If you listened to Twitter this morning, the top issue in the country outside of Matt Gaetz seems to be that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand deserves to be blamed for her handling of Al Franken. She was wrong. She forced a good Democratic senator out. Al Franken suffered damage he can never get back. His career was derailed. It’s all her fault.
Rather than discuss the actions of Gaetz, or the merits of the case against Gaetz, it’s easier to go back and blame a woman who took the word of eight women—not one, eight, which is to be remembered. What did Gillibrand do? She believed women and she asked her colleague, Franken, to step aside. He did. The state of Minnesota received a fantastic and effective Democratic senator in Tina Smith. What happens to the women linked with discussing concerns about sexual harassment? Years later, they are still ridiculed. Even a senator can’t escape that treatment. This is everything that’s wrong with how we handle sexual harassment and assault.
Congressional aides other elected officials came out and issued statements. Franken took to the floor and resigned, stating that representing the people of his state was the most important value. Now, years later, as Gaetz finds himself in trouble, he has no willingness to do the right thing. He’s not interested in representing the people of his district, only himself. He will fight to the end, rather than say, as Franken did, that he welcomes a full and complete investigation. He alleges conspiracies and plots.
Even on this website, the departure of Franken from the Senate led to a lot of back and forth over whether or not it was justly deserved. However, it’s without a doubt that Gaetz, who faces serious legal charges, should be expelled or forced to resign, in my opinion.
What’s being asked here is not about Gillibrand, Franken, or Gaetz. It’s about whether or not the same standard applies to Democratic elected officials and Republican elected officials. Democratic elected officials looked, even within their own party, for solid representation, and they held themselves to the highest of standards. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. The fact that the Republicans have their bar set so low does not mean Democratic officials should lower the bar to reach them. In fact, the actions of Democratic elected officials in the past help us show the seriousness with which we take these issues, and highlight a key difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. One party is willing to look internally, to address issues, to build on itself, and to address accountability. There is no accountability in the Republican Party. There is no self-assessment. There is only the blind pursuit of power.
Instead of bashing Gillibrand, now might be the right time to thank Tina Smith for standing up and serving Minnesota. Now might be the time to thank Democratic Senate members for setting our bar high to show that our party doesn’t just talk about our beliefs, we work to practice them.
Gillibrand was not someone I wanted to go far as a presidential candidate. To the horde taking to Twitter this morning to bash her years later: This is the reason why many women don’t come forward. Because the moment you speak a truth, or you say that this doesn’t feel right, when you stand up for another woman or talk about how it impacted you, prepare to be castigated.
That is simply unacceptable.