Democrats begin to clean house of sexual harassers while Republicans embrace them

This week, Time magazine named its person of the year: the “Silence Breakers” who were part of the #MeToo movement.

Time

The five women who appear on the Time cover are actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and strawberry picker Isabel Pascual. This year, all five women broke silence and told their stories of sexual assault or harassment.

Interesting factoid: #MeToo? In 80 years, no American woman has won Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ by herself:

No American woman has won Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” by herself in more than eight decades. Over the course of the 91 years that the magazine has proffered the title, in fact, only one has done so: Wallis Simpson, who earned the title in 1936 thanks to her relationship with King Edward VIII, a relationship which eventually led to his giving up his throne.

Time’s “Person of the Year” winners are themselves a reminder that power has long been concentrated in the hands of men. In 66 of 89 years, the winner of the title has been a man, by himself. Four times, the winner has been a woman by herself. (That’s only two times more than a non-human — “The Computer,” “The Endangered Earth” — has won the title.) On nine occasions, the winner has been a group of mostly men; on three occasions — including this year — a group of mostly women.

Time’s cover comes in the same week that Rep. John Conyers Jr. resigns over sexual harassment allegations after a half-century in Congress:

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned as Congress’s longest-serving member Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers.

Rep. Conyers resigned after coming under heavy pressure from his Democratic colleagues to resign.

Then today, Senator Al Franken announces that he’s resigning from Senate:

880324586Sen. Al Franken said he would resign from the U.S. Senate on Thursday following mounting allegations of sexual harassment and loss of support by fellow Democrats, a stunning and rapid fall for a Minnesota politician who followed decades as a successful TV comic with a rise to the highest echelons of U.S. political power.

“Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the issues they face every day,” Franken said in speech late Thursday morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He said he would resign “in the coming weeks.”

While he bowed to political reality, saying he could no longer be effective, Franken sought to clear his own name.

“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted through the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,” Franken said. Of the claims against him by more than half a dozen women, he said: “Some of the allegations aren’t true. Others I remember differently.”

Stressing that he wanted to be respectful of what he called a broader conversation about mistreatment of women by powerful men, Franken sought to draw a distinction between himself and two Republicans also accused of mistreatment of women, President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape of his history of sexual assault is in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls has the full support of his party,” Franken said.

Franken’s resignation has major ramifications for Minnesota politics. Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement for his fellow DFLer, and the seat will then be on the ballot in November 2018. That means both of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seats and the governor’s office will be up for election next year.

A Democratic source told the Star Tribune that Dayton is likely to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and that she is not expected to run in the special election.

In a statement issued soon after Franken’s speech, Dayton said that “I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple days.” He condemned Franken’s behavior while still praising him as “very smart, very hard-working and very committed to Minnesota.”

“I extend my deepest regrets to the women, who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken,” Dayton said. “As a personal friend, my heart also goes out to Al and his family during this difficult time.”

* * *

By abandoning Franken along with former U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who resigned earlier this week, Democrats are drawing a distinction between their party and Republicans at a time when Trump has thrown his full support behind Moore, accused of sexual abuse of underage girls.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also called on Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) to resign after his former finance director alleged that he made unwanted advances toward her on the campaign trail. Kihuen, who has not denied the allegations, apologized for any comments or actions that made the staffer “uncomfortable.”

Meanwhile, as I posted the other day, Moral bankruptcy: the GOP has become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

Dara Lind at Vox.com writes, Democrats are finally holding themselves to a higher standard on harassment (excerpts):

Months from now, this moment will have seemed inevitable. For years, the Democratic Party has positioned itself as the defender of gender equality and women’s rights against Republican attacks — of course it would take the problem in its own midst at least as seriously as any other institution.

But it would have been easy for Democrats not to. Lawmakers tend not to pressure members of their own party to resign; they much prefer the line that most Republicans are currently taking on Roy Moore in Alabama, that the final decision about fitness for office rests with the voters themselves.

In fact, Democrats very nearly did close ranks around their accusers. The Congressional Black Caucus rallied around Conyers. When Conyers did resign, he claimed it was primarily for health reasons. And because Conyers was attracting more opprobrium than Franken, his resignation could have been taken as an opportunity for Democrats to shut up and hope the problem would go away.

But by showing a willingness to call out their own colleagues, the Democrats turning on Franken have just sent an important message to the members of the diffuse cultural movement that styles itself “the resistance.” They’re communicating that their political party does not just see progressives as convenient partners, but as part of a progressive institution that must not only embody but espouse those ideals.

Countless American institutions are being revealed to have sexual harassment problems: the problem being not only the harassers themselves, but the institutional protection of harassers. For Democrats, that problem was unique: Their pro-woman rhetoric gave them a higher standard to hold themselves to, and would have made their failure all the more glaring. But at least some Democrats are passing the test.

* * *

The only way that Conyers and Franken would be forced out was if Democrats decided that leaders of the party that claims to champion women should, definitionally, not have a history of harassing them.

They made that decision for Conyers. They [made that decision] for Franken. They are making it easier, by making those decisions now, to make the same ones for others who might be revealed to have harassment issues.

Democrats don’t have the power to decide that people who have serially harassed women can be forced out of public life, or out of politics. Republicans aren’t going to clean house just because Democrats do. They may very well not clean house at all. If Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate election, he’ll probably be seated; the president of the United States will remain a man who has bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” and has been accused of assault or harassment by more than a dozen women.

This is the nature of civil society, though: No person can dictate whether others live up to his values, or even their own. No organization can either. The only actions they can control are their own.

If you believe that a more just world is one in which sexual harassers lose their jobs, the only way you can act to enforce that norm is to take care of the sexual harassers in your midst.

It’s easy to see this as an act of shortsighted martyrdom: losing power by adhering to your ideals, winning a moral victory while losing the war. But that’s not actually how it works.

The Democratic Party isn’t just attracted to the idea of “the resistance” out of idealism. It’s attracted because that ideal — and the backlash against serial harassers in the post-Weinstein era (to the extent that the two are even different from each other to begin with) — reflects a new energy among certain groups of people (especially middle-aged suburban women of all races) that can be channeled into Democratic politics. Democrats have the power to help solidify the norm against harassment by acting on it — and they have the opportunity to show the resistance that their actions can generate real change, thus encouraging more activism down the line.

In a just world, these latest developments would bring more pressure to bear on Roy Moore and Donald Trump for their sexual improprieties. But we live in a world where half of the country lives within the media bubble of “Trump world” and are impervious to facts, or to reason, or to morality and justice.

35 Responses to Democrats begin to clean house of sexual harassers while Republicans embrace them

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    • Ha ha. It’s funny how some songs are so easily forgotten. This was 1974, I had to look it up.

    • Okay, I’m in. This one is for Roy Moore…

      • For Sure Not Tom

        • OMG, that’s the one. Roy Moore’s theme. They should play it all his rallies.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            This is all bringing up some uncomfortable things.

            I’m aware that some of my musician heroes (my real job is musician, the day job is just for mortgage reasons) are even worse than Roy Moore.

            Pop stars and rock stars have a very bad history with young girls. Jimmy Page liked them as young as 13, I know, and Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old cousin, FFS.

            Did those girls grow up and have fun rock star stories to tell, or, more likely, did they grow up damaged in some way?

            I was in my teens when I learned these things, so the gravity of it didn’t sink in, it was just how it was.

            I know that’s how a lot of Moore supporters see it.

            But looking back now as an adult it’s clear, those girls were too young to make good decisions. It was not okay back then, because that would mean it’s okay now.

            I’m not going to throw out 40 years of albums and CD’s (I have a few thousand), that would be stupid, but I won’t be buying anything new from those folks, either, or going to see them live.

            Because that would be supporting what they have done.

            “When asked whether he remembered dating women in their teens when he was in his 30s, Moore told Hannity: “Not generally no.””

            Fuck Roy Moore, and fuck the GOP for supporting him because they should know better.

            And goddamnit, it really sucks that nearly every day I become aware that I am not nearly as “woke” as I think I am.

          • There would be countless stories of personal tragedy and wasted potential caused by those who prey on young girls. And it doesn’t take much to derail an otherwise promising life. In fact, without open and honest discussions about predatory sexual behaviors, it is almost left to chance who survives those young, critical years relatively unharmed and who doesn’t.

            Young people are at risk, to be sure, more than we like to admit. This problem is everywhere.

  2. 12/7/17
    Lawrence on the historical context of Sen. Franken’s resignation

    The historical context of Sen. Al Franken’s resignation. Lawrence O’Donnell discusses with Dahlia Lithwick and Ruth Marcus. Duration: 20:37

    http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/lawrence-on-the-historical-context-of-sen-franken-s-resignation-1112060483779

  3. Will we ever learn?

    There are major differences between politicians and leaders of moral movements. And staking the moral high ground is tricky for politicians who tend to do it selectively and without much credibility. That’s the problem with these 30+ Democratic Senators who chose to expel one of their own to prove that they’ve got the high ground on the sexual misconduct issue, that they will absolutely not tolerate it, and they will give up someone who supports democratic policies and ideals. Voters, please notice our stunning, jaw dropping morality and remember this in November of 2018. Please ignore how silent we are on ALL other moral issues.

    When was the last time 30+ Democratic senators got this riled up? Well, when it comes to major issues affecting their most loyal voters, black Americans, most of them have nothing to say. Police brutality and killings of unarmed and innocent people, mass incarceration (thanks, Bill), criminal justice reform, etc…are just too controversial for the Senate. Good Lord, now that I think about it, what have these people stood for en masse?

    Let’s see now. We’ve got criminals and world class grifters in the White House trying to suck the life blood out of this nation, we have a corrupt GOP Congress racing to legislate the biggest scam in the history of western civilization, and we have the entire world looking at us as though we have all gone insane.

    I read in Politico yesterday that for some of our Democratic senators, their last straw with Franken was when they learned he forcibly kissed a woman in 2006. That was the last f***ing straw, y’all.

    to be continued…

    • Is it just me or would it actually make more sense if they got riled up (en masse) over the attempted decimation of the ENTIRE social safety net, the destruction of the last 90+ years of democratic achievement, and most importantly, the sustained assault on democracy itself or what is still left of it.

      Apparently, there are some in their ranks who really believe that this will win them hearts and minds. I fear they will be disappointed. If Ms. Gillibrand thinks this will be the foundation for her 2020 presidential campaign, she will soon learn that the bubble she occupies is very different from the real world.

      According to polls, Roy Moore is still ahead in Alabama but only by a “polling error” according to Nate Silver on 538. So, we could end up with Roy Moore in the Senate and an unpredictable open election in 2018 in Minnesota.

      There were alternative actions the Senate might have taken. But those would have required political savvy and courage both of which they seem to lack. And they don’t fit the (losing) strategy of feigning moral outrage over a single issue.

      • ** 80+ years of Democratic achievement **

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Well said, Liza.

        Tom Perez, are you listening?

        If not, don’t be surprised when the next Bernie, or Bernie himself, passes you by in 2018/2020.

        Going after sexual predation is a great start, but the Dems still have a Hillary Wall Street Kissinger problem.

        The Dems need to add a few more lanes to the moral high road.

        • If Bernie were 10 years younger and ran in 2020, no one could touch him. And the Democrats would be wise to support him.

          But he isn’t and they aren’t. I just hope there isn’t another perfect storm looming on the horizon.

    • This video was just released. Perhaps the Democrats in the Senate could extend their newfound morality to start dealing with this:

      • Sorry, in my haste I forgot to mention a GRAPHIC VIOLENCE WARNING.

        • What’s the backstory here? The suspect was so scared he was crying. Which caused the brave officer to fear for his life? At a minimum this looks like a straight up case of manslaughter & the officer needs to be tried, and if convicted, be sent away for a long time. If he is tried I’m sure the “feared for my life” will be his escape hatch.

          • And “escape” he does.

            During his trial testimony, Brailsford described the stress that he faced in responding to the call and his split-second decision to shoot Shaver.

            Brailsford told jurors that he was terrified for the safety of officers and a woman who was in the hallway. He also said he felt “incredibly sad” for Shaver.

            Brailsford served as a Mesa officer for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.

            He is one of the few police officers in the U.S. to be charged with murder for shooting someone while on duty.

            https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mesa-police-shooting-daniel-shaver-seen-crawling-begging-in-disturbing-video/

    • “Voters, please notice our stunning, jaw dropping morality and remember this in November of 2018. Please ignore how silent we are on ALL other moral issues.”

      You are going to hate this, Liza, but I agree with you. It is a false morality put on parade because it was easy to do so. Plus, I suspect more than one of these democrats is thankful it hasn’t happened to them. It will be interesting to see what happens if some of them are accused. Will they politely resign? Or will they balk and deny the accusations?

      To be determined…

  4. I have waited to dance on trent the “weenie” franks grave for many years! I first became acquainted with this slimy scumbag when he was running for the state legislature and he had his pervs hassling democrats trying to vote in a precinct at a church! their was a good article in the new times many years ago about this slimy scumbag.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Trent Franks is indeed a scumbag.

      I always wonder about guys that tightly wound up about sex, people that repressed turn out to have the weirdest kinks.

      Salute, to the US Congress losing one of it’s worst members!

  5. I have an entire rant in my head on this subject but do not have the time to write it. Maybe later.

    HINT: I will share this comment written by someone on another blog …

    “Hard to take these folks seriously when they lack the necessary savvy required to navigate the very political set-up they inhabit …and claim to be part and parcel of…How on earth do we begin to even consider or elevate any of these people to the presidency when they can’t even successfully navigate basic stuff like this..

    How on earth do you keep losing not just the narrative, but the argument, the battle and the war …even when the opposition is clearly the criminal enterprise …a wholly owned subsidiary of Satan himself…and the clear perpetrators of evil and a multitude of wrongdoings every time…

    Yet you preemptively offer up your own …sacrifice one of yours …and in this instance, the very guy the opposition specifically wants gone because he’s a real thorn in their flesh …a very effective thorn too..

    Don’t even get me started again about the fake moral-outrage.. so much hypocrisy and endless double standards…”

  6. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Strange that Franken denied the charges against him. What does that say about his accusers?
    Or should I say what is Franken saying about them?

    Also, what’s this I will resign “in a couple of weeks?” Strange.

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