Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) resigned as Congress’s longest-serving member on Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers.
Conyers, who represented the Detroit area for 52 years, yielded to mounting pressure from Democratic leaders to step aside as a growing number of former female aides accused him of unwanted advances and mistreatment. He has denied wrongdoing.
One can criticize the unapologetic manner in which he left and the cheesy effort to install his son, but the important point is that the Democratic Party forced him out. After presumably working behind the scenes while calling him an “icon” publicly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) publicly called for him to step down.
The contrast with the GOP, which stood behind President Trump even after the “Access Hollywood” tape and now has thrown its full support behind an accused child molester, could not be greater — or more toxic — for the GOP. To be blunt, one party has adopted a zero-tolerance position (with Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, set to go before the ethics committee) and another party opens its arms to people it believes are miscreants.
A 2018 midterm campaign run on a choice between a party that welcomes alleged sexual abusers and one that doesn’t (“Stop the Abusers,” is catchy) is both a rallying cry for women and parents as well as a discrediting, demoralizing attack on the GOP.
Republicans retort that Trump (and perhaps Moore, a week from today) got the approval of voters and so the case is closed. Hogwash. Conyers and other lawmakers who are under the microscope (Franken and GOP Reps. Joe Barton and Blake Farenthold) do not get a pass on issues of morality or misconduct. If they did, Congress wouldn’t have ethics committees at all. (Granted, they are weak and often ineffective, but the principle exists that lawmakers don’t get carte blanche because voters put them there.)
There is nothing to prevent Congress — other than Republicans’ moral debasement — from considering allegations against the president as part of a sexual harassment policy initiative — and for holding him to account for smearing victims as liars. (One suspects more than one suit of this type will be filed.) If Democrats take the House, they certainly should examine the president’s conduct and treatment of alleged victims. After all, the validity of their complaints has never been tested in a legal, open setting.
Republicans, of course, cannot undertake any such inquiry, and very likely won’t move to expel Moore. But how exactly do they go into 2020 in a cultural atmosphere quite different from 2016 — with him as the head of the party? The Democrats will and should have a field day.
Sadly, no elected Republican seems all that concerned. Yet a new PRRI poll shows the public’s eyes have been opened. (“Seven in ten (70%) Americans say that recent stories about women being sexually harassed and assaulted in the workplace are part of a broader pattern of how women are often treated, while about one-quarter (24%) say that they are isolated incidents. . . . Across racial and ethnic groups there is agreement that recent stories about sexual harassment in the workplace are evidence of a broader societal problem. Nearly three-quarters of white Americans (73%) and roughly two-thirds of Hispanic (64%) and black (67%) Americans say they are part of a broader pattern.”) It will be interesting to see how Republicans tell voters that they have no interest even in exploring the allegations against the party’s likely 2020 nominee. “Stop the abusers!” sadly now has taken on a partisan meaning, because Democrats are cleaning house and Republicans are letting the wolves in the door.
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