What If Al Franken Just Switched Parties?

On Thursday, embattled Minnesota Senator Al Franken took to the Senate floor to address his political future. In his speech, he refused to take responsibility for any of the sexual misconduct allegations placed against him by multiple female accusers over the past few weeks, claiming that some were untrue and that others he remembered quite differently. Still, he announced his intention to resign from office “in the coming weeks.”

“It’s become clear that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for [his constituents],” he explained.

Franken’s announcement came after the emergence of a seventh accuser (a former congressional aide) and coordinated pressure from notable Democratic party leaders (including over 30 fellow senators) for him to step down.

The senator didn’t leave the stage without taking a shot at his Republican opponents.

“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” he said, referring respectively to President Trump and Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore from Alabama.

There’s been a fair amount of speculation as to what Franken meant, in saying that his resignation would be carried out over the span of “weeks.” Some have theorized that the senator is waiting for the results of Alabama’s special election, where state polls show that Moore will likely win. The notion is that if Moore is accepted into the U.S. Senate, Franken would have a stronger personal argument for recanting his resignation and staying in office. His case would be that what Moore is being accused of (sexual assault on a 14 year-old and another teenage girl) is significantly more serious than what Franken has been accused of (groping during photographs, and forced kisses).

Again, this is just a theory by some commentators. Franken hasn’t indicated that he’s planning on doing this.

But if we’re going to entertain offbeat scenarios in which Franken could conceivably hold on to his job, it seems to me that there’s a one that would have a better chance of succeeding: Franken switching parties to become a Republican.

I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous. But hey, much stranger things have happened in the world of politics over the past few years. So purely for the sake of argument, let’s examine this a bit:

While the accusations against Roy Moore are indeed more serious than those against Franken, Moore has the support of not only the Republican National Committee, but also the leader of the Republican party — President Donald J. Trump.

Additionally, a number of influential media-conservatives have been publicly defending Franken, framing calls from his Democratic colleagues for him to resign as unfair and purely political.

On her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham gave no credit to the Democrats for throwing Frankin overboard. Instead, she scolded them for engaging in “desperate political warfare.” She blasted the notion that the party cared about women, and declared that the Democrats’ master plan was to sacrifice Franken in order to give them a better moral standing from which to more effectively attack Trump and Moore for their problems with sexual misconduct.

“So I’ll tell you this tonight, be weary of the lynch mob you join today,” Ingraham added. “Because tomorrow, it could be coming for your husband, your brother, your son, and yes, even your president.”

If I’m understanding her correctly, Ingraham (who hasn’t challenged the accusations against Franken) is saying that if members of your family grope or force kisses upon seven non-consenting women, they may lose their jobs.

And?

Ingraham’s guest, Newt Gingrich, was also upset by what the Democrats did.

“What you saw today was a lynch mob,” said Gingrich. “Let’s not have due process. Let’s not ask anybody any questions. Let’s not have any chance to have a hearing. Let’s just lynch him, because when we get done lynching him, we’ll be so pure.” He added that the Democratic Party is “losing its mind.”

Gingrich went on to actually rationalize Franken’s alleged incidents of forced kissing by making the point that they had occurred prior to him becoming a politician: “Al Franken was a comedian. Comedians often do weird things. He was in the entertainment business. He was doing the kind of things people in the entertainment business do.”

This may not have been the best argument to make in the post-Weinstein era. Anyway, Gingrich wasn’t done. He later went on Twitter and added these bullet points:

  • Franken 1,053,205 Minnesotans picked him for senate in 2014
  • 30 self appointed ‘pure’ senators want him out
  • What happened to popular vote?

In fact, his logic is very similar to that being used by others on the Right to defend Roy Moore. They believe voters should be the sole deciders of Moore’s fate (regardless of who’s accusing him of what), and that party leaders should silence their objections and support his candidacy for the sake of numbers in the U.S. Senate.

So in theory, these righties would be willing to go to bat for Franken too, right? After all, if he switched parties, he’d add another Senate seat for the GOP, which apparently trumps just about everything right now.

Of course, many Moore supporters would put forth the distinction that despite Franken’s denials, there is one piece of proof of his sexual misconduct — something that goes beyond just he-said/she-said accusations: that photo of him possibly touching Leeann Tweeden’s breasts as she slept on a flight back from a USO tour to Afghanistan. Whether or not Franken’s actually touching her (or is just very close) is hard to tell. At minimum, what he did is highly inappropriate… Kind of like a guy in his thirties feverishly pursuing teenage girls.

So yeah, Franken might just be a GOP rock-star if he plays his cards right.

Only, that’s not going to happen…for a myriad of reasons that include ideology, logistics, and constituencies. To my friends on the Right who may have been hyperventilating while reading my points above, rest assured that this column was not about a plausible scenario, but rather an exercise in intellectual consistency (and inconsistency).

The truth is that there was indeed a political element in the Democrats’ decision to turn on Franken. And in this case, that’s a very good thing.

If we weren’t smack dab in the middle of a sea-change moment in American culture — when powerful men are being exposed in large numbers for their sexual misconduct against women — no one would be calling on Franken to resign. That picture of him wouldn’t have went public. Accusers wouldn’t have come forward (not now anyway). But because this reckoning is taking place, our culture has suddenly become more understanding of the issue, and much less tolerant of these disgraceful acts.

It took a while for the Democrats to get this, as was evidenced by Nancy Pelosi’s initial defense of John Conyers’ alleged actions by calling him an “icon.” Much more notably, the party ran interference for Bill Clinton (and his legacy of sexual impropriety) for decades, so their history on this topic is absolutely atrocious.

However, the Democrats seem to have finally figured out that people like Franken are a political liability. And if he didn’t go, voters in the broader electorate would make their party pay a price.

Again, this is a good thing. Politicians should fear their constituents. We’re their bosses, not the other way around.

Republicans are taking a bit longer to get this. While GOPers in Alabama may be willing to give Roy Moore a pass, the national electorate won’t be so charitable. Right now, the country is watching as a Republican president vocally supports a credibly accused sexual assailant of teenage girls. Voters are hearing how the RNC is funding Moore’s campaign, and they’re watching media-conservatives attack Moore’s accusers while making excuses for obscene behavior in order to better defend Moore.

The GOP is supposed to be the party of family values and moral clarity, but Republicans are loudly and enthusiastically ceding ground to the Democrats on a moral issue that should transcend politics. And if the Democrats take advantage of the situation (as politicians have been known to do), the Republicans would only have themselves to blame.

For the GOP, this is more than just a political mistake. This is cultural and societal mistake. And if Roy Moore wins his race (which he likely will), the party is going to be made to answer for that mistake in a big way.




RNC Shamefully Restores Funding to Roy Moore

On Monday, in a move that stunned many, the Republican National Committee restored financial support for Roy Moore’s U.S. Senate campaign in Alabama. The decision came shortly after President Trump’s public endorsement of the embattled candidate, and weeks after the committee had severed all ties with Moore amid credible allegations of sexual misconduct (including child abuse).

The president presented his case for Moore earlier in the day on Twitter, tweeting, “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

Trump reportedly pressured the RNC into reversing its earlier decision (on the back of his endorsement), and that’s exactly what the committee did. The new influx of money will likely help the Moore campaign with voter turnout in the final days of the election.

If there was any lingering doubt that the GOP is now the party of Trump, this move should erase it.

My how times have changed. It was just five years ago that the RNC and then presidential candidate Mitt Romney were quick to pull their support of senatorial candidate Todd Aiken, following Aiken’s controversial comment about “legitimate rape.”

Today, not even ten credible female accusers (at least half of them Republicans), dozens of witnesses, non-denial denials from the accused, and widespread condemnation by top Republican leaders can keep the national party from endorsing and funding an alleged sexual predator…as long as Trump says it’s okay.

Of course, the argument exhaustively put forth by Moore supporters is that because their guy hasn’t been convicted of a crime, none of these accusations are relevant. Beyond the hypocrisy of these same supporters refusing to extend this defense to liberal politicians accused of similar conduct, their argument is just flat-out wrong.

There’s a difference between a burden of proof used when prosecuting someone for a crime, and a burden of character used when measuring one’s fitness for public office. Todd Aiken wasn’t convicted of a crime either. Neither was former congressman Mark Foley, when he was asked to resign by Republican leaders, following allegations in 2006 that he had sent explicit instant messages to teenage boys who were serving as congressional pages. Still, both Aiken and Foley were cut loose by the GOP, and justifiably so.

What Moore is credibly accused of goes well beyond what we saw with Aiken and Foley. And sadly, by any reasonable assessment, Roy Moore would have been deemed an unacceptable candidate prior the sexual misconduct allegations ever coming out. We’re talking, after all, about a former judge who was twice removed from the bench for not complying with the law, said that homosexuality should be illegal, and suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a punishment from God.

Ultimately, the decision of whether Moore should serve in public office comes down to Alabama voters. Moore, of course, has every right to run, but the RNC is under no obligation to endorse and fund his campaign. The fact that they have chosen to do so, in light of the increasing number of allegations and corroborating evidence against Moore (not to mention the committee’s month-long demands for Democrats return the money donated by Harvey Weinstein), is a disgrace.

As Monday’s events were unfolding, Mitt Romney took to social media to voice his opposition: “Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”

Conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter tweeted, “I want to see every female at the RNC come on TV today and tell me why Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump were wrong about Moore.” She was referring to Conway and Trump’s public condemnations of Moore.

“If you want to belong to either major party, just accept upfront that they’re both irredeemably craven and amoral,” tweeted Ricochet.com Editor-in-Chief, Jon Gabriel.

Conservative writer John Podhoretz seemed to share Gabriel’s sentiment, writing, “For decades now, on thousands of occasions, I’ve told people I’m not a Republican, I’m a conservative. What happened tonight with the RNC justifies every millimeter of distance I’ve sought.”

I feel their pain.

I was a registered (and active) Republican for 16 years before I left the party in May of last year. My decision came after realizing that far too few within the GOP still valued (and insisted upon) personal character in their representatives. Since then, I’ve been leaving the door open for the party to show me, in some way, that I was wrong. Instead, they’ve seemed increasingly intent on proving that my original assessment was correct.

The only question I have at this point is: How much lower can the GOP stoop? If the line can’t be drawn at sexual misconduct against teenage girls, where can it be drawn?




Republicans: Hello Roy Moore; Goodbye Jeff Flake

On Tuesday, Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona announced that he will not be running for re-election next year. Flake’s favorability rating in his home state has been in bad shape, in part because of his strong, public criticisms of President Trump over the past several months. Despite voting with the president 92% of the time, estimations were that he would lose his primary challenge to Kelli Ward, a Steve Bannon-backed candidate.

In explaining his decision on the Senate floor, Flake addressed President Trump directly, delivering a blistering critique of his leadership, his conduct, and the current state of American politics.

He denounced what he referred to as the “the new normal” and the “daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.”

Flake added, “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

On the evolving direction of the GOP, Flake (whose voting record has a 93% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union) stated that it “is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things.”

It’s awfully hard to argue with anything he said.

Putting Trump’s behavioral issues aside for a moment, it has become painfully clear that the GOP is no longer a small-government party, even rhetorically. After all, last year, Republican voters awarded their presidential nomination to a candidate who ran against entitlement reform and free trade, while advocating for “government will pay it” universal healthcare.

In the realm of personal integrity, Republican voters in Alabama demonstrated last month that crazy rhetoric and ghastly personal views are still attractive traits in a candidate — in this case, someone running for the U.S. Senate. They nominated Roy Moore, a man who National Review’s Jonah Goldberg justifiably described as a “twice-disgraced former judge who believes 9/11 was divine retribution for our sins and an anti-Muslim bigot who can’t quite bring himself to rule out the death penalty for homosexuals.”

And in case you think it was Moore’s policy-positions or “real conservatism” that won him the race, keep in mind that he was opposed to the repeal and replace of Obamacare. And when asked about his stance on DACA, Moore didn’t even know what the program was.

Unsurprisingly, several of the self-professed conservatives in the Trump-friendly media, who backed Moore during his primary run, are now making it their mission to trash Senator Flake on his way out the door. Sean Hannity is one of them, using his Fox News show last night to describe who he referred to as “little snowflake whiny Jeff Flake” as “pathetic, weak, gutless, and spineless”.

It’s probably worth reminding people that back in June, Senator Flake was hailed as a hero for being the first person to attend to Steve Scalise after the Louisiana congressman had been shot by a crazed gunman during a congressional baseball practice. Flake applied pressure to Scalise’s wounds until paramedics arrived, and then thoughtfully used Scalise’s phone to call the congressman’s wife, and notify her of the situation, so she wouldn’t have to find out about it on the news.

Conversely, Hannity spent much of that spring tormenting the family of Seth Rich, a murdered DNC staffer whose death Hannity used to spread an anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory for weeks on national television.

Hannity, of course, wasn’t the only one upset with Flake’s speech on Tuesday.

Laura Ingraham complained that it could have just as easily been delivered by Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.

On Fox News’s The Five, Jesse Watters responded with, “Good riddance. We don’t need him,” and announced that Flake had officially joined “The Resistance” (a term used to describe liberal opposition to President Trump).

“Screw you!” yelled Greg Gutfeld, in response to Flake evoking his children and grandchildren in his stated decision to leave the Senate. Gutfeld believed Flake sounded too sanctimonious.

I’m sure that many Republicans who watched Flake’s speech (which, while critical of Trump, was very pro-conservative) reacted similarly, serving to bolster one of the arguments Flake made in his address: “It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment.”

None of this is to say that the people of Arizona didn’t have legitimate reasons to reject Flake. He has displeased his constituents with some of his votes and stances, and they have every right to kick him to the curb (for any number of reasons).

But Republicans and conservatives alike should be increasingly concerned by this media-fueled (and possibly spreading) sentiment among the GOP base that would portray a man like Jeff Flake as a dastardly villain, while embracing (and working to normalize) a man like Roy Moore.

This is not a good trend unless you subscribe to Steve Bannon’s vision for the GOP, which thrives off of bombastic aspersion, and has little room for conservatism or moral integrity. But at this moment, that’s exactly the direction the party is headed in.