The balance of the Senate is in limbo

Al Franken, while a rookie in the political arena, proposes sound legislation

Minnesota’s DFL convention delegates on Saturday gave Al Franken the go ahead to take on Republican nominee and incumbent Norm Coleman in a U.S. Senate race which, according to Congressional Quarterly, has “no clear favorite.” With the balance of the Senate in limbo – the Democrats have a single vote majority – the question remains whether voters will consider Franken’s sound policies that will strengthen the Democratic majority over his image as an occasionally offensive humorist when they go to the polls.

If this Senate race is going to be about policies instead of personalities, we believe Franken has fresh proposals that will be a welcome departure from Coleman’s legislative agenda. While Franken’s offensive jokes might not have a place in the political arena, they pale to Republican scandals under two Bush Administrations and, more importantly, they should not interfere with policy-making decisions.

Franken’s and Coleman’s policy proposals contrast by party lines, sometimes starkly. Franken has reached out to college students, visiting the University several times during his campaign. He said he wants to “reinvigorate” Pell grant funding. Coleman, meanwhile, boasts of fighting for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which increased Pell Grant funding and cuts interest rates on student loans. But the act was a bipartisan effort that the White House originally criticized for not specifying on how it will be funded.

Franken, moreover, claims he will fight for universal healthcare; Coleman says he wants to cut cost and bureaucracy. Franken opposes the war in Iraq, saying “it’s time to leave Iraq” while Coleman voted for the war but was later mildly critical of the Bush Administration-voting for recent troop reductions.

The choice will be between Coleman – who is trying to shed his image as a Bush Republican and as a political reactionary – and Franken – whose lack of political experience is worrisome for Democrats. If Franken gets Minnesotans to take a serious look at his policies, we believe he will be able to help secure a Democratic majority in the Senate.