A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

7 December 2017 — 1459 mdt

Senate Democrats sacrifice Al Franken
on the altar of political expediency

Succumbing to pressure from more than 30 Democratic senators, including Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced this morning he’s resigning from the Senate in the next few weeks. There’s considerable speculation that Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, will appoint his state’s lieutenant governor, Tina Flint Smith, as Franken’s replacement.

The last lieutenant governor appointed to the Senate to replace a resigning senator was Montana’s John Walsh, whom Gov. Steve Bullock tapped to replace Sen. Max Bacus following Baucus’ resignation to become ambassador to China. Walsh won the 2014 primary for the Democratic nomination to complete Baucus’ term, but resigned the nomination following revelations he had plagiarized his masters thesis. State Rep. Amanda Curtis replaced Walsh on the ballot, but lost to Steve Daines. Some Minnesota commentators believe Smith would be a placeholder who would not seek election to the remainder of Franken’s term.

Although Minnesota is considered a blue state, Hillary Clinton failed to win a majority of the state’s popular vote, receiving only a narrow plurality, 46.4 percent to Trump’s 44.9 percent. The probability that a Democrat will win Franken’s seat in 2018 is lower than many Democrats suppose.

Sweet forgiveness? Not in today’s Democratic Party.

Franken ran afoul of the Democratic Party’s belief that all men who are accused of sexual misconduct must resign their office, preferably before they were born. Several women accused Franken of boorish behavior, claiming he had squeezed their rumps or kissed them, or tried to kiss them, without authorization. He issued careful apologies and asked that the Senate’s ethic committee investigate his situation, but for his colleagues in the Senate, suddenly that was not enough. Yesterday, Democratic calls for his resignation rained down in a cloudburst of Old Testament righteousness. He had colleagues, but perishingly few friends. According to Politico:

Franken offered no apology on Thursday to the seven women who have alleged sexually improper behavior. He noted in his speech that in responding to the women, he “wanted to be respectful” of the broader national conversation about sexual harassment “because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.”

“I think that was the right thing to do,” he added. “I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently.”

There are no nuances in the Democratic Party’s manichean approach to sexual conduct. An appreciative glance at a woman that is interpreted as a depraved leer is just as evil as rape, and just as deserving of an ultimate punishment. Compounding this denial of the complexities of life and human behavior is the belief held by almost all Democrats that in disputes involving sexual conduct, one must always believe the woman; that women never lie. Accusation is treated as a self-proving truth; no need for an investigation, no need for a trial. If she accuses, he is guilty. Indeed, an investigation would be proof of failing to take the woman seriously.

Those beliefs, coupled with the cries of “Resign! Resign!” that brought down Franken, set a guilty until proven innocent standard of proof, and set the same harsh punishment, for all claims of sexual misconduct against public officials and figures. There’s a far from low probability that this will encourage unscrupulous right wing women to make bogus claims of sexual harassment or assault in efforts to discredit or take down prominent liberals.

Although Democrats consider themselves a compassionate party that cares for the downtrodden, that prefers rehabilitation to retribution, that believes in second chances and redemption, there’s no forgiveness, no allowing for human imperfection, no redemption, no rehabilitation, no mercy, in the Democratic Party's approach to matters of alleged and real sexual misconduct.

Democrats may think that pushing Franken, Conyers, et al, out of Congress will allow the party to not appear hypocritical when it criticizes Roy Moore for liking them young, and President Trump for making crude remarks. And on that, Democrats may be right. But if they think that accusing Trump of being lewd and crude will be a winning issue in 2020, they’ve forgotten what happened in 2016. Trump’s attitude toward women outraged the Democratic intelligentsia, but it didn’t cost him votes with his followers. They’re willing to tolerate a raunchy, lowbrow, Tweeter-in-Chief as long as he appoints right wing judges and signs legislation lowering taxes and cutting off food stamps for those lazy bums who would get jobs if the alternative was starving to death.

Franken’s ouster does accomplish one thing: it gives Democrats a victory. They’ve squeezed the alleged rump squeezer out of Congress. They can’t elect governing majorities at the local, state, and national level, they can’t stop tax cut payoffs to the rich, they don’t have the votes to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and programs to lessen human misery, but by God they’re proven they can exercise a de facto nullification of the decision of Minnesota’s voters to be represented in the Senate by Al Franken.

What a political party: purged, pure, and powerless.