With the news that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is going to appoint his Lieutenant Governor to the Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Senator Al Franken comes a little bit of a history lesson.
In 1976, Governor Wendell Anderson of Minnesota was faced with a dilemma. He had to appoint someone to fill out the remaining two years of newly-elected Vice President Walter Mondale's Senate seat. He could have picked any Democrat in the state, but, instead, he chose himself. That's right. A sitting governor made it so that he would leave that position to take a Senate seat.
Minnesotans erupted in outrage (well, whatever constituted outrage back then). It was not fair, you see, for him to send himself off to Washington D.C. Anderson spent two years in the Senate and was then beaten by Rudy Boschwitz. It was an object lesson in political maneuvering and ambition getting the best of a rising star in Democratic politics. Anderson effectively ended himself as a political entity in the state.
Rudy Boschwitz served in the Senate from 1978 to 1991. He's the man that the great Paul Wellstone defeated in order to return that seat to Democratic control. Without Paul Wellstone, you wouldn't have Senator Al Franken.
The seat occupied by Mondale and Anderson that ultimately went to Wellstone and eventually to Franken was once occupied by Hubert Humphrey. It's the seat that Franken deserves to win back once everything settles down. There's a lot of history there, and there's one thing you should know about the men who have occupied it. They all had something a little nutty about them, something that made them a part of the political scene in Minnesota that is hard to define. This is a seat held by distinguished Democrats and, for one term, a complete ass named Norm Coleman who deserved to go down in flames.
No Republican should hold that seat. It shouldn't go to Tim Pawlenty, the governor who basically bankrupted the state and ran the most dismal campaign for the presidency since, I don't know, Harold Stassen. That seat belongs to Al Franken.
Americans love a second act. Minnesotans love a comeback. A year from now, when everyone realizes that Franken gave up his seat for the good of the Democratic Party, he should enter the primary race and see where he stands with the voters. A humbler, funnier Al Franken will appear and a redemption story will emerge. No one can say that he didn't face the music for what he did and no one can say that he's not worthy of the U.S. Senate if the voters send him back to Washington D.C.
I have a feeling that the mood will shift and that people will see that Franken is all about service and sacrifice. I have a feeling that the accusations against him are going to wither and die in the face of scrutiny. I have a feeling that there were misunderstandings. I also have a feeling that Al will be a little less handsy and a little smarter about who he gets close to when he goes out on the campaign trail. The voters will get to apply a little Minnesota fairness to the equation. They will see that he didn't get a fair shake this year, and they can send a message to the people who conspired to destroy Franken's career.
Oh no ya don't!