The Democrats need to win more seats in the U.S. Senate in the 2008 elections if they are to achieve their agenda. While they have a working margin in the House of Representatives to pass legislation even with the defection of some conservative Democrats, in the Senate, the margin is a narrow 51 to 49. But in practice the margin is closer. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who calls himself an independent Democrat, votes often with the Republicans on foreign affairs and sometimes on domestic matters, according to which Halloween mask he is wearing.
However, Democratic prospects are excellent for 2008. The GOP must defend 22 Senate seats, while the Democrats play defense on only 12. Republican retirements already number at least five, creating open seat election opportunities for the Democrats as the GOP loses the enormous benefits of incumbency. Of the ten most competitive Senate seats, nine are now held by Republicans, only one by a Democrat. No wonder the Republicans are scared and depressed.
One of the closest Senate races will be in Minnesota, where the incumbent Norm Coleman is running for his first re-election for the seat previously occupied by flaming liberal Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash just before his anticipated re-election. Coleman is a supporter of the war in Iraq, and a loyalist to virtually all the policies of President George W. Bush.
This race is sure to attract national attention, because the likely Democratic nominee is a professional comedian and entertainer, Al Franken, running for office for the first time and starting pretty close to the top. It will be fun. Franken is a liberal who has promoted the agenda of the Democratic Party on radio and television while making his living telling jokes, a new way of starting a political career, but reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.
Franken has a national reputation. In comedy style he covered the 1992 presidential conventions on Comedy Central TV and has delivered his unique blend of humor, disrespect and analysis at many universities and corporations. He is never at a loss for words, comments and jokes. Franken keeps the listeners awake.
Al Franken’s best friend and his partner in show business is Ben Stein, a mirror image, a hard-line conservative paired with a flaming liberal. Stein is an actor who was a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, and believe it or not, writes a column for the New York Times business section every Sunday.
In their acts, the pair is presented as Stein/Franken, because, as Al jokes, Stein is older and thus more deserving. However, others tell them that a more descriptive name would be Franken/Stein, after the horror of the same name.
Of course, Ben Stein will not be a partner in the ascendancy, but the usually humorless Republicans may choose to play with the Franken name, making mistakes on purpose. The title of the novel “Frankenstein” refers to a scientist who creates a being in the likeness of man but people have tended to refer to the horrible creature, composed of body parts taken from the dead, as “Frankenstein.”
Will the new Senator use his formidable nickname to intimidate his political opponents? Or at least get Senator Lieberman to behave? If Senator Al begins to strut around the Senate floor in imitation of the strung-together monster, will he be censured for disrespect? Or will the Republicans bring Vice President Cheney to shoot this caricature of a manufactured Senator? In any case, there will be no love interest in this movie on C-SPAN and the tedium of the Senate will have been eased by a comic routine. A new day may be dawning in the U.S. Senate. And where is Senator Groucho Marx now that we need him?