Watching Al Franken chased out of the Senate by his own colleagues, having been denied a chance to appear before the ethics committee, you understand why Democrats are out of power. When going low is a winning strategy, as Trump’s election demonstrated, they pride themselves on going high. The Franken purge is intended to broadcast their heightened sensitivity to the harassment and abuse of women, but this show of moral superiority will cost them -- and the women they aim to protect.  

Franken’s formerly safe senate seat, which he would have occupied until 2020, will now be up for grabs by Republicans in a special election in 2018, along with 25 other seats in the Democratic caucus. The democratic hope of taking back the Senate next year was already exceedingly unrealistic. Now it seems a mere fantasy, while an increase in Republican seats seems even more likely. Consolidating Republican control of the Senate until 2020 can enable conservative Republican domination of the federal judiciary for at least a generation. If that’s a victory for women, it’s hard to imagine defeat.  

Besides Franken may not be the last Democrat to be besieged by accusations of misconduct, although he could be the last who serves in a state led by a Democratic governor. Imagine the consequences if several women come forward with allegations against a male Democrat from a red state. Democrats will suffer an embarrassing fall from the moral high ground if they decline to push for his summary resignation, because it would guarantee the appointment of a Republican replacement by a Republican governor.  

Franken’s resignation made clear the ease with which Democratic men can be toppled. Democrats have agreed to “believe the women” categorically, while refusing to delineate between degrees of misconduct. “When we talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping (we) are having the wrong conversation,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand  asserted, urging Franken to resign.  

But refusing to distinguish between harassment, which might consist of a rude remark or a fleeting touch, and a concerted effort to force yourself on someone sexually, is like refusing to distinguish between a pickpocket and a home invader. Gillibrand is peddling dangerous nonsense, burnishing her brand as avenger of all self-proclaimed female victims, as she prepares a run for president. That otherwise reasonable democrats followed her off this cliff is a tribute to the power and threat of MeTooism.          

Meanwhile, as Franken sardonically observed, Republicans embrace credibly accused child molester Roy Moore and bow before the admitted abuser in the White House. If Moore wins the Alabama Senate race, Republicans will seat him, despite their attempts to disown him only a few weeks ago. They will not be deterred by moral qualms or an effort to appease the MeToo movement.  

Does this make them morally inferior? Perhaps. But in politics, moral superiority is complicated; shamelessness is a lesser vice when it results in victory. In politics, when the stakes are high for millions of Americans, politicians have a moral obligation to win.  

Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer and author of eight books, is a former member of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the national American Civil Liberties Union.