After all the hype, the Democratic Party’s Me Too-era reckoning over Bill Clinton ended with the former president getting a speaking slot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The move is evidence Clinton’s power in the party hasn’t diminished to the degree many expected, which is itself evidence that the Democratic establishment’s bluster about Me Too was more about political expediency than women. Al Franken should be in revolt.
For Democrats, Clinton presents a major dilemma: He’s one of the few high-profile party leaders capable of speaking to disaffected Obama-Trump Democrats. That’s a demographic at which this convention is clearly targeted. But he’s also a figure who falls dramatically short of the standards the left set during the Me Too movement. What to do?
Give the guy a few seconds early in the show, party leaders decided. According to the New York Times, Clinton “will speak for less than five minutes on Tuesday, well before the 10 p.m. prime-time hour, in an address that he prerecorded from his home in Chappaqua, N.Y.”
Given the movement’s focus on imbalanced power dynamics, Me Too, of course, revived the conversation over Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the inheritor of Hillary Clinton’s resigned Senate seat, said the president should have stepped down when the affair surfaced. Lewinsky herself, who’s rehabilitated her image with laudable success, said the relationship “constituted a gross abuse of power.”
“Now that probable 2020 presidential contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said Bill Clinton should have resigned after his affair with Lewinsky, it’s looking like the mainstream Democratic Party—to say nothing of its burgeoning left wing—may finally be getting around to exiling Bill from its inner sanctum,” Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate.
Media feminists rightfully went beyond Lewinsky, reevaluating the allegations from other Clinton accusers as well. In a New York Times column headlined, “Paula Jones, Reconsidered,” Amanda Hess wrote, “Paula Jones spoke out against the most powerful man in the world, and when his lawyers argued that a sitting president couldn’t be subject to a civil suit, she took them all the way to the Supreme Court and won. In another world, she would be hailed as a feminist icon. But not in this world — not yet.”
Michelle Goldberg wrote a column in the Times headlined, “I Believe Juanita.” Ronan Farrow said Clinton had been “credibly accused” of rape.
“As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is, it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him,” Chris Hayes tweeted.
“No One Wants to Campaign With Bill Clinton Anymore,” a Times report observed in 2018, during the midterm cycle.
“In an election shaped by the #MeToo movement, where female candidates and voters are likely to drive any Democratic gains, Mr. Clinton finds his legacy tarnished by what some in the party see as his inability to reckon with his sexual indiscretions as president with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, as well as with past allegations of sexual assault,” that article noted.
Fast forward to 2020 and the party gifted Clinton with a televised speaking slot at the convention. Even at the height of Me Too, Democrats were far from united in their disapproval of Clinton, whose name, by the way, continues to pop up in the Jeffrey Epstein saga. Like Franken, the reconsideration of his alleged conduct has tested the left’s ability to live by the stringent standards they set for others.
Back in 2017, during the frenzied early days of Me Too, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez called on Franken—faced with much less severe allegations than Clinton—to resign. “Everyone must share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party,” he tweeted.
Perez is still at the helm of the DNC, which just gave Clinton another stamp of approval, reaffirming the party’s support for 42 and its willingness to prioritize politics over principle.