '08 behind us that Ritchie convened the meeting at 2:28 p.m. -- two minutes before the appointed time. By 2:37, it was over:

Franken the Foul Mouthed had snatched victory by 225 votes -- one-twentieth of a vote per precinct. In the Year of Obama, any Democrat not on Perp Watch should have won in a walk, but the DFL went Hollywood and picked a carpetbagger comedian who couldn't remember how to be funny -- or personable -- on the campaign trail.

What followed after Election Day was weeks of paper-rock-scissors decision-making by volunteers who attempted to keep straight faces while trying to read the ballots and minds of voters who filled all the blanks or wrote notes on their ballot: "Milk, cat food, toilet paper, Norm Franken."

If this was an interview for a real job, the best candidate would have called somebody up and told them where to stick it. But voting is "sacred," we were told. Which I wish someone would have told us when Jesse Ventura was on the ballot. So the priests of elections sifted through the entrails and sacrificed spinster election judges in Hubbard County and eventually determined: The gods are crazy. Al Franken wins.

Or not. The Canvassing Board, unanimous and all non-partisany, refused to claim that it had done anything useful.

"We are not doing anything today that declares winners or losers," Ritchie said. I expected an angry crowd to rush the podium. After the most painstaking examination since Torquemada put heretics on the rack we aren't declaring a winner?

Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson declared that he was proud to have been part of "an important and amazing effort." That didn't do diddly.

"I don't think we have witnessed the last chapter," he said. What? We haven't? You must be kidding, Magnuson.

Please. Make It Stop.

Norm Coleman's lawyers descended to say that they will sue to force another full recount, or a partial one, or maybe just to ask the voters to put bamboo slivers under our fingernails. The process, they said, is broken and a sham and a woman named Phyllis in Fergus Falls lost her grocery list at the poll.

Franken followed with a press conference in the slush outside his downtown Minneapolis digs. But as passersby stopped to ask what the ruckus was about, there was not widespread joy in Mudville.

"Is that Franken?" asked Daisy Mae Johnson, 53, who was coming from the unemployment office after losing her job as a counselor at a drug treatment center. "Forget about him. I couldn't vote for anyone like that, but I'll pray for him, if he gets the job. This is ridiculous how long this is taking."

"Norman Coleman is finally out? Hooray," shouted Asli Mohamed, a Somali woman who dropped a bag of groceries on the sidewalk and clapped. "I am so happy! I have been waiting for this a long, long time!"

"I don't care," said a third person, Patrick Bartner, 40. "I can live with it, either way."

There we are in a nutshell: One vote for Norm, one for Franken, one "Who Cares?"

Stop the madness.

On the morning after the election, Norm said Franken should forgo a recount because it would postpone "the healing process" after a brutal campaign that had left both sides emotionally, physically and financially drained.

"After a certain point in time, we've got to put the election stuff behind us," Norm said, and "work together as Americans." If the shoe were on the other foot -- and a recount showed he lost -- he said he would concede, as long as the recount was done "the Minnesota way."

The Minnesota way, he said, is "a respectful review" of the balloting, with "challenges, where appropriate, but without feeding that divide that has already caused damage to the body politic." He said the election had been "clean and fair" and was an example of why Minnesotans "take pride in the system we have in this state."

We still can. The recount was done "the Minnesota Way." In spades. Norm lost.

It is time for him to take his own advice. And give it up.

ncoleman@startribune.com • 612-673-4400

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