Editorial: Franken shows need to unite against sexual assault, regardless of party



U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., looks over his notes prior to hearing Alex M. Azar II testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on his nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. A series of Senate Democratic women issued calls for Franken to resign Wednesday morning. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Twitter’s time stamps proved just how planned politics can be yesterday. Over the course of an hour, 11 female Democratic senators made coordinated statements calling for Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign from office amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment.

As of now, eight women have accused Franken of sexual misconduct, with allegations spanning back as far as 2003. Most Democrats’ immediate responses were ones of confusion — Franken, a rumored candidate for the 2020 presidential election, was supposed to be one of the good guys. As the accusations multiplied, he issued numerous apologies ranging from “it was clearly intended to be funny but it wasn’t,” to “I’m going to try to learn from my mistakes.”

Calls from Republican Party members for Franken’s resignation began Sunday when Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said to CBS Miami that Franken “should consider resigning.” On Wednesday, Franken’s female counterparts in the Senate voiced their concerns. For example, Kirsten Gillibrand from New York said on Twitter she “believe[s] he should step aside to let someone else serve.”

President Donald Trump even contributed to the dialogue with a flurry of tweets condemning Franken — but has taken a different stance when it comes to Republicans accused of sexual misconduct. Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Jeff Sessions’ empty Alabama Senate seat, now faces at least eight accusations of initiating sexual contact with significantly younger women. Some of the women were teenagers as young as 14 years old when Moore, a public official in his 30s, approached them.

Despite this, Trump publicly endorsed Moore Dec. 4, demonstrating a clear break from establishment Republicans’ point of view. For example, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he believes Moore’s accusers and that Moore should “step aside.”

Although the rest of the GOP is not quite as outspoken in favor of Moore stepping down, many — including Jeff Sessions, whose vacant seat Moore is in the running for — have been reluctant to support his candidacy.

Faced with political opponents that are even more divided over the issue of sexual assault than they are, liberals must show unity and commitment to what is right regardless of whether or not that means disavowing their own establishment in the process.

It is entirely unacceptable that it took Democrats until yesterday to deliver a powerful message to Franken — in waiting, the party verged on being complicit with sexual misconduct.

Of course, the eventual decision to demand Franken’s resignation distinguishes the Democrats from the Republicans, who themselves are led by a President facing at least 20 accusations of sexual assault from different women.

But just because Trump won’t resign or Moore won’t step out of the Alabama special election doesn’t mean Franken shouldn’t. In responding to The New York Times’ article detailing the Democratic demands for Franken’s resignation, one commenter wrote, “If we keep holding Democrats to higher standards than republicans are holding themselves to, there won’t be anything but republicans left to govern the country.”

That’s not entirely true. We must hold all our representatives to a higher standard than they hold themselves to — and if it results in every last one of them fired, we should take that opportunity to fill their empty seats with leaders that will fight to make the world fairer and more just for all.