The latest celebrity/politician to have credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault is Al Franken – Democrat and former Saturday Night Live Star. The right thing for him to do is to step down.
The ethics of this are clear and I think I’ve articulated that already in earlier posts. That somebody might be likeable, be effective or have admirable politics shouldn’t change what is or isn’t acceptable behaviour. There is a different conversation about reform and change and forgiveness that could be had at a different time but now isn’t that time. Aside from anything else there is no true shortage of great actors, funny comedians, or astute politicians that means we need to somehow refurbish the deeply flawed ones – actually there is a huge untapped surplus of actors, comedians and politicians that society can call on [hint: women].
Anyway, others can articulate the above better than I can. What I want to discuss is the more cynical aspect of this. People may see Franken stepping down as a gain for the right and while they may agree with everything above, they may still argue that Franken should stay because the Democrats need to deny any victory to the right.
This is a tactical error as well as an ethical one.
Put the ethics aside for the moment and look at the weird crisis I’ve been describing in Australia over MPs with dual citizenship. What started with one senator resigning has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis. The government of the day is now technically a minority government. The crisis has seriously impacted on the Prime Minister. The only political party that has ended up looking good is the Australian Greens – why? Because ONLY they got ahead of the issue and had senators resign unprompted. By doing so they set a precedent and a standard that ripples through Parliament and which took down the Deputy Prime Minister and also severely disrupted the far right One Nation Party.
If Franken goes it sets a standard – a standard the Republicans will struggle to follow. The more he clearly goes of his own volition the more radical an impact it has.
It is not just the right thing to do but it is also the smart thing to do.