ASSASSINATION

FRANKEN

^ Al Franken : willingly sacrificing himself. Why ?

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Perhaps it’s an overstatement to call the resignation of Senator Al Franken an assassination, but the events of the Ides of March come to mind. You will remember that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his fellow Senators on the Ides of Mrach in the year 44 B.C., including his close friend Junius Brutus. Shakespeare quoted Caesar’;s words at seeing Brutus come to kill him : “Et tu, Brute ?” Here Caesar used the familiar “tu,” used only by very close personal friends just like “du” or “tu” in modern German on French.

Like Caesar, Franken was forced out by his “friends” — fellow Democrats, 33 in all out of the 48 Senators of that party, some of whom reportedly hugged him after he delivered his resignation speech. Truly bizarre. Ugly, unreal.

But enough of that. The 33 forced him out, and he allowed himself to be forced. He did not fight back. This amazes me. Even Roy Moore, the embattled candidate running in Alabama for that state’;s open Senate seat, has fought back against accusation and an avalanche of calls for him to “drop out.” But Al Franken ? He did not fight back. Willingly he allowed the 33 to end his Senate career.

At this point another analogy comes to mind : the sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs, in which virgin girls were willingly led to the slaughter altar to be offerings to the Aztecs’ gods.

Again, I probably overstate the event. Franken did not lose his life and may well prosper in his next phase, whatever that might be — myself, I can’t see it, except as a witness to bizarro world.

Bizarro it was. There was no outcry from the Democratic base for Franken to leave; indeed, my facebook feed was filled with hundreds of Democratic activists imploring him NOT to resign. Franken was the Democrats’ most effective Senator, a devastating cross examiner, an advocate for reform policies, a potential President. Then why was it done ? Why frag your General ? Far from me to read the minds of 33 Senators, but not far for me to posit a theory: they did it in order to make the 2018 election a referendum on men’s sex lives. Democrats will do whatever it takes (Franken, Conyers) to support women who claim victim status, Republicans refuse to (Moore, Trump). 

Because no one supports sexual assault, and because the presumption among some feminists is that there is “rape culture” afoot, the 33 Senators — and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who forced Congressman Conyers out — are betting that outrage about powerful men abusing vulnerable women will fuel a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020; and they are willing to override all law and due process in order to make this the defining issue in 2018. They have seen the huge wave of Democratic women candidates stepping up to run for all sorts of elected offices, as a protest against Mr. Trump, a man eminently protest-able for his bigotry, ignorance, corruption, and radicalism.

Perhaps the 33 Democratic Senators are right; Pelosi too. maybe the 2018 election’s big issue will be men mistreating women and women punching back. Yet I doubt that will be the case. Most American voters don’t buy raw outrage or the overriding of due process. (Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont actually said, on twitter, that Senator Franken was entitled to an ethics committee hearing but that it would take too long ! Too long for what ? For the 2018 election ?)

Meanwhile, the Republicans press ahead with actual policy. There is much in error, and to correct, in the two tax proposals, now being discussed in joint House and Senate conference, but there is much in them that I like and that you should like, too. (I have posted two columns analyzing the tax proposals, you will find them in our archives.) Yet even if you do find the tax proposals unhelpful, at least they represent an attempt to do actual public policy; and public policy is the mission for which the voters elect Congresspeople and Senators.

Most voters do not judge candidates on the basis of media reports. We’re much smarter than that. We know how to weigh arguments and examine evidence. Centuries of the jury system have taught us instinctively how to be jurors : skepticism about claims and allegations and a well-grounded belief in that old divorce lawyer’s quip that “there’s three sides to every question — his, hers, and the truth.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere