A group of Senate Democratic women called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment.
In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she was “shocked” and “disappointed” by several women’s allegations that Franken inappropriately touched them. She was joined by Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the highest-ranking woman among Senate Democrats.
“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Gillibrand wrote.
This comes on the day TIME magazine announced its Person of the Year, which turned out to be a hashtag that begat a movement. President Trump, Roy Moore and others accused of sexual predation aren’t going to like it. TIME explained:
The hashtag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.
This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.
Politicians and even the media, which we learned is part of the sexual assault problem, underestimate how powerful this is, and how Trump’s election served as the spark to light the cultural and political fire:
The language used by the man who would become America’s 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn’t just say that he’d made a pass; he “moved on her like a bitch.” He didn’t just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could “grab ’em by the pussy.”
That Donald Trump could express himself that way and still be elected President is part of what stoked the rage that fueled the Women’s March the day after his Inauguration. It’s why women seized on that crude word as the emblem of the protest that dwarfed Trump’s Inauguration crowd size. “All social movements have highly visible precipitating factors,” says Aldon Morris, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University. “In this case, you had Harvey Weinstein, and before that you had Trump.”
And yet Trump was elected, and Moore may be too. However, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) was forced to resign after allegations of sexual harassment were raised. Franken’s days may be numbered now that Democratic senators are urging him to step down. His office just announced he’ll be making a statement tomorrow.
The question remains whether we’ve reached an inflection point or whether the continued presence of Trump in the White House and the nomination of Moore demonstrate that powerful men can still get away with sexual aggression. This will play out in workplaces all over America, but also in the 2018 midterms. If the GOP continues to stand by both Moore and Trump, the hashtag #MeToo may become #StopTheAbusers — more generically, throw the bums out. Republicans are kidding themselves if they think they can remain majorities and have the White House with an accused sexual predator leading their party. Perhaps they can convince Trump he’s accomplished everything he needs to and can go back to New York. If that happens, watch out for #WeDidIt.