Republicans are experts at twisting logic and facts into pretzels. In their world, an ounce is equal to a gallon, and they’ll fight to the death to persuade us of that “truth.” On the matter of sexual predators, a Republican deserves the benefit of the doubt because their vote is needed to cut taxes for rich people or take healthcare away from children who are poor. They pounced when the story of Al Franken’s unquestionably inappropriate behavior broke. Democrat, Franken must resign while Republican Moore must be rewarded with a Senate seat.
The Republican response to accusations made of both men is telling of a Republican Party that is quick to overlook, forgive and minimize the gravity of the accusations when it benefits them politically. Remember, we were treated to a lock-step recitation of “if true” blah, blah, blah.
More than that, they are exploiting victims of sexual harassment to weaponize allegations against political opponents.
If you’re a woman in America, the odds are likely you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape at least once. I was raped when I was fourteen, and there were more inappropriate touches in the workplace than I can count. So I come at this with a predisposition to believe women and a desire to hold their predators accountable.
The past few weeks have been both liberating and traumatizing, as women come forward with their experiences be it at the hands of a powerful man in entertainment, in business or in politics. Liberating because, finally, women are being believed. Traumatizing because reading or hearing about other women’s experiences is like reliving my own.
This happened as I read about the women who accused Roy Moore of behavior ranging from unwanted sexual advances to criminal child molesting. The same happened when I read about the women who accused Al Franken.
There are so many differences between these two men and the accusations made. Thus far, the quality of defenses and attacks made against them are inherently unequal.
Take Al Franken. He accepted responsibility, apologized publically in a statement and wrote a personal letter to Leann Tweeden. He asked for an ethics investigation into his conduct. Women who work for Senator Franken and worked with him at SNL have come forward with powerful statements of defense that speak to his character and his conduct toward them.
In essence, the defense of Franken remaining a Senator is: he owned his behavior, apologized for it. He advances policies to empower women, to treat us as fool citizens and full human beings. Leeann Tweeden, Franken’s accuser, accepted his apology, said she didn’t want his resignation and even acknowledged he is doing good work.
The fact that he owned his behavior said a lot about the character he has, compared to the lack of it in Roy Moore (and Mr. Trump.) His apology, to me, read as sincere. Other factors to consider include the frequency of that behavior, its severity, and who he is today. While these factors shouldn’t absolve him of accountability, they should be considered when deciding on consequences that are proportionate to his actions.
Can it save his career and more importantly, should it? I recognize that this is up to voters in Minnesota. From where I stand, his behavior while unacceptable shouldn’t result in his resignation. It is important that women can speak out and take action when they’re sexually harassed or assaulted. It’s also important to support sincere remorse, sincere efforts to be better and sincere efforts to do better, while condemning those who insist all the women are liars, or are looking for money/15 minutes of fame or are so intellectually feeble that their experiences are merely a recitation of a fiction crafted by a nefarious puppet master.
Comparatively, supporting Roy Moore is supporting a behavior that goes back decades, and arguably one could say isn’t relevant to today. Fair enough, until you look at his record as a judge.
As late as 2015, Roy Moore was the only judge who believed a child rapist should be acquitted. In isolation, this shouldn’t be a factor against Moore. However, it shouldn’t be ignored, given the nature of the allegations against him and also given his political views when it comes to women and our place in society.
The various defenses offered by his supporters are either about dismissing the charges as unbelievable or simply not as important as his (and their) political goals.
Of course, we should always assume that when a woman accuses a man of sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault or rape, she is telling the truth. The case should be investigated as vigorously regardless of our preconceived notions about him and his character. The consequences should also be proportionate to the act.
While Franken’s behavior was inappropriate, to suggest it is the same as that of Roy Moore is absurd. Moore is a child molester who stalked teenage girls at malls, in the courthouse, and at football games for decades. He never owned up, he never repented, and he remains a man who believes the only good woman is a silent, disempowered one.
These are not cases of equal misconduct, equal character or equal response. To subject both men to equal consequences is therefore disproportionate and a complete contradiction to the meaning of justice.
Simply put: the liberal response has been one of addressing the way we have treated accusers and the accused in cases of sexual harassment while Republicans base their “concern” about sexual harassment regarding how it affects their numbers in Congress.
We have barely scratched the surface because the fact remains for each case we read about and litigate in social media or in articles like this one, there are many more that occur every day. The suffering is as intense, and the power dynamics between harasser and victim are the same. The difference is only in scale and degree of prominence.
But empowering women, be they prominent or not, must not be seen as being about vengeance. It’s why the consequences paid by our abusers must be proportionate to the abuse and in consideration of mitigating and aggravating factors.