For weeks, Congress appeared impervious to the #MeToo moment. As abusive men in media, entertainment, and even the culinary industry were swept from their perches, politicians held their ground. No more. Republicans and Democrats alike are compelling alleged abusers in their ranks to surrender their seats. There is, however, a distinction in how the two parties have handled allegations involving their members. While the GOP’s behavior has been thus far contradictory and chaotic, the Democrats have evinced striking discipline. Despite the Democratic Party’s election losses, it is the GOP that struggles with a leadership deficit — a feature that could make a world of difference in the upcoming midterm election in 2018.
When it comes to allegations of intolerably boorish behavior in their ranks, Republicans do not speak with one voice. For some Republicans, that could be beneficial. It allows individual members to distance themselves from the party as a whole. That response contrasts significantly with Democrats, who have gone from reflexively defending their party’s accused abusers to throwing them overboard with gusto.
Recently, Democrats have been shedding, albeit belatedly, the accused abusers in their midst and the hypocrisy that accompanied their instinct to rally the wagons around them. As indifference toward the #MeToo moment’s demands on Congress has given way to proactivity, Democrats have never stopped speaking with one voice on the matter.
Last Thursday, Republican Rep. Trent Franks shocked political observers by announcing he would resign his long-held seat. The allegations broke soon thereafter when it was revealed that Franks had asked multiple female staffers about the possibility of acting as his wife’s surrogate. Making matters worse, this seemingly innocent request was accompanied by a suggestion that the insemination be achieved the old fashioned way. This clearly violates what Speaker Paul Ryan described as the imperative of creating a “safe workplace in the House.”
Franks is, however, being held to a far stricter standard than the one set for Rep. Blake Farenthold. The Republican Congressman came under renewed scrutiny recently following revelations that he settled a 2014 harassment suit by a former staffer to the tune of $84,000. Since then, another former staffer told the Houston Chronicle that Farenthold created an “emotionally damaging” work environment and made “inappropriate” comments in her presence. As of this writing, the only Republican calling for Farenthold to step down is Utah’s Rep. Mia Love.
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Of course, nothing so illustrates the dysfunction of the Republican Party in Washington as the fiasco involving Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Following claims that Moore had repeatedly sought out romantic relationships with teenagers while he was serving as a district attorney in his thirties, including some who were underage, many elected Republicans insisted that he should drop out of the race. (Moore has denied the allegations.) The Republican Party’s committees withdrew their support. Even the White House insisted that Moore should bow out of the race provided the decade-old claims were substantiated.
Predictably, they could not be. Trump soon personally backed Moore’s candidacy and the Republican National Committee also restored their support. On the other hand, not everyone in the GOP is so thrilled to welcome Moore. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. Cory Gardner averred that he and his committee will “never endorse” Moore and Republicans like Paul Ryan are standing by their demand for him to back out of the race.