The #MeToo movement helped sweep Democrats to victory in November’s midterms, but some of the party’s leading lights, including potential 2020 candidates, face scrutiny from the women’s anti-harassment drive that brought men to account for sexist behavior.
A diverse field of Democrats, potentially including senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, and the notoriously tactile former vice president Joe Biden, will likely enter the race to determine who squares off next year against President Donald Trump.
Their campaigns, and those of others, could either be boosted or tainted by the fight for gender equality in the run up to 2020.
“Clearly, it’s going to play a role,” David Redlawsk, chairman of the political science department at the University of Delaware, told AFP.
“It potentially complicates the primaries to some degree, but we don’t know how much in the end.”
It has already complicated the path for Sanders, who apologized Thursday after fresh allegations by women who said they were harassed by fellow campaign members in 2016.
The mistreatment allegations “speak to unacceptable behavior that must not be tolerated in any campaign or any workplace,” Sanders said.
– Unflattering light –
The #MeToo movement has existed since 2006, but it took on renewed urgency after explosive sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein broke in October 2017.
The Hollywood mogul’s career was stopped cold, and the floodgates opened for victims to tell their survival stories.
Many men were toppled from their prime perches in entertainment, business and the media.
The movement also swept through Washington, ousting Republican congressmen and spurring the departure of two White House staffers.
It also cast an unflattering light on the president, whose admissions of harassment on an “Access Hollywood” tape that leaked in 2016 nearly derailed his campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Frustration with Trump’s perceived misogyny helped a record number of women, mostly Democrats, get elected to Congress in 2018.
But Democrats were not unscathed. Accusations of inappropriate behavior felled Senator Al Franken, who was a potential 2020 contender, and congressman John Conyers.
And #MeToo now threatens to dent the aspirations of presidential contenders, as it brings gender equality front and center with the budding 2020 race.
Booker has acknowledged he groped a girl while they were teenagers, and that the experience taught him to be a better person.
Biden faces renewed focus on how he handled the 1991 hearings in which Anita Hill, a former aide to Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas whom she accused of sexual harassment, testified before an all-male Senate committee.
And Biden’s reputation as too touchy-feely could come into play.
But Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, says there should be no “false comparison” between the behavior of these potential candidates, each an advocate for women’s empowerment, and Trump.
“Sexual harassment is not something we should tolerate no matter who or where it’s coming from,” Ness said.
As for Biden’s handling of the Hill hearings, for which he has expressed regret, it is up to women voters to assess that, she added.
“But I do not put Joe Biden in the same category as Donald Trump, by any stretch of the imagination.”
– Boomerang? –
When Trump was heard on tape in October 2016 saying powerful men can “do anything” to women including grabbing their genitals, Democrats bridled. But some Republicans accepted Trump’s explanation that it was “locker room banter,” and he survived the crisis.
Even in a post-Weinstein world, #MeToo plays playing differently among Republicans and Democrats.
“The dynamics may not have changed that much,” as voters are inclined to defend their party’s candidate, said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics.
“Partisanship really is a strong factor in people’s decision.”
But MeToo could boomerang more strongly against Democrats than Republicans, Redlawsk argues.
“Democrats take this stuff pretty seriously in general, and so I think Democratic candidates are much more likely to find themselves challenged for prior words or behaviors than Republicans,” he said.
The movement could face a backlash. An NPR-Ipsos poll from October showed 43 percent of Americans believe it has gone too far.
Three-quarters of those were Republicans, many angered by the weaponization of #MeToo during the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom multiple women accused of assault.
The long march towards gender equality nevertheless should remain a 2020 priority, stressed Michael Ceraso, Sanders’s 2016 California campaign director.
“We have to hold people accountable and protect women from any of this type of behavior, and that’s hard sometimes (in a big campaign) but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” Ceraso said.
“If our campaign can’t reflect our goals then what can we offer?”
GOP strategist walloped for urging Dem lawmakers to leave Trump alone and worry about being re-elected instead
On CNN Saturday, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Republican strategist Doug Heye clashed after the latter suggested Democrats should value their re-election over holding President Donald Trump accountable for wrongdoing.
"We have to remember, this is not a trial as we think of trials in courtroom," said Heye. "This is a political process. It is designed to be a political process, and that's why this whole process is played out the way that it has so far. I would say to Maria, the Republicans aren't spending money to shore up Republicans per se. They're spending money to go after vulnerable Democrats who are going home and then coming back and telling Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership, I'm getting killed back home."
William Barr made it clear this week that he’d sign off on a sham investigation into the Dems’ 2020 nominee
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
A perfect storm propelled New York's sleaziest real estate developer to an Electoral College victory in 2016 despite winning three million fewer votes than his opponent, but Nate Silver made a compelling argument that the letter James Comey sent to Congress just 11 days before Election Day announcing that the FBI was re-opening its probe into Hillary Clinton's emails was decisive.
Bill Barr is serving notice to DOJ officials that he’ll ruin them if they investigate Trump: MSNBC host
An MSNBC discussion about Bill Barr running interference within the Justice Department for Donald Trump ended with "AM Joy" host Joy Reid suggesting that the attorney general's very public "media blitz" over the so-called "Horowitz Report" is a warning shot to anyone in the DOJ who thinks about investigating the president.
As Reid explained it, "He did a whole TV blitz to basically say that his own agency, the FBI, was spying on the Trump campaign, something that the inspector general said did not happen."
Reid took that to its logical conclusion.
"Now he’s saying, ‘Well, I’ve got a different report that’s going to find the motivations’ that he’s basically saying are bad motivations by people in the FBI. And if you’re that FBI agent and then you hear that Donald Trump may be again looking for foreign help and maybe again getting help from Russia or forcing help from Ukraine, what do you do?" she asked. "Would you then not be concerned that, should you go ahead and investigate foreign interference in our election, that William Barr may come after you?"