The Democratic Party leaders are taking it on the chin for insisting that Minnesota Senator Al Franken step down. And it comes from the left as well as the right. Their motives, it is said, are anything but noble and pure. Political expediency guided them, not opposition to boorish behavior on Franken’s part. Some compare what they did to the political repression of the McCarthy period; others to the Salem Witch Hunt. New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand, some say, had nothing more than the 2020 primaries on her mind.
I don’t agree. I think they did the right thing, and not on flimsy evidence. Leaders on our side of the political ledger — elected and otherwise — should be held to a higher standard of personal and political conduct; nothing puritanical or holier than thou about that. It’s not a witch hunt to expect that leaders representing us measure up to certain norms of behavior.
And those norms are not the same today as they were only a year ago. Bill wouldn’t have survived in this new environment and rightfully so. We are in the midst of a social shift. The bar is being raised. Not only is male violence against women and the exaction of sexual favors by men in positions of power no longer acceptable, but also male groping, squeezing, sex talk, and the like are behaviors that have no place in the relations between women and men in this new shifting social climate.
The wind behind this change comes from scores of women who courageously came forward recently to tell their stories of sexual predation and violence at the hands of powerful men as well as millions of women who are saying enough is enough.
In contrast to our opponents on the other side of the political divide that are comfortable with the sexual predation of Trump and Roy Moore, we should embrace this new moment and its new standards fully and without any equivocation. How else can a movement that hopes to expand the frontiers of freedom and equality do anything less.
Narrowly framed political expediency can’t be our main guide; the creation of a society in which women not simply feel safe, but fully live and thrive in conditions of full equality is.
I come out of the communist movement where on the grounds of political expediency and unity a lot of awful shit happened. Humane values and norms were back benched in the interests of some pressing immediate goal. I can tell you it came back to bite us.