Al Franken’s resignation only makes the GOP’s failures stand out more
On Thursday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) announced his resignation following weeks of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and calls from colleagues to step down. But even as Franken stepped aside, the spotlight on the GOP side of things only shines brighter.
Though Franken remained defiant in his speech, saying some of the allegations were untrue and claiming he remembered some of the reported incidents differently than the accusers, he said, “It has become clear I can’t both pursue the ethics committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for [the people of Minnesota].”
Franken’s stepping down follows Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)’s resignation after harassment claims and a report that he had previously settled with an accuser. Conyers originally refused to step down and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi originally hesitated to take a firm stance. But as more details and allegations surfaced, the tide turned and that backing evaporated, forcing Conyers to announce his resignation on Tuesday.
But it’s notable that while holding men in power accountable for their actions, and the #MeToo movement that’s spurred on this wave, should be something that transcends political boundaries, the GOP has severely lagged in their own accounting.
Though Franken remained defiant, he ultimately stepped aside, as did Rep. Conyers. Yet Republican congressman Blake Farenthold who, like Conyers, settled a complaint brought against, has yet to face the same pressure.
Meanwhile, the GOP has spent the last week putting a renewed energy behind Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama who has faced multiple accusations of harassment and assault from women who said his actions occurred while they were all underage.
In the immediate wake of the Moore allegations first surfacing via stories by the Washington Post, Republican leaders were quick to condemn Moore, who has maintained he is innocent of the allegations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I believe the women” and the RNC pulled funding from Moore’s campaign.
Even Ivanka Trump weighed in on Moore, telling the Associated Press after the allegations were made public, “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.”
In fact, the only thing that has changed about the Moore scandal since it first came to light is that more women have come forward with similar stories.
And, yet, in the last week, the RNC decided it would once again fund Moore’s campaign and other GOP leaders have either decided to back Moore again or weasel their way out by softening their tone toward Moore, like McConnell, who changed his tune to, “let the people of Alabama make the call.”
In case you’re wondering, yes, McConnell called on Franken to resign.
And there’s the blind eye the same leaders have turned toward President Trump, against whom over a dozen accusations of harassment and assault were leveled following last year’s publication of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape that captured Trump’s now infamous quote, “Grab them by the pussy.”
Trump, instead, was rewarded with the presidency and the GOP has quickly fallen in line.
During his speech Thursday, Franken made mention of both Moore and Trump, saying, “I, of all people, am aware that 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 with the full support of his party.”
And, yet, most Republicans have remained mum even as Trump formally endorsed Moore after a few weeks of teasing. Speaking out against Moore’s campaign from the right has been so rare that when Jeff Flake tweeted a check he sent to Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, it made headlines.
None of this is to suggest in anyway that either Franken or Conyers should stay. Both were right to resign, despite their own reservations and denials, and that the GOP is not holding their own to the same standard undermines the positive momentum that’s been gained by the #MeToo movement.
By turning face, even if reluctantly, to support Roy Moore for strictly political gains, the GOP has redrawn the line in the sand, the same line in the sand they redrew after first backing away from Trump in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, only to come home and back him in the end.
The only hope for real justice and equality, then, remains in voters’ hands. While they ignored the accusations against Trump, maybe now things have changed and they’ll make the right decision next week in Alabama and in elections from here on out.
If the GOP won’t police itself, than maybe America will do it for them.