As the torrent of charges that various entertainers, media personalities, and politicians groped, raped, or otherwise harassed and tormented women continues, we’re beginning to see a possible sea change in how the accusations are being discussed, at least in the political arena. There may be a growing bipartisan consensus that the accusers may actually be believable. What this consensus means, and whether it’s good or bad, are debatable.
Until recently, each party did its best to discredit those who accused its members of wrongdoing. Hillary Clinton said White House intern Monica Lewinsky was a “looney toons,” and did her best to help destroy the reputations of other women who charged Clinton with wrongdoing as well. And Donald Trump, while bragging of his ability to grope whomever he wants, has unequivocally called every woman who’s accused him of groping or otherwise harassing her a liar, and in some instances simply too ugly to attract his interest anyway.
But now politicians and journalists are beginning to change their tune, at least a little. Roy Moore continues to deny that he ever sought relationships with teenaged girls, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he believes Moore’s accusers, and not Moore himself. And liberal journalists are beginning to wonder whether the Democrats were right to defend Clinton against charges that he had an affair with Gennifer Flowers, exposed himself to Paula Jones, molested Kathleen Willey, and raped Juanita Brodderick.
Of course, one has to question the motives of those now who profess a change of heart. Whether Roy Moore wins or loses his race for the Senate, he will do incalculable damage to the GOP. Should he win, his Islamophobia, his homophobia, and his lack of respect for the rule of law will make him a major embarrassment to the Republicans. And should he lose to his Democratic opponent, the Republicans’ already slender majority will become wafer thin, and the Democrats’ chances of winning the majority in next year’s elections will be that much stronger. No wonder Mitch McConnell wants Moore out of the Senate race, to be replaced by a more normal Republican candidate who would have a better chance of holding the seat for the GOP in Alabama.
Also suspect are the motives behind the growing condemnation of the Clintons. Perhaps Democratic activists are beginning to see Bill and Hillary as a couple of albatrosses around their necks who need to be cut loose if the Democrats are to evolve into a party better able to cope with the issues of the twenty-first century. Perhaps today’s Democrats want to make themselves more credible critics of Donald Trump’s alleged depredations and believe they can best do so by acknowledging, rather than defending, the sins of which the Clintons have long been confused. No Democrat wants to be asked how he can attack Donald Trump while defending Bill Clinton (although no doubt Democrats will ask how Republicans can defend Roy Moore and Donald Trump while attacking the Clintons and Al Franken).
But perhaps both Democrats and Republicans alike are developing a stronger sense of decency, a stronger rejection of the idea that women can be treated like garbage with impunity, and a stronger belief that to permit the degradation of women who, no less than men, have been made in God’s image, is evil, immoral, and just plain wrong. Democrats cannot claim to be the women’s rights party while ignoring evidence of the Clintons’ alleged wrongdoing. And neither the Republicans nor their conservative Christian base can grow their credibility if they ignore the accusations of women who are, by definition and no less so than men, made in God’s image. The desire for both a clear conscience and more credibility can be a powerful motivator for reform.
Of course, one must never overlook the possibility that some accusations, regardless of who makes them against whom, may be overblown or just plain false. Everyone must understand that with greater freedom to accuse comes greater responsibility to be truthful. To dismiss out of hand the validity of accusations against the powerful is wrong. But so too is to accept an accusation as truth. Each accusation must stand, or fall, on its own merits. Only then can become closer to having “justice for all.” But that’s another column.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.