DANIEL VAUGHAN: With Al Franken, Democrats Abandon Women

November 20, 2017

By now, you no doubt have heard of Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s allegations of sexual harassment and possible battery of Leeann Tweeden. However, unlike the Harvey Weinsteins, Kevin Spaceys, and Roy Moores of the world, Al Franken was photographed in the act.

Al Franken is the latest case study we have for the Democratic Party on whether or not they’ll do anything to punish their politicians for sexual harassment or assault. America is in the midst of purging itself of sexual predators, on all sides, in every industry, and Al Franken’s actions provide the most straightforward example Democrats could ever ask for in standing up for women.

Remember, Democrats have run on a platform of the “War on Women,” claiming there’s no difference between Sen. John McCain, former Gov. Mitt Romney, or President Donald Trump when it comes to defending women. Al Franken gives them a chance to live up to their talk at no political cost whatsoever.

Al Franken represents the state of Minnesota in the Senate. If he were forced to resign, he’d be replaced by an interim candidate appointed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. A special election would be held in 2018, a blue-leaning year for Democrats in a state Donald Trump lost. Furthermore, the Minnesota Democratic Party has a deep bench of potential replacements for Franken, making his votes easily replaceable.

In other words, Al Franken is readily replaceable and not vital to any plans by Democrats in Washington. It’s a testament to how Democrat-blue his state is that he won in the first place. Forcing him to resign would put even more political pressure on Republicans struggling with the no-win situation of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Removing Al Franken would give Democrats the high-ground in a climate where new victims of sexual assault emerge every day.

But instead of standing up for women, Democrats have done the complete opposite: defend Al Franken.

The harshest stance you’ll find in the Senate is a request for an ethics investigation, something so toothless even Franken has agreed to it. The worst that could happen to him there is potentially censure. Franken won’t face expulsion; the last time that happened was 1862.

Outside the Senate, you’ll find full-throated endorsements of Franken from liberal feminists, who call themselves experts on the modern “rape culture.” On MSNBC, they went so far to claim that Franken was only joking and not doing anything wrong. They also trot out the defense that Franken does “a lot of good,” and he’s needed.

The “they do good” line is one of the same defenses Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey employed in their “apologies.” They talk about all the “good” they plan on doing for liberal causes in an attempt to take the venom out of their allegations. They’re trying to say there’s a fuzzy line where someone can do enough good to erase all the bad.

Comedian Dave Chappelle was lambasted in his recent Netflix standup special for joking that Bill Cosby fell into this same sphere: “[Cosby] rapes, but he saves a lot of lives. And he saves way more than he rapes. … But he does rape.” What Chappelle said in ironic observation, is unironically being used as a defense by sexual predators and their enablers. They’re trying to say there’s some amount of good a person can do that forces us to ignore the bad.

The strange thing about all of this is that Franken admits to most of his actions, he’s been photographed, and there’s little question about what happened. It makes no sense for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to say that sexual assault cannot be tolerated simultaneously with an ethics investigation when pictures and admissions tell us what occurred.

What more does Schumer want to dig up in this situation? Much like Roy Moore, Al Franken is nothing but dead weight for his party. If he’s anything like the recent deluge of sexual assault stories, we’re only going to see more victims.

Why, then, are Democrats choosing to defend Al Franken, when it’s the only losing political option available?

The only reason you defend Al Franken and draw a line in the sand here is that you’re afraid if you force him out for this behavior, you’ll be forced to kick out other Representatives and Senators for similar actions. And although Al Franken may be an easy political win for Democrats, other politicians might not be so simple.

You don’t defend Franken on principle. You do it to protect the other politicians in more vulnerable seats. They’ll deserve hearings and ethics investigations too, according to the new Franken-logic.

Congress has paid out nearly $20 million in taxpayer money to settle various harassment complaints and other workplace violations. And that only includes the settlements; it doesn’t include the victims who were silent out of fear or didn’t file a complaint.

The only reason you defend Franken is that you’re afraid of the top getting blown off a congressional culture that pays off and protects harassers and assaulters. Or, to put an identity politics frame to it: you only defend Franken because you’re supporting the “rape culture” his resignation could open up.

If none of this is true, Chuck Schumer would have taken the easy win for the Democratic Party and pressured Franken to resign. Instead, Schumer and Democrats see their only path is to defend Franken. They’re more afraid of the can of worms than the moral good.

On Weinstein, I wrote that Hollywood’s moral code, which devalues women as human, created and enabled Harvey Weinstein. It appears that same system governs Democrats in Congress. If Democrats can’t even defend women when it’s politically expedient, then who is really launching a war on women?


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.