Voters Need To Fire The Creeps

We’ve learned a lot of grotesque things in recent weeks.  Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken will do anything to get a laugh, including humiliating women. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is a serial pedophile predator who should have been prosecuted before the statute of limitations ran out. Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen and Senator Tony Cornish continually go way over the flirt-harassment line, and it’s not close. President Donald Trump has admitted on videotape to sexually assaulting women, and at least 16 women have gone on the record to assure us that what the President told Billy Bush is true.

So enough with the political noise.  Enough “if the allegations are true” games.  Enough “what about others in the other party?” What these men did was unacceptable.

I obviously can’t control the outcomes of these controversies.  But if I could, this is what I would wish for all of them: None of them would resign under pressure from party leaders. All of them would be voted out.

Clearly, if they do resign before their next election, that’s better than them retaining their power.  But if I could wave a magic wand, I don’t want the final chapter on these men’s history to be “resigned under pressure from party leaders.” I want it to be “rejected by the voters.”

Here is why:  If it’s the former, there will be many Americans who blame the spineless, “politically correct” party elites who forced the resignation. If it’s the latter, it will be much more clear that the community-at-large rejects sexual harassment and assault. That’s what we need to stigmatize this behavior and make it less prevalent.

I understand why party leaders call for these men to resign. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they’re showing that they take the issue seriously. To look at it more cynically, they need to replace their damaged political goods with a more electable candidate so they can retain power for themselves. Whatever their motivation, I’m glad they’re doing it, because it helps to spotlight and denormalize the behavior.

But I don’t want party elites to end these political careers. I want the larger “us” to do that. We’re a democracy. Voters need to step up and do our job. We need to overcome our tribal instincts and vote these guys out. We should replace them with more women. We should send a clear signal to political leaders that creepiness and criminality are electorally toxic, so parties will start nominating better people.

Like a lot of men, I’m not all that comfortable speaking out on this topic. Men who are self-aware and honest know that we’re all part of the sickness we’re reading about on the front pages.

Though we continually assure ourselves that we’re “way better than most,” we also know we’re far from perfect. Maybe we’ve told a joke that we understand in retrospect made women uncomfortable. Maybe we’ve confused objectification with flattery. Maybe we haven’t always controlled our eyeballs. Maybe in the exclusive company of men, we didn’t have the courage to speak out about comments that embolden harassers. Maybe we haven’t called out peers who went over the line in our presence.

So I’m not coming at this from a holier than thou perspective.  We all need to improve. We all need to own this and fix this. Seeing the community at large — masses of fed up voters — reject this behavior will do more to hasten the improvement process than seeing them forced out by a handful of party elites scrambling to cover their asses.

11 thoughts on “Voters Need To Fire The Creeps

  1. ” I don’t want party elites to end these political careers. I want the larger “us” to do that.”
    You’ve made a very good point. The responsibility is ours.

  2. I expect that Franken will face a primary challenge before he gets to his next general election (assuming he does not resign).

    This all, of course, gets to the question of what is the role of a representative: Do we want a moral exemplar? Someone who we’d feel comfortable having a beer with? Someone who reflects our society, warts and all? Someone who votes the right way (and is that the same thing as voting “our way”?) on issues important to us? Someone who uses their judgement on our behalf? Someone who reflects our hopes and aspirations for the future?

    Clearly our society is changing on a variety of issues, and the people Joe lists above (Moore, Trump, Franken, are in various ways lagging indicators of where society is headed. This moment reminds me of the rapidity with which marriage equality became the norm. Fairly suddenly, things that were accepted are now no longer acceptable.

    Makes me wonder about what will be next.

  3. If I had to rank them in order of worst behavior, I’d say Moore, Trump, Schoen, Cornish, and Franken. Franken is no Moore, but I suspect you’re right that Franken would face a caucus and primary opponent, and Democrats could do better.

    I don’t need my elected representatives to be perfect. I can accept affairs, divorces, victimless crimes, past addictions, sexual deviance, bankruptcies, other. But the preying on people is in a different category for me, and preying on young people and blaming the victims is particularly indefensible.

  4. As a woman I’m glad to see women speaking out about these boorish and sometimes criminal behaviors. I’m so disappointed in Franken and even more disappointed in all the men and women who give Trump a pass.

    • Agree Kay. The fact that Trump was supported by 46% of Americans is a head scratcher, but the fact that so many women gave this serial cheat, harasser and abuser a pass is really baffling. There must just be a lot of “well that’s just how men are” attitude out there.

    • Very fair point, Bruce. But I would say:

      1) Trump: 62,979,879 (46.1%)
      Clinton: 65,844,954 (48.2%)

      2) I’m not saying the voters always get it right. I’m saying the day they start getting it right is the day we’ll see fewer harassers and abusers in office. For that reason, I want voters to get a chance to clean house.

  5. So one of the other things I will be interested in is the difference between Trump and Franken in terms of their reaction.

    Trump is all deny, deny, deny, stonewall, call them all liars, don’t worry about apparent contradictions, etc.

    Franken appears to be pulling all the right PR levers–apologize up front, say there is no excuse for his behavior, call for an investigation and pledge to cooperate, etc.

    Which way will actually be more successful? Can we look on this as a real world test of PR advice?

  6. Good point. Franken is caught up in a difficult political environment. National Democrats have been railing on Trump’s and Moore’s victimization of women, so they know that if they ignore Franken they will a) look hypocritical and b) give Trump and Moore ammo to defend themselves (“what about Franken”). Also, Democrats have women and feminists as an important and valued part of their electoral coalition, so they will pay a higher price than Republicans if they turn a blind eye on mistreatment of women. National Democrats have a lot of pressure to punish Franken, even if they don’t want to do that. For those reasons, the right PR moves may not be enough to save Al, particularly if more stories emerge. Good crisis management can make a shitty situation slightly less shitty, which sometimes, SOMETIMES, is enough for survival. But even great PR moves can’t make the shit go away. Even if Franken survives this, his reputation, opportunities and effectiveness will be severely impacted.

  7. I have a bad feeling about this. The defenestratiion of Franken followed closely by the election of Moore (and I’d be happy to be wrong but I DON’T THINK I AM) will have one certain result—namely, every future accusation will automatically be met with a blanket counter-attack asserting that the victim is a liar, and soon no victims will risk the insult added to the injury. Beyond that certainty are the possible although less predictable radioactive fallout effects of Moore’s presence in the Senate. Bannon and his Aryan brothers empowered. All court appointees having to meet Moore’s litmus tests—oh yes, maybe the Book reads: “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” but “Judge” Moore is delighted to stand in the Almighty’s sandals and to savor the delectably sweet taste of revenge on those very Federal Courts which booted him from the Bench. He and his Bible-belters see the Hand of God in the ballot box. And before that kind of fanaticism, any remaining trace of rationality or responsibility in the majority party–and there’s PRECIOUS little left–will quail and collapse.

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