By pressuring Senator Al Franken to resign, Democrats defeat themselves

U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota

Following increasing pressure by Congressional Democrats over allegations of sexual impropriety, U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota announced his resignation yesterday. Democratic pressure put only or primarily on Franken (as well as Democratic U.S. House Rep. John Conyers) to resign is a politically grave mistake. At a critical time in history for America, the Democrats are now in a circular firing squad, setting themselves up for defeats of their own making.

In the current spate of allegations of sexual misconduct (harassment, assault, etc.) against lawmakers, no one should be pressured to resign unless and until the matter is fully investigated, and such investigation shows that the allegations are true. It’s known as due process, a concept that is embedded in our Constitution. President Bill Clinton is a good example of such due process. After allegations about his private behavior before and during his presidency, Clinton was subject to lengthy investigations, lawsuits, massive press inquiry, and both legal and political consequences, ultimately surviving impeachment. Franken and Conyers should have been given the same opportunity.

Alternatively, as Franken and Conyers were pressured by Democrats to resign based on allegations alone, they should do so only when Republicans under similar allegations are also forced by the GOP to resign. That includes Donald Trump, U.S. House Rep. Blake Farenthold and Roy Moore (who should withdraw from his U.S. Senate race in Alabama under this standard) for starters. Indeed, Farenthold is now being investigated by the House Ethics Committee over allegations of sexual impropriety, as is fellow Republican U.S. House Rep. Trent Franks. Franks just announced that he is resigning, but neither Franks nor Farenthold was subject to wholesale public demands by fellow Republicans to resign. Likewise, Republican former U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana was not significantly pressured by the GOP to resign when he was caught and admitted hiring prostitutes. Vitter stayed in office, even winning reelection in 2010.

Democratic pressure on Franken to resign now also makes no sense given the nature of the allegations against him. Franken himself called for an investigation of his conduct by the Senate Ethics Committee. Some of the allegations are questionable (according to Franken, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.”), some sources are biased (which is an evidentiary factor entitled to some weight), some accusations may have been coordinated by Republican operatives, and some people have alleged that a number of photos involving Franken have been altered. Moreover, Franken’s original accuser, Leann Tweeden, accepted Franken’s apology and is not calling on Franken to resign. There are even connections being drawn between Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who called for Franken to resign, and their possible presidential aspirations, which would be helped by getting potential competitor Franken out of the way.
Some Democrats say essentially, “it doesn’t matter what Republicans do, we hold ourselves to a higher standard.” Alternatively, a number of Democrats say that Franken’s and Conyers’ resignations will cause Republicans facing similar allegations to resign. That is incredibly naive. There is little or no chance any Republican will resign solely because of the example of Franken and Conyers doing so. The problem with this unilateral Democratic disarmament is that our Congress is closely divided and possibly up for grabs next year. Some very bad pieces of Republican legislation, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, have won or lost in the U.S. Senate by just one or two votes. The likely and unfortunate result of Democrats hounding Franken and Conyers out of office prematurely while Republicans support Senate candidate Roy Moore despite allegations of child molestation against him is that Democrats will get no credit among voters for their self-defeating move, and Republicans will have more votes to pass more bills that are harmful to women.

Democrats would be wise to apply the suggestion of General George S. Patton to the political arena:

No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.

Photo by Veni, used under Creative Commons license.

There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL