A Real Feminine Revolution
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Weinstein expose and the emergence of sexual harassment as a public issue has already had huge effects. Politically, it undoubtedly began during the last presidential campaign with the Access Hollywood tape, but the Judge Moore scandal has catapulted the issue to a dominance which will not go away. The Senate race in Alabama is in chaos and the national Republican Party cannot avoid scandal to focus on the tax bills which were supposed to be the critical issue of the day.
Democrats as well as Republicans should not frolic in the fallout from the Moore disclosures. Experienced Capitol Hill staffers have known for years or have personally experienced sexual harassment incidents. While they did not involve minors, knowledge of the sexual advances that women on the Hill experienced in their day-to-day lives were widespread. Without addressing known affairs and infidelities between consenting adults which were as pervasive in Washington as in any other workplace, there was extensive harassment which women on the Hill have endured for generations. If and when these incidents are disclosed there will be no immunities for any guilty political official.
At a strictly electoral level, however, the sudden emergence of sexual harassment coupled with the heightened interest and participation of women in politics has already had a dramatic effect on electoral politics. In the recent Virginia elections alone, female turnout, election to office, and participation increased dramatically. It appears especially that suburban women have emerged as a new and vocal voting bloc who will no longer be docile or acquiescent to males. This will trigger a quantum leap in 2018 of independent minded women. Incumbents as well as male aspirants who ignore the entire array of women’s concerns and issues in their campaigns will do so at their political peril.
Democrats, at this point would appear likely to be the big winners from such a trend. Their more progressive approach to social issues as well as their sensitivities to all the sexual harassment issues will benefit their campaigns. In some of the red states where Blacks and Latinos also represent a large potential bloc of Democratic voters, Republicans have persisted in placing voting impediments discouraging and decreasing their participation; something they cannot do nearly as easily to females. While women candidates try to increase and improve female participation, in many cases articulate women organizers and candidates in red states merely need to convince registered women that Democrats care more about women’s concerns.
N.B. There are a number scenarios germinating whereby Jeff Sessions could return to his old seat in the Senate, either by winning as a write-in or getting appointed should his Alabama seat become vacant. This would permit the Republicans to continue to hold this Senate seat and enable Trump to be rid of his reviled Attorney General.