The last few months have seen an explosion of sexual assault allegations rock American culture and politics. Popular actors, veteran members of the media, and elite political figures have become taken down by claims that they have acted inappropriately. Victims are feeling empowered by each other to finally come forward and speak up.
We’re also seeing a more harmful trend in response to these allegations. Instead of everyone taking a firm stand against sexual assault, partisanship has now infected the conversation.
Harvey Weinstein is a big figure in American culture for numerous reasons, as is actor Kevin Spacey. Their names have helped make numerous movies what they are. Then with the voices of the once silent, their careers came crashing down.
This has happened in the media as well, with individuals like Charlie Rose being knocked from the top over allegations of inappropriate activity.
This is all horrific behavior and we would all be wise to stand up for the victims. Sexual assault should be denounced, investigated and if the statute of limitations hasn’t yet lapsed, prosecuted. In most instances, people generally agree here.
But when it comes to politicians, this has become a problem for many. There are prominent examples on both sides.
Democrats often point to last year’s leaked Access Hollywood footage of Donald Trump, which showed him speaking inappropriately about women. The response here was shamefully predictable. Republicans supporting Trump dismissed it and those opposing Trump denounced it.
The same scenario is applicable to Roy Moore, who has become a rallying point for social conservatives. Republicans not aligned with him are believers in the allegations, while those aligned are skeptics.
In both instances, Democrats are vocally in the opposition. But was the opposition to these people because of a genuine disapproval of these alleged acts, or just partisan politics as usual?
Recent examples include John Conyers, who has made a career out of Congress. In addition to sexually harassing women and clearly abusing his power, he used taxpayer dollars to silence the victims.
Another example is Al Franken, who has multiple accusers against him.
These four individuals all have one thing in common and that is their importance to their respective political parties. Republicans need a Republican in the White House to maintain control of the executive branch. Democrats can’t lose numbers as they fight to regain control of Congress.
This leads to some acts being denounced louder than others.
A recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that partisanship is affecting how we approach sexual misconduct in politics. While half of polled voters believe Franken should resign and a majority believe Moore should be expelled if he wins, the partisan divide is great.
In Franken’s case, 56% of Republicans believe he should resign and only 49% of Democrats agree.
In Moore’s case, 73% of Democrats believe he should be expelled if victorious while only 46% of Republicans agree.
With the President, 64% of Democrats believe the sexual assault allegations against him while only 37% of Republicans buy it.
The poll overall finds that almost half of voters believe sexual misconduct is a problem for the federal government and a third believe the same for state governments. But is a greater number of Americans only caring if it helps take down their political opponent? Are we looking the other way with our partisan allies in order to avoid losing political ground?
This only hurts the victims, who must risk becoming front and center in a partisan fight to fight for justice. Both parties and their supporters are guilty at this point of selective outrage and that’s inexcusable.