How Senate Democrats have strengthened Trump: Al Franken and the Democrats’ Circular Firing Squad

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The Senate Democrats, spurred on by the wave of feminist hysteria over alleged sexual misconduct sweeping the country, have pressured Senator Al Franken, an ardent advocate of women’s rights and progressive legislation, to announce he plans to resign in the next few weeks.

In doing so, they have signaled a fundamental weakness of the Democratic Party while acting in ways which strengthen a Donald Trump, a president who is no friend of women, and which enhance the prospects of Roy Moore in the special election for Senator in Alabama to be held on December 12.  Moore is an anti-rule of law candidate who is also the subject of allegations of sexual assault from decades ago.

In a single week, the Democrats in the Senate have given voters powerful evidence to believe they are driven by ideas of political correctness and crude political calculations, instead of being willing to stand up for the values of due process and the rule of law.

By hounding Franken out of office, they have ignored the scheme and structure of the Constitution, which provides that the voters in a state shall elect their senators for a six-year term.  Senators so elected are to hold what is one of the most important constitutional offices in the country, for the full six years, with few exceptions.  Senators may be impeached.  They may be the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation which may impose sanctions for misconduct, in accordance with the rules of the Senate and the rule of law.

We do not have a parliamentary system, in which the loss of a vote of confidence in the ruling party can cause the fall of a government and the calling of fresh elections.  We should not allow our political parties to treat their members as if we were in such as system.

Living under a pro-Russian Republican administration which is probably the most corrupt government the country has seen in over a century, Democrats have revealed themselves to be men and women of political calculation, not individuals of principle who will defend the constitution and the rule of law.  This development is deeply troubling, particularly during a period in which the president pushes the country, every day, further down the slippery slope to authoritarianism.

Trump does not respect the rule of law.  We believed, until this week, that Democrats did and always would.  Now we see that they can throw one of their own, one of their best, under the bus in the service of raw political calculation.

Their calculation is likely to be erroneous.

This special moment in American culture, as those who drive and acquiesce in the the hysteria over sexual harassment and other less severe alleged sexual misconduct characterize it , is a moment which is likely to disappear soon, without producing significant changes in the law that will actually deter and punish sexual harassment and misconduct in the future.

We live in an age characterized by what may be characterized as “the infinite expansion of the present moment” in individuals’ consciousness.  This is in part due to the instantaneous quality of the internet and media, and particularly social media, and also the failure of our educational system and leaders to produce citizens who are knowledgeable about their civic responsibilities and the context which a knowledge of history provides.

Yet history has not stopped its course, and this “special moment in American culture” will not last forever.

In the meantime, Senate Democrats have given blacks in Alabama, who do not appear to share the sexual hysteria of the moment, a reason to stay home.

They have also given Donald Trump a wonderful wedge issue which he can use to enlist white and other men, and even women, who disagree with the culture of “political correctness” that the Democrats currently seem to represent.

The irony here is that Trump is a misogynist, does not believe in the rule of law, and yet may come off as a strong leader who opposes the excesses of the “politically correct” Democrats.

Democrats should start counting votes in the Senate, and reconsider whether Franken should be allowed to resign.  They should consider again their dedication to principles of fairness, due process, and the rule of law, and apply — however belatedly — the insights from their reconsideration to the case of Al Franken.

Whatever sexual conduct Franken may or may not have engaged in, we should uphold our Constitution by giving  him a fair hearing.  We should examine carefully both the the accusations and the accusers (many of whom remain anonymous), the contexts in which the alleged offenses took place and the nature of Franken’s intent in these specific contexts, and the testimony of other women (such as his Saturday Night Live colleagues).  If this process leads to the conclusion that he is guilty of some offense, we should then weigh his punishment carefully, not in the newspapers and on television, but in the Senate Ethics Committee or an impeachment process, or some other procedure sanctioned by the Constitution.

He holds a constitutional office, one of the most important in the country, that of Senator of the United States.  He should not be hounded from office, or forced from office, by bypassing the Constitution, its procedures, and the rule of law.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.