If Franken Resigns, Is the Problem Solved?

When I was in high school, the small church I attended hired a very charismatic young assistant minister. Everybody loved him—especially a relative of mine who began dating him. But all of that came to a screeching halt one day when it was revealed that he was molesting a young, junior high boy that he was supposedly mentoring.

By the time I heard the news, the assistant pastor was gone (no one seemed to know where, but out of town) and that was the end of that. Problem solved…time to move on. No one ever talked about it again. The silence was deafening and created its own consequences.

I was thinking about that experience as I tried to process my mixed feelings about what is happening with Sen. Al Franken. I’m mostly sad about the likelihood that he will announce his resignation today. That is not meant to excuse anything he’s done. It’s more about the fact that the only reason he entered politics was to carry on the legacy of Paul Wellstone. I feel the grief of that loss all over again.

But I’m also feeling a bit of deja vu about how all of this is playing out. As I wrote previously, I was hoping that with Sen. Franken, we might be able to have the kind of conversation that Rebecca Traister talked about.

It’s about the culture that empowers white men to abuse their power in a million ways, from villainous predators to the fact that there is a sense of humor that we all understand in this culture that if a woman’s asleep, it’s funny to gab her tits.

I probably need to resign myself to the fact that politics is not the place for that kind of complex conversation.

But right now it feels like the plan is to whisk Franken off the stage and exile him to a place where he’s never heard from again. That takes everyone who has enabled this kind of thing to permeate our culture completely off the hook in terms of self-examination. Problem solved…time to move on. No one will ever have to talk about this again.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.