In 2008, 2012 and 2016 the GOP had to go through the same awful ritual every time. Being the party either preparing for their incumbent to vacate the White House or the side serving as the opposition we had to begin sorting through the players on the bench and figuring out who to run in the next national election. Now the heat is off for at least one cycle (unless the #NeverTrump crew makes a roaring comeback for a primary bid) and it’s the Democrats who are faced with that problem. But who to pick? Oh, they’ve got plenty of willing wannabes who would love to take the top of the ticket, but more than a few of them come with some, er… baggage to say the least.
So who can they turn to for an early ray of hope? National Journal Political Editor Josh Kraushaar thinks he has the solution. Get ready for President Al Franken.
Al Franken isn’t a punch line in the Senate anymore. He’s emerged as one of the Democrats’ most aggressive and effective questioners of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees. He’s generated numerous made-for-TV clips as one of the few Democrats willing to go full-bore against his party’s top targets—Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, and Betsy DeVos. He’s finally showing some personality in the Senate, punctuated by his laugh-out-loud exchange with Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry. And he’ll be one of nine Democrats on the Judiciary Committee questioning Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. This is Al Franken’s moment in the spotlight, and if he chooses, he could parlay his good fortune into a bid for the presidency in 2020.
Even Josh seems to recognize at least some of the shortcomings of this idea, as he lays out here.
To be sure, Franken, 65, may not be the Democrats’ strongest candidate in the general election. His deeply liberal politics and long-standing dismissiveness of Republicans turn off many voters in the middle. But with Democrats looking for strident opposition to Trump in the early days of his presidency, they’re probably not going to be in a pragmatic mood in the primaries. So far, much of the liberal excitement has centered around Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but they will be 71 and 79, respectively, during the general election. Neither has shown any ability to win support outside the most progressive precincts. Franken, at least, can point to a record of electability with groups that Democrats will need to win over.
Hoo boy. This calls for a few moments of quiet reflection. I realize that 2016 was kind of a weird ride for everyone and the political landscape has been significantly changed by the arrival of Donald Trump on the scene, but has it changed that much? This isn’t an article from The Onion or Mad Magazine. These are serious pundits talking about this idea with a straight face. Could we really be considering waking up in a world where Al Franken could be plausibly pushed forward as a major party candidate? Perhaps even more to the point, is Franken considering it himself?
The Senator is publishing a new memoir this year, adding to the idea that he might be considering a grab at the biggest brass ring. And there’s no denying he has the ego for it. Plus, as Josh points out, Franken has proven that he can win an election or two. (Even if one of them may have relied on bags of votes being found in somebody’s car.) But let’s be honest here… he won those elections but he did it in Minnesota. Not for nothing, but they elected a professional wrestler as their governor. Come on, man…
But hey, don’t let me rain on your parade. I think this is a wonderful idea. The Democrats should absolutely nominate Al Franken to run against Trump in four years. If nothing else, the debates should draw ratings which are nothing short of Super Bowl levels. And given Franken’s rather infamous temper which tends to flare up when things don’t go his way, you never know what sort of show we’d be in for.