Analysis: Franken's Exit Helps Cast Democrats as Party of Moral Rectitude Heading Into 2018

WASHINGTON - What a gift Al Franken has given fellow Democrats with his caddish behavior. Seriously.In politics, image is important. Who you let into your big tent matters. And who you kick out matters even more.Democrats ejected a serial groper and uninvited kisser when they forced Franken to resign on Thursday. Exposed as a boor, in a season of heightened intolerance for sexual misconduct, the Minnesota senator couldn't survive a ritual shunning led by female senators of his own party.Heading into the 2018 elections, that means Democrats can claim some high ground. They're the party of moral rectitude, in contrast to the Republicans who tolerate -- or even rally around -- Roy Moore.Moore may win a U.S. Senate seat next week in Alabama, despite being accused of child molesting and sexual assault. Those alleged crimes took place decades ago. The statute of limitations has long since expired. The only way a court might arbitrate the veracity of the claims is if the women he's called liars drag him into court for slander."Enough is enough," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said in demanding Franken's resignation. "We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable."Democrats aren't usually associated with puritanism these days. And Republicans aren't usually seen as libertines. Yet this is where things stand.To be sure, plenty of Republicans have tried hard to distance their party from Moore.Mitt Romney called Moore a "stain" on the GOP. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake donated to his Democratic opponent. The GOP's Senate campaign arm has refused to help their own nominee, though Moore is getting support from the Republican National Committee, which answers to President Donald Trump.Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, described Franken as "a creep who acted inappropriately" but argued for letting voters decide his fate -- in contrast to Moore, whose sexual contact with a 14-year-old should shock the conscience.But if Moore wins the seat on Tuesday and joins the world's most exclusive club, Democrats will have no trouble painting the GOP as the party that embraces pedophiles. That's a potentially potent message in the midterm elections, with Trump already dragging down Republicans and putting the party's congressional majorities at risk.A spectrum of bad behavior has cost the jobs of male politicians, executives and celebrities in the last few weeks as elite institutions undergo a reckoning.Rep. Joe Barton, who has served in Congress longer than any other Texas Republican in office, decided to retire after lewd text messages he sent to a lover bounced around social media. Any pressure on him to resign came from local activists, not the national party.Rep. John Conyers, 88, a Michigan Democrat who has spent a half-century in the House, outright resigned. His situation went far beyond Barton's personal embarrassment; Conyers faced accusations of sexually harassing aides.House Democratic leaders were eager for him to give up his seat, just as Senate Democratic leaders nudged Franken to the exit.In a non-apology resignation speech on the Senate floor, he grumbled that other politicians -- Republicans -- have survived more serious allegations."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," Franken said.White House press secretary Sarah Sanders shrugged off the attack, saying the president addressed the allegations against him during the campaign. "The people of this country also addressed that when they elected Donald Trump to be president," she said.  Continue reading...

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