by Henry Oliner
I remain fascinated with the impact sexual allegations are having on the balance of political power.
I believe this is a quantum change, but it raises more questions than answers for me. Perhaps this is typical of quantum changes and such cultural shifts.
Feminism rose as a major cultural shift 50 years a go with the works of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and other noted feminists.
Today as a result women make up more than half of the college graduates and roughly half of doctors, lawyers, and accountants. They are still underrepresented in science and math, but that is also improving. Why after 50 years of feminism are these litany of sexual abuses arising now?
Why does the left seem to be a bit over-represented in the recent allegations? Yes there is Roy Moore and there are allegations against Trump, but the biggest headlines on this belong to Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, John Conyers, and Matt Laurer, among others. The perpetrators are in the seats of political and media power.
This leads to the true motivation. This is about sexual abuse, but sex is just the instrument. The motivation is the ultimate aphrodisiac: power. These abusers on the left and the right indicate they can not be trusted with power. Their thrill is the use of power.
After the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings in Congress many women believed Anita and shortly after the Thomas confirmation a wave of women were elected to Congress. 1992 saw Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray and Carol Mosely Braun added to the Senate in an election covered as the year of the woman.
Yet when faced with sexual abuses of Bill Clinton, they chose power over character. They believed Anita Hill but trashed the several accusers of Bill Clinton. Clinton was disbarred for lying under oath in a sexual abuse trial, yet the attitude of the left was expressed strongly when writer Nina Burleigh stated, “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”
Sexual abuse was tolerated in the name of power.
Roy Moore lost in a Senate bid for Jeff Sessions seat. It is more noteworthy how close the race was than whether a Republican was defeated by a Democrat in super red Alabama. Many of the right detested Moore for several extreme comments he made, but the allegation of trying to seduce a 14 year probably sealed his fate. Many Republicans thought any Democrat was worse than a homophobic, prejudiced child molester.
This leaves two final concerns. We have seen substantial careers ruined without due process. It is not hard to visualize this process getting abused. If the accusations were true then the accused were wise to resign. In our media world accusations get far more coverage than acquittals.
Secondly we are struggling to find the line that is crossed which is now a large gray area. We may be in the discovery period of clarifying where the line it, but it is clear that Harvey Weinstein crossed it many times. Selma Hayek’s story in the New York Times is stunning. But even more stunning is how many associates from the board room on down enabled this monster.
It is tempting for those on the right to claim hypocrisy on the left, but they can be just as guilty of sacrificing character for power. This moral housecleaning may be a step toward applying the standards to Trump.
So far we have focused on upper level workers, but Arianna Huffinton noted on Bloomberg Radio that lower wage women workers are also subject to abuse , with far few options that those who grace the halls of power.
I am not sure where the accusation will lead. Will character re-emerge as a requirement for office? If an elected official abuses his power over his co-workers can he be trusted with the power over American citizens?
If they are truly serious the first step is the accounting for the cover-up fund our Congress uses to pay off sexual harassment charges for Congressmen. From The Hill:
According to the Washington Post, there were 235 complainants received compensation totaling $15.2 million between 1997 and 2014. That’s more than one settlement per month for 17 years and nearly $1 million per year. We, the taxpayers, have no idea on whose behalf we’ve been paying to settle these sexual harassment claims. That’s wrong.