After recalling his campaign swings through his home state of Minnesota on behalf of the late Paul Wellstone, comedian, author and activist Al Franken closed his last Air America radio show with an announcement that he will be running in 2OO8 “for Paul’s seat.”
Franken’s challenge to Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, who took Wellstone’s place in the Senate after the popular incumbent was killed in a fall 2OO2 plane crash, was expected. What was intriguing was Franken’s signal with the broadcast announcement that his will be a certain kind of candidacy, run very much in the Wellstone tradition.
Humility was the order of the day.
Instead of grand pronouncements, Franken said he would spend the coming months “listening to Minnesota,” with a schedule that in coming days will take him to Nashwauk, Duluth, Rochester, Mankato and Moorhead — not the usual mid-winter stomping grounds of celebrity contenders.
He’ll begin tomorrow morning at a Minneapolis health care clinic where doctors and nurses volunteer to care for the uninsured.
The visit to the clinic will highlight a signature issue of Franken’s campaign — getting the federal government focused on the task of assuring that all Americans have access to affordable quality health care. ‘
Rejecting the conservative premise that government can do little or no good, Franken began his campaign by offering a contemporary take on the New Deal liberalism of Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party stalwarts such as Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Wellstone.
“Your government should have your back,” the man who has spent the last three years serving as the voice of liberal talk radio said in a video produced for his campaign. “That should be our mission in Washington, the one FDR (President Franklin D. Rooosevelt) gave us during another challenging time: freedom from fear.”
Just as Wellstone did when he launched his challenge to another Minnesota Republican senator in 199O, as an academic and activist who had never held elected office, Franken knows he must convince Minnesotans — first within the DFL, where he will face a challenge from wealthy lawyer Mike Ciresi and perhaps others, and if he is nominated then in a fall contest with Coleman that will be one of the most intense in the country — that he in a credible contender.Franken began by stating the obvious: that he is not a “typical politician.”