Al Franken speaks softly but gets results to be the Wings of Justice winner
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on November 4, 2009
Stirring the pot is something Republican politicians are already good at doing and where Democratic politicians are catching up. We recently profiled one newcomer who has set a tone in a brash style in Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). But as we are learning from this week’s winner, sometimes you can be quieter and still be effective at stirring the pot.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) got a very late start this year. Wasn’t his fault. The people of Minnesota wanted to be really, really, really sure he was the winner. But it certainly hasn’t taken him long to get established.
And there was speculation, er, obnoxious rhetoric from the right-wing that the Senate would be nothing but jokes with Franken in the chamber. Funny coming from senators who say some very amusing, yet not purposefully funny material when they act “senatorial.”
Those who have followed Franken or heard him on Air America radio know that the modern version of Al Franken was very serious and very knowledgable.
And yet, even when Franken was known for his comedy, there was always a quieter, subtler nature to his humor.
Calling attention to Halliburton’s practices hasn’t got the progressive realm very far in the mainstream picture. But Sen. Franken called attention to Halliburton in a way where others fell short.
The plan was simple, so simple that the GOP could easily avoid the ‘trap’: just vote for an amendment that required companies getting funds from the government to not have binding arbitration to settle disputes, such as allegedly being sexual assaulted by your fellow co-workers. Yet 30 GOP senators — all white males — fell into the dogma and voted against the Franken amendment.
Sen. Franken wasn’t loud in his quest. He put forward a simple amendment that only made the GOP look foolish if they voted against it, and 30 of them did so eagerly.
Jamie Leigh Jones deserved to be treated better, whether or not the allegations are true.
Then there was the video across the Internet of Sen. Franken calmly asking Diana Furchtgott-Roth, senior fellow from the Hudson Institute, about medical bankruptcies in European countries.
Calmly, he goes through Switzerland, France, and Germany, asking Furchtgott-Roth how many medical bankruptcies there were in those countries last year. Each time, the answer is zero.
“… we’re talking about bankruptcy here today, and the fact of the matter is you’re saying that if we go more to a French system or Swiss system that we’ll have increased bankruptcies. But the fact is they don’t have bankruptcies and we do for medical care.”
When it comes to medical bankruptices, Franken knows this is no laughing matter.
And there was this video from last week, but this one doesn’t contain Sen. Franken. At a gathering, a Louisiana rape victim confronts Sen. David Vitter for his “no” vote. She isn’t using the calm mannerisms of Sen. Franken, but Franken is the inspiration for this video.
After all, Franken’s amendment, and the 30 GOP white male senators that voted to protect Halliburton from alleged rape victims, drew awareness that otherwise, sadly, might still be hidden from a number of people, including those Louisiana woman.
The 30 GOP senators became a face where people could vent their frustration. They even had a chance to do the right thing, and when they didn’t, they only had themselves to blame. Factor in that every GOP female senator voted for the amendment, every single one. They had enough sense to draw the line somewhere, the 30 did not. And it’s all thanks to Sen. Al Franken.
In a political and media era where shouting gets you noticed the fastest, perhaps the single best communicator in the upper chamber has been noticed for his quieter, more subtle ways of conveying a point. Binding arbitration is a rather difficult topic to easily break down into simpler terms and medical care related bankruptcies haven’t been on the radar of the health care reform dialogue.
But Al Franken, yes comedian, radio personality, and now junior U.S. senator from Minnesota, does have a way with words. And the way he draws attention to topics with those words earns Sen. Al Franken the Wings of Justice.