Recommends end to stampedes: Zephyr Teachout gets it right in today's New York Times.
She isn't sure that Franken should quit. She recommends an end to stampedes.
More specifically, she recommends that we reconnect with a pair of old friends. She names these old friends at the start of her column:
TEACHOUT (12/12/17): I care passionately about #MeToo. Women are routinely demeaned, dismissed, discouraged and assaulted. Too many women’s careers are stymied or ended because of harassment and abuse. In politics, where I have worked much of my adult life, this behavior is rampant.Teachout speaks on behalf of a pair of old friends—due process and proportionality. She even describes what those friendships entail. Essentially, she's suggesting that we stop the stampedes.
I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know—myself included—were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down.
Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. As citizens, we need a way to make sense of accusations that does not depend only on what we read or see in the news or on social media.
Due process means a fair, full investigation, with a chance for the accused to respond. And proportionality means that while all forms of inappropriate sexual behavior should be addressed, the response should be based on the nature of the transgressions.
Teachout says she was troubled by "the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate" last week. We think that ouster had the feel of a stampede.
Having said that, let us also say this—it isn't clear that Franken would gain from a resort to due process. It's possible that he chose to resign because he knows that other charges would arise if he remained on the scene.
Teachout makes the same general point. "With time, and the existing ethics procedures, things are likely to emerge that will surprise us all," she writes. "New facts may put Senator Franken in a better light, or a far worse one, and we should be open to both."
Would an ethics hearing help or hurt Franken? We have no way of knowing. We do know an apparent bum's rush when we apparently see one, and we thought we apparently saw such a stampede last week.
According to future anthropologists, our struggling species was never really equipped to understand the virtues of due process and proportionality. Despite this gloomy assessment, Teachout says we should call these old friends again.
Pointless though such an effort might be, we think she got it right.