Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. Al Franken announced: “that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the U.S. Senate.”
With a crescendo of Democratic senators and congressmen Thursday calling for his resignation, Franken realized overnight that he likely could not remain an effective senator for Minnesotans.
No senator can function adequately within the Senate when they have lost the faith of their colleagues.
Certainly, a senator cannot function sufficiently when they have lost the respect of their constituents.
Also, a senator with the baggage of growing sexual misconduct allegations and facing an ethics investigation can quickly lose the trust of women, as well as other men.
On the worst day of his political career, Franken made the right decision for Minnesota and announced his intention to resign.
The world of politics and politicians can change in a heartbeat. Such is the case for Franken.
A recent darling of the progressive left, Franken was a rising star within the Democratic Party and in American politics. The senator had become a financial star, fundraising across the country for Democratic candidates. His presence had risen in recent months with his tough questioning of various appointees of President Donald Trump. Some were pointing to Franken as a prospective candidate for president in 2020.
Now Franken is resigning with not so much as an apology or even an “I’m sorry.” It looks as if he doesn’t think he did anything wrong. That is a recurring theme among men accused of sexual abuse or harassment.
In October, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was outed as a serial sexual predator. Within days, some other powerful men faced sexual misconduct allegations and were fired or resigned.
By November, the #MeToo cultural revolution reached the halls of Congress. By December, Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, resigned from Congress under the pressure of sexual harassment allegations. Now Franken will soon follow.
Sexual scandals are not unique in Congress. And they have been rather frequent on either side of the political aisle. Frankly, they have been fairly regular.
- 1974 - Democratic Rep. Wilbur Mills’ drunken escapades with stripper Fanny Fox.
- 1987 - Democratic Sen. Gary Hart’s “Money Business” boat trips with model Donna Rice.
- 1995 - Republican Sen. Robert Packwood resigned after 29 women accused him of sexual harassment and abuse.
- 1998 - Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich resigned from Congress after having an affair with a staffer, while married to his second wife.
- 2008 - Democratic Sen. John Edwards admitted to an extramarital affair with an actress, which produced a child.
- 2017 - Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, an abortion opponent, had an extramarital affair and urged the woman to have an abortion when she became pregnant. He resigned after the affair and abortion request became public in divorce proceedings.
Franken’s pending resignation, combined with Conyer’s resignation, could provide the Democrats a possible campaign issue going into 2018.
The resignation “irony” as Franken noted Thursday is that a Republican facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations and who was recorded bragging about groping women was elected president and currently resides in the White House. Also, a Republican candidate in a U.S. Senate special election in Alabama stands accused of preying upon underage girls but still has the full support of his party.
Reality is that in late 2017, #MeToo has emerged as a cultural turning point empowering women. The movement may change our culture, grow as a political force and even change politics further in 2018.
Th #MeToo movement was named the Person of the Year by Time Magazine. We are experiencing a sea change in American history.
America’s tolerance of sexual harassment is ending. The conversation is changing and coming out of the shadows. Employers are moving to be clear on what is acceptable behavior.
As Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on Twitter Wednesday, “Sexual harassment is unacceptable.”
The editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune’s Editorial Board of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.