In the voice of her intriguing narrator in Middlemarch, George Eliot observes: “Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.” It is an insight from which we can learn a lot. Mistake comes in many forms, both gratuitous and otherwise somehow inherent in human nature. Of the gratuitous forms, prediction takes the cake.
I think the last time I offered up a full set of predictions for the new year was 2012. My success rate on that occasion may be represented by numbers 8 and 9 of 10:
8. President Obama will not be reelected to a second term.
9. The Supreme Court will not save us from Obamacare. If we are to be saved, our elected representatives will have to do it.
I may have suspended my aversion to predictions to, ah, suggest a few times in 2016 that Donald Trump would not prevail against Madam Hillary in the presidential election. Recalling my certainty on that point has prompted me to revisit the wisdom of George Eliot’s Middlemarch narrator.
Having done so, however, I note prediction number 4 in Professor Stephen Carter’s set of 13 things to look forward to (or fear) in 2018. (Professor Carter looked back on his 2017 predictions here.) In his fourth prediction Professor Carter foresees:
Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, will return from the holiday recess to say that he has been talking to his constituents and that they do not want him to resign from office. He will announce he has therefore decided to stay. Republican leaders will claim that Franken never intended to leave, and that the Democratic indignation over his behavior was really just a cover to allow them to condemn Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama special Senate election without seeming unprincipled. They might have a point. On the other hand, the allegations against Moore were a lot worse. (I’m not excusing Franken; I still think he should go; I just don’t think he will.)
Subjecting Franken’s resignation statement on the floor of the Senate to a close reading, Steve Hayward noted the Franken hedge. By contrast, even before he announced his resignation, I thought that Franken had become expendable and that, as far as Democrats were concerned, it was time for Franken to go. I thought he would go and therefore took his resignation statement at face value.
I do not like Franken as a man or a politician. Just before his troubles began, I declared him “The unfunniest senator.” To say the least, I disapprove of his job performance. Yet I regret his departure from office. He is leaving solely at the behest of his Democratic colleagues. If Minnesota had a Republican governor, they would have put up with him. Indeed, I think they deserve him.
Moreover, Minnesotans returned Franken to office by a substantial majority in 2014. Almost all of the alleged conduct occurred before Franken was elected in 2008 (as determined in the recount proceedings). Professor Carter notes that Minnesotans support Franken’s continuation in office. As Ed Koch put it: “The people have spoken…and they must be punished.”
This is not to say that I doubted Franken’s accusers. I didn’t and don’t. I believe them. The one who got the ball rolling delivered the “ocular proof” of his misconduct. When other accusers emerged, Franken’s interview with local CBS affiliate anchor/reporter Esme Murphy demonstrated Franken’s inability to defend himself from the charges against him. I commented on Murphy’s interview and posted the video in “Franken: Just very, very sorry.”
I have changed my mind a time or two about what should happen to Franken as events played out. I have been turned off by the politics of his leaving office and the appointment of his successor — Lieutenant Governor and left-wing flake Tina Smith — by Governor Mark Dayton. It’s all too convenient. Franken’s sanction in due course by the Senate and/or his rebuke by the voters in 2020 should have sufficed. In the meantime, Franken’s public humiliation and shaming have been (or would have been) fitting.
Professor Carter to the contrary notwithstanding, my 2018 prediction is that Franken will resign from office tomorrow as promised. I think that Professor Carter and others who have foreseen Franken’s retraction of his announced intent to resign don’t understand the Minnesota scene. We aren’t that cynical. Franken would take it back if he could but he can’t. He’s outta here (though he’ll be back).
That’s my prediction. Whatever the case, it won’t take long to learn the outcome.
I join Professor Carter in his closing wish for 2018: “As for our everyday lives, I hope that in the year to come every one of us, whether #maga or #nevertrump or in between, will find ways to remain respectful of others across our myriad differences, and will search unceasingly for the truth and beauty and grace to be found amidst the clamor and clutter.” Amen.