If there’s one thing the current rash of sexual harassment/assault allegations against public figures has revealed it’s that there is an accountability gap. On one hand we have people like Weinstein, Spacey, Lauer, Rose and the numerous lesser entertainment and business officials. They’ve all pretty much lost their jobs.
Then we have the politicians: Trump, Conyers, Moore and Franken. They’re all still in their jobs or favored to win the position for which they’re running. Why is that?
I believe the bottom line is that the first group all have clearly defined accountability–people who are directly responsible for the accused’s employment. These people have the power to investigate and to make the call on whether these people should remain employed. They decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the accused.
The latter group also have accountability, at least in theory. The trouble is “the voters” is rather vague. In two of those cases these people were in the process of running for office when allegations materialized. Despite the outrage there is no one but them who can decide to not run. Short of a recall election there is no way to force those already in office out, and I’m not certain that allegations alone can force that. It may require actual criminal charges. Has any of the accusers gone that far?
In the case of Franken, last I heard a poll of his actual constituents believe he should resign. He’s not resigning. In short, he–and the rest of them–are attempting the usual Potomac Two-Step we’ve come to expect from our political class: ignore the problem and rely on the public’s short-term memory to turn elsewhere. And I suspect it will work. They don’t really see themselves as working for their constituents. They don’t really even answer to their party. They answer only to themselves.
Part of the problem is partisanship. Both sides of the aisle will claim to abhor sexual harassment/assault and feel it an offense worthy of losing office. But the depth of that abhorrence varies dramatically depending on whether the politician in question is on the other side or one of their own. More important than discouraging bad behavior is retaining power. They’ll decry and wring their hands, but they won’t actually do anything when its one of their own.
Elections have consequences, but only if voters remember and set aside partisanship.