After four months of nonstop wrangling, it is about time for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota to throw in the towel. He is depriving his home state of a second vote in the U.S. Senate, threatening to stretch the appeal process of his losing Senate race into April.
Before Republicans start to scream about prematurely handing the seat to Democrat Al Franken, they need to be reminded of the presidential-recount marathon in Florida in 2000. The stakes were much higher then, and Republicans attacked Al Gore and Joe Lieberman as whiny losers. The Democratic ticket was belittled for refusing to admit defeat.
The GOP even brought in out-of-staters to protest recounts in four Florida counties, some of them with signs reading "Sore Loserman." Republican bigwigs complained that Gore was refusing to face the truth about George W. Bush's win, an eventual victory in the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-to-4 vote.
With Coleman trailing Franken by 225 votes in the final recount, he is determined with the help of party figures to continue this process.
Get over it, Norm.
The facts are these: On November 4, Coleman appeared to have a tiny lead over Franken. Recounts reversed the decision, and Franken was certified the winner by those 225 votes out of 2.9 million cast. A three-judge panel is considering the case now, but Coleman's advisers are talking about a further appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court if necessary.
Meanwhile, Coleman keeps in close contact with GOP leaders and is working as a consultant in Washington to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Republicans are really worried more that Franken would give Democrats 59 votes in the Senate, or only one short of a filibuster-proof chamber. And on some issues, the Democrats could get help from GOP moderate Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Some conservatives are talking up punishment for those three senators, who broke party ranks in the vote on the president's stimulus package. Leave it to rabid conservatives to consider a self-defeating move like that, which would surely anger the three senators.
Perhaps Minnesota Republicans think this is payback time. In 1962, popular GOP Gov. Elmer Andersen was re-elected by a whisker. However, a recount gave the election to Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate Karl Rolvaag. There were cries that the election had been stolen.
Minnesota has a reputation as a good-government state. Figures like Democrats Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, and Walter Mondale and Republicans like Andersen, former Gov. Harold LeVander, and former Rep. Walter Judd were strong figures at home and nationally. Clean politics has been a hallmark of the state. (Full disclosure: I am a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota.)
Compared with the other 49 states, Minnesota has high taxes, but taxpayers seem to get their due in public services.
Close elections occur in every state, but this latest contest in Minnesota is turning into a real fiasco. Minnesota even gets a going-over by the late-night comics.
Coleman has a legal right to continue his case in the courts, but Franken's certification works against him. There is a time to fold your hand, Senator.