Senator Al Franken has resigned – and it could be argued that he had lost his powerful voice anyway after so many allegations of groping had come out. But another argument could be made that by admitting he had made mistakes [although he denied the latest allegations] and submitting himself to criticism and formal investigation, he gave his power away in order to keep the high moral ground that Democrats are now claiming.
It’s a Wonderful Life, Ted Kennedy Version-
Reflecting on Franken, undisputably a (former) rising star in the progressive wing of the party, brought to mind another progressive political leader, one much more flawed than Franken.
What if Ted Kennedy had never lived or been removed early in his career due to his serious transgressions? Would the Affordable Care Act have become law, would the WIC https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/women-infants-and-children-wic program have gotten passed? Would SCHIP https://www.gohealthinsurance.com/health-insurance-information/what-is-schip.html have given poor kids medical coverage, coverage now revoked by this sickening adminstration? And going all the way back to the beginning of Kennedy’s career, would the 1964 Civil Rights Act ever have gotten through a recalcitrant senate?
I thought about this recently when an acquaintance tweeted that Kennedy had been (partly) responsible for his opportunity to become an American after leaving Vietnam on a leaky boat. He had cosponsored The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975 and according to Wikipedia [please donate] “Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Liz Holtzman were the leaders of the refugee advocacy community, and the first supporters of the 1975 Act. They were backed by labor groups like the AFL-CIO and religious services, including the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Church World Service. Their goals to redefine the legal notions of “refugee status” and attain a more comprehensive amnesty policy were not realized until the Refugee Act of 1980.[8
Would we be enjoying the benefits these Southeast Asian families have brought to our shores and would they have survived at all? It’s not an academic exercise and it’s not pretty having to dissect how things work in the real world but I think we need to do it.
Senator Kennedy left us 8 years ago, but we should remind ourselves that Mary Jo Kopechne lost her life at 29-years-of-age, 38 years ago when she drowned or suffocated in the waters off Chappaquiddick. The young senator had driven off a bridge, had left her in the sunken car and simply forgot to report this “incident.” Was Edward M Kennedy, Liberal Lion of the Senate, the guy who endorsed President Obama early on and made healthcare-for-all his lifetime goal, also a monster who drank to excess and treated women like toys? I think he was both and I don’t know what to do about that.
And let’s not forget that Ted’s older brother, the legendary Jack Kennedy of Camelot fame, cavorted with gangsters-who may have won him the presidency-and used women like tissues so let’s be real about our heroes. I’m not interested in a discussion over whether the history books should be rewritten but whether we have thought out how we move forward– and what the consequences are in this time and place of our actions or inactions. Have we had that conversation? Can we have it, do we even know how?
It’s still a boys’s club and the boys who are in charge now are quite willing to watch as we demand more from each other while they get away with murder or at least child molestation:
Robert Reich put it succinctly, “I’m glad Democrats are taking principled stands against sexual harassment but sickened by Trump’s and Republicans unwillingness to do the same. Tyranny beckons when the principled fall on their swords while the unprincipled keep theirs.”
The decision to push Franken out has been portrayed as a purely moral one but its underside is that there is also a political calculus that somehow expelling Al would also remove some road blocks to throwing out Trump or future Senator Moore. I dunno, can you see that working?
It seems to me that we are in a war, maybe not a shooting one but that’s only because actual bullets are not needed for Republicans to get their way. Without a shot being fired, they have impoverished millions by eliminating the medical care offered by the ACA and soon Medicare, plan on reducing or even ending Social Security, are removing environmental protections, including cutting parks and monuments, have already passed laws promoting gun slinging, reduced the courts to a mediocre weapon of their far right ideology and more…. every day. They are courting nuclear war and terrorism while torpedoing hope during the worst refugee crisis in the history of the world. They are on a path not to take us back to the 1950’s but to something like the Age of Inquisition.
It’s possible that the GOP or the Bannonites constructed most, though probably not all, of the allegations against Franken who they saw as a rising general on our side of this war. He had the wit and intelligence to fight for us without starting an actual civil war as he knew something else too, how to reach across the aisle without conceding a bit of his progressive goals. Since he resigned on Thursday, I have read social media responses from many, many women who were opposed to Franken’s resignation [not a formal survey.] And we know that most women have experienced some form of harassment at work and of course, in the street so their responses don’t seem based on a lack of experience.
So here are some examples of the divide, without identities or any accounting of age or ethnicity:
From twitter: “I understand the politics behind this, but it makes me uneasy. The allegations against Franken are comparatively benign and largely unvetted.#GOP will not follow suit and the precedent this sets could easily be weaponized. https://t.co/FxKS4bJfax
Responses to this tweet- “At this point, I am very, very angry at the Democrats for turning on Al Franken this way, when the evidence against him is so weak, what he is alleged to have done is so minimal (compared to men who actively pursue women who have already said “no” and who have economic or other power over those women) and the Republicans have every reason to want him gone. I am almost never a believer in conspiracies, but the allegations against Franken just don’t pass the smell test.”
“I am so, so happy to read what you all have to say. I thought I might be the only activist woman feeling uneasy about this. Seems like he should get “due process” at least.”
Reacting to a tweet from Senator Gillibrand, one among many:
“I disagree about Franken for a couple reasons. First his case provides an opportunity for us to have some discourse regarding cultural norms that the majority on some level participated in. Particularly in the name of ‘comedy’. 1/. His case can also help us nationally discuss what constitutes ‘credible’ accounts. Through this we can dispel ‘witch hunt’ labels. We need men to participate in this evolution. I believe we can only get there through VERY PUBLIC discourse. 2/”
“As popular as SNL was,/is I’m guess that a number of the Dems clutching their pearls now over Franken laughed like crazy at SNL in years past. Total double standard and no nuance to the thinking. And the whole scenario of losing Franken, who is so articulate and fearless, undoubtedly has Rs licking their chops and looking for the next victim (you can be sure it won’t be one of theirs).”
“I wish Franklin hadn’t resigned and let the process play out through the ethics committee while Demo-women in congress called for Trump’s resignation A.S.A.P.”
So this blog is getting a bit long, yet I just have to ask you to think about the concept of zero tolerance. Isn’t just the phrase a tip-off to our inability to look at complex issues and respond according to each situation? Zero tolerance for weapons at schools got little boys and some girls arrested for having toy guns in their backpacks. [perphttps://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/School-Defends-Actions-Over-10-Year-Old-With-Toy-Gun-197748851.htmletrators] .
Zero tolerance has criminalized young men who had consensual relationships with girls in their age peer group but just under the age of consent. Funny thing, these often turn out to be Black youth and the book is thrown at them. Shouldn’t punishment fit the “crime?”
Back at the OK Corral, i.e. Washington DC, the folks who are restructuring our economy for the 1% of the 1%, eliminating our remaining rights and gifting our country to oligarchs continue on. Many of us may not survive their onslaught. But, you know, we took the high road…maybe, just maybe, it will slow our descent into hell.