Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reflections on the Sexual Harassment and Rape Revelations

[I have returned this article to its original form, moving all updates to the top, and clarified some of the language.]

[It now appears that Leann Tweeden's claims as to the provenance of the image are false and that this was a long-prepared ambush. A summary may be found at https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/931413204504334336. I have downloaded the image file from http://www.kabc.com/2017/11/16/leeann-tweeden-on-senator-al-franken/ and confirmed that most of the photographs (I cannot read it all) metadata is as @DipswitchDan says.]

[Since I wrote this, a three more accusers of Franken have come forth; two are anonymous. As with the first accuser, Franken's alleged behavior pales beside what Trump and Moore have done.]

The last Presidential election left a lot of women terribly angry. Not only did Hillary Clinton, the first major-party woman candidate, lose, she lost to the blatant sexist jerk and  quite possibly rapist Donald Trump.

I think this fed into the willingness of women to speak up in the recent rape and harassment revelations. Harvey Weinstein, a major Hollywood producer, was outed as, allegedly, a compulsive rapist. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is alleged to have a taste for teenage girls. In one instance he is alleged to have made a blatant pass at a 14-year old; in another instance, assault is alleged. Comedian Louis CK is alleged to be a exhibitionist. Democratic senator and former comedian Al Franken is accused of having crossed lines with a fellow USO performer many years ago; there are so far no other allegations.

Meantime, we have Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand saying that William Clinton should have resigned, and never mind the chaos this would have the Democrats into, and all the attacks on Senator Bernard Sanders as sexist, which pre-date the 2016 election.

Some of these things are not like the others. The multiple women who accuse Trump, Weinstein, Moore, and Louis CK have much to lose and little to gain in speaking out. The accusations against William Clinton came from people supported by a long-standing conspiracy: they were offered much money and some were threatened as well. Al Franken has only one accuser and is a reliable political ally of feminists. Senator Bernard Sanders has also been a reliable political ally of feminists (say feminist organizations as reported by Vote Smart) and there are no accusations against him at all. Yet we have people claiming that Sen. Franken ought to resign and that, retroactively, William Clinton ought to have resigned. Although Clinton was accused of sexual impropriety, I don’t think the single rape accusation stands up. And sexual impropriety between consenting adults isn’t a crime.

Only Franken has admitted to the allegations and apologized. No other accusers have come forward and 13 of his former staffers, women, have come out in his support. Apparently Franken, at least, has cleaned up his act.

The allegations against Franken are far weaker, and the alleged misconduct far less, than those against Trump, Weinstein, Moore, and Louis CK. William Clinton clearly did have sexual intercourse with Monica Lewinsky when he had enormous authority over her, which is dubious conduct at best, but he does not seem to have coerced her; she seduced him. The claims of rape on Clinton's part dissolved on close examination; no-one can tell if they were true or not. Personally, I don't believe he was a rapist: I do not believe that Hillary Clinton would have stuck with him if he was. Al Franken's first accuser is his political enemy, a Fox News sportscaster, a frequent visitor to Sean Hannity's right-wing political show, and she seems to be shying away from testimony under oath. Franken, unique among all these men, has acknowledged his conduct,, apologized, and offered to participate in an ethics committee investigation.

I am left thinking that if we pressure all the officials with consciences who have done wrong out, we will be left with only the conscienceless. And to all the angry women who want Franken to resign: who would you rather have in the Senate: Al Franken or some Minnesota version of Roy Moore or Joni Ernst? Do you believe that a hearing of Franken in the current Senate would be anything but an attempt to rerun the Clinton impeachment hearings?

Not a very happy conclusion, no.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Democratic Party's internal coalition has finally exploded, and what comes after?

I wrote about it in 2010: "It appears that the Democratic Party has for a long time, existed as a coalition between liberal and conservative wings (or, if you like, progressive and corporatist wings.)"

And now, finally, the whole thing has blown apart. It could hardly have come at a worse time.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The DNC revelations, Bernard Sanders, and the American messianic impulse

Oh why, why did this have to have gone this way?

To me, what this shows starkly is how much the big money has dominated the Democratic Party and the big money is out of touch with the people. Neither party was listening to the people, which left the field open to demagogues.

Which leads me to a very hard question: is Bernard Sanders a demagogue? No question about Trump. But what about about Sanders? His rise was made possible by the unresponsiveness of both parties to the needs and will of the people. He believes in what he says and he says some pretty good things. But his most ardent followers don't seem to listen when he tells them they have to be their own revolution. They want a messiah and they will have their messiah, even over their messiah's objections. So perhaps he has been made into a demagogue against his will. I am reminded of Frank Herbert's Paul Atreides, who became the unwilling leader of a jihad.

How did the world's first modern democracy come to this pass? And what do we do about if, indeed, there is anything to be done? It seems that, somehow, the concept of civic responsibility has withered, or perhaps it never grew as the Framers hoped. This is a big and difficult question, suited to a historian of the stature of de Tocqueville or a philosopher of the stature of Karl Polanyi. It demands a major research project, well beyond the scope of anything this cynical old bird has undertaken. But it is terribly important that we do address these questions, or the future will be grim.

As to the Democratic Party: oh, how could you? And even so, even if you are a rickety fortress, you are the fortress of American democracy. To everyone who is not a fascist, and to anyone who is starting to suspect that fascism is not the answer: join up and let's get to building.