Minnesota’s governor could make history by appointing state Rep. Peggy Flanagan to the U.S. Senate. She would be the first Native American woman in history to serve in Congress. She is currently a candidate for the state’s Lt. Gov. (Campaign photo)
There is an uncomfortable, even painful re-balancing going on across so much of society. The old world of male dominance is slowly coming to an end. Minnesota Senator Al Franken lost his office because of his own actions — and that broader change.
This is Trahant Reports.
Franken said as he resigned that he is aware that there is some irony in the fact that he is leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
This week that irony plays out. There is a special election in Alabama Tuesday where President Donald J. Trump and the official Republican machine have embraced candidate Roy Moore. The Washington Post reported about Moore’s sexual misconduct with multiple minors.
And Trump has been accused by at least sixteen women of sexual misconduct.
This is an important time in Congress. How does Congress, as an institution, handle abuse by its own members? The line needs to be sharp and absolute. Just last week four members from both parties have resigned, retired or are being investigated.
And to top it off Congress has an institutional problem. There’s a payoff system that was both secret and a way for powerful members to act with impunity.
Transparency is the only way out of this mess.
Yet Al Franken’s resignation remains a tough issue for many Democrats. Franken was the kind of senator that folks wanted, especially on issues involving American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint Franken’s replacement who then will have to run in a special election next year. The most likely pick is Lieutenant Governor Tina Flint Smith.. The appointment of Smith causes another problem: A Republican would automatically replace her as the Lt. Gov. That situation also presents challenges for any administration.
Two other names — both historic choices– are also possible, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe).
Flanagan is currently running for Lt. Gov. But because of her deep experience in politics, Flanagan could hit the ground running. She already knows her way around Capitol Hill. Since this would be a short term gig, that’s critical. There is another reason why Flanagan should get the nod: Since 1789 there have been 12,244 people serving in Congress. Never has there been a Native woman. Not by election. Not by appointment. This would be a chance to start a new era, one where indigenous voices are heard.
I am Mark Trahant.