Al Franken is about to be seated as the Junior Senator from Minnesota after a long and costly battle between loser Norm Coleman and Senator Franken. Al won the election by just a few hundred votes, and three of those votes are mine.

So, we have me and about 100 other people just like me to thank for overthrowing the Coleman Regime. Let this be a lesson to all of you who have the opportunity to vote and do not, or who have the opportunity to go out and work for a few hours for a candidate but do not. You are missing out.

How did I get three (or maybe more) votes for Al? Well, one of them was me. I voted for him, so that’s one vote. The other two were trickier.

For months before the election, numerous volunteers carried out a well organized campaign on behalf of a number of Democratic Party candidates. During this time, I did not do that much for Al. I blogged for him, and I donated some money, went to one fund raiser, and so on, but most of my grassroots work was for my local congressional candidate, Ashwin Madia. But the way things are organized here, you end up doing stuff for the whole ticket, so I found myself on the phone talking to people about Madia, Franken and Obama. For several weeks, most of those phone calls were to people who either hated Democrats or were already voting for the Democrats. I don’t think I convinced anyone to change their mind, and I probably didn’t convince anyone who was not planning to vote to go out and cast their balllot. But, I and thousands of other volunteers did, incrementally, add important detail to the database off of which we were making these calls. Which led eventually to the moment of truth.

The moment of truth was the weekend before election, when this database is used to deploy volunteers across the landscape to personally visit likely Democratic Ticket voters to make sure they are on board, make sure they know when and where to vote, and make sure they are really going to go and do it.

It was a breezy, sunny day with a lot of dead leaves laying around all over the place. The leaves are good because they bring people out of their houses. This way you can walk around on the streets and talk to people without having to knock on every single door. Most people you talk to while canvassing are in fact inside their houses and you’ve got to knock on the doors, but if you can get someone outside raking their leaves and don’t have to ring their doorbell the conversation almost always goes better because they feel less intruded upon.

So one of the votes I got was simple. This was a person who was totally into voting for Franken (and Obama and Madia). She was a fairly recent immigrant from East Africa. She had been informed, I think by a Republican Operative, that she could vote on line, and thus was planning to be out of town. I helped her to understand that this was not true, and got her to change her plans, and showed her where to vote and so on. I’m pretty certain she went and voted for Franken because of this conversation, and otherwise, may not have.

The other vote was a bit tricker. I was heading for one of the houses of possible Franken supporters but the guy who lived there was out in front raking leaves. So we started talking. He was a recently retired police officer. I started the usual patter by asking if he was going to vote for Madia.

“Sure, I like him. Definitely voting for him.”

Then I asked about Franken.

“No. What an asshole.”

He did say he’d be voting for Obama. On further questioning, he told me that he had gone to school with Franken, and that he was a total jerk, and he just couldn’t bring himself to vote for the guy. I agreed, hey, if you’re going to be an asshole in grade school, you’ve gotta pay the consequences later on when you want to run for Senator. Some people won’t vote for you.

And I left that issue to the side (for the moment) and we started talking about other things. We talked about veterans and the war, education, health care, all the issues of the day, and he had a pretty much straight down the line Democratic Farm Labor party position on each one. As does Franken, for the most part.

Then we got to the idea of the Congress becoming Democratic and Obama winning. We talked about how the house was going to be overwhelmingly Democratic, but that it would be really close in in the Senate. Without mentioning Franken by name, we talked about how the difference between a filibusterer-busting majority of 60 and a not quite adequate majority of 59 would be one senator. We talked about how some of the races were going to be really close, and this could come down to just a few votes.

We had covered a lot of ground, and we stood there for a moment catching our breath, silently watching the leaves he had raked up redeploying themselves across the lawn in the erratic northeasterly Fall breeze that reminds us Minnesotans that Winter is never far away. Silently, we just let our own thoughts have their way for a moment or two.

Then I said to him, “Your voting for Al, arent’ you …” Not a question. Just a friendly statement.

“Yea. I will,” he said. “Damn him.”

“It will be funny if he wins by one vote,” I said.

“Yea. It would,” he said. And I walked away.

And at roughly the same time, on the same afternoon, one hundred other Democrats each stepped solemnly away from the lawn or front porch of a voter who, because of the conversation they just had, was now going to vote for Al.

It is too bad, in a way, that 99 of us didn’t fail to do our jobs that day. Because if Al actually did win by one vote … well, that would be really funny.

Comments

  1. #1 Jadehawk
    April 23, 2009

    oh wow. I would not have the self-confidence and patience and communication skills to talk to people about voting like that.

  2. #2 Joel
    April 23, 2009

    So, when you say about to be seated. Does that mean Coleman is finally going to throw in the towel?

  3. #3 Matt Springer
    April 23, 2009

    It doesn’t really matter of Coleman throws in the towel or not. Franken has more votes, and the lead is certainly large enough to resist random perturbations by any conceivable recount method. Coleman’s been wasting everyone’s time for a while now, and his legal recourse is essentially exhausted.

  4. #4 David Lee
    April 23, 2009

    Good work. And your description was like some out of Prairie Home Companion. Let’s hope Franken gets seated soon and starts pushing the important issues.

  5. #5 Mark
    April 23, 2009

    I would like to think I played a small (very small) part in Franken’s victory, despite the fact that I live a long, long way away. I knew I could never get a decent senator elected where I live (Georgia), so I thought maybe I could help out in a state where there was at least a chance. So I sent money. And I did that even though I know if I ever sent a letter to him, it would be tossed because I’m not a resident. I don’t care.

  6. #6 Minnesota Central
    April 23, 2009

    THANKS !
    Actually, thanks to you and all the other volunteers that take the message via a one-on-one voter-to-voter approach. If you wonder why Congresswoman Bachmann gets re-elected, you now know the importance of committed volunteers … way to take a page out of the Theo-Con playbook !

    The question is did that leaf raker have a Coleman supporter stop by ? Or think if a Barkley supporter paid a visit … to convert someone from anti-Franken to supportive of Franken means you beat two candidates – Coleman and anybody-but-Coleman/Franken.

    That’s the question that Coleman has never answered …. Why did 58% of the people decide that someone else would be better than an incumbent Senator who served them for the past six years. No doubt a big part of Barkley’s 437,505 votes was from disappointed and previously MN-GOP supporters.

  7. #7 John Swindle
    April 23, 2009

    This is something I seldom have thought about… that a candidate I support and admire could be a jerk. Of course, it’s possible, but I’ve never been close enough to any candidate to know such a thing. I think I’d be rendered speechless if I learned something like that about Obama. I guess it’s only a little different than learning a bit too much about entertainers’ private lives… except that Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise don’t determine the country’s destiny. Still, since I didn’t have to go to school with Al Franken, I don’t care much that he might’ve been an unpleasant person. Considering the alternative (Coleman), Franken would have to be a lot worse than a jerk to lose my support.

    I am not a Minnesota resident, but that senate seat is important to all of us. So thanks for your efforts.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    April 23, 2009

    1) No, no new news on Coleman giving it up. I’m just assuming it will all end eventually.

    2) I don’t think Franken is a jerk. That guy did, and he may well have been in grade school. Who knows? But now he’s friendly, thoughtful, smart, funny, and that’s OK.

  9. #9 becca
    April 23, 2009

    “Al won the election by just a few hundred votes, and three of those votes are mine”
    Wait… Minnesota is Chicago now?

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    April 23, 2009

    Today is Talk Like Shakespeare Day in Chicago.

  11. #11 Jason
    April 24, 2009

    Weren’t all of us jerks in grade school? For those of you who say no, maybe we should ask your classmates, lol.

  12. #12 okey
    May 30, 2009

    thanks