Al Franken Should Resign Yesterday, Nothing Personal(?)
Al Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota, has long been one of my favorite people in politics. He was a hilarious figure on Saturday Night Live, his political commentary in his Post-SNL years was always witty and unique, and his surprise win in 2008 gave hope to many as Franken made himself a workhorse and champion for progressive causes. I would tell one of my best friends, born, raised, and living in the rural Minnesota tundra, how envious I was that she had a senator known for such wit, such quotability, such a rivalry with my own junior seantor, Ted Cruz.
That changed last Thursday when the first of (as of this writing) four sexual misconduct allegations came forward
When the first allegation came out, I can’t say I was all that surprised. This was just after Louis CK’s actions, and I had my own reckoning about my favorite living comedian being a creep and predator. So Al Franken taking a photo where he appears to grope a sleeping woman was disappointing, but I was emotionally ready for it. Since the beginning I thought he should have resigned, I even helped co-author a statement for my student Democrat org calling for his resignation (As well as this second statement).
Since there are still many people saying Franken should still stay on, and the number of accusers has quadrupled since last Thursday, let me lay out the reasons why Al Franken should not be a senator
1) The Senate is no place for a sexual harasser, or predator.
The United States Senate is often called “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”. They are responsible for a great many doings in how the United States operates. They manage confirmations, they look at intel, they (on paper anyways) manage war powers. A person who, as a sitting senator a year into office, feels its appropriate to grab a woman’s ass without her consent at the State Fair of your home state, can reasonably be assumed to lack judgement in other matters. Behaving this inappropriately confirms every stereotype that people had prior to 2008, that a former comedian could not possibly be a serious politician (fear mongering about former game show hosts being serious politicians has proved to be so far accurate).
2) If Franken Resigns, He Will Change the Culture of Sexual Harrasment on Washington.
Franken pledged to regain his constituents trust after accusers #3 and #4 came out, but seems unwilling to leave office. The only political consequence he has faced is having his name taken off a bill to deal with sexual assault in the military. If we found out that the manager of a local burger king had groped women this way, and it was reported all over, that manager (and I do use the manager example because predators come from all walks of life) would be dealt with in some severe way. If Al Franken voluntarily removes himself, and acknowledges this fact, he will show that he is truly serious about redeeming himself. Imagine Al Franken holding a press conference, resigning, calling out those who tolerate this kind of conduct*, and insisting that Governor Mark Dayton appoint a woman to fill his seat? Imagine how many more women and men** would come forward to tell their stories. Imagine how many predators we could expose in congress before the 2018 Midterms. Imagine how we could transform the culture even further in the United States Congress. Imagine how many bright young women will no longer be discouraged from pursuing careers on the hill, knowing that they wouldn’t be subject to bureaucratic limbo for the crime of being harassed. Al Franken would go from someone whom we keep distance from, to someone who changed congress for the better by facing actual repercussion for his actions.
*This should go without saying, but the actions of Al Franken are VASTLY different than those of Roy Moore, but neither should be tolerated in a functional environment.
**I say “Women and Men” to put women first, as they are most often the victim of misconduct, but also to not exclude the men who are often victims as well, cough cough Kevin Spacey cough cough
3) By Telling Him to Stay, We Tell the Women and Men who are Subject to Harassment that Their Safety is Unimportant
I have had female friends tell me about how they are discouraged from working in certain industries because of the predatory reputation that they have. Be it in politics or music, academia or trades, it disgusts me to hear stories of women talking about not pursuing what they want to because of the culture. As a man, I can’t really relate to this, and I know I will never be able to (Although, as a somewhat large Latino man, I do know about the microaggressions that come with that, but that’s another blog post). I will never unlearn these stories, and I know it’s my moral obligation (and that of any other correct thinking man) to stand up to these faulty institutions.
I loved “The Pianist”, it has to be my favorite movie about the Holocaust. I love “American Beauty”, It’s one of my favorite artsy-farsty movies. I love “The Loud House”, it’s the most inspired cartoon of recent years. But while I love all these pieces of art, I know good and well that we don’t need predators like Polanski, Spacey, and Savino to create good art. We shouldn’t have to put up with people of abusive moral character for the sake of the work they produce. Louis CK, in his apology, admits that one of his biggest regrets is scaring women out of comedy. For every Louis CK we allow to operate unchallenged and unimpeded, we don’t know how many Carol Burnetts we’re losing because they were scared off the stage by a culture designed to diminish their concerns.
If you made it this far without understanding the importance of Franken resigning, allow to give a reason for Franken to resign that is purely motivated by partisan gain.
4) Franken Will Lose Us Alabama, and the House
As of a few days ago, a poll shows only 22 percent of Minnesotans feel Franken should stay in office, while 33 say he should resign, and 36 are willing to wait until the end of the ethics investigation. These are terrible numbers for a senator who won reelection by 10 points just 3 years ago. If you believe Al Franken can be forgiven (and believe me, I want to believe Al Franken can be forgiven), that’s one thing, but most of the state, and presumably the country, isn’t so forgiving. “Whataboutism” is one of the most common defensive tactics used by Trumpites to deflect criticism of them. They point to someone on the other side, claim corruption on a similar level to what they’re accused of, and pretend that a certain level of skeeviness is normal and shouldn’t be judged (e.g.The Soviet Union would use racial discrimination in the United States as a way to pretend that unpersoning was okay). Trump make a twitter post calling out “Al Frankenstien” (which you will never convince me wasn’t a autocorrect he forgot to fix, god these red lines under Franken are annoying), while giving Roy Moore the benefit of the doubt. Ignoring the fact that the number of people accusing the president of misconduct is in the double digits, Al Franken admitted his wrongdoing and asked for forgiveness, while Roy Moore’s incredibly well documented and corroborated history of predatory behavior is being denied by him, while people on his side trash the women accusing him of this.
If Franken (And to a different but no less important extent, John Conyers) continue to have the blessing of the Democratic Party’s label, then Trump’s GOP will use these cases to discredit the idea that sexual misconduct is a serious matter. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and make clear that we as a party stand for the safety of women, and draw a clear and sharp contrast between the party that has the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief as it’s standard bearer, and the party that gave us the first female Speaker of the House, and the first woman to head a major party Presidential ticket.
We have to do better, Democrats.
We all dropped Anthony Wiener, we can drop Franken, we can drop Conyers, we can make congress a safer place.
As an aside story time:, the first time I went to DC back in March, I walked into Franken’s Senate office in the Hart Building (It was near John Cornyn’s office, which I has just left), and showed my appreciation for his progressive efforts. It was then that one of the woman behind the desk noticed my Dallas Cowboys tie and told me she was also from Texas. We bonded a little bit about Texanisms. To this day she was the only Hijab wearing woman I have seen in DC who wasn’t the most obvious of obvious tourist types. The memory of meeting a fellow Texan in an unexpected place is now tainted by who she works for. I reckon she might be one of the many ex-staffers singing his praises as a man of good character, which if she is, great! I am really happy that these women, if their stories are true, had a good experience with a man I still would love to talk to, and was a progressive champion. But people mean different things to different people, and a hero to some can be a predator to others.