A flurry of political figures have recently been accused of sexual assault — most notably President Donald Trump and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, as well as United State Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. While Democratic politicians have largely confronted the issue of sexual assault head-on, most Republican political leaders, through their inadequate responses, have failed us.
During the 2016 presidential election, more than a dozen women accused Trump of alleged sexual misconduct, including allegations of non-consensual kissing and groping. In a leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, Trump himself seemed to corroborate these allegations, saying that he “just starts kissing them … I don’t even wait … Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Trump never apologized, instead attacking his accusers as liars or paid operatives.
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Rather than call for his replacement or encourage him to bow out of the race, the overwhelming majority of Republican politicians continued to support Trump. In a stunning shirking of coveted conservative “family values,” Republican politicians willing advocated for a presidential candidate whose personal conduct was anything but ethical.
Why? In order to win a highly consequential presidential election. Simply put, most Republican politicians placed more value in pushing their agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy repealing and replacing Obamacare than on preventing an alleged sexual predator from ascending to America’s highest office.
In the recent case of Roy Moore, a similar pattern of Republican apathy exists. Moore, a former Alabama judge twice removed from the state’s bench, is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senator in Alabama’s upcoming special election. Moore has been accused of sexual abuse by multiple women, who have described in detail his lewd transgressions.
Instead of admitting any wrongdoing, Moore has instead argued he has no recollection of committing such acts and has resorted to suing his accusers and the newspapers which covered the credible allegations. While some national Republican leaders — recognizing the national outrage over this story — have taken a harsher stance against Moore than they did against Trump, most Republican legislators in Alabama still firmly support Moore. One Alabama county GOP chair said: “I would vote for Judge Moore […] I’m not saying I support what he did.”
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But yes, you are.
By offering your support to someone who has committed wrongdoing, you are complicit in normalizing and condoning the bad behavior. In the case of Moore, many Republicans have again displayed their ability to nonchalantly abandon their “family values” in pursuit of political gain.
How should sexual assault allegations be addressed? Democrat Senator Al Franken was recently accused by journalist Leann Tweeden of committing sexual misconduct while the two were on a comedy tour for the military. Rather than personally attack his accuser or sue newspapers for publishing the story, Franken acted as mature adults do: He offered a sincere apology for the incident, vowed to reflect on his behavior and even supported a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his actions.
While Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, conveniently, have shown no desire to investigate the numerous severe allegations against President Trump, they’ve shown significant interest in investigating Franken for this incident.
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In contrast to how prominent Republicans handled Trump’s allegations, prominent Democratic leaders such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, have criticized Franken’s actions and emphasized the importance of believing women’s accounts of sexual misconduct. Throughout both Moore and Trump’s allegations, Democrats called on these candidates to step aside and for investigations to be pursued.
The contrast between how most Republican politicians and Democratic politicians handled recent sexual assault allegations could not be clearer. In the past year, Republicans have placed party and power over country and even their own values while Democrats have demonstrated repeated commitment to what is right and what is just.
It’s about time America confronts sexual assault head-on from both sides of the aisle.
David Weinberg ([email protected]) is a sophomore deciding between political science, finance and journalism.