The rise and fall of Sen. Al Franken

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It's been a rapid fall for Senator Al Franken and while the focus is now on the scandal at hand, his legacy is also up for debate. But what exactly that legacy is remains an open question.

A time not terribly long ago the name Al Franken could spark a smile and the possibilities for the comedian turned senator seemed almost endless.

“He was often sometimes noted as the second funniest senator from Minnesota because he never really told a joke,” said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University.

As a politician, Al Franken put his head down after winning the closest race in the history of the U.S. Senate and took on big issues.

“He became noted for issues such as net neutrality, he was a very strong critic of Donald Trump, became an advocate for women’s rights,” said Schultz.
Franken was in many ways a rising star in the Democratic party. He was a sought after speaker with regular appearances on TV shows and was part of a growing resistance to President Donald Trump. But with allegations of sexual misconduct, it all began to unravel.

“It becomes hard to figure out if he is known as Al Franken the comedian, Al Franken the senator or Al Franken who has to leave the Senate in disgrace because of sexual harassment claims,” said Schultz.

With his departure, Franken joins a long list of names to hold his Senate seat that would ultimately meet a bizarre political end. In 1978, an apparent quid pro quo would see Democrat Governor Wendell Anderson appoint himself as senator, which would set the stage for a Republican sweep the next election. Fourteen years later, Paul Wellstone was running for re-election when he would die in a plane crash.

What Al Franken uniquely owns is a national profile and thirst to stay relevant, the only question now is if it’s possible. A political future at this point does seem unlikely, but Franken has said he plans to remain outspoken as a citizen.