Breaking the Republican Stockholm Syndrome

The Democrats are rolling out their 2018 campaign strategy: Resurrect the “war on women” rhetoric that served them well in 2012 against Mitt Romney and his hapless presidential campaign.

Senator Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) atrocious and ugly “resignation” speech on the Senate floor last week can only be understood in light of this larger strategy. His refusal to accept any blame (not to mention his refusal to leave right away) makes obvious that the Democrats’ newfound focus on sexual assault is simply a means to regain power and impeach Donald Trump.

During the speech, Franken—without irony—fashioned himself “a champion of women” and noted that “all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.” There was one small problem, however. He forgot to follow his own advice.

Instead of taking his accusers’ allegations seriously, Franken concentrated on his own feelings, being “shocked” and “upset” at the number of women who say he assaulted them. Nowhere did he show remorse, apologize, or even acknowledge the severity of the growing number of accusations being made about his conduct, even though photographic evidence exists confirming at least part of one accuser’s story.

It’s no wonder that two of his accusers, Leeann Tweeden and Lindsay Menz, found his speech completely unsatisfactory, with Tweeden saying that she wouldn’t “ever feel good” about his resignation after his sorry display.

In fact, for the majority of the speech Franken fixated on himself. He waxed rhapsodic on his political career, his razor-thin Senate victory in 2008 (likely due to voter fraud), and the national “conversations” (read: Star Chamber hearings) he has helped lead. Like Stuart Smalley, his unfunny alter ego on “Saturday Night Live,” the stability of his conscience matters above all else.

Further, he noted the “irony” of being forced from office while “guilty men” like Trump and Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore go free—an aside that suggests his resignation may hinge upon Moore winning the upcoming special election in Alabama.

Franken turned what should be a time of confession and repentance into a self-aggrandizing display of hubris that cast aside the seriousness of the accusations against him solely for the Democrats’ political gain. Apparently this is what a “champion of women” does. What a martyr.

As usual, the feckless Republican leadership in Congress is blind to the Democrats’ machinations and are falling right into the trap Franken and his party have set. Case in point is Speaker Paul Ryan’s lightening-fast forced resignation of Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Franks, who served eight terms in the House, is said to have discussed surrogacy with two former staff members. While certainly awkward and uncomfortable, in no way does this rise to the level of sexual assault.

Ryan and the Republicans have once again fallen for the Democrats’ cynical deployment of morality. It has nothing to do with honor or common decency or a basic respect for the dignity of women and everything to do with Democrats winning in 2018. In helping to paint the GOP as the anti-woman party, Ryan and the Republicans are only weakening their own power under the ruse that they are involved in a gentleman’s debate over morality.  

Truth is, a shared public morality that cuts across partisan politics no longer exists. The Left has reduced morality to a cudgel it wields to attack anyone who presents a threat to its hegemony over American public life. The apolitical nature of the conservative movement and the Right more broadly has caused Republicans to miss this crucial fact as they continue to fall for the same old tricks.

Though there will certainly be casualties for the Democrats going forward, getting caught up in the schadenfreude of watching them eat their own misses the larger point. The “sacrifices” they make are for the greater good of taking both the House and even possibly the Senate in 2018—which of course is necessary to achieve their ultimate goal of removing Trump from office. And considering Democrat Mark Dayton is the governor of Minnesota and the district former Rep. John Conyers represented is heavily blue, so far the Democrats haven’t had to pay a real price as a party.

Instead of helping their opponents undermine their majorities in Congress, Republicans should launch an offensive counter attack.

They could start by focusing on Democrats’ malfeasance during the Obama years. They could focus on Trump’s many successes thus far in his young presidency, though that would actually require them to take Trump seriously and acknowledge their own hubris. They could also focus on how Democrats have cozied up to tyrants like Hugo Chavez and make the party defend their disastrous foreign policy.

Republicans need to shake themselves free of their collective decades-long Stockholm syndrome and act in the best interests of the people they supposedly represent.

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