One of the subplots of the 2008 election season was the Minnesota Democratic primary, which ended with Al Franken, professional comedian as Junior Senator after winning a squeaker. Democrats across the nation were split between being appalled that a safe seat should be up for grabs because the voters literally nominated a clown ( I was among them. I wish we had a convention to stand around and be bitter) and those who saw Franken as a liberal hero. Their argument for Al Franken broke down into two main bits.
1) He went to Harvard
2) He’s a policy wonk.
The first point is insultingly stupid. A kind of elitist bullshit Democrats are mostly falsely accused of. It being made during the administration of a Harvard and Yale grad who would have difficulties being the assistant dogcatcher (Duties: feeding and cleaning animals, making sure the light if off before heading out for the night) just twisted the knife a bit more. We can simply just ignore this part and pretend it never happen.
And the policy wonk bit seemed like a nice piece of garnish but not the main meal. Senators need to be dealmakers and diplomats; they don’t even know what their bill says if they’re certain about the principles in there. When you can have a staff of fulltime policy wonks, garbage is not going to get past without someone noticing. It helps if the Senator has a firm grasp on policy but it shouldn’t be the starting point, much less the only point. Besides, the guy needed to get elected and Al Franken seemed to cause a lot of controversy that shouldn’t have been necessary.
Well, I was wrong. Senator Al Franken has done as well as I could have hoped for a liberal Minnesotan Senator (the most important being: getting elected) and I’m reconsidering if I should have predicted it or if anyone could. The latter seems unnecessary since people did predict it. But was it from evidence? I’m not against other people’s gut instincts even after living through 8 years of Bush II but I really can’t live on someone else’s intuition. I might have underestimated the need for policy wonkiness. I might have underestimated his ability to win votes. I might be even right and Franken just got really lucky to get elected. But somewhere in the election are the limits of intuition and reason, the interparty arguments about candidates, and the proper background for a Senator of the United States of America. For a SNL alumnus, that’s better than It’s Pat but probably not as good as Wayne’s World.