Today, model and sports anchor Leeann Tweeden alleged that Democratic senator Al Franken kissed and groped her without her consent back in 2006 before he was elected to Congress. Her allegations even included a photo of the senator grabbing her breasts while she slept.
Right on cue, Franken released a watery apology. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said in a statement to press. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.” He later issued a more thorough apology after the onslaught of criticism he received from both sides of the aisle.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 45 days that discourse around sexual harassment and assault has reached a fever pitch, including in politics. The past week alone has been full of revelations. Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has at least nine women accusing him of everything from unwanted sexual advances to sexual assault when they were teenagers and young adults. Congresswoman Jackie Speier just disclosed that the House of Representatives has spent more than $15 million settling sexual harassment cases in the past 10 to 15 years. Women in the Capitol have reportedly kept a “creep list” of inappropriate male staffers and congressmen for years. Donald “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy” Trump is still our freaking president.
It’s easy to point to Moore and Trump and wave our flags of moral outrage. But Democrats have their own reckoning: What about Bill Clinton and the numerous women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment and assault? And now we have to ask: What about Al Franken?
The truth is, American history is littered with party-based hypocrisy. If it’s the opposing party that’s dealing with a sexual predator, demand his party toss him ASAP. If it’s your party, chock it up to a misunderstanding and say some remarks about that man’s “legacy” and how you don’t want it tarnished.
But the fact of the matter is, each of these men, including Clinton and now including Franken, built a least some of their legacies on the exploitation, humiliation, and suffering of women. And at this point, we need to stop grading them on a scale of “bad” to “really, really, really bad” and using that as reason to defend them. What they all did was terrible, and the second we pretend that some inexcusable behavior is suddenly okay because we’re comparing it to other inexcusable behavior, we open the floodgates.
So, what are we all supposed to do? Folks, it’s time to dump their asses. All of their asses. Let’s demand these men resign.
I’m not kidding. This isn’t an overreaction. I want all of them out now. If the past month and a half has taught us anything, it’s that this really is a goddamn conspiracy. All of those women who people said were being “dramatic” really had it right all along: We really do have a bunch of guys who are emotionally stunted asshats at best and heinous sexual predators at worst running our government, our companies, and everything in between. They don’t just suddenly become that way when they reach the top of the food chain, either; it starts decades prior. And we have people enabling them and making them think their behavior is okay when it never was to begin with. You know who’s included amongst those enablers? Voters who elect these abominations into office.
Yeah, Republicans have already eaten it time and time again in this regard. They elected Donald Trump, despite the fact that he was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, not to mention that roughly a dozen women have come forward alleging he sexually harassed or assaulted them. And hell, many Republicans in the state of Alabama are still looking to elect Roy Moore as their senator in December. Republican voters need to cut it out.
But this enabling bullshit needs to end for Democrats, too. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not sad to receive confirmation that Al Franken is just like the rest of these guys. At the same time, I want to elect politicians who haven’t groped and forcibly kissed someone without her consent. If Al Franken steps down, we have a chance to do just that. And that’s completely and totally an option we have here. We don’t have to bring in the “lesser of two evils” or the “but he didn’t do that thing” arguments. We can encourage better people to run and then elect them to office. And you know who that should include? A whole lot of women. In fact, research shows that if you want to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, promoting women is wildly more effective than hosting sexual harassment trainings. So my question is, why do we need these men?
We have access to millions of talented, qualified Americans with fresh ideas, interesting perspectives, and life experiences that could breathe new life into our politics. And here’s a novel concept in 2017, apparently: Plenty of them haven’t sexually harassed or assaulted anyone.
The fact is, the people we want to lead us are already here, waiting to be given a shot. We don’t have to stand for this crap just to hold onto a seat. Most importantly, if we are truly interested in building a future where there is no tolerance for this kind of behavior, then we have to actually have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior, not just when it’s politically convenient, but every. single. time. We just have to be bold enough to remember that.