I’ve been reading loads of commentary on Jane Mayer’s big Al Franken article, and I’ve seen all kinds of points being made, some fair and some dubious. But I think the main point is obvious, and it’s this: Democrats did not only him but themselves and liberal values serious harm by forcing Franken out without him getting his due process, and this is all going to come back on them, and those values, and quite possibly the #MeToo movement, in ways we can’t really anticipate.
Let’s acknowledge that once the story broke, Franken (whom I’ve known since 2003) didn’t handle it well. As he said to Mayer, he was in shock. There’s been a lot of criticism of him along the lines that if he’d behaved differently during the controversy, shown more sincere contrition, maybe he could have saved his job. I doubt that, for reasons I’ll get into below. But fine, he could have handled it better.
Let’s also acknowledge that Chuck Schumer made an understandable, if ruthless, political calculation. It was as perfect a storm as has ever swelled around the head of a United States senator, probably. The Harvey Weinstein story was just a month old. Matters of sexual harassment were at a frenzy. Very few people were pausing to make distinctions between rape and groping. There was that special election in Alabama involving Roy Moore, and the press was saying that if the Democrats stuck by Franken, Republicans would nail them as hypocrites. Democratic congressman John Conyers had just been hit with sexual harassment allegations of a more serious nature than those facing Franken (Conyers used the power of his office and fired a female staffer who spurned his advances). This had members of the Congressional Black Caucus telling Democratic senators that if Conyers is going down, then Franken better be going down, too.