I am a fan of Al Franken. He is not only extremely intelligent, but as a Senator his quick thinking has led to many memorable moments as he burned officials testifying to Senate committees with incisive and well informed questions, exposing bull shit and lies. Before today if I had to choose who I wanted to be the Democratic standard bearer in 2020, I’d have said Al Franken.
Heck, he’s from St. Louis Park, Minnesota – a suburb of Minneapolis. I not only was born in Minneapolis and did my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, but I belonged to a fitness club in St. Louis Park. I’m a Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves fan (meh to the Wild, I can’t get into hockey). I celebrated when Franken won his razor tight initial election for the Senate in 2008. Calling on him to resign is personally painful to me.
I’ve heard many objections. Unlike Judge Roy Moore, who paints himself as a holier than thou religious zealot, Franken did not assault under age women. Moore has scores of accusers, and there is even a story of how he was banned from an Alabama mall in the 80’s due to his creepiness around young girls. Moreover, Franken has apologized and accepts an ethics investigation. Moore has lawyered up and doubled down, trying to personally attack and discredit his accusers.
The allegations against Franken pale to those against Donald Trump, who has also been accused by multiple women of improper behavior, and has the infamous “grab them by the pussy” statement caught on video. President Clinton survived despite accusations of impropriety from multiple women, and a relationship with an intern. (For the record, I also called for Clinton’s resignation when the Lewinsky scandal broke).
So why on earth would I call on Franken to resign?
Here’s a statement I made on Facebook: I believe Al Franken, who is a brilliant Senator, was trying to be funny as he says. I also believe he should set a positive example for Roy Moore and choose to resign his Senate seat. Even if this isn’t an underage woman, he should recognize that his actions reflect a culture where men thought it OK to steal a grope or a kiss…”no big deal.” He should recognize that such ideas are part of an outdated patriarchal world view and use his resignation to make that point.
Simply, Franken should take the initiative and do the right thing for the right reason. He should recognize that his fall from grace, along with Moore, Stallone, Weinstein, Spacey, and others, reflects a change in our cultural tolerance of abusive and disrespectful behavior of men towards women.
The idea that “boys will be boys,” and “stealing a kiss” isn’t just fun and harmless. If there is no consent, a kiss, a caress, or a touch of the breast is assault. Even if it does no physical harm, it is a violation of another person in a way that is not only demeaning, but reflects a power differential that shows itself in how women are treated across the board.
I believe in forgiveness, and I think that if people admit and apologize rather than lie and obfuscate, we can move on.
Franken resigning, and saying that he’s doing so because he recognizes that his behavior was part of accepted cultural norms that we can no longer tolerate, would be a step in the right direction. It will also be welcome example of decency in the face of people like Trump and Moore, who want to save their own hide, whatever the cost.
We as a society can choose to stop the patriarchal view of society that continues to see men as dominant and women as subservient. We’ve come a long way from the suffrage movement and getting women into the work place. We’re at a cultural tipping point. We need men, especially men who have engaged in such behavior, to own up to it, apologize, and support cultural change.