In the year since the #MeToo movement began, Americans have relearned one old truth and learned one new one. The old truth is that, when it comes to perpetrators of sexual harassment, politics doesn’t matter. Liberal men and conservative men, socialist men and fascist men, anti-feminist men and avowedly feminist men—some percentage of all these subspecies prey on women. For every Clarence Thomas, there’s a Bill Clinton.
The newer truth, which was less clear a year ago, is that while politics may not determine your propensity to abuse women sexually, it does determine your ability to get away with it. This wasn’t always the case. Through the Clinton years, and up until #MeToo itself, neither liberal nor conservative men paid much of a price for their sexual misconduct. Regardless of ideology, most harassers got away with it. (Including at the liberal magazine I once edited). The divergence between how liberals and conservatives respond to sexual harassment only really became significant last December, when Al Franken resigned from the Senate.
The Franken resignation, in retrospect, was a historical crossroads. It was a crossroads because Democrats had plenty of excuses for standing by him. His apparent penchant for groping unsuspecting women, while hideous, was milder than the accusations against many other alleged sexual harassers, including the president. He was a champion of women’s rights. The ethics committee had not begun an investigation. Even some prominent feminists said he should keep his job. And yet he was forced to resign.