Franken’s Folly: a Sign of the Times

Michael Geiger

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After the story of Al Franken’s alleged sexual harassment broke, like many conservatives, I basked in a few glorious hours of schadenfreude. For a jerk like Franken to get nailed red-handed with rock-solid allegations was a Christmas present that arrived six weeks early. On top of it, the fact that there was photographic evidence of the senator perversely grinning at the camera while posing in a lurid stance was almost too good to be true. 

Unfortunately, the chances that Franken will survive the scandal with his job intact grow with every passing day. Despite a, shall we say, lackluster first apology, the senator rebounded by shrewdly calling for a Senate ethics investigation on himself. Inevitably, after the furor over these allegations has subsided, the Senate will conclude that his behavior was completely unacceptable. However, when all is said and done, Franken will likely be allowed to retain his title. He’ll go on some bogus tour of the state meeting with “women of all walks of life” to generate some good PR, and a year from now none of this will matter.

The greatest tragedy of the entire sequence of events? Republicans are politically handcuffed by the fact that they are running a guy for Senate in Alabama who stands accused of doing things much worse than what Al Franken did. As allegations mount against Roy Moore, there remain important figures such as Senator Rand Paul who at the time of print have still refused to withdraw their endorsement of the Alabama Senate candidate. 

If Moore wins, the two parties will be engaged in a prisoner’s dilemma. Both sides will face strong public pressure to dispose of their respective candidate, but the threat of the other side gaining power will likely keep both in office. This stance is perfectly laid out on the liberal side by Kate Harding of the Washington Post, who argues against a Franken resignation, writing, “…if we set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.” Essentially, our party is full of so many disgusting people that if we start to care about abused women, we’ll lose power.

Regardless of what happens next, it has never been more clear that we are living in a post-moral society. Obviously, reprehensible behavior from Hollywood and Washington DC are not a 2017 invention, but the edifice is starting to crumble. It is getting more and more difficult to cover up the repulsive behavior of the powers who influence the culture. On the political side, it didn’t start with Donald Trump, but the “at least he’s not as bad as her” campaign logic was never on solid footing morally, and the defense of Roy Moore is only a continuation of that logic. “Why abandon Roy Moore? He’s a creep, but he’s better than electing a Democrat!”

Moving forward, the only option we have as conservatives is to cling tightly to principle. If we tie ourselves to individuals, then we are forced to defend them, whether they’re right or wrong. It is essential that we build a foundation that is sturdier than the morality of singular human beings, something increasingly being proven highly fallible. We need to call balls and strikes with a clearly defined strike zone, even if it means every once in while “our guy” is gonna strike out. 

Unfortunately, Al Franken’s transgressions will not likely result in the political victory it was initially hoped to be. It appears that the only fallout will be both parties digging deeper into their respective positions, as they now are on equally uneven footing morally in the political arena. Hopefully, those who stand for something greater than power will make their voices heard, and the principles that the country was founded on will be restored as the foundation of our government. Don’t hold your breath.