Do you remember President Donald Trump’s “both sides” comment? If ever there was a time to be indiscriminate with criticism of liberals like Sen. Al Franken and Harvey Weinstein and conservatives like Bill O’Reilly and Roy Moore, this would be it.
Instead of acknowledging that sexual misconduct is an issue on both sides of the political system, Trump has taken this sad opportunity in the country’s soft reckoning with the patriarchy to engage in some of the least opaque versions of partisan hypocrisy we have seen in recent memory.
Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and current Republican Senate candidate, presents an odd case of moral complexity for the GOP. As more allegations of Moore’s inappropriate behavior with teenagers arise, the GOP and the president must find a way within the full view of the public to fill the Senate seat with a Republican who is not so closely associated with such accusations.
Amid the groundswell of accusations of sexual abuse against public figures, actors, politicians and Trump in recent weeks, many articles have surfaced outlining various plans that the GOP might follow to avoid the obvious moral implications of allowing a man who has allegedly sexually abused several young women into the Senate.
The president’s record with sexual misconduct is hardly unworthy of scrutiny. During the 2017 election cycle, tapes came forward of him saying that, due to his power and position, he could simply approach the women who participate in his beauty pageants and grab them.
Trump’s lack of condemnation on the Moore case begins to make sense when we consider his own record. Why would he criticize anyone on this issue? Leadership that has already been sullied by indiscretion with so many special parties, with so many women, is unfit to speak on the issue effectively.
The president actually defended Moore while criticizing Franken. But the president has not been able to speak out effectively on this topic because of his own history with allegations of sexual misconduct.
Democrats, too, must reckon with their past of tribalism amid allegations of misconduct from popular figures within their own party.
Franken was on Saturday Night Live. He is a comedian and a Democratic politician. When liberals see him on TV, he seems like a trustworthy guy. As a figure of the left, he meant a lot to people. Franken was more than a figure. He was a personality, and that is why people thought they could trust him.
Both Democrats and Republicans must now deal with this nonpartisan issue in a nonpartisan way. The question is whether they actually will.
For so many young Americans, perhaps those of us who have only lived long enough to vote in one presidential election, these allegations against Moore have brought to light previously hidden allegations of sexual misconduct against another liberal figure: former President Bill Clinton.
When Clinton was running for president, more than one woman came forward and accused him of either sexual assault or sexual harassment. Young voters might not remember or even be aware of this, and that is largely because the Democratic leadership did not call for Clinton’s resignation and instead attacked his female accusers.
In researching the allegations, you will find plenty of writers and articles expressing the same sentiment: The Clinton allegations were mishandled. Some have even said that Clinton should have resigned once they came to light.
That seems to be the enduring conflict in cases like this. We want elected officials to represent our values along party lines, but do we want that so badly that we are willing to ignore their failings?
I want to talk about tribalism. If Democrats scrutinize the Republican leadership for how they have handled Moore as they should, then Democrats also have to deal with the way they handled Clinton’s misconduct.
This should be a learning moment for the U.S., in which we all rethink and reorganize the way that sexual assault and harassment cases are handled. It should be said that we are being led into this moment by the brave women who have spoken out about inappropriate sexual behavior, especially when they are perpetrated by men of power.
But we should never forget that these women took on the responsibility and the burden of reporting these instances knowing that we do not have a generous history of supporting victims of assault.
On both sides, we have done a poor job of speaking out and saying that our cultural stance on this issue is bowlegged — giving too much power to offenders and undercutting the lives of the accusers.
If we demand that Republican leaders condemn Moore’s behavior and state that the integrity of holding public office ultimately supersedes party loyalty, then Democrats cannot escape a retroactive summation with Clinton.
Assistant opinion editor Mia Valdez is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at [email protected].