It is a sad day for American politics when one of the Senate’s strongest advocates for women’s rights is brought down as a sacrificial lamb in the name of his great cause. In farcical proceedings of innuendo and unsubstantiated rumor, U.S. Sen. Al Franken was brought down in the court of public opinion, his sincere apology wrongly taken for an admission of guilt. And of what? For taking a sophomoric photo that was clearly done with comedic rather than lascivious effect and for allegedly, probably accidentally, touching the bottoms of several women in the course of many thousands of photo-op pictures. Seldom, if ever, has a prominent politician been condemned for so much on such thin accusations.
For the most part, we are a sanctimonious and hypocritical society. We lean in closely to digest every sordid and scandalous detail, real or imagined, and are quick to judge with our moralizing finger-pointing, the press and social media more than willing to do their part to stoke these fires. Thus far, the Republican response for similar (indeed far more serious) charges is to deny and prevaricate. No doubt, the conservatives in Alabama will choose to ignore Roy Moore’s peccadillos if it means putting an anti-abortion candidate into office. Meanwhile, the Democrats have rushed to judgment in the name of taking the moral “high ground” by sacrificing Franken to foster an image as the “white hat” party in the next round of elections. A plague on both your houses.
Charles Cleland, Brooklyn Park
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Democrats, especially those of a liberal bent, will rue this day. Franken has been a defender of humanitarian issues and, yes, of women’s issues. Unfortunately, I don’t believe his 2018 replacement will be his equal. The Republicans will happily seat Roy Moore, thus solidifying their dominance, and then we will all suffer the consequences of this “guilty until proven innocent” approach to the global issue of sexual impropriety. My guess is that Congress won’t be passing a lot of laws to deal with the issue.
Lenore Millibergity, Minneapolis
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To the liberal Democrats who forced out Al Franken, holiday greetings from the president, Senate majority leader, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — and thank you for the wonderful early Christmas present. You got rid of one of our most incisive and nettlesome critics.
David Aquilina, Richfield
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Watching Franken resign on Thursday was one of the hardest moments I can remember in Minnesota politics. His work in the Senate has advanced causes I care about, from improving America’s education system to protecting the rights of women. So it is with incredible disappointment that I watched him step down from his post, while also strongly believing it’s the right thing for him and our state.
The allegations against Franken are deeply disturbing and speak to a pattern that I’m sure many other young, progressive Minnesotans are grappling with — that even those men we have looked up to as role models and champions of our values (including feminism) have risen within a system that allows them to devalue and dehumanize women in our communities.
However, it is those same values that demand we hold our own to the same high standard as we do our opponents. Franken made the right decision. Progressive men and women must do our part to ensure that all who have conducted themselves similarly will do so as well.
Sean Lynch, Minneapolis
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I watched Franken’s resignation speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate. A brilliant man — a wordsmith, I’d call him. Throughout his life he has used words as effectively as any person among us. He certainly is not a person who tweets from the hip. So as I listened to his words, I began to appreciate that he does not regret his behavior, he is not sorry for the harm caused, he does not believe that his actions were out of line. Or he would have said so. Oh, yes, he apologized to some of his accusers; he was sorry that they felt offended, but as he stated, his accusers saw it differently than how he saw it. It is their fault for not appreciating Franken’s embrace. As with his superior use of words, he has the arrogance to believe he is entitled to continue his belief that his behavior should have been warmly received. As a father of four daughters, and a grandfather to four granddaughters, I am grateful that powerful abusive men are removed from power.
Douglas Turnbull, Bloomington
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Leave it to the Democrats to devour one of their own all in the name of abhorrence toward “sexual harassment.” Meanwhile, Franken was denied due process, a principle at the core of democracy. In our age of burgeoning technology with cellphones, e-mails, etc., we have a society that seeks immediate gratification and answers instead of mechanisms used to protect democracy — for instance, the Senate Ethics Committee. As a feminist who has experienced both sexual harassment and denial of due process to protect my property in our state, I believe the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for acting so hastily, without discernment as to what sexual harassment is compared with a poorly executed flirtatious joke. There was no evidence of oppression on Franken’s part. Let me recommend the book “The Crucible,” by American playwright Arthur Miller, to those who rushed to judgment. Furthermore, what about judicial misconduct that treats a woman with disrespect and doesn’t allow her due process because the good ol’ boys network views her as inferior? The analysis of how we address these important issues requires thoughtful consideration. I am embarrassed by my Democratic Party because it was more interested in positioning itself for next election instead of seeking the truth and fairness with discernment.
Christina Wagner, Barnum, Minn.
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Once again Democrats do what is right while Republicans display their hypocrisy.
Todd Embury, Ramsey
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Just curious as to whether or not the calls from the Democratic senators for Franken to resign would have been there if Minnesota had a Republican governor. Methinks not.
Steve Bethke, Birchwood
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Congratulations, Democrats, on forcing out one of your own. You now have a clear path to occupy the moral high ground. What exactly do you plan to do with it?
Bill Smeaton, Edina
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The past few weeks have seen multiple elected officials in this country pressured to leave office or not to run for office at all due to accusations of sexual misconduct. If having a background free of all such accusations is the new standard for getting and keeping elected office in this country, then Donald Trump must also be immediately drummed out of the highest office in the land for the multiple accusations filed against him. There can be no double standard in this regard. Period.
Sharon L. Casey, St. Paul
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Over the past several decades, I have gotten rid of some unhealthy habits:
• I stopped smoking.
• I decreased my alcohol consumption.
• I curtailed my overeating.
• I quit drinking pop.
• I reduced my coffee intake.
Making these changes has helped me have a healthier quality of life, created less stress and given me a better nights’ sleep.
The next unhealthy habit I’m going to change: Stop voting for incumbents.
Terry W. Lovaas, Brooklyn Park
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Dammit, Franken. We needed you.
Peggy Joyce-Parlin, Edina