As friend and colleague of Senator Al Franken (D-MN) Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is not in a difficult situation, she is in a leadership position. Of course leadership positions are, by definition, difficult; something the electorate seems to appreciate while our leadership does not. But Minnesotans will be watching closely to see if Klobuchar leans into this opportunity to reform a culture of systemic sexual exploitation as our state’s first woman Senator —or takes cover in the shadow of Democratic Party king/queen makers, leaving Franken to twist in the wind and the electorate scrambling for representation.
Conventional thinking will have pundits managing Klobuchar’s future aspirations as a career politician advising her to stand down. That’s a given. Indeed, Democratic heavyweights were out in force within minutes after I called on the senior senator from Minnesota in a tweet to support her friend and colleague. She remains silent even as I sit with friends, fellow Minnesota voters, horrified at watching a good man, a respected representative who has stood tall for the electorate on the critical issues of our time in ways unexpected and unconventional yet incredibly effectual.
Amy is an old friend from my teenage years now a former prosecuter whom I wholeheartedly supported in her US Senate races. In 1976 there were less than a dozen women — as I recall but it’s been awhile — who embarked on the long distance biking tour organized by her dad, Star Tribune columnist, Jim Klobuchar. Four of those women were teenagers including Amy and myself — as I recall — again, its been a while.
There is no need for such a disclaimer, however, as to the recollection of my first #MeToo experience on that *Jaunt with Jim* ride. That’s because being introduced to the predatory nature of our patriarchal society in my formative years is burned into the psyche in ways that cannot be discerned from nuanced memory. I was a 16 year old virgin touring Northern Minnesota on ten-speed bicycle alongside my own dad and some 150 other cycling enthusiasts. There was no GPS, if you can imagine, using the convenience of technology to track distance. Together, we covered an estimated 100 miles each day.
It wasn’t Amy’s fault. Yet she was there — a teenager who would one day be my representative in the Senate — and remained silent. Whether it was because it is politically advisable to “hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil” when one aspires to high office someday, or more likely —merely intent on pedaling up the hill like the rest of us — doesn’t really matter. It was Amy’s dad, Jim Klobuchar — he who pioneered and organized our long distance bike ride — solely responsible for my confusion and distress. And at 30+ years my senior, an accomplished journalist, author, travel guide of considerable esteem in his own right, he knew exactly what he was doing.
To the young woman bitterly accusing “middle aged women like [me]” of promoting sexual misconduct by covering for perps “like Al Franken” on social media, I did step up and speak out: At 16 years of age, one of less than a dozen women riding up in the sparsely populated boonies with 150 men, I naively bolted out of the dressing room to censure the experience before a group of fellow bikers who happened to be gathering for lunch just outside.
As it happened, my own dad — an extraordinary man leading an ordinary life — was among those I addressed. I don’t remember any of the other faces or whether or not Amy was within earshot. Unfortunately, or not, my dad’s first instinct was to — get this — shush me by way of protection from the fallout of coming forward. It was after all, a he said she said situation and my dad thought it better to pretend it never happened than raise the ire of the guy writing a widely published light hearted column on the day’s events.
We talked about it, my dad and I, for the first time just a few years before he passed. I loved him more than life itself and not a day goes by that I do not mourn the loss of his physical presence here in earth school. And we’ve long since made our peace but the harsh reality is that he failed me. The stinging statement gets space here only because it is inextricably relevant to the complexity of the conversation now being effectively shut down with Al Franken’s resignation.