Al Franken should not resign from the United States Senate, at least not without exacting an actual pound of flesh. The Democratic Party has a golden opportunity to draw a line in the sand to call out Congressional Republicans and President Trump on their stunning hypocrisy, and they’re insane if they let the opportunity pass them by without taking action.
Let me preface this argument by saying I am in no way defending Franken if he did in fact sexually harass Leeann Tweeden or Lindsay Metz or anyone else. But something about the Franken situation kinda rubs me the wrong way (pun intended). It felt like a political hit job when it came out, and it still feels like a political hit job today. When your primary accuser shows up on Fox News, whether or not the accusations are politically motivated becomes a legitimate question.
Additionally, Leeann Tweeden, by her own admission, used her sexuality as a primary tool to achieve professional success. That cannot be ignored. This was not some meek Congressional staffer who was intimidated and terrorized by an out-of-control politician dropping his pants in an elevator; by all accounts, Leeann Tweeden gave as good as she got when she wanted to. Again, none of this excuses Franken if crossed a line, which he admittedly may have, but the context simply cannot be ignored.
Al Franken was well-positioned as a proactive bulldog in the Senate, calling bullshit on well, the bullshit that permeates the federal government on a continuous basis. He had worked extremely hard to demonstrate his competence as a Senator and showed an undeniable passion for the job. Can you think of another male Democratic Senator who has done a better job at challenging the insanity put forth by the Trump Administration? Franken’s job performance put an enormous bullseye on his back, and in this case, his accusers hit what they aimed at with precision.
And despite the total lack of due process, and despite the hard to ignore political stench, a reasonable argument can be made that Franken has to go. It may not be fair, but since when has politics been fair?
But for Franken to go quietly into the night is just bad politics, not just for Franken personally but the Democratic Party as a whole. The Democrats have adopted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual harassment and assault claims, which sounds great but will likely create substantial collateral damage and ruin the careers of some genuinely good public servants.
If you have to resign because someone made an allegation against you, then why wouldn’t your political enemies start throwing accusations at you, especially when your resignation is promptly expected by the end of the twenty-four-hour news cycle? The combination of a lack of due process and a rush to political judgment, drizzled with a promise of zero tolerance is an open invitation for political skullduggery.
I understand that the Democrats believe they need to be morally pure to legitimately call out Republicans as the Party of the Pussy Grabbers in 2018, but it’s a lousy strategy for several reasons. First and foremost, the Democrats are assuming there are rules of political engagement here; there aren’t. Both elected branches of the federal government, the legislative and executive, are being run by a Republican party that has shown nothing even resembling the moral values they somehow get to claim as their exclusive political identity. There is no way for Franken or any Democrat to claim the moral high ground when there is no moral compass whatsoever in the federal government.
Second, the strategy is easy for Republicans. If Democrats are going to run on a party platform of personal decency and morality, anyone who has ever gone outside these invisible boundaries of conduct is a dead man walking. At a time when Democrats should be steering elections to policy and its impact on voters, they’re shining a massive mirror on themselves instead. Republicans live for these kinds of campaigns and to be honest, they’re way better at them than Democrats. Ignoring issues for morality politics in 2018 is a really stupid idea.
Finally, the voters don’t care about this stuff nearly as much as the Democrats think they do; if they did, the 2016 Presidental Election would have been over about fifteen different times when something new and stupid came out of Donald Trump’s mouth. If voters like you or your politics for whatever reason, they will find a way to ignore or defend personal misconduct, and if they don’t like you, they will use it as a reason to justify their dislike.
Just look at the clusterfuck in the Alabama Senate race. Doug Jones was by all accounts a stand-up guy, and Roy Moore was a caricature of some pervy old guy in a leather vest. If the election had been solely based on morality, then it shouldn’t have required the Democrats outspending the Republicans 6 to 1 to squeak out a narrow victory.
So unless the Republicans manage to put together a nationwide slate of candidates in 2018 who have all been banned by the local mall for hitting on teenagers, don’t expect a wave election.
So what can the Democrats do? It’s simple. Al Franken needs to take to the Senate floor and tell the American people that he will resign as soon as an independent counsel or special prosecutor is appointed to investigate the avalanche of credible sexual harassment and assault claims against President Donald J. Trump. Draw a line in the sand to finally set some ground rules in this wildly one-sided and hypocritical political game.
This maneuver puts Congressional Republicans in the awful position of being forced to defend an increasingly unpopular president by staying silent or publicly turning on that president to save themselves. If you’re a Republican member of the House or Senate, are you willing to bet your political future on Donald Trump’s behavior around women who he openly admitted will let him do anything because he’s famous?
By tying his resignation to Trump’s misconduct, which is obviously much more severe, Al Franken can walk away from the Senate as a martyr for the Democratic Party and victims of sexual harassment and assault everywhere. Franken can be the guy whose continued presence will serve as an unceasing symbol of Republican hypocrisy. And to anyone who would bash Franken for doing this, the answer is simple.
Al Franken didn’t make the rules- the Republicans running our government did. In other words, hate the game, not the player.
During the 2016 Election, the phrase “yeah, but her emails…” became the universal code for what John Oliver smartly called “whataboutism”; the practice of making false comparisons to justify or invalidate the conduct of a political opponent. No matter what Donald Trump said or did, his supporters (and many in the media) used the “Hillary Clinton email scandal” as defiant justification for Trump’s outrageous conduct.
It was patently unfair and intellectually dishonest. But guess what? It worked. So why should the Democrats be above beating the Republicans at their own game? Let Al Franken draw a clear line in the sand, and when the Republicans ignore it and try to attack the Democrats, the response will be crystal clear.
“Yeah, but your President…”