ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – In the affluent Edina suburb of Minneapolis, a 70-year-old woman in a wool hat and scarf meticulously removed the night’s snowfall from her driveway. "I think we have condemned people before they have the opportunity to have a trial or at least a hearing, just like Franken," she said.
She is registered Independent and has no strong feeling about U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who resigned last week after several women gave accounts of unwanted advances. But like many people around Minneapolis and St. Paul, she was guarded in her comments and did not want to give her name.
Among men and women in coffee shops, at a construction site, and on campus, the elderly woman was perhaps the least unforgiving in a region with a strong expectation of moral rectitude and accountability from their elected representatives.
The Democratic senator’s downfall was caused by seven accounts from his former days as a comedian. The most damaging was a prank photo where he appeared to be grabbing the breast of a woman who was sleeping while wearing a flak jacket and a helmet.
The physical actions complained of included an unwanted grab of the butt and unwelcome kisses, culminating with a complaint that he squeezed a woman’s side midriff while posing for a picture and another, the one that brought the wrath of the congressional women's caucus, that he tried to kiss a woman who ducked and escaped.
His resignation speech last week was welcomed by female columnists and TV commentators as a necessary sacrifice for the greater cause of emancipation, while it was seen by many women outside the media as the result of a “witch hunt.”
But in the region that elected Franken, there was little mercy to be found. The well of redemption was dry.
Inside a large home under extensive reconstruction, with no door and holes for windows, a group of workers were evasive in addressing a female reporter.
Standing in a circle big enough to fit an elephant, one man joked, "Lock him up!" Another politely declined comment. A third jumped in, "You don't want an opinion from me! You can't handle the truth!"
Not far away, at a bus stop in the Bloomington suburb of Minneapolis, 36-year-old Greg Goldie said that if the accusations against Franken are true, it was time for him to leave.
"You do wrong here in Minnesota and you lose our trust,” he said. “You're gone.”
In another side of the city, on the University of Minneapolis campus, a woman in her 50s was quickly walking up a flight of stairs with a FedEx package in her right arm, but she stopped to make a more nuanced comment. She noted the lesser nature of Franken’s sins compared to the more egregious conduct recounted against prominent Republicans who have remained steadfast in refusing to abdicate their positions.
"I think he has shown more strength of character than most people. And I would hope it would make others do the right thing, but I don't know," said the woman who, along with others, refused to give her name.
"I think he was strongly encouraged to do the right thing and step down,” she added, “even though what he has done doesn't stand up to what other people have done, like Roy Moore."