Dem Senators Suddenly Call for Al Franken to Step Down as Roy Moore Rebounds
The Democratic Party appears to have made a strategic decision — dump the Minnesota lawmaker to set themselves up for 2018
Have Democrats decided to sacrifice Al Franken in order to give themselves clearance to call for Roy Moore’s ouster after he’s elected to the Senate?
Eight female Democratic senators are all of a sudden calling on Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken to give up his Senate seat.
They include Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), and Kirsten Gillibrand, who all began tweeting and posting messages just before noon on Wednesday, saying Franken should step down.
“Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside,” Hirono wrote on Twitter. “I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good senator, and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women.”
McCaskill kept it simple, writing on Twitter simply, “Al Franken should resign.”
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” Murray tweeted. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”
“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Sen. Franken to do is step down,” Kamala Harris wrote on her Twitter account.
“I believe it is best for Sen. Franken to resign,” Baldwin tweeted.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable. I believe Sen. Franken should do the right thing and resign,” Stabenow wrote on Twitter.
“It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign,” wrote Hassan.
Gillibrand tweeted, and wrote a long statement that she posted on her Facebook page, entitled, “Senator Franken Should Step Aside.”
“I have been shocked and disappointed to learn over the last few weeks that a colleague I am fond of personally has engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable,” she wrote. “I consider Senator Franken to be a friend and have enjoyed working with him in the Senate in our shared fight to help American families. But this moment of reckoning about our friends and colleagues who have been accused of sexual misconduct is necessary, and it is painful. We must not lose sight that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person.”
She went on to write that sexual harassment “is not limited to any one party” and that political leaders must “rise to the occasion, and not shrink from it.”
“So I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken’s behavior,” she wrote. “Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave, and I believe them. While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service.”
The women were joined by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and also by Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who all joined in, calling for Franken to step down.
At the same time, Franken declared that he’ll make an announcement about his political future on Thursday.
The senators from his own party calling for him to resign came the same day that a sixth woman came forward to say that Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her.
The woman, a former Democratic congressional staffer, said that Franken had trapped her and tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006 after her boss had gone on his radio show, telling her, “It’s my right as an entertainer.” The woman, who was in her 20s at the time, had ducked.
The senator is accused of groping or forcibly kissing six other women.
Franken has refused, in statements and interviews, to admit any of the allegations, saying that he’s sorry, but saying, incredulously, that he doesn’t remember groping anyone.
In response to a woman named Lindsay Menz who said he grabbed her buttocks while she was taking a photograph with him at the Minnesota State Fair, Franken said: “I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture.”
“I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected,” he added, leading the news magazine The Week to write: “Al Franken has hit upon a cynical and effective strategy: the admission-free apology.”
The coordinated rush of calls from Democrats for Franken to resign may reflect the fact the accusers are now too numerous to be ignored. But there may also be another reason.
“It’s no coincidence that Senators are calling for Al Franken to resign the very next day after Roy Moore held a highly successful rally, and is way ahead in the polls,” conservative activist Mike Cernovich wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “This is politics, not principles.”
On Tuesday night, Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, campaigned for Roy Moore outside of Mobile, Alabama, drawing a large crowd.
And on Wednesday morning, a WBRC-TC/Strategy Research poll was released showing Moore 7 points ahead of his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Of the six polls released in the past ten days, Moore has been ahead in four. The Real Clear Politics 30-day average of all polls in the race now shows him winning by 2.3 percentage points, a sign that after taking a hit following the Washington Post stories detailing allegations against him, he’s likely to win the Senate seat in the December 12 special election.
And aside from having to say goodbye to a friend, the Democratic Party doesn’t have much to lose by cutting Franken loose. If Franken leaves the Senate, the Democratic governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, will pick a replacement, a Democrat who will serve until November 2018, when a special election will be held to elect someone to serve the remaining two years in Franken’s six-year term.
Dispatching Franken and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who stepped down Tuesday after serving in the House since 1965, also clears the way for Democrats to make sexual harassment a signature issue in the 2018 midyear elections, allowing them to claim that they’ve consistently called for members credibly accused of sexual harassment to resign.
(photo credit, homepage image: Al Franken…, cut out and desaturated, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Stephanie Moreno, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications Peabody Awards; photo credit, article image: Maggie Wood Hassan, CC BY 2.0, cut out, by Marc Nozell / Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii…, CC 0, by Glenn Fawcett / California Attorney General Kamal Harris, CC 0, by Lonnie Tague for the Department of Justice / Senator Gillibrand visits the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, CC 0, by Staff Sgt. Joseph McKee) Any parties involved in this imagery do not imply endorsement.