Lord Acton’s well-worn maxim that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” has rarely been more on display than in the current tsunami of sexual-assault allegations being leveled against powerful men.
It’s a truth that most of us already suspected, and even assumed, about Hollywood, New York City and Washington, D.C. powerbrokers, but the daily drip of famous names caught in the snares of their own making has lent itself to a few moments of surprise.
Something I’ve come to realize through this female-empowerment moment we are experiencing as Americans, is how easily we believe the possibility that it could be true when it’s “them” versus when it’s “one of us.”
If they believe like us and share our party affiliation, then we want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s the American way to ascribe innocence until such time as they are proven guilty.
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However, if they’re “the other guys” then we see them as part of a bad crowd and the allegations suddenly become easier to believe, and all we need to find them guilty is the initial media report.
It’s this knee-jerk reaction to political tribalism, which I have witnessed from both sides of the aisle, that highlights the problems in our political discourse and process.
Just because someone is part of another political party doesn’t make them a bad person, and being part of your party doesn’t make them a good person. Every party has its good, bad and downright rotten apples in the bunch.
For example, I’ve been bothered by the rush of evangelical conservatives to the defense of Alabama U.S. Senate candidate and former judge Roy Moore.
Despite what have been used as points to prop him up, something happening 40 years ago doesn’t mean it should be swept under the rug, and just because someone comes to Christ and receives forgiveness of his sins doesn’t mean the laws of the United States are suddenly negated.
While Moore has denied any wrongdoing, his denials have seemed somewhat flat for the acts of which he’s been accused.
When asked whether he attempted to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, when he was a 32-year-old man, Moore replied to interviewer Sean Hannity “that’s out of my customary behavior.”
That is hardly the repudiation one would expect when a career and reputation is on the line in such a dramatic and public way.
On the other hand, there has been a double standard both in the amount of media coverage and the level of disdain for sexual harassment accusations leveled against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), even though in his case there is literal photographic evidence of his deeds and his admission of guilt.
There have been no calls to expel him from the Senate, as there have been such threats to Moore, should he, by some miraculous feat, actually pull out the win.
There have been liberals who came to Franken’s defense because the behavior happened before he was a senator. Others have brushed it off as a joke because of his past career as a comedian, but sexual harassment or sexual assault aren’t laughing matters.
Regardless of the position or party of the alleged perpetrator, the accusations deserve our serious consideration and our unified voice of disapproval, while the victims deserve our respect and unwavering support.
I’m optimistic that the good-old-boy system of the “Mad Men” era seems to be finally getting its due, and I’m hopeful that all women will be treated equal to their male peers and with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The way forward to fix this issue and the cesspool that is our national political climate is to end this tribalism that causes us to retreat to our echo-chamber corners. We can no longer excuse our side while demonizing the other side for the same behavior.
There is no moral superiority in such a hypocritical approach, only a certain and decisive fall that follows the pride of that type of thinking.
J. Brandon Thompson of Columbia is an associate pastor and a former chair of the Adair County Republican Party.