Hours ago, Al Franken stood on the floor of the Senate and announced his resignation. It marks the second time in a week that a Democratic congressperson has stepped down due to credible allegations of sexual misconduct (the first, longtime Representative John Conyers, made his decision public on Tuesday). In both cases, it was public pressure from their colleagues on the left that forced them to end their political careers.
Frankly, as a liberal and a Democrat, this sucks.
Conyers is an icon in the House, the only man to be endorsed by both Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. Franken has become a liberal firebrand in the Senate, making his mark on important issues like net neutrality. Seeing them forced to leave in disgrace is painful.
It's also absolutely necessary.
In the past year, the "Silence Breakers" and the #MeToo movement have established a new paradigm in American society. The brave women who have spoken out were collectively named the Time Person of the Year this week, and with good reason. Countless examples of sexual misconduct and harassment have been brought into the daylight for the first time, and the country is finally having a critical national dialogue about how women are treated in the workplace, the home, and society in general.
And so the Democrats clearly had to make a choice. Could they really stand by and defend (or at least ignore) credible charges against members of their own party while also claiming to be the party that stands up for women and their rights? Was the sacrifice of some of their most well-respected members worth it to draw a line in the sand regarding sexual misconduct?
I feel that I speak for many Democrats when I saw the answer is a resounding "yes," and I'm relieved to see that the party has come to the same conclusion. Because if the Democratic Party wasn't going to stand with the women across the country who deal with harassment every day, then no party would.
The vile actions undertaken by President Trump and the Republican establishment this week have made that perfectly clear.
It's common knowledge that Trump is a serial harasser. He admitted to it on the Access Hollywood tape. He bragged about it on Howard Stern. He has been accused by at least 16 women of everything from unwanted groping to walking in on naked teen beauty pageant contestants to raping his ex-wife. He loves women the way Jeffrey Dahmer loved the bodies in his freezer.
And yet it gets worse. Because if we thought the GOP fully embracing Donald Trump in 2016 was the most disgusting action the party could take, they certainly proved us wrong.
On Monday, Trump formally endorsed Alabama Senate candidate and alleged rapist/child molester/pedophile Roy Moore. "Go get 'em, Roy," the president said in a phone call to Moore, which probably isn't the ideal phrase to use when talking to a man who has been credibly accused of harassing numerous teen girls. But it wasn't just Trump; hours later, the Republican National Committee announced that it was reversing their earlier decision to pull out of the race and would now be sending funds and support to help Moore's campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously said he believed Moore's accusers and felt he should leave the race, seriously backtracked and now says that "the voters of Alabama will make their choice." So either McConnell lied about believing those women or, even worse, he believes them but still thinks child molestation isn't as bad as losing a Senate seat to a Democrat.
And so the Republican party, who wailed for decades that legalizing gay marriage would lead to the nation legalizing pedophilia, has wholeheartedly embraced a credibly-alleged pedophile and child molester. Why on earth would they stoop so low? Well, for corporate tax cuts of course!
Is it fair that Democratic congressmen are held accountable for their behavior by their colleagues while elected Republicans like Trump and Texas Representative Blake Farenthold (who settled a harassment claim by a former staffer for $84,000 in taxpayer money) are able to continue in their jobs without so much as one member of the GOP calling for them to step down? Absolutely not. Does it feel great to know that, at this point, most of the Republican establishment would be fine with putting Brock Turner in the Senate if he says he'll vote to raise taxes on poor people? Hell no.
As I said, this situation sucks.
But that's why it's so incredibly important for the Democrats to draw a line in the sand. We need to be the party that says: "Yes, there are scumbags on both sides, but we kick them out instead of promoting them." We must be the party that tells victims of sexual harassment and assault that we believe them and will do our best to stand with them. And when someone on our side doesn't live up to that standard, it's imperative that we be the party of #MeToo and not the party of #ButTaxes.
We must do this, because clearly no one else will.