Recount Update: And the loser is…all the rest of us

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by Rich Broderick • Whoever ultimately wins the Senate recount – and at this point, it looks like Al Franken will end up on top – it should be clear that, after the tens of millions of dollars expended by his and Norm Coleman’s campaigns, the final judgment has already been delivered.

Minnesotans don’t want either of these clowns representing us in Congress.

How is it possible, you might well ask, that we can come to the end of an election season that feels as if it began in the previous millennium and find ourselves with a winner who is clearly, in a larger sense, a loser? Even in our degraded lexicon, in which the definition of “democracy” has been reduced to mean nothing more than “voting” in an election,” this is a dismal, one might even say, abysmal, turn of events.

I’m not sure the GOP had a better candidate on hand this year than our probably soon-to-be-indicted senior Senator, Norm Coleman; the state party has pretty much driven out anyone to the left of Francisco Franco and/or possessing a degree of sanity greater than The Joker’s.

But the DFL certainly had a perfectly credible, upstanding, idealistic, often inspiring, albeit not well-known aspirant, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, who would have, excuse the expression, kicked Norm Coleman’s morally challenged ass.

Unfortunately, the DFL opted for a candidate who, in the party hacks’ shopworn wisdom, was deemed more “electable” purely on the grounds of celebrity and money. That Franken came with baggage far more crippling than a few unfunny forays into questionable humor writing was obvious long, long before the DFL state convention. But hey – the geniuses who run that party had heard of the guy (He was on TV! He was in a couple of movies!), he’d gone around raising money for DFL candidates the past several years, and he’d promised to raise a ton of money for his own campaign. All of which has netted him a very tentative lead of about 50 votes in a recount that is sure to be resolved in the courts only after months and months of costly litigation.

What a triumph of political acumen!

Despite the respectable showing by Independence Party candidate, Dean Barkley, we must not lose sight of the ways both the Republican and Democratic Parties have colluded to lock in place a two-party grip on political power at almost every level of government – a two-party system nowhere mandated or even mentioned in the Constitution (and, as I’ve argued in the past, very nearly the antithesis of what the Founders sought to establish).

Nationally we now have the farce of a Presidential debates commission staffed entirely by GOP and Democratic apparatchiks who get to choose which candidates are allowed to appear during forums broadcast on TV and radio frequencies that are, theoretically, the property of all Americans, not just officials of the two “major” parties. We also have the Republican and Democratic parties getting nearly $100 million of tax money — levied from a citizenry increasingly alienated from either party – to put on national conventions that are little more than political infomercials. You might be able to choose whether to buy a food dehydrator hawked on late-night TV. But you have no choice over whether you’re going to help underwrite the RNC and the DNC.

Here in Minnesota the two parties have sedulously worked together to raise the bar for third party participation, making it all but impossible for smaller third-parties like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party to field candidates, smeared third-party candidates, and, four years ago, openly conspired to scuttle Jesse Ventura’s last budget proposal for fear that a success for him might seal the Independence Party’s status as a competitive alternative. Ever since that little piece of bi-partisanship, Minnesota has suffered fiscal problems that Ventura’s budget might well have mitigated.

Again and again, the two parties have shown themselves willing to sacrifice the good of the nation for short-term partisan gains. Country First? If that were the case, then neither Coleman nor Franken would have received their party’s endorsement.

Inevitably, one of them will win. It’s the rest of us who have already lost.

Originally published 12//22/08