The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

All Hail Senator Franken

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 7, 2009 @ 19:44

George Galloway enjoyed himself at the US Senate. Would we ever see a similar piece of political theatre here?

George Galloway enjoyed himself at the US Senate. Would we ever see a similar piece of political theatre here?

We’re still finding our feet around these parts. So far we’ve mostly covered Westminster politics, but that isn’t all the Monster is interested in. You got a brief taste of that yesterday – social and educational policy are particularly high on my personal agenda.

But another thing that fascinates me is American politics – as my various friends from years gone by can attest. And as this is my gaff, it’s going to be something we’ll cover. But sort of from a UK comparative perspective – if you see what I mean.

Today marks the conclusion of an election campaign that began almost two years ago; but even worse, a counting process that began on the 4th of November 2009. Eight whole months. And it could have gone on longer.

I’m talking about today’s swearing-in ceremony of Senator Al Franken. I’ve always been something of a fan of Al ever since I read his books Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, The Truth (With Jokes) and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. He’s a genuinely funny political satirist, but one who has used that to outline his own progressive agenda. That’s quite unusual – since most satirists are in it just to attack anyone they can. Much as it’s fairly clear what Rory Bremner’s agenda is, he never actually sets it out and his arguments in favour of it…

But Al Franken is the perfect example of what American politics is all about: name recognition and celebrity. Especially in the Senate. 100 individuals, good and true, who are some of the biggest political celebrities in American politics. After all, the big three candidates in the last US Presidential election all came from there. John Kerry in 2004 as well. And at each election cycle, Senators are always in the mix. Though Obama is the first Senator to be elected President since JFK, it is a central part of American political culture, and definitely one path to the Presidency.

His election demonstrates once again the way Americans are more at ease with allowing the individual personality of candidates to shine through, compared to our almost entirely party-orientated system here. Though we like to make much of the so-called incumbency factor of Lib Dem MPs, the individual level of politics in the USA allows for true incumbency to shine through, when usually upwards of 90% of politicians at the federal level are re-elected.

But here we’re far more cynical. When someone tells you they’d like to become a councillor or an MP, the first response is usually “Why would you want to do that when they’re all such liars?”. The idea of going into politics as a public service is dead in this country. But, in America, it is a highly desirable profession. Why else would a comedian, or any businessman, or any number of other professions, be so interested in pursuing political office? Yes, maybe some of it is an ego-trip, just because they can (for example, Mitt Romney’s campaign to be US President in 2007/8).

On the whole, however, it is genuinely seen as a noble and honourable thing for someone to do – to want to serve their community. That’s why there is so much respect for people like Senators John McCain, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Richard Lugar, etc.

Do British politicians get the same respect? Of course not. But I’ve no doubt that the majority of them have the same interests of their constituents at heart. But we don’t hear all that much about it.

I wonder why.

Then again – at least we don’t have to wait eight months to find out who won an election.

Some you win, some you lose.

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One Response to “All Hail Senator Franken”

  1. Ian said

    I like Al Franken but hate George Galloway who is basically the lefts version of Jeffrey Archer and just as embarrassing. I’ve read Lying Liars and the Liars who lie or whatever it’s called, but since I hadn’t seen Fox News at the time a lot of it was over my head. Anyway, glad Al won.

    Since we’re on about US politics, what do you think of Sarah Palin’s mysterious resignation?

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