Sexual Harassment, Congress and Other Institutions


Analysis by Reporting San Diego

Nov 29, 2017 (San Diego) The names continue to pile. This morning we woke to the news that Matt Lauer of the Today Show was fired. Why? Sexual harassment, which NBC found credible. Then there is Garrison Keillor at Minnesota Public Radio. We also now the Black Caucus is working to get Congressman John Conyers to step down from Congress. Why? Now multiple claims of harassment. Democrats know they are losing their moral high ground vis a vis Republicans. The problem is how both parties treated this.

What we are seeing is a cultural shift. We have spoken of this in the past.

This is partly a situation of older, powerful men who got away with these situations for decades. None could have predicted the fall of powerful men in almost a cascade fashion. They did things that might not have been openly acceptable. However, nor would believe those on the receiving end.

However, media giants are falling. Congress has yet to take concrete action even approaching what we are seeing in media. There is title tolerance in media, which is somewhat new. Media tends to be at the forefront of cultural norms. In part, they report on them and do create them.

The private sector moving in haste should not surprise anybody. These scandals will take away from a brand and profit. The potential of a lawsuit over a wrongful termination is better than the reality of a tarnished brand. Of course, partisans are seeing this through that particular lens and seeing a pattern. Some have gone so far as to call this a purge and a warning to a very ineffectual coastal, liberal elite.

When most of the most influential voices in media trend towards what passes for the left in this country, yes, many will be progressive voices who have otherwise led good lives. This is why you see what looks like revenge or conspiracy. In modern day America, this kind of thinking is pervasive. The entrance to the rabbit hole complex is everywhere. Nor is this limited to the Breitbarts and Alex Jones of the world.

But what about government? This is not the first time Congress faces this issue. See Bob Packwood, who stepped down under a flurry of allegations. Congress, like the rest of the country, would like this to go away. The systems in place to nominally deal with it are meant for the issue to go away in a flurry of gavels and procedure.

Congress though is putting in place mandatory sexual harassment training. This is a good start. These standard exist across the private sector and many state and local governments. We also know that there is an unnamed Republican who has engaged in the practice, but the women who brought these charges forth, one Democrat and one Republican, have not named names.

So Congress is acting at a measured pace, befitting government.

Then there is the White House. We know President Donald Trump was caught on tape, and now he denies that tape even exits. If he were still a member of the media, and part of The Apprentice, you can bet he would have lost his job. Why? The private sector is acting with due haste. He is in the ultimate position of power where we seem unable to act.

His example is bad for multiple reasons. This includes the military and the other two branches of government. The same people who say that there is a purge, also accuse others of ignoring the Access Hollywood tape. Never mind that tape has barely left the news.

Congress would do well to censure the current president, as well as make sure their own members are properly disciplined. or counseled to step down. It is not as if Congress has a good reputation to defend. Right now Congress has a popularity of 13.2 percent. That is one of the lowest points in the history of polling. However, not doing a thing will only hurt them even more.

When tipping points come, unexpected things do happen. Trump could indeed be censured. But if you are expecting impeachment followed by conviction in the Senate, that will not happen. At least not yet. Clinton was impeached, but not convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury. There was no supermajority in the Senate to remove him from office. Democrats will not get enough people to do it in 2018. Republicans so far, don’t seem inclined either.

This shows just how out of kilter the public sector is in holding its own accountable. The private sector is faster because it is in their interest to do so. Ultimately it is in the interest of the government to do such as well. The only thing worse than a bad government is one that is perceived as less than legitimate, and one where there is zero trust in.

And if you were wondering if this is just Washington. In San Diego, a Sheriffs deputy is under investigation. An Ohio politician just quit after he was caught having sex with another man. He is a family values politician, who held anti-gay views.

Here is a list of rising stars in the Republican party who were brought down by scandal. And Kentucky’s Speaker Jeff Hoover was brought down by sexual harassment claims.

FindLaw has a nice chronology of sex scandals in Congress. They have included members of both parties, and in a few cases brought powerful people down.

There is a pattern. This pattern is quite clear. We are seeing a cultural shift. What was tolerated no longer is.

This said, the president does pose a very particular nut for legislators and the country at large. Even though he has been accused by multiple women, given the nature of his office, he will not see a reckoning for a good while.

There is something more to the pattern. Most of the men accused of these improprieties are older than 50 years old. Except for Louis CK, who is younger, most are part of a cohort that knew they could get away with it. Mostly, they have for all their lives. The secrets are out though.


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