We are in the midst of a national reckoning. Nearly every day has a new revelation of a person in prominence or power being accused of sexual harassment. Those individuals within the public limelight are being fired, punished, and disgraced at a breakneck pace.

Unless they are national politicians.

Politicians Accused of Sexual Harassment

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).
Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV).
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI).
RNC endorsed candidate for Alabama Senate Roy Moore.
And, of course, President of the United States Donald Trump.

A week ago last Sunday, shortly after the sexual harassment accusations against Rep. Conyers started, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on Meet the Press. Exhibiting political tribalism and an inaccurate reading of the political winds, the former Speaker of the House defended Conyers and cast doubt on the victims. “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”

Incensed the political party I once was employed by would attack victims, and by a woman, I fired off a letter to Minority Leader Pelosi (her leadership account – americanvoices@mail.house.gov – so as not to clog her constituent services staff).

The Pelosi Letter

November 27, 2017

Speaker Pelosi-

I have admired your career for a long time. As a former Democratic operative and Minnesota Legislative staffer I have fought for the ideals of equality, equity, and justice at the core of the Democratic Party platform — the same ideals you have championed on the federal level. In my view, you have been an excellent Speaker and Minority Leader.

Until now.

Your defense of Rep. John Conyers and his alleged and taxpayer settled misconduct on Meet the Press is appalling. Your defense of Rep. Conyers is the opposite of “zero tolerance.” Belief in victims statements and calls for investigation are not mutually exclusive.

Believe victims.

What’s worse from your position as Minority Leader is the damage to the Democratic brand. We are the party for protecting the abused, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the forgotten, and those without power. Your defense denies all of that. Republicans at the highest levels on down have embraced sexual abusers. Democrats must purge sexual abusers from positions of power and hold the nation to a higher standard. Not because we oppose the actions and positions of the GOP. Because fighting sexual abuse everywhere is morally right.

Even from the position of cold, calculated politics your defense is damaging. Michigan 13th is a safe seat. Rep. Conyers is in the twilight of his career. The longer he stays the longer focus is on Rep. Conyers and less focus is on Sen. Franken, Roy Moore, President Trump, and all the other men, women, and children who are abusers and/or abused.

This is a national reckoning.

Demand John Conyers resign from office.

Sadly,
-Matthew
Wisconsin Democrat

(Forgive my grammatical errors of omitting “Jr.” in Rep. Conyers’ name. I also apparently cannot get over Minority Leader Pelosi being the first female Speaker of the House in my salutation.)

Moral Consistency

I wrote the letter before Congresswoman Pelosi changed positions and began demanding Congressman Conyers resign. While I make no aspersions to being the tipping point, I wrote the letter in hopes others like me would do the same and the Congresswoman, a tactical politician, would recognize her error.

Writing to Congresswoman Pelosi forced me to face a politician closer to home: Senator Al Franken.

When I was a Minnesotan, I volunteered in support of Senator Franken. I praised Sen. Franken and took pride in his legislative accomplishments. I watched, raptured, the Franken-Coleman recount hoping for a Franken win. I door knocked at an event where Franken was also door knocking prior to being Senator.

Prior to writing Congresswoman Pelosi I had already decided I wished Sen. Franken would resign. However, I could not with moral consistency write the leader of the House Democrats and not my former Senator.

The Franken Letter

November 28, 2017

Senator Franken-

With disappointment and sadness I write you today. Though I am no longer a constituent, having moved out of Minnesota so my partner could pursue her PhD., I supported your candidacy and campaigns when living in Minnesota. As a former DFL staffer and DFL House legislative staffer, I agree with the vast majority of your public policy positions, enjoy your questions holding agencies and executive officials accountable, and believe overall you are a good public servant.

And yet, I believe you should resign from office.

I believe the women who have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment. I believe your apologies to those women are genuine and I believe your claims to improve as a person heartfelt. But the national reckoning on sexual harassment occurring is not about one person, one victim, or one event. The nation is finally discussing a long understood and ignored aspect of our culture.

The nation has a sexual harassment problem and we must change.

Senator, you can do more good on this issue outside of the Senate than within. You can set the standard for what is expected of our public officials; owning their mistakes, apologizing for them, and stepping aside for the betterment of the country. Step down, support the candidacy of a woman for the Senate seat you occupy, fundraise for the issues of gender equality and fairness you have championed, and let the next generation lead.

From a purely political standpoint a resignation does not change the balance of power – Gov. Dayton would appoint an interim Senator loyal to the Democratic party. A resignation, however, affirm the Democratic ideals you champion. We are the party protecting the abused, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the forgotten, and those without power. Republicans at the highest levels on down have embraced sexual abusers. Democrats must hold the nation to a higher standard. Not because we oppose the actions and positions of the GOP. Because fighting sexual abuse everywhere is morally right.

Sexual abuse is not an individual problem, it’s a culture problem. By staying in office you pull focus on you and your individual actions. Continue to fight to better the country and the American culture.

Resign.

Sadly,
-Matthew

Representative John Conyers Jr., the Dean of the House of Representatives, “retired” today. The opportunity to set a moral standard for those who failed to live to a moral standard still exists for Senator Alan Franken.

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