Rep. John Conyers resigned amid allegations of harassment
Al Franken scheduled an announcement after calls for him to step down
There’s a decent chance that this time next week Roy Moore will be a senator-elect and Al Franken will be a former senator.
And that seems to be exactly what Democrats want – to be the zero-tolerance, anti-harassment party and a foil to the GOP, which has indicated it will likely accept Moore if he wins election next week.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the dean of the House John Conyers, who resigned Monday after decades of service (since 1965!), or the affable and popular Minnesota senator who was popular on both sides of the aisle and just wrote a book snarkily titled, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.” If there are credible allegations, you’re out – if you’re a Democrat.
Contrast that policy with Republicans, including President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, who are helping Moore, the Alabama nominee who has been accused of pursuing relationships with a number of teenage girls while he was in his 30s and of assault by two of them. Though many GOP senators have said Moore should drop out, it’s clear he won’t. And it’s also clear they’ll seat him and count on his vote to pass the tax cut/reform bill they’ve been banking on. They’ve also been slow to react to allegations against Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, who used taxpayer funds to settle a harassment case against him.
Side note: It’s not easy to get a lawmaker of any stripe to resign. We’ll see what Franken does Thursday, but it says something about the pressure they’ve applied that it’s possible both Franken and Conyers resigned despite allegations they disputed.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote Wednesday about how big a deal it is that Democrats, sparked by the concerted effort of many of the women they have in the Senate, turned against Franken.
Democrats generally rely on women voters in elections. There are many more Democratic women – 16 – in the Senate than Republican women – five.
That’s part of their current DNA. The other thing a purge of accused gropers and harassers could do is help them rebrand from being the party of Bill Clinton. There are two recent presidents who won the White House despite allegations of harassment. Clinton, noted Democrat, is one of them. Trump, Republican iconoclast, is the other. Clinton withstood further allegations in office and Trump clearly plans to do the same, although 20 years later and during a time of monumental change on this issue.
Make no mistake, the issue of harassment is going to be carried by Democrats into 2018, when they hope to retake the House, at the least, from Republicans.
It’s no coincidence that the first of the rush of Democratic women to call on Franken to resign Wednesday was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the New Yorker who is often mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.
“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards – not the lowest,” she said on Twitter. “The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”
Gillibrand was also among the Democratic women to suggest weeks ago that Clinton should probably have resigned when allegations about his behavior came to light.
“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,” Gillibrand told The New York Times back in November. “And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.”
Clinton, of course, reached highs in his personal popularity as he was to be impeached by the House over the Starr Report. It’s hard to imagine that being the case today.
Getting Franken out of office and becoming a zero tolerance party will also require a mass Democratic reckoning with his legacy – and giving up on a once-promising, beloved figure, for a greater purpose.