Updated: Mar 15
When it comes to sexual harassment, Republicans and Democrats hold their representatives to very different standards. One side takes the issue seriously and demands accountability, while the other sticks with the “boys will be boys” standard that has been used to excuse such behavior in the past. It continues to be used to defend inappropriate behavior, while holding the opposition party to a much higher set of rules.
The current situation involving N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a case in point.
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Sexual harassment is a serious issue, and one that has been ignored for a long time. For centuries, women have had to endure unsolicited comments on their appearance, catcalls from leering males, and “victim shaming” as unscrupulous lawyers sought to use what a woman was wearing or her sexual history as a means of defending their guilty clients.
Then came the “Me Too” movement. Women, who have been largely ignored when making accusations of sexual harassment were suddenly demanding to be heard.
While this isn’t the first time women made inroads into calling out those who verbally abused them, it is one that is currently demanding that people take notice, and those who used their positions of power to gain sexual favors held accountable.
Except there is a definite double standard when it comes to holding members of a political party to the same set of norms. For Democrats, there is a demand that the accused harasser be held accountable, as in the case with Cuomo, with removal from office all but a certainty, even before he is faced with legal consequences.
Members of the Republican Party are measured differently. The accusations are largely ignored as fellow members excuse, confuse and obfuscate to blur the alleged harassment and cast the accuser in a harsh light.
This is being played out in real time as both Donald Trump and Cuomo are being accused by multiple women of some degree of sexual impropriety. The number of Cuomo accusers grows by the day, while at least 26 women have accused Trump of various degrees of sexual misconduct. And while there is a growing call for Cuomo to resign, Trump is viewed as the Republican front runner in a 2024 bid to re-take the White House.
Both political parties have a history of sexual harassment accusations.
Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, both Republican nominees, were accused of various improper actions during their confirmation hearings. Former President Bill Clinton was accused of improprieties by four different women, while Minnesota Senator Al Franken was accused by eight different women. Thomas and Kavanaugh went on to be confirmed to their lifetime posts as Supreme Court Justices, Clinton overcame the allegations to win re-election, but Franken was forced to resign after his party abandoned him following the accusations.
Yet, it is the current situation that is drawing so much attention. Trump’s re-election hopes were as much an effort to remain in power as they were a ploy to avoid legal consequences as he hoped to outlast the statute of limitations on the sexual abuse allegations. Despite a judge’s ruling, Trump has yet to be deposed on any of these accusations, citing protections afforded to a sitting president, even though Bill Clinton sat for a deposition while he was president in answer to one of his accusers.
In defending his own actions, Cuomo is taking a page or two out of the Republican playbook. Despite multiple calls for his resignation, Cuomo is making claims similar to those Republicans made in defending their vote not to convict following Trump’s first impeachment trial. He is asserting that only the voters can remove him from office. He is also claiming the calls for his resignation are the result of “cancel culture”, which also has been a recent refrain of Republicans trying to distract from any other issue.
Trump, on the other hand, has openly admitted to sexual abuse in the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. He was also accused of raping his first wife, Ivana and a talk show host. Trump also had a questionable friendship with the late convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, although they had a falling out when Epstein was banned from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club after hitting on the teenage daughter of another member. Alleged payoffs to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal lend further credence to the sexual harassment charges Trump is facing.
In the past, Trump has paid off his accusers and forced them to sign non-disclosure agreements to gain their silence. Currently, there are legal challenges to the enforceability of these NDAs, which could free many to testify against him. Trump’s current financial woes will probably prevent him from trying this in the future should other accusers come forth.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue that has been ignored for far too long. Men in power have been allowed to get away with it by virtue of holding all the cards. Recent efforts to hold these powerful males accountable have been decidedly one-sided when it comes to political parties.
For Democrats, it’s hold them accountable, while Republicans still practice a system of denial and victim blaming.
There needs to be an equal system of accountability if these serial abusers are ever to be stopped.