We’ve learned a lot of grotesque things in recent weeks. Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken will do anything to get a laugh, including humiliating women. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is a serial pedophile predator who should have been prosecuted before the statute of limitations ran out. Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen and Senator Tony Cornish continually go way over the flirt-harassment line, and it’s not close. President Donald Trump has admitted on videotape to sexually assaulting women, and at least 16 women have gone on the record to assure us that what the President told Billy Bush is true.
So enough with the political noise. Enough “if the allegations are true” games. Enough “what about others in the other party?” What these men did was unacceptable.
I obviously can’t control the outcomes of these controversies. But if I could, this is what I would wish for all of them: None of them would resign under pressure from party leaders. All of them would be voted out.
Clearly, if they do resign before their next election, that’s better than them retaining their power. But if I could wave a magic wand, I don’t want the final chapter on these men’s history to be “resigned under pressure from party leaders.” I want it to be “rejected by the voters.”
Here is why: If it’s the former, there will be many Americans who blame the spineless, “politically correct” party elites who forced the resignation. If it’s the latter, it will be much more clear that the community-at-large rejects sexual harassment and assault. That’s what we need to stigmatize this behavior and make it less prevalent.
I understand why party leaders call for these men to resign. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they’re showing that they take the issue seriously. To look at it more cynically, they need to replace their damaged political goods with a more electable candidate so they can retain power for themselves. Whatever their motivation, I’m glad they’re doing it, because it helps to spotlight and denormalize the behavior.
But I don’t want party elites to end these political careers. I want the larger “us” to do that. We’re a democracy. Voters need to step up and do our job. We need to overcome our tribal instincts and vote these guys out. We should replace them with more women. We should send a clear signal to political leaders that creepiness and criminality are electorally toxic, so parties will start nominating better people.
Like a lot of men, I’m not all that comfortable speaking out on this topic. Men who are self-aware and honest know that we’re all part of the sickness we’re reading about on the front pages.
Though we continually assure ourselves that we’re “way better than most,” we also know we’re far from perfect. Maybe we’ve told a joke that we understand in retrospect made women uncomfortable. Maybe we’ve confused objectification with flattery. Maybe we haven’t always controlled our eyeballs. Maybe in the exclusive company of men, we didn’t have the courage to speak out about comments that embolden harassers. Maybe we haven’t called out peers who went over the line in our presence.
So I’m not coming at this from a holier than thou perspective. We all need to improve. We all need to own this and fix this. Seeing the community at large — masses of fed up voters — reject this behavior will do more to hasten the improvement process than seeing them forced out by a handful of party elites scrambling to cover their asses.