#MeToo, Roy Moore… How will this affect US politics?

It seems now that the Republicans, President Donald Trump are pretty firmly supporting Roy Moore. Democrat Al Franken amid his resignation announcement has blasted Republican hypocrisy on sexual misconduct.  With all the MeToo campaigns and Time’s Person of the Year for Silence Breakers how much do you think the sexual misconduct and allegations and parties positions towards those issues could be a broader political topic in America which may have an visible effect on voters? Read few comments.

Ruth McClelland-NugentAssociate Professor of History, Department of History, Anthropology, and Philosophy, Deputy Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, Augusta University

I would say that what is happening right now is that women are having public discussions about the things that they have usually discussed just with each other, and behind closed doors.  Women are feeling that speaking up isn’t useless, and men are learning (often to their surprise) just how widespread sexual abuse is. If we consider not just the big stories in the media, but also the many women using the #MeToo hashtag on their personal social media, then that’s a pretty broad spectrum of people seeing this.

I’ll also note that society at large is getting a look at some unpleasant facts that those who study abuse and gender issues already know: first, that people who commit sexual harassment or abuse tend to do it again and again. It’s very seldom an isolated incident. (And that’s part of why sexual harassment and abuse are so widespread–most men don’t do such things, but the ones who do are usually repeat offenders.) Second, that the people who commit abuse are often very likable in other ways, and may be figures who are admired, even trusted.

What are the political ramifications of this broader knowledge and awareness? At least in the immediate future, I can see three. First, the fall of prominent media figures is certainly prompting some Americans to re-evaluate media coverage of the 2016 election. While a large swathe of Americans will say that sexism played a role in general, fewer have thought specifically about how sexism against Hillary Clinton might have manifested itself.  Now, there are some re-evaluating. The double standard that Matt Lauer seemed to apply to his moderation of Trump and Clinton in the Commander-in Chief forum takes on new meaning when we know he doesn’t respect the women who work with him, and treats them as objects. For example.

Knowing that some of these men treat the women around them in a fashion which does not respect their humanity, I think we’re seeing some questioning of how they cover women in politics more broadly. Another piece on this.

And this piece makes a point about the way journalists covered the sexual accusations against Trump; if some of these men were themselves harassers, it affected how they covered the allegations against him.

Finally, a record number of women are running for political office in the United States right now, and many were motivated by the election of Donald Trump. (I will note that the Women’s March was the largest protest in American history, and it specifically referenced Trump’s sexual assault comments, via the “pussy hats,” which have now become an iconic representation of the march.) 1992 was called ‘The Year of the Woman’ because of the then- record number of women who ran and were elected; many were motivated by the poor treatment of Anita Hill over her sexual assault allegations against Clarence Thomas in 1991. It looks like something similar is happening in 2017-2018, but on a larger scale. According to the New York Times, there are now 354  female candidates running for the House of representatives. 291 are Dems, 63 are Republicans. There are 4 times the number of women challenging incumbents than in 2015. In the Senate there are almost double the number of women running–38– than there were in 2015, and almost 10 times the 2012 number. That’s huge!

Running is not winning, but in order for women to win elected office, they must run, so this is a really significant boost.

I honestly do not know what the long-term effects, if any, will be for American politics. I don’t know how deeply this will sink into the American conscience. But if it does have even a short term effect on the 2018 Senate and House races, the implications are huge. Having an increased number of women means government conversations around sexual assault will look very different–and that is bad news for Donald Trump, in light of what came out in October 2016. Should Democrats gain even a slim majority in either the Senate or House, it will severely affect Trump’s ability to carry out his political will.  Should they gain a majority in both, there is a stronger chance of impeachment over his alleged conspiracy with Russia. It would be ironic indeed if a man who has so little respect for women is done in politically by women who are running for office due to the #MeToo moment.

Andra GillespieAssociate Professor of Political Science, Emory University

It’s still hard to tell what the long term political impact will be. We seem to be in a moment where individual behavior is being called into question. And there will likely be important changes in workplace practice that will emerge as a result of victims standing up for their rights. Politically, though, this issue appears to be polarized. If this is to impact electoral politics, we would have to witness voters defecting from candidates of their own party who have been accused of sexual misconduct. For instance, if Republican women choose not to vote for Roy Moore, then that will be evidence of political consequences for this behavior. If they still vote Moore (and turn out in proportional rates), then that suggests that partisanship is more important than sexual harassment (or at the very least, that these voters don’t believe the allegations–that’s still correlated with party ID, though.

Michael KraftEmeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

Hard to say how much impact all of this will have on the two parties’ fortunes, both next week in Alabama and in the 2018 elections. Certainly, Democrats are hoping that their more open opposition to sexual harassment and posture on these issues will help them with women voters and more generally. Republicans are nearly so clear on the issues, esp. now with the Roy Moore candidacy in Alabama, where the RNC and the White House are firmly supporting Moore even while some Republican senators continue to voice opposition. There are comparable differences in the Dems being quick to call for resignation for John Conyers in the House and Franken in the Senate while Republicans make no similar demands for the House Republican who paid off his accuser with taxpayer funds (Blake Farenthold of Texas).

Will this be an important issues in 2018? This remains uncertain, since other big issue also are very important, such as the economy, jobs, health care, and education. I would bet, however, that women’s issues in general will be given the huge increase in the number of women running for office. So this could be the kind of issue that motivates women voters especially, and thus increases turnout in an off year election.

Steven GreeneProfessor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

I expect this to be an ongoing topic of much greater political salience in 2018, and very likely 2020 as well.  I think the issue of sexual misconduct by those in the political realm is a genie that is not going back in the bottle.  It is still too early to really know how it will affect voters and elections.  That said, what both Donald Trump and Roy Moore seem to suggest is that a strategy of deny and/or minimize is currently an effective for Republican politicians.  The big question is whether that will change going forward.




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