For a moment there, it looked as though the public conversation about sexual harassment and assault might escape political polarization by virtue of the plague’s depressing ubiquity. Fox News founder Roger Ailes was a pig, but so, it turned out, is Hollywood producer and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. There was little to gain by quibbling over whether Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling is pervier than NPR’s Mike Oreskes or ABC’s Mark Halperin. And lest conservatives felt the urge to wax pious about the parade of Hollywood bad boys (James Toback, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., Andy Dick, Kevin Spacey…), above the entire mess hovered the specter of President Donald Trump.
Not that the big-p political realm escaped scrutiny. Stories continue to bubble up about frat-boy behavior not just on Capitol Hill but also in state houses across the country. “It’s even worse in state legislatures. They are notorious places people get harassed,” said pollster Anna Greenberg. “State capitals are often kind of isolated. State legislators travel there, stay there alone.” Left to their own devices, lawmakers get a little crazy.
But tellingly, the focus has been not so much on punishing specific bad actors from either team as on reforming what are widely recognized as deeply toxic cultures. After years (decades, really) of foot-dragging, both chambers of Congress moved in the past week to mandate anti-harassment training for members and staff. (Much more needs to be done, but it’s a start.) Republican, Democratic, Independent—everyone lives in a glass house. Thus, while the occasional political stone was tossed, the outcry over men behaving badly was largely unburdened by left-right tribal baggage.