Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minnesota’s decision to resign his seat – announced Thursday from the floor of a somber, almost funereal Senate chamber – reflects just how quickly, and comprehensively, his party is moving to stake out an uncompromising position on the issue of sexual misconduct.
Calling himself a champion of women, Senator Franken said flatly that some of the allegations against him “are simply not true” and that others he “remembers very differently.” He insisted that as a senator, he has done nothing to bring dishonor on the institution.
Yet Franken acceded to demands that he step down. In the end, he may not have had much choice: After yet another accusation against him emerged this week, many of his Senate colleagues, led by a group of female lawmakers, came forward publicly to say “enough is enough.”
Franken’s decision follows that of Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan, who announced his retirement on Tuesday, in the wake of a series of sexual harassment allegations involving staffers.
The twin announcements put Democrats on the moral high ground – albeit one with twists and turns. The party has shown itself willing to sacrifice two iconic political figures as the country grapples with a systemic scourge. And, as Democrats are well aware, it puts them in stark contrast to Republicans, who have been divided over how to respond to sexual misconduct allegations against their Senate candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and whose president also has been accused of harassment.
As Franken put it in a parting shot: “There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving, while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate.”
COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCES
“It shows some courage by Democrats to step up and do this, especially Democratic women who have been leading this charge,” says Emily Parcell, a Democratic consultant in Iowa who worked on the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. “It demonstrates an obvious commitment to doing what’s right, over putting party first.”
But Democrats also run the risk of being accused of ignoring due process, of summarily pushing out members before an investigation could run its course. Speaking of the drumbeat of calls for Franken to resign, conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham warned her viewers of a “lynch mob” that “could be coming for your…