Monday, December 11, 2017

The Franken Thing

This is one reason Show Business personalities should not be elected to public office.

You'd think Minnesotans would have learned their lesson with Jesse The Body Ventura.

But no.

Actually, I'm given to understand that Minnesotans weren't consulted about whether or not Mr. Franken should become a sacrifice, it was pretty much entirely a matter of Senate Democratic colleagues demanding and getting his resignation, but the fact that he stood for election and was elected twice despite a rather marked unsuitability for office -- something he even alluded to -- is what's telling.

Minnesotans, though, didn't have much of a choice.

That's a deep seated problem for our faulty and anachronistic electoral system. Franken shouldn't have had to run, but he did because at the time there were few viable options.

But isn't that the case in most elections? Indeed. It is so by design.

Meanwhile Franken's forced resignation over things that a low comedian like him would be expected to do as part of a gag or not was happy-making for some people, definitely not so for many others. The backlash against Gillibrand and the dozens of other Senators (not all of them Democrats) who participated in the mob action against Franken has been pretty intense. What were they thinking?? That they would gain cred among women in general or among a specific demographic (suburban white women) who they long to appeal to? Don't know. I'm not sure they do.

If this were really about ending sexualized aggression against women (and men) by the rich/powerful men who rule us, then Franken would not be a likely target given what he was accused of.

No. What he was accused of was pretty much what almost any low comedian would be expected to do when he's "on." Viz: the Marx Brothers as historic (and very randy) examples. There are many more.

Some women now claim they were offended/assaulted by Franken when he was being a low comedian, and their claims were too much for a significant portion of the Senate to handle and they called for his ouster.

Go back in time and look at the Marx Brothers in action with the many Sweet Young Things and Margaret Dumont in their movies or watch Groucho ogling and even touching girls and women on his television show. Was that sexual harassment or assault? Well, some people would certainly think so.

Times change, and that sort of thing certainly isn't allowed now.. Or it shouldn't be. Particularly among high government officials. Ergo, Franken had to vamoose.


Well, he said he would step down, so I guess so. Make an example of him. Right?

(As for Conyers, he's old and needed to retire anyway, right?) (Who?) (Another target of the witch hunt, that's all.)

But what I keep going back to is that Franken should never have been in office, should never have felt he had to run. The fact that he really did believe in the necessity of his candidacy and service -- while still being a comedian -- put him and the people of Minnesota in a jam.

Much the same has been the case with other show business personalities who have run for office and won, including Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Trump.

All have some kind of sexual indiscretion in their backgrounds, and none of them were/are particularly suited to office.

I've noticed that show business executives ("suits") rarely if ever stand for office, but performers rather often (too often in my view) do. I think about that and the absurdity of it and I ask myself what kind of reflection that is on the electoral system itself.

Oddly enough, actors and performers in the Show Business are not autonomous individuals who are free to do as they wilt on stage or screen or in the ring. They are more like product shaped and socialized by many others behind the scenes including those suits who most of us never see.

Oddly enough, the show business environment is highly (some might say "hyper") sexualized. The notion that show business personalities are somehow (or should be) monk-like in probity is silly. On the other hand, I've been informed that elected government officials are even less monkish.

Ultimately the issue is consent. The women complaining about Franken's behavior claim that they didn't give their consent for what he is accused of doing, including holding one by the waist during a photo op. Indeed, it's credible. It's likely he didn't even think to get permission before acting in a touchy-feely or even boorish way toward these --and no doubt other -- women during his long career as a comedian. Permission was implied.

To say now that they didn't give or imply their consent is jejune to say the least and they are now Outraged!®. On the other hand, Franken was clearly targeted for other reasons than his alleged misbehavior, and once targeted, he had no means to escape punishment. 

If this is about ultimately getting to Trump and forcing him out of office, I don't think it will work. It's already backfiring. Trump's sexual improprieties have "already been litigated," and it's not likely that any accusation of sexual impropriety against him will cause his removal in the future. Maybe some women will think twice about reelecting him, but what -- if anything -- will get him out of office in the meantime remains to be seen.

If on the other hand the objective is to ensure that going forward there will be no physical or sexual contact between individuals without express permission and consent and none at all between adults and minors with or without consent, then it's possible we'll enter into that New Society more or less soon. We've been painfully inching toward it for a long time.

If the objective is to precipitate general equality between men and women, then nah. This isn't the way.

But maybe in the short term show business personalities will think twice or three times before standing for office, and that might be a good thing.

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