By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – Two kinds of pressure prompted U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, to do the right thing and resign.
The first, not surprisingly, was political.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
Democrats now have pushed two powerful and prominent members of their own party – Franken and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan – to resign their offices because of allegations of serial sexual harassment and misconduct. At the same time, Republicans do their best to ignore similar – and perhaps even more severe – allegations leveled against President Donald Trump and pour massive amounts of money into Alabama’s U.S. Senate race to elect a man credibly accused of child molestation and preying on teens, Roy Moore.
Democrats doubtless hope to make clear the contrast between the way they have dealt with the issue of sexual harassment and the way Republicans have. Savvy Democrats hope that jettisoning powerful members of their own party will sway independent and moderate Republican women voters.
In a country as fractured as ours is now, every vote counts and shearing off support from the opposition can spell the difference between victory and defeat.
That is perhaps one reason U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, was quick to call for Franken’s resignation and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Indiana, penned a hasty op-ed piece condemning sexual harassment. Donnelly faces a tough battle for re-election next year and Messer hopes to be his GOP challenger.
The larger pressure exerted on Franken, though, was moral.
Our history shows us that America’s conscience can be slow to awaken to injustice, but when it does so it is a powerful, almost inexorable force.
The reason so many powerful men in entertainment, journalism and politics have been toppled is that the revelations of the abuse women of every age have endured because of them has prompted widespread revulsion.
And that has pushed us toward a national reckoning.
At the heart of this reckoning is a belief that all human beings, regardless of gender, merit a modicum of respect. No one deserves to be treated like a piece of meat.
The struggle is between those who understand this and those who – defiantly, determinedly and perhaps delusionally – don’t.
This struggle transcends politics and, in some ways, ideology.
That is why the message President Trump and the Republican National Committee are peddling to rationalize their support of Moore – that the GOP needs another vote in the Senate to guarantee tax cuts for the rich – may play well in a southern state where some people like to pretend the Confederacy didn’t lose the Civil War, but not in many other places.
Most rational people realize that we can go back to volleying our traditional ideological and partisan shots back and forth after we’ve made sure that America’s mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends are safe and are treated with respect.
Until we’re sure of that, we have a lot work to do.
This is also why Franken’s resignation speech landed with such a thud.
He said it was ironic that he’d be leaving the Senate while a man who boasted that he likes to grab women by the groin sits in the Oval Office – and one who almost certainly preyed on teens is likely to be elected to the Senate with the support of the RNC.
Franken’s message was valid, but he is the wrong messenger to deliver it.
In his own way, Franken did what Trump and Moore have done. He, like they have, cast himself as a victim because someone called him out for his own bad behavior.
He isn’t the victim here.
And neither are Moore and Trump.
If Moore wins the Alabama Senate race – and the bet here is that he will – and Republicans continue to ignore and refuse to investigate Trump’s sordid history with women, the revulsion decent people feel will reach tsunami levels.
Because this isn’t about Republicans and Democrats.
It’s about right and wrong.
Simple as that.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.