(by Matthew Knee)
You might think so, from the “at least we aren’t hypocrites” defense that comes up every time a Democrat is caught with his pants down where they shouldn’t be.
When liberals and the MSM (…but I repeat myself) amplify Republican sex scandals and minimize Democratic ones by playing the hypocrisy card, they are implying that the specific behaviors involved are ones that Democrats tolerate and Republicans condemn.
Hypocrites are those who present themselves as holding a particular set of values, but who act contrary to them. For the Democrats’ assertion that these scandals demonstrate Republican hypocrisy but not Democratic hypocrisy to be true, not only must Democrats not present themselves as the sort who oppose – independent of their political context – the scandalous sexcapades of their own members, but the scandalous sexcapades of Republicans as well. After all, Republicans could not be blamed for particular hypocrisy if the parties did not differ on these issues.
But do they? If a scandal concerns simple homosexuality, promiscuity, or some association with abortion, then there might be a difference between the parties. But how many scandals fit into those categories? Democrats might protest that Republicans talk about family values more, especially in the abstract, but Republicans have nothing resembling a monopoly on family values talk. Generic appeals to the virtues of family (including using family values talk to argue FOR gay marriage) have become universal in American political rhetoric, even if the parties use them to make very different points.
If the Democrats are to not be hypocrites, they must at minimum claim not to stand against the immoral actions of America’s randy representatives. What must the Democrats not oppose to keep their hypocrisy card valid? Let’s take a look at some major political sex scandals:
Bill Clinton: adultery, possible sexual harassment (…by some feminist definitions, due to the workplace power imbalance)
Anthony Weiner: adultery, predation of much younger, less powerful individuals, possibly sending unsolicited dick pics.
James McGreevey: adultery (with another man and employee)
Gary Condit: adultery, possible sexual harassment (…by some feminist definitions, due to the workplace power imbalance)
Mark Foley: sexually harassing teenagers (of the same sex)
Larry Craig :adultery, illegally trolling for gay sex in an airport bathroom
David Vitter: adultery, prostitution
Gavin Newsom: adultery, being a terrible friend (He had an affair with his chief of staff/campaign manager/very close friend’s wife.)
Elliot Spitzer: adultery, prostitution
Ted Kennedy : adultery, drunk driving, manslaughter
What patterns do we see here? For one, none of the major sex scandals of this era were about abortion, promiscuous singles, or simple homosexuality. Scandals that did relate to homosexuality involved homosexual acts that would be objectionable to approximately as many people had they been heterosexual but otherwise identical. At most, in a few cases some on the right might find the homosexual nature of these acts to be an aggravating circumstance where others might not.
The incidents that become political sex scandals are not the sort that are disputed in public discourse. These are consensus issues. There is ordinarily little reason for politicians to speak on topics such as ‘Don’t cheat on your wife” or “Don’t troll for anonymous sex in airport bathrooms.”
When a politician is caught doing such things, however, other politicians get to stake their positions. In all nearly all of these cases, there was a consensus among the political class that the politician’s actions were wrong, and most dissenters can be explained by factors such as partisanship or friendship. Thus, the history of political sex scandals proves that Democrats and Republicans similarly judge and condemn the sorts of sexual transgressions politicians commit. When these specific matters come up, Republicans and Democrats stake their claims and make their judgements, on average, quite similarly.
The Democrats need to either cut their hypocrisy talk or make it clear that they do not oppose general skeeziness and adultery with aggravating circumstances (low-ranking subordinate, underage or creepily young, prostitution, public lewdness, close friend’s wife, kills girl while driving drunk, etc.). There is a word for those who present themselves as virtuous when it is useful to condemn others, but set aside those virtues when necessary to defend their own misdeeds: Hypocrites.
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