There’s an odd paradox going on in America right now regarding the handing of sexual misconduct accusations. On one hand, dozens of notable celebrities, television personalities and executives are losing their jobs.
Correspondingly, the #MeToo movement has not lost an ounce of steam. By virtue of this, it certainly gives the impression that all those who have exhibited a pervasive pattern of sexual misbehavior are being held accountable.
Except … when they run for elected office.
Yes, we have seen some prominent elected representatives pledge to resign in recent days: civil rights icon John Conyers and once 2020 presidential contender Al Franken, both Democrats, as well as Republican Trent Franks, who apparently asked a colleague if he could carry his and his wife’s child.
(There’s sexual harassment, and then there’s that)
But then you have Roy Moore.
All eyes are on the Alabama special election tonight, as Moore, the Republican candidate who has faced more than a dozen accusations of sexual misconduct – some of which involved minors – may very well win tonight. Polling leading up to the race showed a dead heat.
Moore was a highly unfit candidate well before the accusations. He has been suspended from the federal judiciary twice, and he’s showed deep bigotry for homosexuals.
His Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, appears qualified, with lengthy experience as a federal prosecutor.
The only problem is he’s running in a deep red state.
If Roy Moore wins, which is extremely possible, what does that say about us? If he’s popularly elected, does it mean that we, as a society, don’t seriously care about sexual misconduct? That this movement is a fleeting one that will one day be lost in the annals of history?
How can we honestly say that this is a meaningful issue, and then go ahead and elect a man who has a history of sexual predation?
Even if Roy Moore loses, he’s still going to receive hundreds of thousands of votes, no?
So how do we rationalize this?
Personally, I think it exposes the problems with the two-party system. A minority of the electorate in this country are down-the-line, issue-by-issue Democrats or Republicans. We’re all independent in our own way, but happen to lean left or right in certain respects.
But with parties becoming extremely polarized, we are seeing candidates run on platforms that are edging closer and closer to the farthest ends of the spectrum.
And with Democrats and Republicans being the only candidates that matter in political races, it gives us no choice but to support one or the other. And then it makes us rationalize. We tell ourselves, “OK, I don’t care for this candidate’s view on X and Y, but he or she supports so and so. So I’ll vote for them.”
And this is why, in the Alabama senate race, concerns about sexual misconduct became entangled with every other political issue. So, as outsiders, we simply can’t look at this vote as a referendum on Roy Moore’s character. It’s still politics, at the end of the day.
but that begs the next question: how far will we take it? How much are we willing to overlook to support a single issue that’s super important to us?
One specific race last November gave us one indication. In a post-Harvey Weinstein era, however, we’re about to get an even bigger indication.
If Roy Moore wins, it certainly doesn’t end the #MeToo movement that has sent waves across America. But it certainly won’t help it.
Have times truly changed? Or, like everything else, are we still experiencing a slow, steady march towards progress that will not happen overnight?
Alabama, the ball is in your court.