Caution: Due to the subject matter this article may stretch the PG rating just a bit.
In 2017 the American political conversation has been dominated by Russiagate in one form or another. My favorite description of it comes from Senator John McCain who likens it to a centipede. That creature has 100 feet, with some poetic license that is about how many shoes McCain expects to fall before it is all over. I think we may have another political centipede on our hands. Let’s explore.
There is an old joke in Washington that if you only allowed members of Congress who have been monogamous to vote neither chamber could reach a quorum. Congressional affairs are older than me and back in the day the press politely didn’t report on them. (My guesses are that often the reporters were equally guilty and in some cases were the partner.) In that context we are talking about consensual extramarital affairs; today the controversy is not only immoral, it is illegal. Today we are talking about sexual harassment. There is a huge difference between consensual sexual relations between two or more (we haven’t heard of a ménage a trois or orgy – yet) and someone forcing themselves on (most likely) a subordinate or at least someone they outrank.
The damn has broken, the atmosphere changed and suddenly women feel safer about coming out and relating incidents that happened in the past. If you are one of those people who asks: Why did they wait so long? – then you are part of the problem. As I began to write this article (Monday morning) news has just broken of a second woman accusing Senator Al Franken of sexual misconduct. At this point I have no idea of the details or validity of the claim. This I do know; we haven’t seen the end of reports of sexual misconduct in Congress.
I’m not here to be the sleaze column, outlining all the juicy parts! My “gig” is mainly politics and this situation will have a profound, and as yet unknown, effect on the makeup of the House and Senate in years to come. Political careers will be killed or stunted. This applies to races as well as sitting members of Congress. Currently we are looking at the possibility of Democrat Doug Jones defeating Republican Roy Moore in the upcoming December 12th special Senate election in Alabama. (I’m still predicting Moore will win; but I’m certainly not guaranteeing it.) Despite Moore’s record and other scandals it was unthinkable that a Democrat could beat a Republican statewide in Alabama in 2017 until several very believable sexual transgression allegations against Moore arose.
We have had reports of Congressional sexual misconduct arise in the past. Some ended careers – Larry Craig and Bob Packwood quickly come to mind. Others overcame them – Barney Frank and David Vitter. The problem is bi-partisan. The guilty have been of multiple sexual orientations. Thus far all the accused have been male. If you think there have been no female transgressors you are living in a fantasy world. Because of the way sexual aggression and transgression is still perceived in today’s America I’m not sure there will be any reports of female (heterosexual anyway) assault, but it would be folly to assume they do not exist.
The good thing that should come out of all this is that people in power in Washington and those who aspire to those positions will learn to behave themselves. In this partisan environment it is important that we judge each case on its merits (not all “sins” are equal in severity) and take into account any contriteness and admission of guilt. Most importantly we have to be willing to equally condemn those on “our side” as well as those on the “other team”.
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