Last night was a triumph for Doug Jones and for Alabama. But it was also a triumph for the Democrats who called for the resignation of their fellow Senator, Al Franken.
The other day, Senator Al Franken resigned his Senate seat over a number of allegations that he had, in the past, behaved inappropriately with women. My friends on social media have been having a collective freakout. I believe these friends have been misguided.
This comment is representative: “You can’t shame the GOP into doing the right thing because the GOP has no shame.”
The terms “high ground” and “moral purity” are getting thrown around a lot, as though the Democrats have made the honorable but stupid choice. I don’t think so. I think the Democrats have made a baller move, a bold move, and a winning move. You have to take chances when you’re playing from behind. Ask any head coach. Ask Jon Snow just before he took on Ramsay Bolton.
I take a backseat to no one in my criticisms of Democrats, particularly over what are broadly termed “identity politics.” As I have written many times, the Democrats cannot afford to campaign as though they prioritize disadvantaged groups over the American mainstream. As I have written many times, campaigns are mostly a matter of emphasis. Republicans don’t campaign on their regressive fiscal policies, but once in office they enact them all the same. By the same token, Democrats shouldn’t campaign on Black Lives Matter and trans-friendly bathrooms.
Some of my liberal-to-moderate friends agree with me…and that’s exactly why they felt that the Democrats were wrong to push Al Franken out of office. Identity politics feel good, they said, but they lose elections.
Yeah, this is where I differ. Prepare for nuance! Women aren’t an aggrieved minority; they’re a majority. Being against old men hitting on teen girls doesn’t represent over-fealty to identity politics. The #metoo movement isn’t identity politics. And it’s not going away in a few months, either. For all the frightened talk amongst Rebecca Traister and her re-tweeters, any backlash isn’t taking us back to November 2016, when accusers of sexual misconduct were (apparently) routinely unbelieved. Believing victims isn’t going away. In a world where the President tells us not to believe any news except Fox, victims sound at least as plausible as him. In a world where the President has made a mockery of the rule of law, and decided to conduct policy by twitter (as when he announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military), victim-oriented policy, via Twitter outrage, makes as much sense as anything else. Corporations aren’t getting on the wrong side of this, and neither are Democrats. As for Republicans…the jury is out.
Memo to those Republicans: articles with the word “sex” make people click on them. “Sexual misconduct” has the word “sex” in it. Alabamians have voted against people trolling for jailbait. But we’re all trolling for clickbait, and that won’t change in 2018 or 2020.
Imagine the blowback if Moore had won, and then Franken resigned. Then the Democrats would have been cast as their usual loser selves. In this case, you have to say the timing was close to perfect, just as Moore had risen to five points ahead. Franken kept sex in the papers every day up until yesterday’s election. Many of the articles said something like, how can the Senate lose Franken but gain Moore?
And this brings me to something important…the role of hypocrisy. I quoted “Pe Resists” as saying, well, you can shame the Democrats, but you can’t shame the shameless Republicans. As though you can’t ever make any argument that says “Well, the GOP once thought this, but now they think this.” But…that’s not really true, and Pe doesn’t believe it either. Or why would he tweet this?
He could have kept that thought to himself, but he wanted to point out GOP hypocrisy. We all believe in the power of hypocrisy. Perhaps you know the phrase “there’s a tweet for every occasion.” It refers to every time one can use an old Trump pre-presidential tweet that exactly criticizes Trump’s current behavior, like, say, golf, or bragging about employment numbers, or being President while under FBI investigation. So, you’re telling me you’ve never liked the tweet of someone who pointed out that hypocrisy? Heck, you’ve never even clicked on such an article?
Most of us have, Democrat and Republican. Hypocrisy is a powerful way to discredit someone. Yes, some people get away with things. Over the long run, though, people get sick of hypocrites. I would even say that the inverse is true: over the long run, people respect consistent crusaders, even if they don’t agree with them.
Yes, Trump has gotten away with legendary hypocrisy. There are many, many reasons for this, including his unusual provenance as a TV-star and disruptive influence and foil of the likewise-unusual Hillary Clinton. But gravity exists. It affects almost all other politicians and candidates, and it affects people around Trump. And at some point it will affect Trump as well.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: the #metoo movement is a boon to Democrats, because it allows them to unite left and center in a way that few issues could. It basically lets them say to their base: see, we’re with you. And then probably turn around and pursue pro-corporate policies. It’s a winning formula. And it has the advantage of believing the long-marginalized.
For years, every week, I’ve been advocating a third party. But last night’s results proved some of my haters right. No way a Green or a Libertarian or an American (a.k.a. centrist) party apparatchik could have beaten Moore in Alabama. Sometimes you need the full strength of a pre-existing party, like the Democrats, to barely keep a racist sexist pederast out of the Senate.
I’ll say it again: if this were the Rubio presidency, I’d feel very differently. But this particular President represents a unique threat to our republican democracy and to our way of life. So…it’s all hands on deck.
It’s the Democrats allied with the #metoo movement. It’s the right thing and it’s the winning thing, not unlike same-sex marriage. Hurray for the moral purity high ground! And this combination is just getting started. The Democrats who pushed out Senator Al Franken will be remembered for succeeding with a classic come-from-behind 11th-hour move. And Al Franken’s sacrifice will be honored and remembered.