Saturday, December 09, 2017

Republicans Are On Another Planet And Can't Be Shamed For Their Sexual Transgressions


Thursday night I was at Norman Lear's 95th birthday party. Almost everyone I talked with beyond "hi, how are you?" asked about Al Franken. I had a post in the can-- since then, published here-- that I was able to refer to when people asked me for my thoughts. Most people I spoke with, like me, were torn, not wanting to lose a stalwart progressive senator but supportive of the fight against thousands of years of patriarchal injustice. Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way, which was throwing the shindig, brought up an important point-- namely that the #MeToo movement has had and will continue to have a great deal of success shaming Democrats but that Republicans can't really be shamed on this topic. They basically just don't care what women think.

And that made me recall a short essay for the Daily Beast that Franken pal Michael Tomasky wrote a couple days ago, Here’s Why Democrats Forced Al Franken to Do the Right Thing—And Why They May Come to Regret It, filed under "Irony Alerts." Tomasky makes it clear that he thinks Franken had to go-- though the freak in the Oval Office has to go much more urgently. But what he wrote was that "There’s a great historical score to be settled here, in the name not only of the women Al did wrong, but the thousands of women down the years who’ve been treated disrespectfully by men using their power-- who didn’t get that promotion, were passed over for that writing gig at Saturday Night Live, never made it to the United States Senate.
A part of me does wonder, though, what exactly would have been wrong in this case with letting the ethics process play out, seeing what the committee found, and determining his fate then? Liberals are supposed to love and respect process, which they sometimes do to a fault. So why short-circuit it here?

This is where I see some opportunism at work, in two ways. First, let’s cut to the chase: Do you think we’d have heard all these calls for his resignation from his Democratic colleagues if Minnesota had a Republican governor? No way. Maybe a couple senators would, but as a group they wouldn’t be nearly so cavalier about dumping him if they knew a Republican was going to replace him. And that’s fine; that’s politics. Newsflash: Politics is political. But it does make me take these high-moral-ground statements of his colleagues with a few grains of salt.

Now Gov. Mark Dayton is throwing a wrench in the works by evidently appointing a caretaker on the condition she not seek to keep the seat, which opens the seat up to the real possibility of Republican capture in 2018 (maybe by Norm Coleman, the Republican Franken defeated in 2008). I wonder how many Senate Democrats calling for Franken’s head would have thought twice if they’d known Dayton was going to pull that boneheaded move, instead of appointing a younger star like state Attorney General Lori Swanson who could build a real Senate career.

Second, obviously, the Democrats are hoping to present to America a contrast between them and the Republicans. And that contrast is real. But it, too, is not really about morality. It’s because rank-and-file Democrats take sexually inappropriate behavior a lot more seriously than rank-and-file Republicans do. This week, Quinnipiac polled about 1,700 people and asked them whether an elected official accused (and only accused) of sexual harassment or assault “by multiple people” should resign. Among Democrats it was 77 percent yes to 14 percent no. Among Republicans it was 51-37.

Good for rank-and-file Democrats. They’re in the right place on this question, and Republicans are in the wrong one. I’m just positing that if the polls weren’t coming out like this, maybe many of these moral high horses we’ve seen mounted in the last 48 hours would have been kept in the barn.

The Democrats want to be able to say: See, when Al Franken and John Conyers are discovered to have done wrong, we don’t equivocate. We take care of it. Meanwhile, look at those Republicans. They’re all-in behind Roy Moore, whose alleged attacks on women make Franken’s look awfully tame. They have a congressman, Blake Farenthold of Texas, who reached a $84,000 settlement of his sexual harassment charge-- paying it with taxpayer money-- and still holds his seat with no one batting an eye. And of course, they have Donald Trump. When’s he going to be filing those lawsuits against those 16 women, by the way?

It’s a contrast, and maybe it will impress some female swing voters in Alabama. But it seems more likely that the Republican way of handling these things is going to win. Deny, deny, deny. Lie, lie, lie. Pushback, pushback, pushback. Be so outrageous-- the Republican National Committee officially supporting an accused child molester!-- that people can barely wrap their heads around it. Sad to say, it wins.

I’m not saying the Democrats should reduce themselves to that level. As I said, Franken should go. But I’m not sure what the Democrats are getting out of it. They’re losing one of their best and smartest senators, somebody who would have been a quite plausible presidential contender in 2020; and failing that would have been a great and important lifetime senator.

But there’s more. They’ve circumvented process and the principle of hearing from both sides. They’ve completely ignored the possibility that a person can reform himself. (Maybe Franken used to be a sexist jerk but has genuinely changed; aren’t liberals supposed to welcome that?) And they’ve blurred the line, which I think should exist, between different categories of sexual crimes, some of which are obviously worse than others. The day will almost surely come when they’ll regret having established these precedents.
And back to one of the least trustworthy Democrats in the Senate: Kirsten Gillibrand. Before she found it politically opportune to lead a lynch mob against Franken, she had co-written a bill on gender equality with him, but it wasn't introduced once the revelations about his behavior started coming out. Then, just before Franken took to the floor of the Senate to make his announcement Thursday, Gillibrand, always the opportunist, squeezed herself in in front of him and introduced the bill as though it were written entirely by her. I wonder when the buzz about her running for national office will finally die the death it so richly deserves.

UPDATE: Someone Else Who Can't Be Shamed

When he was running for Congress, then state Rep. Ruben Kihuen, conned. He persuaded me he was a unswerving progressive and that he would be an unswerving progressive in Congress. He had been in the Nevada legislative leadership and I was hoping for another young, progressive leader. My one hesistation was that he was part of the corrupt, opportunistic and consistently dishonest Harry Reid Machine. I told myself that virtually all successful Democrats in Nevada are and that there was no way around it. So we did a duel endorsement for Kihuen and someone who actually had found a way around it: Lucy Flores.

Kihuen won the primary and Blue America went all in for Kihuen, even after another member of Congress who I trust warned me that Kihuen is a snake. And sure enough, almost as soon as Kihuen got to Congress he threw his lot in with the New Dems-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. His ProgressivePunch crucial vote score rapidly sunk and now stands at 76.92. They rate him a "D," better than an "F" but far from the promise he held out when he sat here in my office in Los Feliz.

And now he's facing serious sexual harassment charges and putting a seat he won against GOP crackpot incumbent Cresent Hardy 128,985 (48.5%) to 118,328 (44.5%)-- underperforming Hillary but a point-- into serious jeopardy. Pelosi and DCCC chair Ben Ray Luján have both called for him to resign, which he refuses to do, denying he did anything wrong. Does he have any allies willing to back him up? Not that I'm noticing. Kihuen notes that Pelosi and Luján knew about the charges last year when they first surfaced but campaigned for him. The DCCC spent $3,150,877 on his race and Pelosi's House Majority PAC picked in $967,635. Nancy and Ben Ray claim they didn't know-- a lie-- and sat he can't prove they did. The DCCC just kicked him out of their Frontline incumbent protection program.

David Cohen, who ran former Obama’s Nevada campaign: "It’s only a matter of time for Kihuen. If he stays and runs again, there’s no way he makes it through a primary-- let alone a general election."

Labels: , , , , ,


At 3:20 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Amy Vilela is Ruben's primary opponent we'll see what happens.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was not a big of Al Franken but I feel that he, Minnesota, and America got a raw deal. What ever happened to due process and the right to defend oneself? What was the problem of waiting for the Ethics committee hearing? Shouldn't the voters of Minnesota get a say or are the short term stratagems of the Democratic Party and Kirsten Gillibrand's ambitions more important? Are we going to have the situation in the future where anyone accused will now have resign after accusations are made, even accusations made anonymously. What is to prevent a dirty trickster like Roger Stone from fabricating such accusations whole clothe. I don't know if it was meant as a joke but yesterday someone on twitter was soliciting women to come forth and accuse Bernie Sanders of sexual harassment. Is sexual harassment accusations going to be tool for the powerful to remove inconvenient actors from the political scene?

At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:07 makes a very good point. The more the left eats their own even before anything is proved, the quicker the likes of breitbart, stone et al will be fabricating lies, video and accusations about whomever they don't like. Planned parenthood has already been smeared. Remember what kkkarl rove did to McCain in 2000.

And, it is quite correct that the Nazis do live in a separate society where breaking laws and behaving like assholes are prerequisites for office; whereas the non-Nazis convene firing squads at every hint of impropriety, no matter how truthful (exceptions for corruption and related betrayals in policy by electeds. Just so long as they aren't accused of telling a woman she has a nice ass or something.)

Both sides are hideous distortions of what a fair and just society would be.

Maybe we should just get on with the civil war and get it over with. Our "society", if you can call it that, is so fucked that I doubt anyone or anything could fix it short of killing half of us and financially destroying the rest.

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R society IS not my society. If they can demand that 30 million be denied health care without shame, why would they feel even a twinge about raping kids... or anyone?

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got a fundraising call from DCCC this morning. The caller had never heard of Randy Bryce.


Post a Comment

<< Home