It has long been said that in the United States there are two political parties: the stupid party and the evil party. I shouldn’t have to tell you which is which, but if you need assistance the past couple of days should be illustrative.
On the stupid side of the equation, you have the Roy Moore kerfuffle. Somehow a large number of members of the stupid party have come to the conclusion that everyone will be a lot better off if they help elect a member of another party. This is not a surprise. It, in a fit of panty-twisting, did pretty much the same with Todd Akin.
Based on the strength of “believe women” (c’mon, people, women are no more inherently truthful than men) Mitch McConnell has sworn to subject Moore, if elected, to an ethics inquiry (which would be the first time such an inquiry has been conducted based upon alleged misconduct that took place before a senator was elected) and lead the charge to have Moore expelled. None of this is to pass judgment on the allegations but to simply note they are allegations uncorroborated by any contemporaneous record. For some reason, the stupid party thinks any candidate shortcoming or scandal can be most quickly remedied and wounds healed by giving the election to the other party.
On the evil side of the equation you have people who realize that while losers of elections get to bask in the warm afterglow of a vigorous session of back-patting, the winners of elections make law and policy. Unlike the members of the stupid party who are so engrossed with the prospect of winning approval from people who not only don’t like them but actually hate them, the evil party says “screw you, you don’t get to tell me what I should believe or how I should act.” This brings us to the Al Franken situation.
Al Franken is accused of the sexual battery of Leeann Tweeden while she was on a USO tour to boost troop morale in Afghanistan in 2006. This, if you do the math, is not 40 years ago. In one episode he forcibly played tonsil hockey with her. On another occasion, while she was asleep, Franken pawed her breasts. This latter incident was immortalized in a photograph.
To be clear because conservative Twitter is eating this up: USO says Franken's brother was photographer on 06 tour. Brother says he did not take that specific groping photo. USO cannot confirm who took an individual photo.
— Kyle Potter (@kpottermn) November 16, 2017
This is what is called “evidence.” Franken has issued an apology and Mitch McConnell has called for an ethics investigation. How this differs from Moore’s case, so far, is the absence of any call from an elected Democrat for Franken to resign or any threat from Mitch McConnell to expel Franken if the ethics charges are proven. There is also a difference in how online Democrats are reacting:
I SMELL A RAT. I'm a rape survivor, but I'm no longer supportive of Leeann Tweeden. The former Playboy & Maxim cover girl & 9-time USO performer is not a demure shrinking violet as on TV.
Who is Al Franken accuser Leeann Tweeden? – ABC News – via @ABC https://t.co/uGYDbeFUpw
— I Think (@Listen2Me99) November 17, 2017
It's a set up! I wonder if Leeann felt humiliated too (like she said u made her feel) when she was a playmate hanging at the Playboy Mansion and posing for the magazine??? Hmmm ?https://t.co/XpGJQKjWaG
— KP (@KLSPG001) November 17, 2017
Lean Tweeden tearfully explains she just wants to leave the world a better place for her kids.Im sure the pictures of her in Playboy will go a long way towards that goal.
— Cribbis (@Cribbis) November 17, 2017
@AliVelshi @SRuhle #VelshiRuhle OMG #AlFranken photo is a JOKE! Leanne Tweeden was a Playboy Centerfold/Playmate of the Year! In that context, on a USO tour, she toured as a Centerfold, not a JOURNALIST! Get the context right b4 u judge! In today's light it is different.
— Jim Ryan (@jimryanthinks) November 16, 2017
As this story was developing, I posted on why no one should take seriously the sudden disavowal of Bill Clinton. He was being disavowed because he was no longer useful to the Democrat party and it was a very safe move. His disavowal was simply a tactic to allow the Democrats and the media to convince the stupid party that they still had moral high ground–because of binders of women–despite covering for a serial rapist for twenty years (spoiler alert: the tactic worked). Members of the Clinton inner circle weren’t happy
Ken Starr spent $70 million on a consensual blowjob. Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC. But not enough for you @SenGillibrand? Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite.
Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.https://t.co/KIsnfY4WLT
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) November 17, 2017
but no one cares very much about what they think these days.
In my article on Clinton (previous link) I quote progressive “thinker” Brian Beutler on why the Democrats should not jump on the condemnation bandwagon:
There is more than a kernel of truth at the bottom of the idea that Bill Clinton was a sexual deviant, or that he deserved more social and legal censure than he endured, but it is also farcical to imagine that Bannon and Breitbart were first and foremost interested in seeking justice. They ran factually questionable counter-ops in bad faith, to neutralize Trump’s liability, suggesting Hillary Clinton was, through her loyalty to Bill, similarly tainted. The psychological sabotage at the debate was an ancillary benefit. Now, Bannon has dispatched two minions to Alabama, to better smear Moore’s accusers. In Bannon’s world, conservatives in good standing are incapable of degeneracy, but white liberals and people of color are defined by it.
By extension, if future allegations appear in the right-wing agitprop press, they will be tainted by their unreliable narrators. The question of whether or not Breitbart or Sean Hannity actually had the goods on anyone would become subsumed into factional fighting and epistemological crises. The believe-women effort would be undermined, potentially twice over. First, because many people will understandably distrust allegations of misconduct if they’re ginned up by the bottom-feeders of Breitbart. Second, because if the accusations unravel, the believe-women movement will have sustained a terrible blow by failing on its own terms. (If you think Breitbart would be above framing a debunked sex abuse scandal they themselves fabricated as a reprising of the UVA or Duke lacrosse controversies, you are blissfully unacquainted Breitbart.)
Basically, he’s saying that any accusation against a progressive has to be presumed to be fake. But his real concern has nothing to do with false allegations and everything to do with protecting progressive politicians.
This was followed up by a woman called Kate Harding. I was blissfully unaware she even existed until yesterday. This is how she describes herself:
Kate Harding is co-editor of “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America,” co-host of the podcast Feminasty, and author of “Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—And What We Can Do About It.”
She amplifies upon that tweet with an op-ed in today’s Washington Post: I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign.
As a feminist and the author of a book on rape culture, I could reasonably be expected to lead the calls for Al Franken to step down, following allegations that he forced his tongue down a woman’s throat, accompanied by a photo of him grinning as he moves in to grope her breasts while she sleeps. It’s disgusting. He treated a sleeping woman as a comedy prop, no more human than the contents of Carrot Top’s trunk, and I firmly believe he should suffer social and professional consequences for it.
But I don’t believe resigning from his position is the only possible consequence, or the one that’s best for American women.
At this point, you should start paying attention.
It would feel good, momentarily, to see Franken resign and the Democratic governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, appoint a senator who has not (as far as we know) harmed women. If I believed for one second that Franken is the only Democrat in the Senate who has done something like this, with or without photographic evidence, I would see that as the best and most appropriate option. But in the world we actually live in, I’m betting that there will be more. And more after that. And they won’t all come from states with Democratic governors and a deep bench of progressive replacements. Some will, if ousted, have their successors chosen by Republicans.
In other words, if we set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms. The legislative branch will remain chockablock with old, white Republican men who regard women chiefly as sex objects and unpaid housekeepers, and we’ll show them how staunchly Democrats oppose their misogynistic attitudes by handing them more power.
You can like this or not like this but she’s exactly right in what is coming down the pike and what will happen if Democrats make Franken a precedent. You can condemn away but she correctly identifies the problem with burning your own people to the ground…a sentiment that makes perfect sense if you realize that we are voting for politicians to move the cultural and political ball down the field and we are not voting for a freaking preacher or even a role model. The corollary to this, of course, is that any Republican facing an allegation in the future will find the evil party and the stupid party calling for his scalp.
Don’t fool yourself. We aren’t better than them, we are just stupider.
And Harding’s mature, adult and realistic vision of the role of politics is why the stupid party will remain not only stupid but the party of happy, self-satisfied losers. But as babies are killed, guns confiscated, free speech banned, and a (sorta) free-market economy is destroyed we can all feel really, really good about ourselves.