With Franken gone, Democrats gain a message

There will, no doubt, be the gnashing of teeth with the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, befelled by a steady drip of allegations of sexual impropriety by women in the last few weeks.

These tweets, for example, are but one example. What exactly did Franken do that even approaches the allegations against Roy Moore, the Senate candidate who has received the warm embrace of the president and the Republican Party?

Here’s the thing: As long as Franken remained in the Senate, Democrats would have had a near impossible task doing what the people who couldn’t understand why he’s out and Moore is likely in want them to do. He represented a political anchor on the party.

Exhibit A is the new Democratic messaging presented to NPR’s Steve Inskeep this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Franken’s resignation unleashes the message aimed at the voters who believe the Party sold them out: women.

“Democrats who have upheld the principles that we have a workplace free of any sort of sexual misconduct, the party has been quite unequivocal on saying we have a zero-tolerance party,” she said.

“The Democrats are going to set new standards; standards that apply to everyone,” Brazile, a former chair of the Democratic Party, said.

Democrats are the party that cleans its house of sexual harassers, she told Inskeep, drawing a distinction between Democrats and Republicans.

That’s a message the Democrats couldn’t have with Franken and Michigan U.S. Rep. John Conyers in office.

“His continued presence in the Senate compromised our ability to communicate clearly against Republicans’ complicity in Moore’s candidacy and it subjected Democratic members of Congress to weeks of painful interviews where they twisted themselves into pretzels trying to defend Franken’s indefensible conduct,” Lis Smith, a New York-based Democratic strategist, tells MSNBC.

But keeping Moore out of the U.S. Senate is still a short-term play. Long-term, Democrats, who have struggled to come up with a message, have one without Franken in office.

In that light, Franken’s resignation is less a moral judgment than a political one, because that’s the way the game is played.

Maybe a month ago, sexual harassment wasn’t a partisan issue.

With Franken’s exit, Democrats, who’ve pushed John Conyers and Franken to the curb this week, are gambling that they can make it one.

Related: Why Al Franken is done-for — and Roy Moore isn’t (Washington Post)