Let me put my cards on the table: I am a registered Democrat, a progressive, etc. I really, really want Democrats to hold a majority in the U.S. Senate after 2018 in order to stop Trump and the Republicans from stripping our country for parts. I would be psyched if Doug Jones beat the pedophile in Alabama next week, narrowing the gap to 51-49. Further, I am willing to abide candidates who don’t align with my political views on every issue in order to achieve this result. Contrary to the Bernie Bro stereotype, I do think practicality has a place in contemporary U.S. politics.
I am not, on the other hand, willing to tolerate someone who commits sexual harassment for the simple, expedient fact that he’s on my team. If I did that, I’d have no soap box from which to cast stones at the degenerates in Alabama who are about to vote for Roy Moore. And believe me, I really want to cast those stones! But I’ve written about that before. Today, I want to write about strategy.
Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that an alarming number of Democrats are willing to look the other way on Franken’s particular brand of sexual harassment. “It’s not the same as what Moore did!” is one common argument. Which, technically, is correct, but it’s also the exact kind of pointless whataboutism that we find so infuriating in Republicans. Franken’s history of alleged groping does not rise to the level of Moore’s crimes, sure, but that doesn’t mean his actions make him suited for the U.S. Senate. Not even close! I was frankly shocked to see how many people on the left were ready to cede the ethical high ground by tacitly giving Franken a pass. Their logic? Losing him would hinder the fight against Trump.
Lately, Franken’s colleagues in the Senate have turned against him—apparently five accusers is tolerable, but the emergence of a sixth and seventh is beyond the pale. Yet despite this late awakening, the apologists still exist, and while I find their views ridiculous and offensive, I’d like to take a moment to show how, even from a strategic point—utterly divorced from any moral consideration—it is absolutely stupid for Democrats to retain Al Franken as a U.S. Senator.
The argument is simple.
1. Al Franken is up for election in 2020.
2. If he resigns now, his replacement will be appointed by Minnesota’s Democratic governor Mark Dayton. Dayton’s pick would likely be congressmen Ralph Ellison or Tim Walz, or Minnesota lt. gov. Tina Smith.
3. The appointment would trigger a special election in 2018. BUT, the new senator would have a year to get rid of the Franken stench, AND he or she would be running in a blue state during a midterm that, at the moment, looks to be quite favorable for Democrats. People are fretting about the GOP targeting the seat, but with a good candidate, it should be easily defensible.
4. The alternative? Franken running in 2020 with a history of sexual harassment as his only tailwind. By then, you’d have to imagine there would be far more than just six accusers, and god only knows what the mood of the country would be. Or, he could resign at the end of his term, and the new candidate would have to start a campaign from scratch, with the specter of Franken haunting his or her every step.
5. A forced resignation, however, would at least send a clear message—the Democratic party won’t tolerate sexual abusers. Republicans may vote for them, and the RNC may back off its moral stance the minute an accused molester stands a chance to win, but any Democrat perpetrator will be drummed out of the party, period. It may feel like a loss, but believe me, it’s not—it’s a moral move, a defense against hypocrisy, and a signal that the party retains some integrity. People will notice. Some people in Alabama may even notice.
Franken is set to make an announcement today about his future, and from the rumblings of the Internet, it seems a little like he’s going to double-down. That may be wrong, and I hope it is. Because the evidence is clear—if Franken really cares about his party, he would resign immediately and give his successor a chance to hold the seat in 2018. Anything less, and he’s out for his own gain, country be damned.
Al Franken: Don’t be a selfish buffoon. Don’t hurt your party, and therefore America. Resign.