Sunday, October 26, 2008

Should I vote for a Minnesota maverick for US Senate ?

It’s just a few day until Election Day and I am still not sure who to vote for in the US Senate race.
I’ve listened to the candidates, watched the debates, and read a lot, but my mind is not made up.
Should I go with an experienced candidate? … or, the person that most closely adheres to my view on the issues? … or waste my vote on somebody who won’t win? Actually, the odds are pretty good that I will vote for the loser … so maybe “waste my vote” isn’t that off-base.

Norm Coleman has been endorsed by the Star-Tribune calling him “the Minnesota maverick”. Frankly, I have to wonder if Coleman would be just like “the Arizona maverick” John McCain … there are similiarities and that should be a concern. McCain started out as a dye-hard Republican and then showed some individualism and voted against his party elders, only to return to Party when it needed him. McCain’s pattern could be Coleman’s in the next term.

Let’s look at McCain’s “Maverick Claim to Fame” --- campaign finance reform. It’s true that McCain bucked his party and joined the Democrats to vote for a campaign finance reform, but the legislation was vetoed by George HW Bush (aka 41). Clinton said that he would sign that legislation, but McCain joined the Republicans to filabuster the legislation. When George W Bush (aka 43) became President, McCain joined with Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and enacted legislation that was agreeable to the Republican majority. The result was a reduction in influence by labor unions that would make large contributions, and produce the rise in 527 independent groups. Today it would be hard to say that the campaign finance system is better under the new rules, but it is easy to say that McCain was not a maverick.

That would be the concern with Maverick Coleman. Would he revert to his 2002-2006 “Protect the Republican Party” persona, or would he be what the Star-Tribune considers to be a compromiser ? Frankly, I think the Star-Tribune is giving Coleman more credit than he is due. They cite the funding for I-35 reconstruction … well, do you think that after Katrina and film footage being shown globally, that any Senator would have gotten any different support … plus didn’t Senator Klobuchar have any impact?
IF Coleman has been the compromiser that the Star-Tribune thinks that he has been, he has been late and ineffective. His support for biofuels is mentioned, yet the Farm Bill was not completed on time, and Senator Chambliss (R-GA) probably had more to getting Republican support than Coleman. Also, Coleman missed an excellent opportunity to promote biofuels and show his compromise skills if he had joined Sens. Chambliss, Conrad (D-ND), Issakson (R-GA), and Thune (R-SD) when they established the Gang of 10 to address energy legislation … plus he could have joined with Senator Graham who joined the group to promote the nuclear industry (something that Coleman supports). Now, Coleman is joining to be part of a Gang of 20 … better late than never … however the legislation is not as good as the bi-partisian legislation (which included those sources but also wind) supported in the House (notable Minnesotans Tim Walz (D-01), John Kline (R-02) and Michele Bachmann (R-06).
Yes, Coleman did support SCHIP, but he knew that Bush’s vetos would stand … and isn’t that one of Franken’s main positive points. Coleman has been steadfast in his support for maintaining the current tax policies while others like Congressman Walz want to lower taxes for the middle class.
Based on current polls, it appears that the Democrats will gain seats in the Senate relegating Coleman to a lower influence … in fact, Senators Snowe and Collins (R-ME) are more likely to have influence on legislation since for years they have supported Democrats proposals.
Coleman is hardly a maverick … more of an opportunist than anything else. He stood strong with Bush on issues ranging from FISA to the recent bailout.

Oh, I could vote for Al Franken as I am encouraged by the comment in the Pioneer Press endorsement “We initially took Franken for a hard-core partisan, and that gave us pause. But we sense that he is learning to fight for a "progressive" agenda with less rancor and more reason.” Although I have concerns that Franken could become a showman on cable television (taking Congresswoman Bachmann’s slot since I have hunch she will be declining those YouTube opportunities in the future), he would be restrained the next President’s desire for a second term. It’s safe to assume that there will not be any middle class tax increase or major expansion of government managed health care regardless of who is elected … maybe in a second term but not the first term.

Dean Barkley appeals to my fiscal conservatism and may be the true “the Minnesota maverick” that the Star-Tribune desires. Barkley has been consistent in the polls at 18 % … so he would need to virtually double his poll numbers to be elected. If he was rising in the polls, that might be possible, but he has stayed where he is at since the primary election. Historically, as voters realize that a third party candidate is not going to win, they switch to one of the two major party candidates. Voting for Barkley may be wasting my vote.

Somehow I must balance “wasting a vote” with voting for the candidate that best matches my issues. A maverick may be a good vote … but if I want somebody that supported funding for I-35, the Farm bill, a new energy policy featuring wind, SCHIP, a tax policy that benefits the middle class, opposes FISA and the bailout, my maverick vote would be a write-in vote for Tim Walz who would be part of the new Democratic majority.

OK, so since you took the time to read this, tell me why I should vote for someone else other that a write-in for Walz ?


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