As I write this, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least eight women.
Most of these women were teenagers in high school at the time of the alleged assault, whereas Moore was in his 30s. One woman, Leigh Corfman, says that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14 and he was 32.
In response, Moore has denied all accusations, calling them fake news from “liberal media lapdogs”. But in an interview with Sean Hannity, Moore said he “doesn’t dispute” that he used to date girls as young as 16.
As I write this, despite all these allegations, Roy Moore refuses to step out of the Senate race. And, despite these allegations, the race between him and his opponent is still neck-and-neck.
Now, in the past few weeks, we’ve seen high-profile celebrities and businessmen’s whole careers come crashing down due to sexual misconduct accusations. At this rate, it may seem that the only man working in Hollywood by 2018 will be Mickey Mouse. And maybe it should be! At least he can keep his pants on.
But in the world of politics, recent accusations of sexual misconduct have painted a far different, more frustrating, and gross picture: one in which the accused person’s career seems to not only survive, but thrive. If you don’t believe me, ask the President.
So let’s take a closer look at Republican candidate Roy Moore. While many congress people have called Moore to step out of the race, he has a few supporters on his side. When Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne was asked if he would vote for Moore after all these accusations, he said yes. Why? Because, as Rep. Byrne said, “I’m a Republican. I’m not a Democrat, I don’t vote for Democrats.” This support for an admitted statutory rapist illustrates one of the most insidious problems within our politics today—one which reliably snowballs into the normalization of oppression.
Now, while this vocal support for Moore is becoming the minority census, in the world of politics, what you don’t say can be equally as telling as what you do.
Fast-forward to November 16th, when Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct. The cherry on top of Franken’s scandal sundae: his accuser had photographic evidence of her allegation. While accusations against both men should be taken equally seriously, Americans heard from a voice that had been suspiciously quiet throughout Moore’s scandal: President Trump. “The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 while she sleeps?.....” he tweeted.
Now while Trump is quick to point out the hypocrisy in Sen. Franken’s actions, Trump fails to see his own hypocrisy. Here is a man who has not only stayed silent about fellow Republican Moore’s accusations, but has been accused himself of sexual misconduct so many times that the list of accusations against him has its own Wikipedia page. Trump has been caught on tape touting his celebrity-bolstered power over women, claiming, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” So while we can spend the rest of this article asking where Franken’s hands go next, we definitely know where the President’s hands would have gone.
Trump’s judgement of Franken in light of his refusal to judge Moore (or, furthermore, face his own accusers) is ignorant at best and dangerously careless at worst. Because when Congress ignores one man’s scandal and calls out another’s, we have witnessed our representatives turn what should be a united front against systemic oppression into a partisan issue.
When people see the President and congress turn sexual assault into a partisan debate, that then paves the way for the public to do the same. We see it in the comments section of any news article on Facebook or Twitter. When the story of Franken broke, plenty of liberal supporters claimed, “At least it wasn’t a minor like Roy Moore!”
Now, when your best defense is “At least it wasn’t a minor!” you have to take a timeout. If two people are covered in crap, and one person says, “Hey! At least it’s not as much crap as that other guy,” who cares! You both have crap on you! No one’s clean! And instead of finding a solution to get clean, we now have two people just arguing about who has more crap on them. That’s what our political system has become: two parties covered in crap, each claiming the other one is dirtier.
But this is not a liberal or conservative issue. Sexual assault isn’t a game. It’s not a scoreboard where one side loses and the other wins; we all lose. These accusations are from people who have been brave enough to come forward, but Congress, the media, and the public have turned their stories into partisan talking points. We have effectively turned systemic oppression into a game of “Who oppresses whom more?” while people continue to be sexually assaulted by those entrusted with enforcing—nay, creating—the system.
So please—strip away the titles, the campaign, the names and rhetoric, and see this issue for what it is: men in power prey on others because they think their status allows them to, and this will continue if we treat these cases as a partisan debate.
As I write this, more cases are sure to come out, as are more fingers pointing blame. So when we take away the power of men accused of sexual misconduct, we should also take away the power of those men pointing fingers at one side for political advantage. Because sexual harassment harms not one of us, but all of us, and it is everywhere. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can work together—and hopefully come to the agreement that no one accused of sexual misconduct should run for office to represent people who may have been sexually harassed.