Staff Editorial: Talking through-but not endorsing anyone-in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race

By The Mac Weekly Staff

Just about three in four Macalester students hail from outside Minnesota, so perhaps we as a student body can be forgiven for our ambivalence toward local politics. But the fact remains that the outcomes of the elections specific to this fair state-city government, state legislature and Congressional and Senatorial contests alike-have the potential to affect us directly. We’ve decided that a rundown of the candidates competing in Tuesday’s other caucus and of incumbent Norm Coleman is in order.Al Franken
The de facto frontrunner by virtue of name recognition (the product of a successful comedic career and a less-lucrative but equally colorful run as a liberal commentator for Air America), Al Franken brings a certain amount of glamour to the normally reserved DFL caucus. Front and center on Franken’s agenda are an end to the Iraq war and an immediate move toward universal healthcare coverage, though not necessarily through a single-payer system. Though Franken took flak from commentators for an alleged participation in an off-color anti-gay skit in the 1970s, he describes himself as solidly pro-adoption rights for same-sex couples, and pro-same-sex marriage, and he boasts the endorsement of LGBT community champion and openly gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). And Franken’s populism shines through in his ambitious though vague plans to reduce the rich-poor gap both locally and nationally and in his scheme to tackle climate change through state investment in Minnesota’s ample renewable energy resources and “capacity for innovation.”

Mike Ciresi
Mike Ciresi’s feelings on a wide variety of issues seem compatible with Franken’s, although some of his policy positions are more carefully thought-out. The DFLer wants Americans out of Iraq on an unspecified deadline, heavy subsidies and grants for Minnesota-based green energy, a guest worker program for undocumented immigrants complete with G.W. Bush’s much-vaunted “path” to citizenship, and a plan for tackling terrorism which focuses on rehabilitating America’s image in the Middle East and elsewhere through development aid (and, you can be sure, some slick propaganda offensives). As with most of the other candidates both local and national, he delivers little more than fuzzy platitudes on national healthcare, but he does break with the pack on veterans’ care: the issue features prominently on his website and allows him a good opportunity to rant against the injustices perpetuated by Bush and Co.

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer
Finally a Tommie on Mac’s side of the aisle! This professor of Peace and Justice Studies at St. Thomas colors his policy proscriptions with populist patter, though again it takes some sifting to sort out where he differs from his DFL-mates. He’s unequivocally in favor of a national single-payer healthcare system, the neutering of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, and the reduction of the income gap through the repeal of the Bush tax cuts and increased unemployment benefits. His plan for immigration reform is unusually clear and bold (for a politician facing down a complex, emotionally-charged issue anyway), focusing on development aid to Latin American countries as a way to stem uncontrolled migration. National security, as per Ciresi, is largely a matter of figuring out how to change our image for the better in volatile parts of the world-how this is to be done (as per) is less clear.

Jim Cohen
Jim Cohen, a self-declared Democrat Different, doesn’t seem so different from the other candidates. Sifting through his rhetorical pleasantries of bipartisanship, Cohen is highly critical of Bush’s mismanagement of affairs in the Middle East and for his melodramatically demonizing of Iran, and he advocates a withdrawal of American troops in Iraq by early 2008 and improvement of America’s image abroad (again, an optimistic but unexplained plan). He emphasizes the importance of renewable energy both as a part of environmental awareness and as a national security strategy. His plan for health care, not so different from other proposals, is a publicly funded single payer universal health care system modeled after Medicare. On his website, it’s at this point that Cohen begins trailing off into token mentions of God and Christianity’s emphasis on peace, giving one last nod to immigration as solvable through the enforcement of existing laws.

Norm Coleman
Incumbent republican Norm Coleman ( isn’t exactly beating a new path as he follows the other candidates in his demands for American energy self-reliance through natural resources and new technology. However, discussing healthcare (with the oft-repeated disclaimer that it’ll take a lot more time and creative-thinking) he argues that health insurance and care must be made more affordable to everyone through tax cuts, both to consumers and providers of low cost care. Ultimately, he places responsibility on individuals by encouraging the state to educate them on adopting healthier lifestyles. Again reminding people to be less short-sighted for their own good and for that of the nation, he urges Americans critical of the war in Iraq “to see the light at the end of the tunnel” that can apparently only be reached through a “long term presence in the region.” Coleman has called for some troop reductions but deflects demands for a more immediate withdrawal with praise of troops that makes efforts to bring them home sound downright un-patriotic.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.