But better than never:
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke first: “When you have to start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of this is OK, none of this is acceptable.”
Gillibrand is right that none of it is OK but she is not right when she says we are having the wrong conversation if we attempt to make distinctions among bad actors. For now, Democrats think zero tolerance and swift punishment gives them the high ground. But they already have that. They should know by now there is no shaming Republicans who are so far below sea level it’s a miracle they can be heard from down there.
And there are questions about the charge that got the ball rolling. Why did Trump adviser Roger Stone know well ahead of time that Playboy model and radio host Leeann Tweeden would be going public with her charges that Franken kissed her against her will in rehearsals for an X-rated USO tour skit (they are all X-rated) and that she had a 2006 photo of Franken groping, or pretending to grope, her chest over a flak jacket as she slept? Stone sent a heads up to conservative website The Daily Caller about it hours before a story in The Washington Post.
There is also value in finding out if any of Franken’s accusers told someone in real time about the conduct, as victims usually do, and if they happened in the work setting or were a professional power play. The answers may not absolve Franken but there is an ethics committee in place where the questions could have been asked.
Making distinctions can only strengthen the movement. Establish standards and apply a finer gauge. Turn up the pressure on Congress to clean up its dirty little secrets. Abolish the internal Office of Compliance where everyone is on the take. Strengthen the ethics committee by bringing outsiders on board. Hear every accusation in a setting where there can be justice for both sides. No more NDAs. No more payouts.
But our hearts are pure, right Sen. Gillibrand? Yup:
Progressives like Kate Harding, who wrote a Washington Post piece last month arguing that Franken’s resignation would do more harm to women than good, believed they were playing the long game when they encouraged Democrats to allow the senator to keep his seat. Kicking him out might make the party look good now, but the potential damage done by the ouster of a good liberal could last for years. I’d counter with an even longer game: Think about the Democrats with long, bright futures ahead of them, the rising stars, the next Obamas, the legislators who might pass universal Medicare or eliminate Medicaid abortion bans or become president someday.
Does this happen before, or after, we purge Bill Clinton from historic memory, and thus "baptize" the Democratic dead in order to move into this future so bright we'll have to wear shades? Anybody remember "Landslide Lyndon"? Voter fraud is a ripe issue in any democracy at any time, and no more so than today, with the President still crying about voter fraud costing him the popular vote, and continuing attempts to reduce the number of people who can vote without increasing the rolls of convicted felons. And yet does anyone want to expunge LBJ's accomplishments because of LBJ's legacy before he became President? Why not? Once this ball is rolling, why stop it?
And yet still there seems to be some buyer's remorse on the morning after:
“This is a requirement to be able to look at [women] with a straight face and say we’re the party that cares about them,” Guy Cecil, who heads the liberal Priorities USA and previously served as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told Politico. “As long as Republicans don’t do that, there’s a very sharp contrast to be drawn.”
This is sagacious and intellectually honest commentary. It’s also transparently political. Sacrificing Al Franken—a safe thing for them to do considering that a Democratic governor will name his successor—was but a small price to pay for a brand image that serves as a stark contrast to Donald Trump and Roy Moore.
And yet the problem with that "sagacious and intellectually honest commentary" is that the Gov. of Minnesota is widely expected to appoint a caretaker to the Senate, with a special election to be held in November, 2018. Al Franken only won the seat by 300 votes, Trump only lost the state by 4000 votes, and Virginia notithstanding, the Democrats have handed the GOP Al Franken as a talking point and political ad good through this time next year. So maybe that small price will get bigger before the Year of Jubilee and all those "rising stars" take the stage; whoever they are.
But will it work?
The best-laid plans often go awry, and virtue signaling has a mixed track record of success. As liberal columnist Bill Scher recently lamented, “I’ve been alive long enough to know that Democrats having the moral high ground has never been like the linchpin to Democrats winning elections.”
Sadly, elections do not choose the noblest and best the country has to offer, or Donald Trump would not be President and Roy Moore would not stand a better than even chance of victory next week. And LBJ probably never would have been elected in '64. And then, of course, you have this problem:
When you take accusations seriously, you incentivize accusers to come forward. When you demonstrate that accusations are pointless and unlikely to result in change, you disincentivize them. Therefore, the party that does the most to address allegations will, ironically, be punished with more scandals.
The former approach doesn't make the accusations true; the latter doesn't prove they are false. Oh, if only we had a process for sorting fact from fiction! In the meantime, we will purge our office holders until only the pure in heart are left; or those who follow the Pence rule, whichever comes first.