In the wake of the #MeToo movement, conservatives have accused the left of being hypocritical in their criticism of their enemies versus their allies. Liberals have been on a mission to name, shame, and in ideal cases prosecute men who have sexually assaulted women. When it was Al Franken who was accused of lewd conduct, however, some on the left weren’t so eager to jump to conclusions.
Liberals were right in defending Franken against false equivalencies. At the time, prominent conservative figures like Charlie Kirk were actually making the argument that if Democrats were going to call out Roy Moore they must do the same with Franken. To even suggest that the two are in any way comparable is an affront to women who go through real sexual assault. Nonetheless, those who noted that Democrats would be outraged if the shoe were on the other foot were also poignant. If a picture came out of a prominent Republican Senator with his hands mockingly on the breasts of a sleeping woman, that individual would have face a nonstop torrent of pressure to step down.
To the credit of the Democratic party, namely Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken did resign from the Senate under pressure from his peers and did so relatively quickly. That has been the reality of the political installment of #MeToo. Democrats have forced their accused out of public life while Republicans have either refused to do so, done so only when it was politically advantageous, or denounced the abuser but let them stick around. Such was the case with Eric Greitens and Blake Farenthold, who only stepped down for egregious sexual behavior and blackmail after months of staying in office. On this specific issue, it’s unmistakable that Democrats have been the party of accountability.
Except when it comes to Bill Clinton.
Statute of limitations is a legal term that describes a period of time after which a crime is no longer prosecutable. There is no statute of limitations for civil and social consequences, however. You might not know that if you listen to prominent Democrats discuss Bill Clinton. Clinton treated women horrendously. We all remember Monica Lewinsky and the blue dress, but at least that relationship was consensual. Not so for Juanita Broaddrick, who credibly alleged that the former President raped her in 1978. All the while Hillary Clinton publicly smeared both Lewinsky and Broaddrick, accusing them of being attention craving liars. This is explicitly the kind of behavior that #MeToo was designed to fight against. And yet, important Democrats in Congress and TV punditry excuse the behavior of the Clinton’s. This is usually done in two ways, both of which turn off nonpartisans and lend credence to generally incorrect assertion from Republicans that Democrats are hypocrites on the issue.
The first is to say that these things happened a long time ago and there’s no point in litigating them all over again. Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation is 40 years old, and the Monica Lewinsky affair happened in 1996. This was before the #MeToo movement and was a totally different time that shouldn’t be compared to today.
The second argument is to equivocate. Yes, Bill Clinton did bad things in the past but Donald Trump has assaulted women in ways that are just as bad, or worse, depending on if you believe Juanita Broaddrick. He gets to be the President of the United States and isn’t forced to step away from public life for his egregious behavior. Thus, why should Bill Clinton be deplatformed?
If you care about the issue of sexual harassment and assault, and polls show a solid majority of Americans do, the Bill Clinton issue has to make you question the sincerity of Democrats. In all other notable cases, Democrats have stuck to principals. They kicked Franken out and returned Weinstein’s money. For voters who at least partly factor the issue into their decision making ballot box, this counts for major points as it shows stark contrast to a Republican Party who has been objectively awful on the issue (Roy Moore, anyone?). Yet when they see the exact same Democrats genuinely fighting for a cause turn around and defend Bill Clinton because it happened a long time ago or Mr. Trump is bad too, all the goodwill is reversed. Al Franken was high up in the Democratic Party, but Mr. Clinton is undoubtedly the most important figure to be accused.
Democrats should show unity in calling out Bill Clinton’s atrocious behavior publicly. Obviously he is a private citizen and can’t be barred from making public appearances, but Democrats running for Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020 should keep him off the campaign trail. Bill Clinton’s behavior represents the very essence of #MeToo. This is especially true if we think woman are to be believed when they make credible allegations, as is the case with Juanita Broaddrick. In addition, the behavior of Hillary Clinton is the very shaming and character assassination that keeps women afraid of coming forward.
If Democrats are going to be the party of women and against exploitation by powerful men, it’s time for them to stop defending the Clintons.