Al, Please Don’t Resign

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Minnesota Senator Al Franken 

The Democrats’ push for Al Franken’s resignation may make some sense from a zero-tolerance perspective. But it’s dumb politics, and a cowardly sacrifice of a good man. It would be far better to let the ethics inquiry take its course.

Once a few leading women Democratic senators decided to demand that Franken go, others felt they had to pile on, lest they be seen as less than fully committed to ending sexual harassment. If you’ve ever seen Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, about the Salem witchcraft trials, you get how this groupthink works. 

Here’s why it’s dumb politics. The Democratic strategists, according to my reporting, think that the Dems’ “cleaning house” will put pressure on the Republicans to do likewise, and will hurt Roy Moore in the Alabama election next Tuesday. That explains the sudden pressure for Franken to resign immediately, before the final weekend of campaigning.

So this is more about tactics than about principle—and it’s more likely that this ploy will backfire. The Republicans will spin a Franken resignation as an admission of guilt, while Moore—charged with far more serious potential crimes—has admitted nothing, and claims his innocence. And Republicans can add one more Democratic scalp. (Why do Republicans do utter cynicism so much more competently than Democrats?)

Waiting for the ethics inquiry to take its course would be better politics as well as the right thing to do. Shame on the Democrats for this stampede and rush to judgment.

After more than half of his colleagues have turned on him, it is asking a lot to ask Al Franken to resist this witch-hunt. If he stays, he will face the ire of his colleagues as well as hard questions from his Minnesota constituents.

But the actions he is accused of are not in the same moral universe as the alleged crimes of Roy Moore and other sexual predators. And if his colleagues lack the courage to say that, Franken himself needs to.

Franken could say he’ll resign when Donald Trump consents to a full investigation of his own sexual escapades. Indeed, instead of turning on one of their own, Democrats and feminists—and all decent people—should be intensifying the pressure for a full investigation of the Groper-in-Chief.

It’s painful (and all too familiar) to see Democrats turning on their own, while far greater evildoers go unpunished. Democrats may yet regret this stampede to take down a fine, if blemished, man. Franken needs to save them from themselves, and restore some sense of proportion to this overdue national reckoning of sexual abuse.

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