But the revolution is smaller than it first appears. So far, it has been mostly confined to liberal-leaning sectors like entertainment, the media, academia, Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party. It hasn’t rocked the Republicans, corporate America or Wall Street — with some exceptions — because these realms are less responsive to feminist pressure.
Certainly, Fox News has jettisoned men exposed for egregious misconduct, like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. But the Fox Business anchor Charles Payne is back on the air despite a lawsuit from the former Fox pundit Scottie Nell Hughes, who claims that he raped her. Republicans are not lining up to demand the resignation of Blake Farenthold, the Texas congressman who recently agreed to pay back $84,000 in public money he used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee. Moore has the president’s support.
Then, of course, there’s Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by over a dozen women, but has faced few consequences. His administration is hostile to sexual harassment victims; in March, for example, he reversed a 2014 Obama administration rule that made it harder for federal contractors to keep sexual harassment and discrimination cases secret.
The difference with the Democrats is stark. True, Democratic Party leaders initially dithered in their responses to Franken, as well as to John Conyers, the Michigan representative who, like Farenthold, used public funds to pay off a former employee who accused him of sexual harassment. But eventually, the party decided that given its stated beliefs and progressive constituency, keeping accused harassers in office was politically untenable.
It’s not similarly untenable for Republicans, because the Republican Party is not the party of people who are fundamentally opposed to sexual harassment. Democrats, by and large, want their politicians held accountable. Republicans, by contrast, just want Democratic politicians held accountable. In a November HuffPost/YouGov survey, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans said sexual harassment is either a very serious or a somewhat serious problem in the Democratic Party. Only 36 percent of Republicans said the same about the Republican Party. Most Republicans said that Franken should resign, but only 31 percent said Moore should drop out.
So while the current frenzy to expose sexual harassers is, in large part, a reaction to the trauma of Trump’s election, it has not yet touched Trump himself.
A great many liberal women were forever changed when they saw the grotesque beauty pageant impresario defeat the first female major-party candidate for president. In response, women all over America have poured into local politics, determined to find places where it’s still possible for them to have influence. The same impulse led some women to go public about sexual harassment and abuse. As Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber who exposed a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at that company, told Time: “When Trump won the election, I felt a crushing sense of powerlessness. And then I realized that I had to do something.”
For doing something, she and all the others who have exposed the sexual degradation that mars so many professional lives deserve our gratitude and admiration. They’ve made things tangibly better for the women in their industries. But ultimately, the cultural currency of the #MeToo movement is not a substitute for political power. The incendiary rage unleashed by Trump’s election needs to be directed back at him. Otherwise, only those who already advocate women’s equality will be forced to grant it.
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