Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Franken’s unique road to Congress means he’ll have to work harder to prove himself

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Originally published on on Wed, 01/07/2009 – 10:29am

While it’s not official, Al Franken is likely to be the next junior senator from Minnesota. Al Franken has accomplished a lot in his lifetime, but the MSM still refers to him as “the guy from Saturday Night Live.”

Franken has written five New York Times bestselling books, three of which reached the top spot. He started his Air America show in 2004.

But he has been labeled as the first SNL alum in the U.S. Senate. This technically could be true, but some of us note that for a brief time, John Belushi was in the Senate. Well, at least he was in the movies.

His character in “Animal House,” John Blutarsky, eventually becomes a U.S. Senator, so technically he was in the Senate.

And Blutarsky could certainly filibuster and motivate people to come over to his side. Recall his passionate tirade about whether it was over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

Imagine if Belushi were still alive and he and Dan Aykroyd were tag-team senators. The filibusters would have been hilarious.

But this notion that the hallowed halls of Congress are reserved only for stuffy, boring, career politicians has been tipped over in recent years. Granted, most of them have been Republicans. How about former “Love Boat” cast member Fred Grandy? Or Sonny Bono of Sonny & Cher? Let’s look at Hall of Fame members Steve Largent (football) and Jim Bunning (baseball). And how about former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne? All of these Republicans have served in Congress and Bunning served in the House and the Senate.

Arnold Schwarzenegger might run for the Senate, though he is the California governor. But before this, he was an actor.

Sheila James Kuehl, known in the acting world for the woman chasing after Dobie Gillis, was known politically as the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature, serving 14 years in the California State Assembly and the state Senate.

And while some of these “former celebrities” have shined in public office and other haven’t (Bunning), at least none of them relied on fame once the doors of Congress were closed and business got underway.

Alec Baldwin (Democrat) and Charles Barkley (Republican) are celebrities in acting and sports, respectively, who have considered running for political office.

And this isn’t like Al Franken just stepped off the Saturday Night Live stage. To very young people, they might not even know much about Franken’s 1975-1980 stint on the show, and might know Stuart Smalley more than anything else.

Franken has proven to us through his books, radio programs, and speeches that he is more than a comedian. When the final okay is given, and Franken gets his chance, he will have to work extra hard to prove he is a politician. But having our politicians work a little harder isn’t such a bad idea.


Written by democracysoup

January 7, 2009 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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