I've been watching the Minnesota Senate recount with a depressing sense of déja vu. After all, we had our own recount fiasco here in Washington in 2004, when King County stole the gubernatorial election for Christine Gregoire, which is the long way of saying that I had very little hope from the beginning that this election would turn any other way than with Al Franken being declared the winner.
Today, however, I chanced upon an interesting tidbit of information. There were two "third party" candidates in the race along with Franken and the incumbent, Norm Coleman. The Independent Party candidate, Dean Barkley, won over 437,000 votes. Speculation is that those votes would have been divided between Franken and Coleman, with the edge going to Franken. The Constitution Party candidate for the Minnesota Senate seat, James Niemackl, won somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 votes. Unlike the votes for Dean Barkley, however, those votes likely came straight out of Norm Coleman's tally.
Niemackl's statement from the Minnesota Constitution Party's website:
Our actions are the measure of our character. What we say is meaningless without following up our words with action. Those who say one thing to our face and do another behind our back cannot be trusted with the awesome responsibility to serve us in office. Our nation has come to the breaking point because we continue to tolerate the deception and corruption within our government.
It is time for drastic change. A movement has begun in America to bring about change and to return our nation to a land of liberty. That movement crosses party lines and demographic differences. People that were once in conflict with each other are joining together in a common cause, to restore the rights and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We must seize the opportunity to restore our rights.
Please join us in reclaiming our Constitutional Rights. Together we can transform our government so that it is once again a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
James Niemackl is obviously a man of character. Running a senatorial campaign is no small commitment and any person who undertakes to do so out of love for this country and our freedoms is to be commended. We need people who are willing to stand on principle and protect our Constitutional freedoms.
On the other hand, where has Niemackl's candidacy brought us? Closer to our goal of preserving our freedoms? Probably not if Al Franken is eventually seated in the U.S. Senate. If Niemackl's 8,000 votes had gone to Coleman, we would not be considering the appalling prospect of Senator Franken today.
And this brings me to the double edged sword. Principle can cut through the opposition like a scythe or it can pierce you through to the marrow. Now more than ever, when state and national elections can be won or lost by a relative handful of votes, we must unite every "right of center" voter. Niemackl undoubtedly shares more beliefs about the role of government with Coleman than he does with Franken, yet his principled stand may have cost Coleman his Senate seat.
We cannot afford what has become a luxury: the luxury to stand on principle when compromise is the only realistic option. Even a moderate Senator is to be preferred over a liberal buffoon such as Al Franken. The best course of action for would-be third party conservative candidates is to work from within the Republican party structure and to work to sway public opinion to their values. To do otherwise is to split the vote and and invite defeat. I hope that James Niemackl and his supporters are finding comfort in their principles today.
Cross posted at It's Only Words