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Cherchez la Femme, For a Change

The latest sexual harassment scandal comes from right here in Kansas, so of course there’s a peculiar twist to it. This time the notable target of the allegations is a woman, Andrea Ramsey, who withdrew from the race for the third congressional district’s Democratic nomination after The Kansas City Star called to ask about a lawsuit her former employer had settled with a man who alleged she had subjected him to “unwelcome sexual comments and innuendos.”
Ramsey denies the charges, notes it was her employer who settled the suit with a cash payment but no admission of guilt, and insists that if she had been a party to the suit she would have endeavored to clear her name. In a brief statement announcing her withdrawal from the race, however, she added that “In the rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance policy. For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment when rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance, and due process.”
Indeed, the DCCC issued its own statement that “If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold office,” and that it’s holding Democratic candidates to a very high standard. Ramsey had previously won the endorsement of Emily’s List, a well-heeled outfit that supports women candidates, but it also issued its own statement supporting the candidates withdrawal and wishing her well.”
We’re sure that both the DCCCers and the Emily’s Listers hated to do it, as Ramsey would have made a formidable nominee. Kansas is a reliably red state, but its third district is mostly comprised by the mostly affluent suburbs of Kansas City, which gave a slim majority of its votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the last election, so Republican incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder is considered vulnerable. Since Republican nominee Donald Trump became president those mostly affluent suburbs have proved a problem for his party in special and off-year elections almost everywhere, even here in the more rock-ribbed fourth district, where a gun-toting and outspokenly centrist Democrat gave the Republican a real scare and actually wounding up winning Sedgwick County with its big city of Wichita and surrounding suburbs, and the dramatic drop-off in Republican votes in the suburbs of such purplish states as Virginia and Pennsylvania suggest it’s a very scary trend for the GOP.
Which makes it hard for the Democrats to defenestrate a real contender in a state such as Kansas, but then again it must have also been hard for them to do the same to such a popular figure and potent fund-raiser as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and such a longstanding civil rights icon as Michigan Rep. John Conyers, but they went right ahead and did that, despite the similarly disputed nature of the allegations. The Democrats are deadly serious about a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and Ramsey is right to note that they don’t care much about due process, even if she didn’t publicly object until her own head was on the chopping block, and sooner or later someone’s going to be vindicated and a backlash will ensue, but until then it might be well worth the cost.
If the backlash doesn’t develop by next November the Democrats can at least credibly claim a high ground in our roiling conversation on harassment until the crucial mid-terms. The Republicans have lately been defenestrating its misbehaving congressional members at a rapid rate, with almost as much moral outrage as they mustered for the accused and quickly defenestrated Democrats, but there’s as yet no window big enough to throw their grab-’em-by-the-wherevers President through it. The Republicans just lost a Senate seat in even deeper red Alabama, thanks in some part to defections from affluent suburban Alabamians, but there’s no so getting past the president’s full-throated endorsement of a nutcase credibly accused of having an unsavory interest in teenaged girls back when he as a 30-something prosecutor. Women are slightly more than half of the electorate in every election, and our guess is that much more than of women will have a problem with that.
Probably even more than that in those affluent suburbs where the women might otherwise be tempted to vote the upcoming Republican tax bill and the salutary effect Trump’s rapid de-regulating has had on their stock portfolios. In our white collar experience they’re almost as likely to tell “me too” stories as are the barmaids and factory women we’re more likely to chat with after hours, and college educated types are more likely to make a federal case of it. Most of our women friends, who range across the entire socio-economic scale, regard Trump as one of those creeps they’ve had to deal with too often in the past, and we can’t blame the Democrats for taking advantage of that.
We usually nod in agreement whenever our women friends tell their “me too” stories, because based on what we’ve seen after so many years in offices and bars we rarely doubt their accounts, and we more rarely raise our concerns about due process and the inevitable backlash. Even when the backlash comes we’ll still hold to our old-fashioned notions about respectful treatment of women, and be glad that our women friends will attest that at least we’re not one of the creeps they’ve to off had to deal with too often in the past. We trust that when the backlash comes they’ll be more open to arguments about due process, and we hope that it works out in the end.
In the meantime that won’t do any good for Andrea Ramsey, who has been offered by the feminist sisterhood as the first sacrifice of their own on the altar of the greater good. We have no idea if she actually did what that man alleged, and although we can remember several times when female co-workers mad sexual comments and innuendoes, and a few times when they were unwelcome, we didn’t make a federal case of it. None of those women were our boss, though, and empathy only gets you so far to the truth. As far as the politics of the moment go, though, it’s hers and some unlucky guy’s tough luck if their innocent. Still, like Emily’s List we wish her well in her future endeavors.

— Bud Norman

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The Maternal Mystery in a Crazy Election Year

You might not have noticed, but Republican nominee Donald J. Trump delivered a major policy address on Tuesday outlining his proposal for a federal paid maternity leave policy. It was given perfunctory coverage by all the respectable press, just in case you still visit there, but was easily overlooked in a news cycle still dominated by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comments and health problems and slipping poll numbers. As loathe as we are to admit it, we can hardly blame neither the respectable press nor its readership for their priorities.
Trump’s speech was pre-written in more-or-less parseable English, and read from a teleprompter in a relatively relaxed tone, so it had none of the ad-libbed ad hominens that generated all those “oh no he didn’t” headlines which propelled his run to the Republican nomination. All that policy stuff is also rather boring, apparently even to Trump judging his by relatively relaxed tone, and by now a vast majority of the country has figured out that neither Trump nor Clinton really mean any of it anyway. Certainly no one believes that Trump had given much serious thought to a federal paid maternity leave policy until recently, and we note that he delivered his major policy address in a suburb of Philadelphia in the important swing state of Pennsylvania where all the polls still show him behind largely because college-educated white people in general and suburban white women in particular can’t stand him, so although we’re loathe to admit it we can’t blame The New York Times for headlining its perfunctory coverage with “Donald Trump Unveils Plan for Families in Bid for Women’s Votes.”
Our guess is that the ploy won’t do Trump much good, and that he should be grateful Clinton’s recent headline-grabbing travails have mitigated the harm it might have done.
The Trump plan calls for six weeks of paid mandatory leave and expanded tax credits for child care, which even The New York Times is obliged to concede “represents a different approach from the one taken by previous Republican nominees,” but of course that’s not nearly enough to satisfy the more unabashedly leftist outfits. The Huffington Post called the proposal Trump’s “Biggest Insult To Women Yet,” which is really saying something after all those hours he spent yukking it up on Howard Stern’s shock jock radio show, and gleefully reported that Trump’s private businesses haven’t always been so generous as he now insists the American public must be.
Even the more bottom-line minded business press acknowledged that Trump’s plan for the rest of us is parsimonious by international standards. Fortune Magazine’s headline admitted that “Donald Trump’s Maternity Leave Plan Keeps US in Last Place Among Peers,” while Business Insider could only muster the enthusiasm for “No cheers for Trump’s child care plan — one cheer for maternity leave,” and every objective source seemed to agree that there wasn’t enough of Trump’s targeted “waste and fraud” in the current programs to pay for even such a parsimonious entitlement expansion. Every objective source also acknowledged that Trump was once again lying when said that Clinton hadn’t offered maternity leave policy “and never will,” as Clinton had offered her policy more than year ago, but they further admitted that her proposals weren’t a whole lot closer to those international standards.
Over on the right, the reaction was mixed at best, with few Republican office-holders and no past Republican nominees hopping on board. Conservatism has long been against any big government entitlement policies but also very much pro-procreation, so even such a NeverTrump redoubt of the true faith as National Review was making a case that “Paid Maternity Leave Should Not be Ignored by the Right,” complete with data about female workforce participation and the fact that America is the only industrialized country in the world without a generous paid maternity leave policy, but such rock-ribbed sorts as ourselves found it unconvincing. We’re pro-procreation but in an old-fashioned family sense, and we’re not sure what incentives these maternity leave policies might provide given the current cultural trends, and we don’t buy into that all-the-other-industrialized-countries-are-doing-it nonsense. Such formerly rock-ribbed types as Rush Limbaugh are reluctantly concluding it’s good politics, but there’s still a few of us who aren’t willing to concede that big government entitlement ground.
Luckily for Trump, he and Clinton and her slightly-less-big-government proposals will likely be overshadowed by her “deplorables” comment and her health problems and her slipping poll numbers.

— Bud Norman