Democrats Wanted a Pass for Al Franken
By MARGARET AVERA | December 18, 2017
Rampant sexual assault and harassment are no longer openly accepted secrets since the Weinstien break and the #metoo campaign. Increasingly those who engage in sexual predation, harassment, and misconduct are being held accountable, not by the law, but by their employers. Numerous media anchors, political news CEO’s, and other celebrities such as Louis C.K. had their contracts and positions terminated. Although legal repercussions have not emerged, it seems that sexual assault in the workplace is no longer accepted. This idea does not insinuate a permanent change, but it is observable in our current environment.
As allegations against Roy Moore mounted, some Republican Senators called for him to drop out of the race. Senator Cory Gardner said that even if Moore wins the race, that the Senate should vote to expel him. It seems that politicians are realizing the atrocity that is sexual assault and harassment, or at least pretending to care. It takes more than rhetoric to prevent sexual violence, only time will tell if the legislative branch will truly expel the sexual predators within its ranks.
Sexual assault has occurred among Democrats as well. A photo tweeted by the victim herself, Leeann Tweeden, clearly shows Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) groping her. She could not give consent because she was asleep; any legal and scholarly definition of consent would require both parties to be conscious. Tweeden also says that Franken inappropriately kissed her. Three more women later came forward, revealing that Senator Franken also groped them. Like Roy Moore, it is clear that Franken assaulted or harassed women more than once. Both men exhibited a clear pattern of predation and sexual abuse.
However, what is disappointing about the reaction to Franken’s behavior is that Democratic leaders did not immediately call for Franken to step down. Some prominent feminists, such as Kate Harding, even wrote on the subject asserting that Al Franken does not need to resign. She admitted that part of the reason she did not call for his resignation is his position as a Democrat. She stated that Democrats vote in the interests of women while Republicans do not; his abuse is part of a much larger systemic issue of sexual violence and abuse towards women.
Her fear was that the resignation of all those who are abusive will result in some of the successors for those positions falling to Republicans. She suggested that if the short term “right thing” leads to long term political catastrophe for American women... we need to reconsider our definition of the right thing.” Harding went on to add that those who commit violent assaults are serial predators and those who commit abuse related to their political work should step down. She also added that her argument would dissolve if Republicans make meaningful reform in sexual assault policy. It is reasonable to believe that Harding would have called for Franken’s resignation after it had been found that he committed abuse towards multiple women. While her caveats at the end of the article appear reassuring, they do not settle growing fears about a larger problem among Democrats and many other feminists.
The idea that the Democratic platform is more important for the protection of women than removing sexual predators from positions of power is extremely troublesome. It reveals the privilege and ivory tower that many liberals and feminists seem to live in. One should fear and distrust any claim that protections for women somehow do not include sexual safety and protection from abuse as a prominent and vital issue. Harding herself cited the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey which found that 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence. Safety from sexual violence can no longer be ignored as something less important than other issues for women.
For real change in this issue, it must be addressed by both parties. Democrats cannot get a pass because they are pro-choice. Sexual assault is not something to weigh in with other character traits. Therefore, the solution is a zero tolerance policy. This will remove the politics and arguments about which behaviors are worse than others. No longer should we evaluate a perpetrator or political party holistically. A perpetrator is a perpetrator. Perpetrators should not be able to remain in positions of power, where they can continue such behaviors.
Ideally, the new public discourse regarding sexual violence will lead to legal reform, so that these issues can be pursued through the justice system. As it stands, the majority of cases involving sexual abuse do not end in a sentence or punishment for the perpetrator. So, while it is favorable for some form of due process and new legal precedent to be set for sexual abuse, our current system shows that justice may not be found through the courts.
It seems plausible that predators losing their jobs, contracts, and positions signals that people are taking sexual violence seriously and intend to hold perpetrators accountable. The fact that the leader of the House of Representatives Mitch McConnell said, “I believe the women” is huge. Belief in victims who have come forward is vitally important, especially because McConnell serves in a high position within our government. For so long, victims have been shamed, called liars, and silenced. It is extremely reassuring to see those who have experienced abuse be taken seriously and treated with respect.