Friday, November 17, 2017

A modest proposal

So now it's Al Franken's turn.

And there have of course already been calls for him to resign.

And counterarguments that it's misguided for the Democrats to unilaterally disarm by having their own lions step down if the Republicans aren't going to hold themselves to the same standard.

So I have a modest proposal.

To me it's obvious that what Franken did was wrong, but also that (based on what we know at the moment) there is a meaningful difference between what he did and what it seems Roy Moore did.

A slap in the face is assault.

Dropping someone to the ground with a punch in the stomach, then kicking them in the head is also assault.

The law correctly treats the second one as being more severe than the first.

Similarly, having a pattern of slapping people over many years is more serious than slapping someone once.

So it's hardly special pleading to argue that Franken's behavior (based on current knowledge) is bad but not as bad as Roy Moore's.

Nor is it ridiculous to make such distinctions.

The difficult question is what political consequences there should be.

Because it seems like there are lots of people serving in Congress who've done something worse than Franken, if not as bad as Moore.

So if Franken's behavior means he has to go, that only makes sense in the context of a more thorough house-cleaning (or a House-and-Senate cleaning).

Here's the deal I would have the Democrats propose.

Draw up a code of sexual non-harassment. Of course it's impossible to define things perfectly - with human behavior, there will always be cases that are hard to fit into any scale established ahead of time. But with numerous examples accompanied by explanations of the reasoning behind those examples, you come as close as humanly possible to removing ambiguity.

And you use that code to draw a line. Everything above the line is considered undesirable and should be stopped, but does not warrant removal.

Everything below the line is worse, and does warrant removal.

And if Franken's behavior means that he needs to go, then you make sure that you draw the line so that his behavior is on the "below" part.

And then you say: We the Democratic Party accept this code and accept that Franken will resign, if the Republican Party accepts it as well.

Both parties commit to enforcing the deal.

A member of either party who has engaged in behaviors below the line is called upon to resign immediately.

In the case of a member of either party who doesn't resign voluntarily and is later found to have engaged in behavior below the line, the member will then be expelled and both parties forbid the individual from holding national office through their party in the future (it has to be both parties enacting the sanction to avoid someone switching parties to get around it).

The biggest problem I can see is that the Republicans would agree to the deal to get Franken out, but then would do absolutely zero to live up to it.

But it seems to me far more likely that they would never agree to it in the first place. And the mere discussion of it would provide some clarity as to what it is we expect of each other.

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