Only hours after Eric Schneiderman was accused of abusing four women, Democrats forced him out of his job as attorney general of New York. When Donald Trump was accused of harassing 16 women going back decades, Republicans elected him president. That’s the difference between the parties.
The above has become a popular talking point among liberals after The New Yorker reported allegations that Schneiderman had hit and sexually assaulted four women in recent years. But it doesn’t really illustrate any of the differences between the parties. Democrats, after all, pay no political price for making a moral choice when they move quickly to replace one partisan with another. Corrupt and morally compromised Democrats have been running and winning office in New York for decades.
Moreover, not every accusation nor every situation is analogous.
From what we know, for instance, former U.S. senator Al Franken and Schneiderman, who claims slapping around women was merely roleplay, aren’t guilty of actions that are comparable in scale, even if they are condemned to the same political gulag. Although, certainly, the fact that our political culture is teeming with these kinds of men is a sad commentary on a broader level.
Nor should we act as if Democrats are the only ones who are rejecting those accused of wrongdoing. In Missouri, where Gov. Eric Greitens has been accused of rape, nearly the entire Republican establishment, including the attorney general and most leaders of the party, have called for his resignation. The GOP legislature has initiated impeachment proceedings. Numerous Republicans have left Congress because of accusations of indiscretion over the past year.
Nor should we act as if one voting bloc has a stronger moral compass than the other. More often than not the situation isn’t as cut and dry as Schneiderman or Greitens, and Republicans and Democrats tend to act the same way.
These days there is a lot of criticism aimed at evangelicals who support Trump despite his philandering and vulgarity (or worse). Although I have no standing to lecture people of faith about how to interact with politicians, watching people like Franklin Graham justify everything the president does can be insufferable.
What I do know, though, is that for many social conservatives it’s not merely a choice between a decent human being and a bad one (and the idea that Hillary Clinton was an ethical alternative is a tough sell, but that’s another story). For them, it’s a choice between people who not only demean and undermine their way of life, but also support infanticide, infringements on religious freedom, and coercion, and a guy who stands up for them. Whatever calculus is used to rationalize that choice, it’s not as simple as abandoning principles. It’s certainly not unique.
Would Democrats have voted en masse for the honorable Mitt Romney over the ethically compromised Hillary Clinton? Would Vietor have voted for a highly principled conservative family man who wanted to cut welfare spending over the moral trainwreck that was Ted Kennedy? Would he have voted for any Republicans over Bill Clinton, a man accused of rape? Let’s stop pretending that there aren’t bigger issues at play when partisans go to the polls.
It’s worth noting that even victims of these noxious men can sometimes ponder the political ramifications. According to the New Yorker article, for instance, one of the women Schneiderman allegedly slapped took no action because at the time she reasoned it was a one-time incident. “And I thought, He’s a good attorney general, he’s doing good things,” she said. “I didn’t want to jeopardize that.”
That’s not to say that a person’s personal life doesn’t matter when weighing political considerations. How you act tells us a lot about your propensity for recklessness, mendacity, and lawbreaking. (Nor, by the way, are those who are virtuous in their private lives always principled in their political ones. From what I can tell, Barack Obama is a conscientious husband and a good dad. Was he a righteous leader? Some of us believe he helped pull the country apart, ignored the law, and turned the power of the state on individuals, implementing policies that were both destructive and ignored the Constitution.) Generally speaking, personal misconduct — including the justification of your ally’s wrongdoing — is part of the human condition.
Now, if Eric Schneiderman and Eric Greiten engaged in the crimes they’re accused of, they certainly don’t warrant any special considerations from voters. Neither Democrats nor Republicans deserve any extra credit for removing (or attempting to remove) politicians with credible charges of rape, abuse, or criminality leveled at them — particularly when there is no political price in doing so. But the idea that one party has adopted a strict moral code while the other has abandoned it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.