Republican Party And The Problem Of Sexual Harassment
The Trump administration’s Supreme Court nominee for Judge Brett Kavanaugh has had its tumultuous downfall since the accusations of sexual assault were placed on him by University of Palo Alto Professor Christine Blasey Ford, stating she was sexually harassed by the judge at a high school party. This, in light of other sexual assault allegations on America’s most powerful men, has shown a lack of interest by Republican Party towards sexual assault, almost to a point of not caring at all. But how can one fathom to comprehend this striking reality towards the Republican Party?
Mancur Olson’s collective action theory can help shine light on the brute tactics GOP politicians use to surpass the nations consensus in order to get their nomination across. The theory of collective action in lieu of this monumental hearing can be explained in three facets. The first is when a group tries to provide a public good, they have trouble doing so efficiently. The Democrats who are requesting an independent FBI investigation on the accusations placed on Judge Kavanaugh are making it clear that sexual assault allegations are not one to be taken lightly. The public good they’re offering is not just a due process of law, but also sending a message to Americans and the world that sexual harassment is not a subject matter that should be brushed under the rug. History seems to repeat itself, because of the similar circumstances that occurred in 1991, when Anita Hill accused then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, of whom she worked for, of sexual harassment. Hill’s testimony faced skepticism that such behavior even had relevance in assessing the fitness of a Supreme Court judge nominee.
Ever since the #MeToo movement, Democrats have sought to set precedence on sexual assault allegations as a matter that needs to be taken more seriously in the court of law. The Republicans, however, who hold the majority in both houses of Congress, do not benefit from allowing an FBI investigation, as it confirms the assumptions of the allegations placed on Judge Kavanaugh. The risk involved in taking part towards this certain action can affect whether or not the action is constructive. The topic of sexual harassment is fraught, in that society tends to vilify victims, literally adding insult to injury. So coming forward as a victim of sexual assault, and making an accusation is actually a risk Christine Blasey Ford is taking. In a lot of ways, people who come forward are very similar to people who participate in revolutions under an oppressive regime.
A second factor to note is that individuals have incentives to “free ride” on the action, but not bear the expense of improvement. When Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic Party donor as well as an important Hollywood producer, was exposed as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter, Republicans were fast out of the gates with demands that Democrats return Weinstein’s dirty money. Democrats were, of course, angered by the hypocrisy inherent in being shamed on this subject by a political party whose leader was caught on tape bragging to a casual acquaintance about how he enjoys assaulting women and “when you’re a star they let you do it.” But as begrudging and annoyed as Democrats may have been about the matter, at the end of the day, they returned the donation money. By contrast, when GOP mega-donor Steve Wynn was revealed as a sexual abuser, the RNC refused to give his money back even though the RNC specifically had fought to establish the Weinstein precedent. They didn’t give it back because no critical mass of people who actually matter in Republican politics actually cared about the issue. The most cynical relation with collective action is that nobody is actually interested in bearing the expenses of improvement, but instead, profit from the public good in a greedy way. The risk of going against partisan lines is something politicians have always considered. The one thing politicians seek for is re-election. How do they get re-elected?
By votes and resources to get votes. Going against party lines and the President’s nomination is a risk Republican politicians won’t take, fearing the backlash from constituent voters, and the President himself. They also wouldn’t take the risk of losing donations from their conservative donors, and endorsement from other members of the government, which would lessen their chance of re-election. If we look at Lindsey Graham’s uproar during the hearing, analysts speculated that this was his way of publicly locking in his long-tenuous loyalty to the president; an effort to truly convince the boss that he’s on the team. If this was what he was trying to do, it certainly seemed to work. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised his “decency and courage,” and added, “God bless him.” Hannity gushed, “I don’t think you’ve ever had a more powerful moment in your career.” The collective action suggests that individuals only take action for their greedy needs, and seeing as politicians are always seeking for the future of their jobs as well, it only seems fit to make this strong judgment.
There are two sides to every story. Well there isn’t two sides to a story if you are a woman who comes forward with stories of harassment, abuse, and sexual assault. Women do not get to have a side; they get to have an interrogation. The collective action of people coming forward as victims of sexual assault is one that gathers more power as more people join in. A few victims stepping forward may not be taken seriously, or people may think that they are lying. The problem of sexual harassment remains unacknowledged, or worse, acknowledged but dismissed as a series of isolated, unrelated incidents, instead of being recognized as a symptom of a toxic culture, which the Republican Party is seemingly not understanding.
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