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Franken versus the Tea Partiers: Civility sells

As of Monday morning, a nearly 10-minute-long YouTube video of U.S. Sen.

As of Monday morning, a YouTube video of U.S. Sen. Al Franken discussing health care reform calmly with Republicans and Tea Partiers at the State Fair topped half a million page views in six days. It was featured on YouTube’s front page over the weekend, and as of this writing, has generated 3,716 comments.

This is one of those moments when everyone busts through the corrosive stereotypes. Franken destroys the right-wing meme (burnished by dishonest campaign advertising) that he’s nothing but an anti-conservative rageaholic. The “Change: We Want It Back” crowd goes beyond the bumper-sticker button, asking good questions and listening thoughtfully, without abandoning their principles.

And DFL blogger Dusty Trice — who can dish out cheap shots like attackers on the other side of the aisle — rises to the occasion, rewarded with a bit of viral-ness that any local media site would’ve loved to have (even though he’s not paid for his work and earns no ad revenue).

As others have written, Trice’s score marks a good day for citizen journalism. And the media can’t be everywhere, so a citizen’s triumph is not necessarily a black mark for the pros. But at nearly 10 minutes long, the video defines substance over style, and it’s a good reminder that such a philosophy can still pay off.

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Speaking of extended substance, if you want to read the excellent New Yorker article on McAllen, Texas medical care that Franken references during the discussion, it’s here.