By and large, Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have staunchly condemned all sexual predation, including predators with whom they are likelier to stand politically, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and most recently Louis CK. Meanwhile, many Republicans have not only defended, but even embraced men who brag about being sexual predators (Donald Trump) or face very serious and well investigated accusations of criminal sexual behavior (Roy Moore).
It’s tempting to point out that the GOP has not simply lost the moral high ground, but has impatiently discarded it. It’s tempting to proclaim that Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have remained true to their values in a way that many Conservatives seem unwilling or perhaps even unable to do. It’s tempting to say that Democrats do not tolerate sexual predators, either within their own ranks or without, while Republicans have pioneered new heights in hypocrisy by readily condemning sexual predators outside their ranks, yet making every conceivable excuse for sexual predators within their ranks, right up to equating the sexual molestation of children with the parenting of Jesus Christ.
It is very tempting indeed. But yet, I wonder.
Can we really ignore the fact that the “Democrats” recently accused of sexual predatory behavior are not in fact politicians? Sure, Weinstein was hefty donor to the Democratic Party, but what is the political risk for Democrats in rightly feeding him to the wolves? None. Meanwhile, Spacey and CK are openly progressive in their politics, with CK even making a public appeal to Millennials last autumn not to vote for Trump. But so what?
The simple truth is, none of them matter politically. Throwing them overboard is easy. If anything, it’s an expedient way for Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists to burnish their credentials. Which is not to say that Democrats are cynical in their condemnation of these three men. I’m sure the condemnations are sincere. Rather, the point is that there are no political risks or even consequences to doing so. In this case, it’s very easy for Liberals, Progressives, and Leftists to rightly condemn a few lay members from their own ranks for doing the wrong thing.
But it’s not so easy for Republicans of late. Roy Moore is running for Senate in a deeply red state. His loss would open the door for Democrats to, if not recapture a majority in the Senate, at least form stronger alliances with a few moderate Republicans to completely stymie Trump and the GOP’s conservative agenda. And as for Trump, yes, he was indeed his party’s nominee for president of the United States when the infamous tapes of his hideous lechery were revealed. Could the political stakes possibly have been any higher?
So the question then is this: Would Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists so quickly and firmly disown accused sexual predators who were not merely entertainment celebrities, but were actually high ranking Democratic politicians poised to advance their agendas and causes?
I know they want to believe the answer is Yes. I too would like to believe the answer is Yes. But honestly, I’m not so sure it is. And to be perfectly frank, history is not on their side.
After all, within this context, the very best you can say about William Jefferson Clinton is that he was a chronic philanderer; a Lothario who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants; a man who broke sacred promises to his wife and daughter for the sake of getting a little on the side.
That’s the very best you can say about him.
I think a far more honest assessment of Bill Clinton is that he was a sexual predator. That he was precisely the kind of person who is being so roundly criticized today: a powerful man who used his position of power, first as a governor and then as POTUS, to seduce and even cajole women into sex.
Much of the attention is often focused on President Clinton leveraging the presidency to seduce a gullible intern. But the accusations run much, much deeper than simple infidelity.
Juanita Broaddrick outright accused Bill Clinton of raping her. “I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me,” she tweeted last year. “I am now 73….it never goes away.”
Democratic activist and White House volunteer Kathleen Willey claims that in 1993, Clinton grabbed and kissed her against her will in the Oval Office’s private study.
And of course, all the way back in 1994, Paula Jones publicly accused Clinton of, and filed a suit against him for, having propositioned her for sex and exposed himself to her in 1991. Instead of fighting to clear his name, then-President Clinton agreed to a settlement in 1998, paying Jones and her attorneys $850,000.
P.S. it was during that case that Clinton initially lied under oath about having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, thereby committing perjury.
Meanwhile, when asked about Broaddrick, Willey, and Jones on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Rodham Clinton responded: “Well, I would say that everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”
Not exactly a rousing defense of her husband, which perhaps speaks well of HRC.
But either way, for a quarter-century now, Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have blithely dismissed these accusations, their general silence only punctuated by the occasional excuse making.
The simple truth is, on the issue of sexual predatory behavior, there’s plenty of shame to go around for Republicans and Democrats alike, for Conservatives and Liberals, for the religious and the secular, for the urban and the rural. We, as a nation, have failed to adequately deal with this issue, and no amount of partisanship can blur that reality.
It does appear to me that we are perhaps at a turning point. That we are at a generational cultural moment in which a national conversation emerges and society begins moving in the right direction. That anyone who, a month ago, said “Enough of Harvey Weinstein already, we have more important things to talk about” could not have been more wrong, and thank goodness that attitude did not carry the day. That we have a lot of hard work to do, and perhaps this is the time when we are prepared to do at least some of it. That just as the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings of 25 years ago introduced mainstream American culture to the idea of sexual harassment, perhaps this current moment will push our culture to stand more forcefully against sexual harassment and predation. I hope that is the case.
And finally, to each, every, and any Democrat who complains that an essay such as this one is wrongheaded because it can be (mis)used as political ammunition by Republicans, my retort is quick and simple: you are only proving my case. Because if you are more concerned about which side is scoring political points than you are about having an honest conversation about sexual predatory behavior, then you are part of the problem, no matter who you are and no matter how much you lambaste the likes of Weinstein, Spacey, or CK.
There can be no room for partisanship on the issue of sexual assault.