With Franken gone, Democrats gain a message

There will, no doubt, be the gnashing of teeth with the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, befelled by a steady drip of allegations of sexual impropriety by women in the last few weeks.

These tweets, for example, are but one example. What exactly did Franken do that even approaches the allegations against Roy Moore, the Senate candidate who has received the warm embrace of the president and the Republican Party?

Here’s the thing: As long as Franken remained in the Senate, Democrats would have had a near impossible task doing what the people who couldn’t understand why he’s out and Moore is likely in want them to do. He represented a political anchor on the party.

Exhibit A is the new Democratic messaging presented to NPR’s Steve Inskeep this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Franken’s resignation unleashes the message aimed at the voters who believe the Party sold them out: women.

“Democrats who have upheld the principles that we have a workplace free of any sort of sexual misconduct, the party has been quite unequivocal on saying we have a zero-tolerance party,” she said.

“The Democrats are going to set new standards; standards that apply to everyone,” Brazile, a former chair of the Democratic Party, said.

Democrats are the party that cleans its house of sexual harassers, she told Inskeep, drawing a distinction between Democrats and Republicans.

That’s a message the Democrats couldn’t have with Franken and Michigan U.S. Rep. John Conyers in office.

“His continued presence in the Senate compromised our ability to communicate clearly against Republicans’ complicity in Moore’s candidacy and it subjected Democratic members of Congress to weeks of painful interviews where they twisted themselves into pretzels trying to defend Franken’s indefensible conduct,” Lis Smith, a New York-based Democratic strategist, tells MSNBC.

But keeping Moore out of the U.S. Senate is still a short-term play. Long-term, Democrats, who have struggled to come up with a message, have one without Franken in office.

In that light, Franken’s resignation is less a moral judgment than a political one, because that’s the way the game is played.

Maybe a month ago, sexual harassment wasn’t a partisan issue.

With Franken’s exit, Democrats, who’ve pushed John Conyers and Franken to the curb this week, are gambling that they can make it one.

Related: Why Al Franken is done-for — and Roy Moore isn’t (Washington Post)

  • Mike

    >>With Franken’s exit, Democrats, who’ve pushed John Conyers and Franken to the curb this week, are gambling that they can make it one.<<

    They might be successful with this, but it all depends how sincere they are about it in the future. Is Franken just the scapegoat for a bunch of others who are in hiding, or will his resignation mark a turning point? Only time will tell.

    In the meantime, you can forgive voters for being skeptical about the purported newfound virtue of Democrats in this regard. There's a big elephant in that room, a former president named Clinton, and his wife, who helped him and the Democratic Party ride roughshod over all the women who accused him of improprieties.

    But in America, there's nothing we love more than the narrative of sinners finding redemption. Our Puritan heritage makes us suckers for it every time.

    • I’m afraid that the voting public are already entrenched in their ways and won’t be swayed one way or the other. With this ousting, the base might be shored up, but I’m pretty sure votes won’t be gained. After all, those voting GOP didn’t balk at supporting a self-admitted sexual abuser.

      • MikeB

        Expect a lot of stories about a lot of current members’ behavior between now and Nov 2018.

      • Jeff

        This feels like Democrats do the right thing, the Republicans don’t and they win. Wouldn’t surprise me if they will get Franken’s seat and still have Trump and Moore in place. “Thanks for the Senate seat, chumps”.

  • Rob

    Franken ‘s resignation doesn’t just give the Dems the moral and political high ground on harassment issues regarding Congress, it gives them the moral and political leeway needed to bring constant and intense pressure against the Groper-in-Chief on this issue. One thing I hope the Dems do is work to convince more of T.Rump’s harassment victims to file lawsuits against him.

    He needs to be hounded out of office, forthwith.

    • Jason

      Can you imagine if Democrats had done the right thing and taken Bill Clinton’s many sexual indiscretions seriously? They still have that albatross around their necks, and the sooner they get rid of it the better. I think a lot of people (myself included) are doing a lot of re-evaluation of how they’ve enabled Clinton in great and small ways.

      • Rob

        That was then, this is now. Yes, Bill was handled with kid gloves, but instead of hand-wringing about the past, let’s keep our eye on the present and the future. Franken and the Dems did the right thing today, and set the template for doing the right thing going forward. Rock on, I say!

        • Jason

          It’s not the past, it’s the present. Clinton has been and is still very much a part of the Democratic Party machine.

          I’m not hand-wringing, but agreeing that Franken going is a very positive step and hopefully signifies a new era. But at some point, we have to address the elephant in the room.

          • Rob

            I’d be OK with Clinton being sidelined by the DNC. But again, let’s focus on getting the Serial Harasser-in-Chief out of office, and making the Repubs squirm enough that they block Moore from taking his Senate seat if he should happen to win the election.

          • Jason

            You can’t focus when you present obvious weak spots. Trump is the king of Whataboutism, and Bill Clinton is a gigantic bullseye for him.

          • Rob

            Bill’s not in office. Let’s focus on removing the sleazes who are, and leaving the whataboutism to the hatecasters.

  • AL287

    If more women had turned out in force to vote like they did for the Women’s March on Washington we wouldn’t have the harasser-in-chief we have now or be on the verge of electing another fake evangelical Christian senator who preys on vulnerable, underage women because of their purity.

    American voters are realizing their votes can definitely mean the difference between having good government and partisan government that only looks out for its biggest monetary supporters and will overlook any transgression to stay in power.

    The hypocrisy of it all defies imagination. Al Franken is being made a sacrificial lamb on the altar of partisan politics.

    I say get rid of the Electoral College and let the voters have their say, regardless of the outcome.

    • Lindsey

      You got data to backup that women didn’t vote? I can’t seem to find that information.
      It’s unlikely that those who voted in Trump will suddenly switch party affiliations, as the majority are evangelical in their support of him.

      • It breaks down to an education issue, too. Trump’s support is solid among white women without college degrees. In the last election, the majority of college educated white women went against him.

        All of this, of course, is from exit polls. So, make of that what you will.

      • AL287

        No, Lindsey. I don’t have data backing that up, but if the Electoral College had been relegated to the history books, we would have a different president right now.

        I grew up in the Deep South where evangelical and full gospel churches were in abundance.

        The ignorance and lack of education of these folks was made apparent to me when my mother took her homeroom class to a local pool for an outing.

        Several of the girls had to be fully clothed to go into the pool and I’m talking full dress with ankle length skirts. If they didn’t know how to swim they would have drowned in the deep end.

        These churches do not preach tolerance and assimilation. The church leaders keep a tight leash on their female members. They play on members fears and insecurities much like a cult.

        I think a lot of women, even the college educated saw Trump’s abandonment of PC as an indication that he would fight for their rights and they would finally get the equal treatment under the law they truly deserve.

        Had the Harvey Weinstein debacle come out during the campaign season, Trump wouldn’t be in office.

    • crystals

      Super cool move to blame women at large instead of the 63% of white men who ACTUALLY DID vote for him.

      Al Franken “is being made a sacrificial lamb” because he did stupid things. Don’t do stupid things. This isn’t that hard.

      • kevins

        Didn’t a majority of white women vote for The Donald?

        • crystals

          Yep, though not by much – 52%. With people of color overwhelmingly voting for Clinton, it seems to me (total armchair analysis) that it’s safe to say white men won the election for Trump. That’s why I found the focus on women being responsible for putting him in office to be so strange.

      • It seems a recognition that men are never going to “get” why sexual harassment is a big deal.

      • AL287

        Crystals, have you ever in your life done a stupid thing that you regretted later?

        Have you ever bullied someone indirectly (by not challenging a bully) or directly?

        Fat shaming (too many to list), style shaming (Jana Shortal), mom shaming (Julia Stiles), etc. are common bullying tactics that women use against other women.

        I am hoping your answer to my first question is “Yes”.

        • crystals

          I think the key question is actually whether or not one learns from their mistakes, or continues to repeat that pattern of behavior.

          • AL287

            You didn’t answer the question.

          • crystals

            I didn’t think I had to. Of course I’ve done stupid things. I work really hard to not do them a second time and think I actually do pretty well at that. But back to the topic at hand: I’m not a US Senator. Al Franken is. I believe his apparent decision to step down is the right one, and I hope he uses this speech on the Senate floor to blast the other elected (or soon-to-be) officials whose conduct is also, and much more, unacceptable.

          • AL287

            Now answer the second one and bullying is in the same realm as harassment, sexual or other wise.

          • crystals

            I’m going to be totally honest: I have no idea what you are asking and/or what point you’re trying to make. It’s difficult for me to follow your line of thinking.

            I think it’s pretty clear we have different opinions (and that’s fine by me), so I’m going to move on to more productive conversations. Have a nice day!

          • AL287

            By failing to respond, you give your answer which I think is “yes.”

          • crystals

            That’s quite a leap. You do you, AL287.

          • Don’t do that. That’s a violation of commenting rules.

          • AL287

            I’m sorry. Understood.

    • Barton

      A lot – a LOT!! – of women voted for Trump.

      I do find it humorous that the Electoral College, which was supposed to stop such populist candidates only succeeded in getting on elected – mainly because the %age of voters per electoral collage official is not equal.

    • KenB

      AL287, getting rid of the electoral college requires a Constitutional amendment. Small states won’t ratify one; they’d lose their leverage of having 2 Senators count the same as big states (e.g., ND and CA).

      The workaround is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com). If enough states totaling at least 270 electoral votes pass it into law, their electoral votes would go to the candidate receiving the most votes nationally.

  • MikeB

    While I agree that the standard will be different to each political party it’s a big mistake to politicize the issue of harassment, to fold it into the culture wars of our time rather than pressing to change the culture overall. I don’t want to see this issue go the way of once universal issues such as climate change, voting rights, America as a land of opportunity, etc. Also, by making this a partisan issue enables the GOP to continue to ignore the charges, or believe them only when issued against Democrats.

    • Veronica

      It feels like it’s already a partisan issue, and that it has been for awhile.

      We can hope that the conversations can change the hearts and minds at least of the victims who have been told that they deserved whatever kind of abuse they experienced. They will learn, as Elizabeth Smart did, that the culture they grew up in lied, that they aren’t as useless as a piece of used chewing gum, and that they indeed aren’t at fault.

  • Every woman eligible to vote should vote. It will be easier to make that happen with a new senator in office.

  • Barton

    I will be honest, I was all for defending Franken until I saw the photo of him pretending to squeeze the breasts of the woman when she was asleep. Then I was done and okay with him (possibly) resigning.

    But at some point we’ve got to get to a place where we recognize the degrees of sexual misconduct (I do hate that term). Rape is NOT equal to arse grabbing. A dirty old man who likes and sleeps with females under 18 is not the same as belittling comments in a board room. They are all wrong. But some are actual crimes and others are anti-social behavior.

    • crystals

      I am totally with you. There’s a medium post making the rounds called A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken and while I totally agree there are different kinds of violence against women and thus the consequences should be different (and should be centered in what the victims think is needed), I disagree on the specifics as it relates to Franken. His job is to represent *US*, and it’s pretty clear that he can no longer do that effectively. We deserve a senator who can fight for us without a growing record of harassment at worst (or a pattern of questionable behavior at best) towards women.

    • Dan

      Tweeden (from the photo) said she didn’t think Franken should resign. While women who allege misconduct should not have to justify making an accusation just because it wasn’t full-on rape, there should also be some sort of punishment-fits-the-crime proportionality. Frankly I don’t think we’re there, we’re in sensational scandal-addiction mode. I don’t believe the current strategy of banishing all manner of misbehaving men to Pervert Island is one that will end well.

      While I don’t think Franken’s resignation will be impactful (at least not in the way those who called for it might be hoping), I do still hold out sincere hope that after the public focus moves on to something else, women feel free to speak up about and directly to misconduct in the workplace — and everywhere else. And that it has a lasting impact on mens’ behavior.

      • A woman — progressive — on Tom Weber’s call-in just now had a response to that line of thinking. She said basically, sexual violence against women should not be on a bar scale.

        • JamieHX

          I don’t know what that means — “on a bar scale.”

        • Dan

          Didn’t catch the show, sounds like a good sound bite.

        • Rob

          Heard that, loved it

          • I wish I could remember the term she used, though.

  • Jerry

    I fear this whole Franken case is going to be a lose-lose situation for women. If he stays it sends the message that casual harassment of women is ok. If he goes, women lose one of their stronger advocates in the senate, and I fear he will be replaced by someone like Pawlenty, Emmer, or Bachmann in the next election.

    • Veronica

      Paulenty never was elected with a majority. Emmer and Bachmann have only won district seats. None of them would win a state-wide election for US Senate. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

      • Jerry

        Minnesota may be a safe bet to go Democratic in presidential elections, but we are not consistent in state wide elections. And I have lost a lot of optimism in the last two years.

        • Jason

          Aren’t we pretty consistent, though? Coleman was elected after some pretty special circumstances. Wellstone died, Ventura replaced him with a Reform Party buddy, and Mondale had to jump in elevan days before the election.

          And even then it was very close and Coleman didn’t get 50% of the vote. That’s a pretty exceptional set of events. Franken will be replaced way in advance of the election by (Democratic governor) Dayton’s pick.

          Franken managed to beat an incumbent Senator (a difficult task), even if the margin was razor thin. He won re-election with 53% of the vote.

          Klobuchar won her elections with 58% and 63% of the vote.

          As mentioned, Pawlenty never put up any impressive numbers. He got into office with less than 44%, and even as an incumbent managed to only scrape by with 46%.

          Ventura was a wild card win in ’98, with only 37%.

          I feel like it’s consistent, just not guaranteed, if you catch my meaning.

          I do worried that they’ll be a bit of a talent drain given that both senators and the governor will be up in 2018. Klobuchar is likely a lock, but I’m not sure I could name likely candidates for even one of the two open spots.

          • Jerry

            On the other hand: Durenburger, Boschwitz, Grams, and Coleman.

          • Jason

            But… wasn’t I clear on Coleman?

            Also, Durenburger last won in 1988. Boschwitz in 1984. Grams in 1994 (and was beaten by different DFL candidates both in 2000 and 2006).

            So you have the one incredibly special set of circumstances (Coleman) and then you have to go back 23-33 years to find three more.

            I think that bolsters my “consistent but not guaranteed” comment.

          • Jerry

            A win with an asterisk is still a win

          • Jason

            I’m REALLY not sure what you’re driving at. As I said, consistent but not guaranteed. I’m not sure I’d want to live in a state where one party has such a lock they don’t even have to worry about losing. There are states like that, and they tend to have problems.

          • Jerry

            The only point in trying to make is that there is at least a 50% chance that one of the next elected senators from Minnesota will be a Republican.

          • Postal Customer

            I don’t think it’s 50%. 2018 will be a favorable year for Democrats.

          • Jerry

            Again, I’ve lost a lot of optimism

          • Jason

            That’s not really how probability works, though. Look at the track record. Look at all the dems elected to statewide office vs republicans in the last 20 years. I know you won’t claim that’s 50%. Would you even claim it’s 10%?

          • Jerry

            I have spent too much time outside the Cities to have that much confidence in my fellow Minnesotans

      • Jeff

        Recall Emmer almost beat Dayton and might of had Horner not siphoned off votes. Granted 2010 was a pretty bad year for Democrats.

  • And…he’s officially gone.

    • jon

      Shame.

      Though I did like the line about the irony of him being asked to step down while the president and Roy Moore enjoy the support of their parties.

      That line got me wondering… When I was a teenager and Clinton was in office (and in scandal) the ONLY thing that was discussed in my church was David and bathsheba … Are the churches talking about that now, I mean that we have a president who moved on a married woman like a bitch, and is using his authority as “king” to try to cover up what ever crimes or immoral acts he may have committed?

      I’m not saying we should kill Donny Jr. as a punishment for Trump being an ass… (though I’m not ruling it out if some one can find a good reason for the death penalty to be brought against Jr.) and I’d really like to avoid the whole civil war thing…

      But it does seem like this would be a great time for all of christendom to take a look at those events in the bible and what supposedly displeased the lord…
      OR they could keep trying to find biblical justification for pedophilia…….

  • Dan

    This will make it that much harder for the Dems to take the Senate in the midterms. That was their last hope of holding off another Trump Supreme court nominee, who will have disastrous implication for rights of minorities and women. It will have zero effect on support for Trump or Moore, but it does give permission to progressives to go ahead and pat themselves on the back for the Right Thing having been done. I’d express hope that this action will have a meaningful impact on women in the workplace, but I guess I’m not that much of an optimist.

    • Given that most of the seats in play next year are Democratic seats, there was little chance of taking the Senate in the mid-terms.

      • Dan

        Indeed, and that steep climb just got steeper IMO…

      • Mike Worcester

        Even by the most optimistic outlooks, a 50-50 tie was the best possible outcome. And that was being *really* optimistic.

    • Jerry

      Future Associate Justice Stephan Miller?

      And I have just made myself ill. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ae02ff8a4a67fc3d344f5e4973fc7e2b975d31fe9055d5c8cc1a97afcc362288.jpg

      • I’ve never understood why presidential candidates don’t make the Supreme Court a campaign issue.

        • Jerry

          It’s one of their most lasting actions and one that can’t immediately be reversed by their successors, but so few people actually pay attention to it.

          • crystals

            I felt like there was a LOT of it’s-about-the-Supreme-Court happening in the last election, particularly among evangelicals using abortion to justify their vote for Trump.

          • Jerry

            Evangelicals would vote for Satan if he came out against abortion

        • Rob

          Didn’t T.Rump make it a campaign issue?

  • Jim G

    I am so sad. I knew Al as a classmate along with hundreds of others. He is and was a good person. I am touched by the humility of his speech.

  • dumbunny

    “Franken’s resignation unleashes the message aimed at the voters who believe the Party sold them out: women”? Here I thought it was the working class that the Party sold out, when all along it was the women’s vote that put Trump over the top in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania!

    • It refers to women who had voted Democratic; that’s why it links to Tina Dupuy’s article.

      • dumbunny

        I’m looking at a quote from Dupuy’s article, stating, “Democrats sold our soul. Nothing makes that more clear than how women voted in the 2016 election.” This is misguided. Women are not a monolithic voting bloc any more than African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, gays, or Catholics are. If one is hyper-focused on gender identity politics, it is easy for them to fall into the trap of believing everyone else is, too, but every person is a member of multiple groups, and I believe that ethnicity, class, and religious affiliation can group people more strongly due to sociological effects like ghettoization and religious conditioning. Women voting for Trump is probably more due to class identity (Elitism vs. Populism) than gender identity. YMMV, but I don’t think Dupuy’s analysis is on point.

        • She’s talking about Democratic women.

          • dumbunny

            I hear you, but still disagree with the analysis.

            Dupuy’s previous paragraph: “For me, it’s been sinking in that the working white women who felt condescended to by affluent feminists voted, by significant margins, for an admitted sexual predator over the lady who’d not believe them if they were abused by someone she liked. Their choices don’t seem so ridiculous to me any longer.”

            For a working white woman (as opposed an affluent, multi-6-figure earning NYC DINK), the economy comes first, especially in non-urban areas where the loss of a single industry can have devastating effects. A large number of working white women are part of two-income households, so the gender wage gap takes a back seat over whether they believe a candidate will help the local economy.

            Clinton v. Trump on women’s rights was never in doubt. I’m a little incredulous that Dupuy then concludes that doubling down on feminism rather than focusing on job growth would have been viable strategy to bring more working white women into the fold. She sounds as out of touch as the Clinton campaign in this regard.

          • Not a bad point. It seems very much a metaphor for women in the workplace who put up with sexual harassment because to do otherwise risks losing their jobs.

  • eat_swim_read

    MPR reporter Brian Bakst was out with a scoop on this yesterday, which got some pushback from Franken’s office.
    But he stood firm in his reporting, as did MPR.
    Good move. He was right.
    Great get, and high praise is warranted.
    Good on ya, dude. Major win:

    https://www.mpr.org/about/people/bbakst@mpr.org

  • Political trivia: In the last mid-term election, only 50.4% of eligible voters voted.

    • jon

      I was just looking at that… one of the comments “all eligible women should vote” made me think… “I bet if that happened women could totally swing the vote for or against some one…”

      Turns out women already vote in larger percentages than men (something like 52% of eligible women to 48% of eligible men during a presidential election…)

      • KenB

        52% voting isn’t that much different from 48%. Both are pathetic.

  • Blasko

    Hmm. If Democrats are gaining a message, who will be persuaded by it? Women, as many women have pointed out, are not a monolithic block. It seems like the women already inclined to support Democrats are already doing so for any number of policy/platform reasons, and those not a part of the party likely won’t see this as any reason to join. I do think Franken made the best choice today after perhaps a series of poor choices in the past. But that likely won’t mean anything for policy that Democrats champion in the election cycles ahead. BUT, all that said, I do think that integrity matters, doing the right thing matters, even if it never wins you a single vote, and maybe even if it loses you some.

  • Lizfan

    What people seem not to grasp is that just because these men have been accused of sexual harassment, does NOT mean the accusations are true (unless of course they have confessed of their own free will like Franken did). There have been cases where women have lied about being sexually harassed/attacked. I’m not saying ALL victims are liars, but some women HAVE lied. Here in the USA we have innocent until PROVEN guilty in a court of law. That does not mean that all the men accused should be strung up or run out of office just because they are accused. It means let a jury decide.

    • With the exception of Harvey Weinstein, these aren’t criminal cases; there’s no role for a jury to play.

      • Lizfan

        If the women were physically attacked then that’s a criminal case. If not then you’re right there’s no role for a jury. Although civil court could play a role I suppose. But the thing is, just being accused in this day & age is enough to do damage to a reputation/livelihood. Many of these guys who are being accused are being lambasted in the media when there’s been no proof or admission of guilt. So far it’s all been “he said/she said”.

  • eat_swim_read

    Another Democrat pol faces accusations – this single 37-YO congressman from Vegas:

    https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/second-woman-accuses-kihuen-of-persistent-unwanted-sexual-advances