Monday, November 10, 2008

In the Senate, A Week Without End

As the sun set this evening on the first full week of the Obama era in the United States, three individuals who can't (yet) share in the jubilation are Jim Martin, Al Franken, and Mark Begich--though a more sober columnist than I would have to make at least a passing reference to the differing chances they each face in ever feeling as though they can. In Georgia, where electoral funny business still seems the most plausible explanation for President-elect Obama's poor relative showing on election day, Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss nearly reached the 50% threshold the first go 'round against Democratic challenger Jim Martin, and will now enjoy the undiluted attentions of what's left of the Republican all-stars in campaigning for a runoff. All of which has led one notable pundit to recall a certain prominent Republican's scathing criticism of Chambliss' 2002 campaign:

"I'd never seen anything like that ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield -- it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible."

...And who said this, exactly? The same John McCain who is now scheduled to speak on Senator Chambliss' behalf, during the runoff. And just for the record, you know that you're clinging irrationally to self-destructive behavior patterns when you start getting shown-up in the graciousness department by George W. Bush. At all events, the smart money is on Chambliss and his Republican benefactors in the runoff, since it's a virtual certainty that the cool-headed Obama will resist the urge to weaken himself by wading into a Senate fight in Georgia.

Things are more encouraging in Alaska, depending a lot on how one looks at it. The good news is that about 80,000 votes have still not been counted in the state--classified as either "early," "absentee" or "questionable"--and that it is likely (based on what we know about the geography of these ballots) that a full accounting for them would more than negate Stevens' roughly 3,000-vote lead. The bad news is that if these ballots haven't yet been counted, the odds of them ever being counted must surely get slimmer every day that the story of the election recedes further and further from the collective media consciousness. Suffice it to say, if Begich becomes the next Senator from Alaska, it won't be because the rest of us sat back and allowed the State of Alaska's elections officials to decide how seriously to take the remaining canvass.

Paradoxically, the most encouraging of the three unresolved Senate races is also the only one in which a recount is the only thing standing between the good guys and defeat: Minnesota. Here the Republican incumbent Norm Coleman continues to lead, though his lead is shrinking almost by the hour and a significant pool of undervotes for the Senate race in blue-leaning precincts have led to speculation that Franken will surpass Coleman when the undervotes have been resolved. The path to a continued sense of productive engagement in all three of these races is to press the media--particularly, this time, the largest and most respected media sources within each of these three states--to continue digging into the question of how (if not actually whether) the remaining votes in each state have been counted. In Minnesota this journalistic standard-bearer would be the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In Georgia it would be the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and in Alaksa it would be the Anchorage Daily News.

Many left-leaning columnists wasted no time admonishing their readers that the lea of Obama's historic victory was no shelter from the job of keeping vigilant and fighting for every inch of ground in the fight to win a progressive agenda for the country. Some even began suggesting that election night was a beginning, rather than an end. They may not have realized, in committing such sentiments to writing, that the notion of a beginning and not an end would apply on the evening of November 4th to the outcome of the election itself.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

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