Just two weeks ago, it seemed that Americans were on the verge of a breakthrough: no longer would we tolerate sexual assault and sexual harassment. Now we’d stand up for the rights of women not to be vilely debased by predatorial men, no matter what their position.
Yeah, not so much.
In the past week, it’s become perfectly obvious that we’re willing to stand up against those with even a whiff of sexual misconduct following them . . . so long as there are no stakes. Take, for example, Greg Schiano. The Ohio State defensive coordinator was about to sign a contract with the University of Tennessee to take over their head coaching position. But the fans rebelled, thanks to years-old allegations — vague, unsubstantiated allegations — that Schiano had witnessed former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a child, and said nothing. That information came from an unsealed deposition from former assistant Mike McQueary, who said he hadn’t spoken with Schiano about those allegations or even heard the allegations from Sandusky, the child, or Schiano, but from another former assistant, Tom Bradly.
Schiano and Bradly both denied the allegations. Nonetheless, the fans demonstrated their ire, as did all of Tennessee’s major politicians. Schiano wasn’t hired.
Then there’s Congress.
We already know that Americans were willing to overlook sexual harassment and abuse allegations against presidential candidates — that’s how we got both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. But there was a burgeoning debate over whether Republicans had a moral obligation to let Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore twist in the wind after credible allegations of molestation of underage women. Many top Republicans disassociated from Moore. President Trump didn’t. The debate inside the GOP raged. The Democrats laughed from afar, pointed, and suggested that the supposed party of morality had no morals after all. They even went so far as to preliminarily toss Bill Clinton under the bus — after all, his desiccated political corpse is of no further use to them. Better to dump Clinton in order to nail Moore and the Republicans.
Then repeated allegations of sexual harassment hit Senator Al Franken (D-MN). And Democrats did nothing. Settlement information emerged showing that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) had paid out money to an accuser who said he sexually propositioned her, then punished her when she refused to accede to his requests. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended Conyers as an “icon” and suggested that she didn’t believe his accusers.
And so Republicans will point to Democrats and say that turnabout is fair play, that no standard ever obtained, and that a Senate seat is too important to lose over proprieties like opposing an alleged attempted child molester. And Democrats will point to Republicans and say that a Congressional seat is too important to . . . well . . . fill with another Democrat? At least Republicans can say that they’d lose a Senate seat if they were to stand against immorality, and that such a loss has consequences for policy. It’s a rotten argument, but it’s an argument. Democrats can’t even say that. Franken’s seat would be filled by a Democrat. So would Conyers’. But they’re not even going to throw over those two in favor of other Democrats.
And so what began as a crusade to rid our politics and our entertainment and our business of sexual targeting of women has now become retrenchment. Sure, Schiano won’t get a job at University of Tennessee. But a government that our founders thought would be filled with the best and brightest, elected and sifted, is now comprised of the worst elements of humanity. And people on both sides will fight tooth and nail to preserve things that way.