New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg has given voice to the conflict that supporters of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken may have in the wake of Thursday’s bombshell.
She likes what Franken has stood for as a U.S. senator — “He was behind one measure that made it easier for people who are sexually victimized while working for defense contractors to find justice and another ensuring that survivors don’t have to pay for their own rape kits” — and she says with more and more men getting swept up in their past, there’s the question of whether and how there is an avenue for redemption.
But she thinks Franken should resign.
So my first instinct is to say that Franken deserves a chance to go through an ethics investigation but remain in the Senate, where he should redouble his efforts on behalf of abuse and harassment victims. But if that happens, the current movement toward unprecedented accountability for sexual harassers will probably start to peter out.
Republicans, never particularly eager to hold their own to account, will use Franken to deflect from more egregious abuse on their own side, like what Trump and Roy Moore are accused of.
Women with stories about other members of Congress might hesitate to come forward. That horrifying photo of Franken will confront feminists every time they decry Trump’s boasts of grabbing women by the genitals.
Democrats will have to worry about whether more damaging information will come out, and given the way scandals like this tend to unfold, it probably will.
It’s not worth it. The question isn’t about what’s fair to Franken, but what’s fair to the rest of us. I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: We will replace you.
That, of course, does not address the issue of redemption. But she suggests we are not at the time for redemption yet.
Goldberg’s point mirrors that made by another columnist — the Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg.
But a lot of the time, these cases create a sort of tunnel vision. The idea that Roy Moore’s supporters need to reconcile themselves even to the allegations that he abused a 14-year-old girl and harassed and assaulted other young girls and women on the grounds that he’s the only person who can take their theological vision of the world to Congress simply isn’t true.
We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get trapped by this false logic, not least because it prevents us from pushing other men to step up to the plate. Saying that Weinstein is the only person who could push roles for Meryl Streep or Judi Dench lets the rest of Hollywood off the hook for being stupid enough to waste the talents of a whole cohort of older actresses.
Suggesting that only C.K. could tell the truth about misogyny is just an excuse for letting the rest of comedy stay mired in the piggish norms of an earlier era.
And if we were really in a situation where Franken was the only male senator willing to stand up for rape victims, then we would be in even deeper trouble than we are now.
Related: Al Franken championed a Minnesota rape survivor’s bill. Now she wants a new sponsor (Washington Post)
Al Franken, Disappointment (New Yorker)