When Al Franken announced his resignation from the Senate on Wednesday, he was visibly frustrated. “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,” the Minnesota senator fumed.
The men Franken referenced — President Trump and Roy Moore — have both received the support of the Republican National Committee despite the mountain of sexual-assault allegations against them. Many in the Democratic Party, on the other hand, were swift and vocal in their calls for Franken’s resignation.
And they were right to be. Franken absolutely should resign. He’s been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women, all of whom allege he tried to forcibly kiss them, grope them, or both, and he should be held accountable.
But even knowing that Franken resigning is the right thing to do, it’s hard not to feel Franken’s frustration. It’s hard not to feel angry and indignant that a man accused of groping a woman’s breast is facing greater consequences than a man accused of bringing a 14-year-old girl to a secluded house in the woods and touching her sexually.
Beyond their sexual transgressions, it’s frustrating that a pro-choice legislator who has been an advocate for women’s rights, and co-sponsored the Access to Birth Control Act, and who pushed to establish a federal and state partnership to provide quality pre-kindergarten care for low-income families, is leaving the Senate, while a man who believes “federal funding for Planned Parenthood or any form of abortion should be stopped,” and who co-authored a textbook that refers to women as the “weaker vessel” and says they shouldn’t be able to hold public office, might soon be entering the Senate.
It’s frustrating that Franken’s behavior robbed women of an advocate in Washington, where we so desperately need them, and it’s frustrating that Moore’s behavior has done nothing to diminish the number of lawmakers who seem intent on oppressing us. It’s frustrating that even when women win, we lose.
This is still progress — for too long, women’s stories of harassment weren’t even told and finally they are being heard and taken seriously. This current reckoning on sexual misconduct will only go so far though if we don’t insist people accused of these crimes be held accountable. Just over a month after Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was released, Trump won the presidential election. Last week, a Washington Post poll showed Roy Moore as being neck-and-neck with Democrat Doug Jones.
Abusers remain in power because we let them. Because we elect them. And that is the most frustrating thing of all.