Monday, December 11, 2017

Senator Franken did the right thing

I don't feel happy about writing this. I don't have a song in my heart and I don't want to include another photo of Al Franken looking downcast as he exits the Senate building. So here is a picture of Sheeba.

I also realize that I'm going to piss off some of my pals on the left with this post. It won't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. I might even lose a few friends over it. But I need to say this, if only to get my own thoughts in order about it. 
Before I write anything else, I would recommend that you read this piece by David Atkins writing for Washington Monthly, titled "Defending Franken is Neither Moral Nor Pragmatic." He articulated my thoughts quite well but I want to add my own.
Let me start by saying that I love Al Franken. I loved him on SNL and I loved him as a Senator. He was a great progressive voice and he did plenty of good during his time in the Senate. I loved his most recent book and it remains my favorite of 2017, although it pains me a bit to say so. 
Since he resigned, I've seen plenty of friends on the left say that he was wrong to do so and that Senate Democrats (led by female Senate Dems) were wrong to force him out. I've seen the argument that what he did wasn't "as bad" as what the "president" did and what Roy Moore has been accused of doing. I've seen conspiracy theories about how it was all a right-wing plot and a deliberate attempt to get him out of the Senate.  
I've read through all of these things and while I understand the points that many are trying to make, I just can't get past the fact that there are multiple women who have told very similar stories. If we are going to believe the stories of the accusers of the "president" and Roy Moore, we cannot ignore the accusers of Senator Franken.
This smacks of cherry-picking to me. It pisses me off when people do it with religion, it pisses me off when people do it with science, and I'm learning that it pisses me off when people do it with sexual harassment allegations. You can't just decide that one person is a credible accuser and another isn't. That's not to say that some accusers can't be proven to be lying about it, but that is not what we are seeing now.
I feel that we cannot continue to rail against the piggish and abusive behavior of people like the "president" and Moore if we ignore the piggish and abusive behavior of those in our own ranks. If the past couple of months have shown us anything, it's that sexual aggression and disrespect toward women (and occasionally other men) knows no political boundaries. Both sides do it.
Our side has done it.
If we are going to accept and work toward a cultural shift in the way women are treated in our society, we must admit that our side has its own faults and we must work on them and vow to do better. Ignoring Franken's accusers does the opposite.
As for the argument that the other side has done worse and they are getting away with it, that is a lazy argument that lowers the bar rather than raising it. I understand that politics is a rough business and that sometimes you have to be a honey badger in order to win, but that doesn't mean that we have to stoop to allowing our candidates or politicians to wallow in the mud right along with the other pigs.
I demand better. We all should. I know that I am not alone in my dismay about the coarsened political discourse of the last year or two. That doesn't mean that I am ready to start behaving that way, too (although I might say more in private discussions than I do online). I still believe that we are capable of reasonable discussion and that compromise is not necessarily a bad thing. 
Beyond that simple fact, we need to be more like President Obama and play the long game here. While Sen. Franken's presence in the Senate would be a good thing, we have to think about what will be happening in 2018 and 2020. How can we maintain the moral high ground and campaign against the serial abusers on their side if we give those on our side a pass? We can't. Not only is that the wrong thing to do ethically, it is the wrong thing to do politically. Which is exactly what Mr. Atkins was writing about in his article. 
I know that it's frustrating to see this playing out. I'm frustrated, too. I still think that Sen. Franken was a good Senator and I believe that he helped a lot of people in Minnesota and in the country. But we cannot and must not hold their side to one standard and our own to another. I'm all about fairness. If our side does something wrong, we need to acknowledge it. Does the other side always do that? I laughed when I wrote that sentence. Of course, they don't.
But that doesn't mean that it is now okay to do the same things that they do.
Democrats need to stand on our policies.
We are on the side of human rights, we are on the side of equality in all aspects of our society, we are on the side of working people. We are on the side of making the ├╝ber-rich pay more than their fair share because they want for very little and can afford to do so. We are on the side of those who need a hand up in order to get out of a bad situation, whether it is addiction, debt, poverty, or abuse. And yes, we are on the side of women, because we want to control our own bodies, we want to be believed when we tell our supervisors that we were harassed, we want our kids to have a fair shot at a better life, and we want to be able to get out of abusive relationships.
We must be on the right side of things. I am truly sorry that Senator Franken was one of the sacrificial lambs, although that is probably too innocent of a metaphor. But it simply had to happen that way.
More women are running for office in 2018 than we've ever seen. We are motivated, we are ready to work, and we are pissed off. Tolerance of the bad behavior of someone (or someones) on our own side is not going to give us any credibility or moral authority when we run against hypocrites.
Hold the high ground, Democrats. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it's the RIGHT thing to do.