Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
After two more women have come forward with accusations against Sen. Al Franken, we've entered a somewhat darker period in our national reckoning with sexual harassment and assault. In the first weeks after The New York Times and New Yorker dropped their Harvey Weinstein exposés, grotesque and powerful men dropped like flies — Kevin Spacey, Leon Wieseltier, Mark Halperin, James Toback.
It seemed as though we had developed a new standard for publicly adjudicating sexual misconduct allegations: If a number of individuals credibly accuse a man of sexual misconduct with the corroboration of prominent news outlets, we should believe accusers and suggest the man in question step aside.
After the Franken allegations, however, some Democrats have abandoned this standard. In the past couple weeks, six women have accused Franken of sexual misconduct. One news reporter recalled Franken forcing his tongue down her throat during a USO tour, and many others reported Franken groping them while taking pictures. The most recent accuser is a veteran who reported being sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier months before Franken groped her.
So, he should resign, right? A number of women made extremely credible accusations (with photographic evidence, in one case) and news outlets corroborated many of their accounts.
Not according to Democratic leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.), along with many top members of the Senate Democratic caucus, called for Franken to face an ethics investigation. That means little: The last ethics investigation to result in expulsion took place in 1862. It looks like, for now, Franken is safe from the Weinstein wave.
The progressive commentariat hasn't performed much better. Public radio host Garrison Keillor wrote that we shouldn't hold Franken's past actions to contemporary standards (apparently sexual assault was totally kosher in 2006), and praised Franken's patriotism. The next day, Minnesota Public Radio fired Keillor for inappropriate sexual behavior.
Progressive commentator Kate Harding wrote a piece in The Washington Post arguing that if we expect Franken to resign, we would have to use that standard for future Democratic politicians accused of misconduct. Because Democrats are the better party for women, and because Republicans are unlikely to purge accused officials like Roy Moore, it's best to let Franken stay.
Democrats' failure to condemn misconduct within their own ranks is a testament to partisanship's pernicious sway in American politics. For Franken defenders, the success of one's tribe is more important than a political program or moral vision.
My criticism of partisanship isn't a criticism of ideology. In fact, in this case, partisanship is diluting ideology, not intensifying it. Democrats have certain ideological commitments where sexual abuse is concerned — abuse is a serious societal problem, sexual predators deserve censure and we should trust accusers. But Franken has forced many Democrats to put on partisan blinders. They've changed their argument from "we must have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct" to "but Roy Moore is much worse."
The pragmatic argument for defending Democratic creeps is almost serious. Sometimes one must stomach distasteful individuals to further ideological goals. But if Democrats make the ideological claim that women should be able work without facing lecherous and abusive behavior, they cannot protect predatory men within their ranks.
A party cannot claim to defend women's rights if it fails to punish men who bully and abuse women. If Democrats use their ideological commitments to justify Franken apologism, those ideological commitments mean little.
Democratic leaders had a chance to claim moral authority on Franken's misconduct. Thus far, they've failed. While predators from numerous walks of life are facing their comeuppance, Franken continues to roam the halls of Congress. He needs to go.
Max Foley-Keene, opinion editor, is a sophomore government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.