Sunday Political Brunch: Is this a Franken-Stein Strategy?—December 10, 2017
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalPDX Contributor
The avalanche continues. Senator Al Franken, (D) Minnesota announced he will be stepping down amid sexual misconduct allegations, and now Representative Trent Franks, (R) Arizona, is announcing the same. This comes after numerous scandals in the political, entertainment, business and media industries. Yes, all the charges are serious, but what’s the political fallout? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.
“Can You Have it Both Ways?” – To me the announcement that Senator Al Franken (D) Minnesota was resigning was jarring for several reasons. Unlike Representative John Conyers, (D) Michigan, who flat out resigned, and quit, and left office on Tuesday, Senator Franken said, “Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.” Coming weeks? What does that mean? December 29th? January 18? April 7th? It’s a weird, open-ended pledge that lacks clarity. Is it a political strategy?
“The Politics, of… well, Politics!” – Call me cynical; yet call me practical. The reason Al Franken did not flat out quit on Thursday is deeply seated in politics. Republicans and President Trump keep promising the tax reform vote will take place before Christmas. As we saw with the Obamacare repeal attempt, and the latest tax reform vote, it could come down to just one vote. An empty seat from Minnesota could screw up the whole thing, so the Democratic Caucus (which was nearly unanimous in wanting Franken to resign) wants him to stay to be that critical one deciding vote, if needed. Politics – often is about convenience and expediency – and not necessarily about what’s right. Neither party holds the franchise on this.
“Is it Apples and Oranges?” – Another fascinating moment in the Franken speech came when he said, “I of all people am aware there is some irony in the fact 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.” Really? Why should Franken bail if his actions are seemingly (in his mind) no less egregious than the behavior of Donald Trump and Roy Moore? I think there’s more to this.
“More on Moore” – As I suggested in my “Sunday Brunch” two weeks ago, there is a lot of political strategy surrounding how a candidate or office holder deals with scandal and controversy. I noted that the Franken and Conyers accusations on Capitol Hill had delegated the forty-year-old accusations about Judge Moore to the back pages of news sites. The firings of media giants Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor also buried the Moore story further in the weeds. But now Conyers and Franken and several others are seemingly gone, with the Alabama Senate race just days away. Was all this a coordinated Democratic strategy to lift Moore’s accusers back into front page headlines? I believe that is quite likely.
“How News Works” – As I often tell people, the news business operates in a vacuum. Sometimes you are just sucking up crumbs of information and news, and then sometimes a tidal wave comes in and dominates coverage to an extent that it wipes everything out. Yes, Roy Moore got bounced to the back pages (or off the air entirely), as more contemporary allegations of sexual misconduct filled the front pages. Trust me, this really helped his campaign bounce back. In fact, President Trump endorsed him and the Republican National Committee started giving him money again. Moore was blessed by the accusations against others of his lot. Weird, but true. Matt Lauer’s and Charlie Rose’s bad news, was manna from Heaven for Moore. Now, it may not last through Tuesday.
“The Franken-stein Strategy” – I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, but the Democratic calls for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, looked orchestrated. What started with six female Senators calling for him to resign, converged to over three-dozen Democratic Senators – male and female alike – calling for his resignation before sundown. As I always tell folks, it’s not when the opposing party tells you to quit that you lose; it’s when your own party tells you to get out, that it’s over. Just Google Richard Nixon.
“The Short-Term Goal” – I firmly believe this was a widely-orchestrated strategy (probably a Hail Mary pass) to win the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama on Tuesday. The polling has this as a toss-up between Democratic nominee and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore, the former two-time Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice. In the final three days, I bet you will see an all-out assault on Moore as a sexual predator of teenage girls. It will be ugly. That plus the banner headlines will have been cleared of John Conyers and Al Franken, by resigning and begging forgiveness. Suddenly Moore is the lone alleged sexual offender left on the stage. Is this just bizarre? Yet, but it could work; if Moore loses, it has.
“The Politics of It All” – Here’s the math. In 2018, Democrats are defending 23 U.S. Senate seats; Republicans only eight. Right now, the GOP holds a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate. Keep in mind that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, is up for reelection in 2018. She’s popular and widely regarded as a safe seat. However, if Al Franken truly resigns (and factually he has not done so yet), his seat will then be up for a special election in 2018. Democrats do not have a stranglehold on this often-described liberal sate. Moderate Republicans have done well here, and in recent memory held one, or both, U.S Senate seats. It’s possible the Franken seat could be captured by former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) Minnesota or former Senator Norm Coleman, (R) Minnesota. This is no longer a “safe” seat for Democrats. It’s now “in-play.”
Should Senator Al Franken resign immediately, or is it okay that this could drag on for weeks? Just click on the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.