Democrats and Women: Making the Same Mistake

Yet, the Democratic party—which claims to be firmly opposed to sexual assault—has had a totally underwhelming response.

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But Democrats are failing to see the obvious—sexual assault is still sexual assault.

Upwards of 40 actresses have come forth to condemn acclaimed film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault in the last couple of months. Inspired by the willingness of these A-listers to speak out, dozens of women have been stepping forward as victims, accusing famous men such as Louis C.K., Dustin Hoffman, and many more of sexual assault and harassment. Yet, the Democratic party—which claims to be firmly opposed to sexual assault—has had a totally underwhelming response.

The infamous “Weinstein scandal” is hardly the first time Democrats have disappointed in the face of outrage in America. Preventing sexual harassment continues to be a cause championed by politicians since the Clinton era, when former president Bill Clinton had an infamous affair with an office intern, Monica Lewinsky. Democrats such as Bill de Blasio and Kirsten Gillibrand claim that if the same scandal had occurred today, Clinton would be forced to resign.

But it’s much easier to make these statements about an ex-president whose governing days are well in the past than about a politician who can sway the future of the Democratic party. A new wave of allegations have surfaced in the past several weeks blaming Senator Al Franken for the inappropriate groping of four women. Franken has done little to deny the accusations, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune “I don’t remember these photographs, I don’t. This is not something I would intentionally do.”

To be sure, Republicans aren’t in the clear either. Senatorial candidate Roy Moore has been similarly plagued by accusations just before a crucial election. The 70-year-old Alabama native continues to deny any sexual misconduct as growing numbers of women are coming forth to condemn him for past behaviors, such as forcibly groping and kissing minors.

The important distinction here lies with the reaction: immediately after the first stone was thrown in Moore’s direction, Democrats came out of the woodwork to demand he step aside from the race. Even Republicans ( Ted Cruz, John McCain, Paul Ryan) immediately called for Moore to give up his chance at the seat, chastising everything from Moore’s actions to his character to his ethics.

Al Franken, however, has been granted immunity to criticism from Democrats because of his politics, revealing the hypocrisy in their movement. Of course, he’s gotten the customary slap on the wrist from his party, and a small influx of criticisms, but nowhere near the extent of the backlash Moore’s received. Even though Moore was the same man who, ironically, gained fame after his refusal to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a government building, his alleged convictions should remain separate from his actions.

Yet, even Franken’s fellow party members remained relatively silent, and the female cast from his time on SNL went so far as to defend Franken in an open letter. A recent article by the Washington Post, titled “I’m a Feminist. I Study Rape Culture. And I Don’t Want Al Franken to Resign,” even claims, “Sexual harassment and assault are simply too widespread for Democrats to respond to Franken’s offense with only Franken in mind.” Franken—because of his earlier advocacy for sexual assault victims—is essentially being given a free pass by Democrats. Excuses ranging from his viability as a candidate to comparatively less egregious behavior in comparison to Moore’s all diminish the fault in Franken’s actions. They feed off his prior status as an “ally” of women to pardon the hypocrisy of his own past.

And though Franken recently resigned, he walked away from the Senate while commenting on the “irony” of his situation, saying, “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office...” The Senator, who built his career on pointing out moral depravity in the Republican party, refuses to acknowledge it within himself. Franken’s departure in disgrace was followed by retorts toward his accusers and claims of “unfairness.” Actions truly speak louder than words, and Franken’s commentary drowned out any attempts (or lack thereof) to right his past.

Yet Democrats continue making such sizable mistakes. About two decades after Clinton’s scandal, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, ran for president. The crux of her campaign was progressing women’s rights, yet her behavior suggested an opposite intent.

After her husband fell under heavy scrutiny, Hillary viciously attacked all the women who accused him of harassment, even calling Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon” and deeming all similar accusations as completely fabricated. In Clinton’s earlier days as a lawyer, she helped acquit a child rapist while fully believing he was guilty, as later revealed when she laughed about the case in a taped interview.

Even recently, Hillary accepted donations from countries such as Saudi Arabia (which alone gave upward of $25 million) that commit glaring human rights abuses against women. Yet the Democratic party has remained silent throughout all of these transgressions, with many politicians proudly having backed Hillary as a candidate and as a human being. As long as her morals shone bright in the ballot box, and there was a prospect of an establishment Democrat holding office, there seemed little incentive for further investigation.

Democrats are failing to see the obvious: sexual assault is still sexual assault. And if they want to set a proper precedent, they must denounce all men convicted of it and all people who continue to defend it, despite political beliefs. They must address the threat of “false allegations,” allowing for their investigation and certainly for lawmakers to make their case. But if they hold validity—which, more often than not, these allegations do—it’s high time for Democrats to stop defending accused men because of their political standing.

If Democrats want to maintain the trust of voters, then they need to stop this perpetual cycle of suppression within their own party. Politicians are too frightened to set a precedent, but as soon as “supporting women’s rights” is more than just a mantra, they can finally start uniting the American people.