In a 2011 Post-ABC poll, 47 percent of Americans said they felt that sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem. That number has now risen to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say men who sexually harass female coworkers usually get away with it.
This surely matches the near-universal outrage over Harvey Weinstein, whose alleged abuse, including alleged rape, of multiple women goes back decades. As with almost everything in the United States, however, the poll reflects a partisan breakdown. “While 79 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents say harassment is a serious problem — both rising over 20 points in the last six years — this number falls to 42 percent among Republicans, little changed over that same period.” (In 2011, 38 percent of Republicans said harassment was a very serious problem). The Post’s pollsters tell me that among all conservatives, 51 percent say harassment is a serious problem in the United States. Among those who identify as very conservative, it’s 45 percent. And among conservative Republicans, 37 percent say it is a serious problem.
Hmmm. All of this occurs in the first year of a president whose boasts about sexual assault were captured on video and who racked up a dozen or so accusers claiming he sexually harassed or abused them, not counting several former beauty pageant contestants (some of them minors) who accused him of bursting into their dressing rooms when they were naked or partially dressed. Trump has denied all allegations and said his “Access Hollywood” boasts were locker talk.
So how is it that 64 percent of Americans recognize sexually harassment is a serious issue and that the country nevertheless elected Trump?
Some Trump supporters would say that they didn’t believe any of the Trump accusers. That same skepticism apparently does not extend to Weinstein’s accusers, which suggests this might be a case of extreme confirmation bias. (I like Trump, therefore these women have to be lying.) Oddly, most if not all of the pro-Trump/anti-Weinstein crowd was entirely willing to believe Bill Clinton’s accusers. It’s almost as though we have a pattern: Right-wingers are just against liberals harassing women.
Another troubling conclusion is that Trump’s core supporters (very conservative voters and conservative Republicans) may not much care if women are harassed. Not even a bare majority of each of these groups thinks harassment is a serious problem. They might think women shouldn’t be in the workplace anyway. That’s not as improbable as one might think. The New Yorker reports:
At the White House, Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger. In 2004, Drollinger, whose organization, Capitol Ministries, specializes in proselytizing to elected officials, stirred protests from female legislators in California, where he was then preaching, after he wrote, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion,” calls homosexuality “a sin,” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.
Oh yes, you blue-state Americans, there are many Americans among the evangelical community, Trump’s strongest base of support, who buy that.
Alternatively, many of the very conservative and conservative Republicans may think that harassment reports in the hated mainstream media are untrue or exaggerated. And yet, they are filled with outrage over Weinstein’s and Clinton’s alleged conduct.
It’s hard to escape the possibility that Trump’s most devoted supporters aren’t very sympathetic toward harassment victims and tend not to give credence to them — unless they are attacking a liberal. If you think that level of hypocrisy is unimaginable, consider Pence and his wife’s handling of the “Access Hollywood” tape:
When the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, revealing Trump’s boast about grabbing women “by the [p–––y],” Karen Pence was horrified. According to a former campaign aide, Pence refused to take Trump’s calls and sent him a letter saying that he and Karen, as Christians, were deeply offended by his actions and needed to make an “assessment” about whether to remain with the campaign. They urged Trump to pray. When Trump and Pence finally did talk, Pence told him that his wife still had “huge problems” with his behavior. But in public Pence was forgiving, saying, “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.”
You see they were offended, but not too offended to remain on the ticket and continue to vouch for a candidate whose grotesque behavior and language were unrivaled in modern American history. They — and their followers — were not going to let a whole lot of misogyny get in the way of political ambition.
Listen, if those who proclaim their own virtue will applaud Stephen K. Bannon, cheer Trump’s hateful comments about Mexicans and defend any lie he tells, it’s not a stretch to imagine that they don’t give a darn about victimized women, unless it suits their political objectives.