In displaying atonement for sexual sins, Democrats have taken the lead.
One passage in Franken’s farewell speech was a reminder of the contrasting attitudes of Republicans and Democrats:
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.
At least in Washington DC, it seems like Republicans are willing to live with sexual sins today. On the other hand, Democrats are rapidly learning there is no tolerance – even for icons.
Swift Atonement: Shattering Iconic Conyers
On November 20, BuzzFeed reported about sexual harassment charges against Representative John Conyers and details of a settlement. Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, denied the allegations, but not the agreement.
Initially, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was protective of Conyers, calling him an “icon” of the civil-rights movement. As more women came forward with accusations against Conyers, Pelosi could not maintain her protection.
Conyers too had seen the writing on the wall. By December 5, the 88-year old Conyers had announced his retirement as atonement.
For many Democrats, if the iconic Conyers could not stay, neither could Franken.
Franken is also a liberal icon but has not served in office as long as Conyers. As even more allegations came against Franken, the grassroots could not tolerate him in power either.
Atonement Pressure from Grassroots
In polls, Democrats take sexual harassment much more seriously than Republicans. Given the Democratic base, this should not be too surprising.
According to Pew, women are more likely to be Democrats. Obviously, they have direct experience with the unpleasant experience of the full range of unwanted sexual advances.
Sixty percent of Democrats thought the party had “a somewhat serious” problem with sexual harassment. Unsurprisingly, a plurality of Democrats thought Franken should resign.
By contrast, Republican grassroots have shown a high level of tolerance for sexual misconduct. We saw this in the election of Donald Trump as President, even though he was hit with several charges of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign.
In less than a week, we will see if Alabama voters will be like the Trump voters. In Alabama, Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore has been accused of several sexual sins.
Atonement from Republicans? Keep Waiting
Taking a leaf out of Trump’s playbook, Moore has been defiant. He and his supporters have termed the accusations as fake news.
If Moore gets to Congress, apart from Trump, he could also make friends with Republican Representative Blake Farenthold. The Representative settled a case of sexual harassment of a staffer with taxpayer money.
Once the story about the settlement came out, Farenthold agreed to reimburse the taxpayer. That was it: no more calls to resign.
Trump, Moore, and Farenthold could represent the new GOP. Only this time, the GOP would stand for, in Ana Navarro’s words, as “Grand Old Perverts.”