“Irony” doesn’t mean what you think it means, Al Franken

“Irony” doesn’t mean what you think it means, Al Franken
Image: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Senator Al Franken of Minnesota announced today (Dec. 7) that he is resigning following multiple allegations of groping women and a coordinated effort to force his resignation from prominent women senators, mostly from within his own party. The effort was the first high-profile takedown of a political figure since #MeToo.

During his speech on the senate floor, Franken—despite his progressive stances on women’s rights—didn’t appear particularly apologetic, however. In a quote that has since been widely tweeted, he noted:

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.

In an era when the Alabama Republican nominee Roy Moore, who allegedly tried to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, is still on the ballot and Americans elected Donald Trump weeks after hearing him describe groping and assaulting women, I guess Franken’s point is that it’s unfair that the really “bad guys” get to keep playing and he has to go home, even though all he did was allegedly touch four women without their consent?

But is it ironic?

No, it is not.

Al Franken, progressive politician, stands accused of using his body to demean, intimidate or dominate women. Regardless of his work in the public sphere, Franken’s behavior is a dangerous reminder, as with the liberal men of Hollywood, that one’s politics mean very little if undermined by his actions. Franken missed a powerful opportunity to speak candidly about sexual harassment, to denounce his own past behavior, and to apologize to the women he hurt.

Instead, he pointed the finger at men who are “worse” than he is. This is a slippery slope, and it is happening in offices and schools and on social-media feeds around the country right now. I have seen, in fact, dozens of men defend Al Franken using the same logic today.

Roy Moore and Donald Trump are undoubtedly a danger to women, and they too should be forced to face consequences for what they’ve done. But the only way Democrats can stand with integrity when looking at those men is, like the rest of us, by holding everyone accountable for not living up to our shared values.

The truly tragic irony isn’t that Al Franken resigned. What would have been ironic is if he’d been allowed to get away with it.