John Taylor / Flickr al franken...
John Taylor / Flickr

We live in strange and emphatically trying times. Times when a boasting sexual assaulter sits in the Oval Office, an accused pedophile runs for the Senate with the full endorsement of his party, and on the other side of the aisle, one of the best and the brightest of our Senators, Al Franken, just officially became the sacrificial lamb on the altar of sexual harassment. This is not to say that Franken did nothing wrong and whatever the facts of his alleged transgressions now constitute a moot point at best. The ethics investigation was not allowed to go forward. What is left at the end of the day now is the confused political mishmash wrought by the events of the past few weeks since Franken first stood accused. We now have to sort through the wreckage and see where we went and where we are right now with this situation — and frankly? This may be a day that Democrats come to regret. Daily Beast:

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.

The glaring problem with this case and the way it was handled is two fold: 1. The ethics investigation should have gone forward.  No matter who was saying what, due process should have been allowed to prevail rather than the kangaroo court which did prevail. The Republicans are laughing their asses off at us and for that we are responsible. 2. Lines are now blurred with respect to different levels of sexual crimes and their severities. Whatever Franken was accused of doing, the facts do not reach the exploitative level of Donald Trump nor the sheer perversity and debasement of Roy Moore. Again, a sane step back, a dispassionate investigation of a body of evidence would have been by far the best. Had that scenario been allowed to prevail, not only would justice have been done in the classic sense but clear and reliable precedents would quite probably been established. As it all stands now, we had a lot of high emotion and declamation leading up to a climax, but hardly a solution.  We may have technically “won” this battle — but we did not advance ourselves in this cultural war. If anything, we went backwards. The denouement was not satisfying — let’s see if the coda is any better.

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