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Franken versus the Tea Partiers: Civility sells

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.

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.

Comments (7)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/08/2009 - 09:27 am.

    “This is one of those moments when everyone busts through the corrosive stereotypes.” It is statements such as this that only continue to perpetuate the stereotype of which you write. Why should it be surprising that a group of conservatives are civil and pay proper respect to a U.S. senator? I’ve been to many, many public hearings over the years. DB – it isn’t the conservatives who do the shouting and name-calling. If you really were as open-minded as the moniker “liberal” infers, you’d be able to observe a whole new world out there. Here’s a suggestion: Stop looking for evidence to back up your pre-configured agenda. Then, imagine this: non-like-minded people gathered to intelligently discuss an issue!

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 09/08/2009 - 09:36 am.

    Spencer – you can pin that one on me (tendentiously), but I think a fairer interpretation is that this is how *many* people see folks on the other side.

    Really, invoking the stereotype’s existence is just a statement of fact – conservatives themselves have complained about this characterization in numerous stories, blog postings, etc.

    I think offense at someone mentioning the *existence* of a stereotype (in a story that then says look, here’s counter-evidence) is political correctness and actually limits good debate in this case. But I suppose it buttresses your stereotypes of those you disagree with.

  3. Submitted by James Blum on 09/08/2009 - 02:44 pm.

    Spencer Gluekman: “Why should it be surprising that a group of conservatives are civil and pay proper respect to a U.S. senator?”

    Me: Because it happens so infrequently. Look, for example, at any recent town hall-style meeting by any US Senator (in particular, Sen. McCain’s meetings have gotten a lot of press about crowd hostility from conservatives). It’s the result of all those years of incitement from the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly and their ilk. Civility is the last word to describe what they sell.

  4. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 09/08/2009 - 08:36 pm.

    I don’t know how many newspapers linked to or hosted that video, but Google Blog search says 2,000 blogs were plugging it.

    I’ve never seen lefty blogs jump on something so fast, or so spontaneously.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Cagle on 09/08/2009 - 10:09 pm.


    You should have attended Rep. Tim Walz’s townhall forum in Mankato recently. There were tons of conservatives there only there to heckle him, not to ask questions. He was even booed for allowing conservatives to finish their points. One case that comes to mind is when one young woman, who said she had read the bill (and I take her at her word), asked some good questions and Walz responded to her questions. The moderator, Dave Durenberger, tried moving on in order to allow more people to ask questions – for which he was heckled. But Walz thought it would be fair for the young lady to finish with her point, which he did get applauded for, but still booed and jeered. I don’t think David Brauer meant to take a dig at conservatives with this entry; I think his context was to show that both sides can have rational, civil discussions. It clearly didn’t happen during townhall forums this summer, especially the one in Mankato.

  6. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/09/2009 - 02:14 pm.

    Nice try. I highly doubt conservatives would boo down fellow conservatives for being allowed to finish their most salient, and I’m sure, quite interesting, points.

  7. Submitted by James Blum on 09/10/2009 - 06:37 am.

    I wish to send out my thanks to Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) for making my point about incivility of conservatives for me in such a public way at last night’s Presidential address.

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