For now, Norm Coleman has kept his word. On March 19, in the first litmus-test vote of his term, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An environmental and economic flashpoint for conservatives, liberals and environmentalists of all stripes, the refuge had taken on strong political significance. Despite last-minute deal offerings and insinuations of political repercussions, however, Coleman stayed true to promises made in his campaign and strayed from the White House. For an individual charged as a political opportunist, this stance bodes well for Coleman. He should be applauded.
Coleman's choice came amid significant political pressure. Throughout his campaign and up until the day of the vote, President George W. Bush rallied for opening ANWR to drilling, often comparing the amount of oil available from the refuge and that which the United States imported from Iraq. The day of the vote, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Capitol Hill and lobbied for the White House's position. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Ark., the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, vowed on March 19, "People who vote this day are voting against me, and I'll never forget it." Yesterday, Stevens appeared to back down from his threat. Stevens said, "I have no problem with Norm Coleman. He told us where he stood all along."
Elected officials become leaders by standing for their convictions. Too often politicians make pie-in-the-sky promises only to fail to deliver once comfortably in office. It is refreshing and encouraging to see Coleman break this trend. Hopefully, this vote and the feedback from it will spur the freshman senator to continue to stand for himself and his state.