Roy Moore. Al Franken. John Conyers. Bill Clinton. Harvey Weinstein. Bill O’Reilly. The list goes on. The past year has brought an onslaught of sexual harassment and assault allegations from Hollywood and Washington, D.C. It’s sad and telling that this is at least the second time this semester I’ve written about this topic, but it’s not going away anytime soon.
The “Access Hollywood” tapes featuring President Donald Trump and other allegations of misconduct gave the Democratic Party an opportunity to condemn the mistreatment of women. Similarly, the allegations against Moore are disgraceful. Instead of relishing this moment as giving them ammunition to attack the Republican Party in the upcoming elections, Democrats should consider the history of their own party and how they’ll deal with allegations of sexual harassment within their own ranks.
It’s dangerous to think Democrats are immune to sexual misconduct just because they support paid family leave, equal pay for women and pro-abortion policies. They still have to look inward and acknowledge their past, which includes Bill Clinton, former congressman Anthony Weiner and, more recently, Rep. Conyers. Although Hillary Clinton likes to claim her husband was punished by going through impeachment proceedings and giving up his legal license, this amounts to a simple slap on the wrist. Bill Clinton still had a career afterward — even if he was “dead broke” (to quote Hillary Clinton) from legal expenses — while Monica Lewinsky’s name is forever entrenched in scandal. Democrats cannot call for Moore to resign while maintaining Bill Clinton was appropriately punished.
With the latest sexual harassment and assault allegations, Democrats must confront their own history. Rape culture is pervasive, and Democrats are not exempt. Democrats must walk the walk rather than just pretend to be inclusive and open to women. Stop offering platitudes to women, and start thinking about how the Democratic Party treats them.
It’s not just about those who committed the harassment or assault. There were others who were complicit, including Joe Biden. He was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court and made Anita Hill face unfair questioning. Hill was not Thomas’s only accuser — there were others who were not called upon to testify.
Perhaps this culture of harassment of women is a function of having a government full of baby boomers, as David Von Drehle suggested in an article from The Washington Post. Some of the people who are being seriously considered as presidential candidates will be more than 70 years old and some even close to 80 during the next election. In any other industry, people this old would have retired, yet in government they stick around, meaning the norms of a different era are accepted.
Although some may say these events happened a long time ago or the allegations are not so bad, are we really so sorely lacking in leadership that we have to allow people like this to govern? There are plenty of people who have not harassed or assaulted anyone who would be worthy of government office. Supporting policies that are good for women does not give you a right to grope them. Instead of justifying Franken’s presence with what he’s done for women, it’s time for the Democratic Party to call for him to resign. It may be true many seats in Congress will be vacant if all those who have harassed or assaulted women are forced to resign, but so be it. Let’s fill those seats with people — from both sides of the aisle — who deserve to be there.
Nicole Dan is UF political science and journalism senior. Her column appears on Mondays.