07 December 2017

Franken, Moore, and doing the right thing

This is a defining moment in US politics.

On the Republican side, Trump and the RNC have fully endorsed Roy Moore, and Breitbart is crowing that even McConnell has dropped his opposition.  The rabble-rousing pastors and preachers from whom so many Evangelical voters take their guidance have mostly dismissed the allegations against Moore as either false or, if true, no big deal.  The Republican-theocrat complex has closed ranks behind one of its own, credible accusations of sexual assault on teenagers be damned.

On our side, a growing list of Senators have called on Al Franken to resign, including the minority leader, Chuck Schumer.  With the number of accusers now at seven, it's getting difficult to cling to any hope that there's no fire behind the smoke.  Earlier this week, Rep. John Conyers resigned after accusations of sexual harassment, again from multiple accusers.

The message is very clear.  When credible accusations of harassment and abuse surface, one party will deny them, smear and mock the accusers, dismiss the alleged acts as trivial, and use whatever other excuse or dodge it can to close ranks behind the accused.  The other party will hold its own members accountable.

(Two points must be acknowledged here.  First, yes, the acts Moore is accused of are much more serious than those Franken and Conyers are accused of.  Nevertheless, the principle at stake is the same.  Second, appeals to the presumption of innocence don't apply here.  If we were jurors at an actual trial, with prison time at stake, then yes, Moore, Franken, and Conyers would each be entitled to our full presumption of innocence and to a not-guilty verdict if the case against them could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.  But that's not the situation here.  In judging a politician unfit to hold office, the question is whether the accusations are probably true, not whether they are proven.)

The Democrats are doing the right thing.  Abusers should be held accountable, not shielded for reasons of political expediency.  We must not brush aside victims as expendable peons whose abuse doesn't matter if it would sully the Important Man whose vote we need, even if Republicans do do that -- for Trump too, please note, as well as Moore.

Taking this stand will mean concrete progress at discouraging sexual harassment across the broader culture.  Millions of men who are accustomed to thinking of such behavior as light entertainment, carrying no consequences for them, are now seeing men far more powerful than themselves (in Hollywood as well as politics) suffering consequences indeed -- which will make them much less likely to indulge in what they now know could lead to a career-ending disaster.

Beyond that, political perceptions matter.  While Republicans play politics as usual, we're showing the voters that we're on the right side of an issue which has recently exploded into political salience, as Time just acknowledged.  Electoral-Vote.com analyzes possible political consequences of a Franken resignation, saying finally that it "would put another Democratic Senate seat in play in 2018, something that will make it harder for the Democrats to win back the Senate in 2018".  I'm not so sure.  If by November the Republicans have defined themselves as the party that coddles and shields harassers, while we are the party that repudiates them, it will benefit us at the ballot box in Minnesota and all over the country.  Who's "soft on crime" now?

UpdateFranken has resigned.


Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Also, which group thinks ethics are real 'them' secularists or the Christians?! I hope Prager and others who tout biblical rules are paying close attention to the utter contradiction, hypocrisy, and subjective stances of major Christian leaders who are supporting Moore.

If Moore and those Christian leaders think Moore is being lied about by all these women, then he ought to step aside from running for a political office and spend all his time dealing with these accusations.

The worst of the worst are the Christians, including women who say they support Moore even if the women's claims are true.:-(

That's scary, tragic, and very unethical.

07 December, 2017 07:29  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

Very sad to see Conyers and Franken go. It's sadder that they acted in ways that led to this. I was hoping to see Franken as a presidential candidate in 2020. I almost wish I had that rightwing mindset so that I could stand by them no matter what.

The presumption of innocence reminds me of something I've seen in comment threads a lot lately. Suppose it's a nice break from the whataboutism, but none the less. There is this defense of Moore because nothing is proven. The idea seems to be that if there is no conviction in court or admission of guilt then no matter how many tons of evidence, he's not guilty. There has to be some logical fallacy in that somewhere. I'm sure it's somewhere in the big book of Russian troll tactics.

07 December, 2017 13:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daniel: If the fundies have any consistent principle left at all, it seems to be a variant of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" -- in their case, "we'll support anyone who hates the same people we hate". And yes, pretty much everyone outside their own circles seems to have spotted the hypocrisy.

Kevin: Yes, it's too bad that they apparently did do these things -- but given the evidence that they did, we need to rise to the occasion.

The fallacy lies in the idea that decisions about political support need to meet the same standards as verdicts in a court of law. They do not. None of the accused people here are facing prison time, fines, or other legal penalties, only a loss of political power -- a risk they run at every election anyway.

08 December, 2017 01:58  
Anonymous Tengrain said...

I've made this comment so many times lately, and here I go again:

Any lawyer who finds out during discovery that there are 30 witnesses (or sources in the NYTimes/WaPo articles, one of the most deeply sourced stories I can remember) are going to be plea bargaining.

(Yes, my parents were lawyers, why do you ask?)

It might not be in a court, but Moore is everything but guilty as charged.



08 December, 2017 11:56  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

As a female who was sexually molested at the age of 6 until I was old enough to refuse to be in the company of the perpetrator, I whole-heartedly support what we see happening. The man who molested me never paid for his crimes. I'm glad I've lived long enough to see this come out in the open and dealt with so that girls and women will not have to suffer this abuse. Unfortunately, we'll never stop it, but we surely can make it unacceptable for those perpetrators who believe they can get away with it.

I'm sorry to see Franken go. I've always liked him, but he, like so many other men who harass and abuse women are now responsible for what happens to them. Finally.

08 December, 2017 13:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tengrain: I suspect he'd be found guilty in a court of law too, based on available evidence. I was just pointing out that expecting a politician to step down doesn't require that standard.

Shaw: As I emphasized in the post, repudiating abusers is the right thing to do, whether or not it's also the politically expedient thing to do.

09 December, 2017 02:01  

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