Apparently Democrats in Washington were watching the Golden Globes this weekend, and are feeling inspired. Looking ahead to one of the biggest nights for politics — the State of the Union address on Jan. 30 — they apparently plan to crib from Hollywood’s playbook.
At the first major award show since the Harvey Weinstein reckoning, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements protesting sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and elsewhere made impressive showings.
For those of us who groan when Hollywood celebrities use their 30-second acceptance speeches to make tangential and self-righteous bumper-sticker political statements about name-your-cause, this was different. This was an industry making a collective statement about that industry to that industry, and not a moment too soon. In attendance were actual activists in the movement as well as a number of — though far too few — victims of sexual assault and harassment by Hollywood bigwigs.
But, as far as we know, there are no plans in Washington to invite activists in the #MeToo movement to attend as guests of lawmakers. There are certainly no plans to invite the victims of sexual harassment and assault by ousted lawmakers Sen. Al Franken or Rep. John Conyers — though wouldn’t that be something?
Instead, Washington Democrats are picking up on the least effective and least serious form of protest by #TimesUp at the Globes: wearing black.
The Democratic Women’s Working Group, which includes all Democratic women in the House, is inviting men and women to don the mourning color for President Trump’s upcoming State of the Union address to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment.
“This is a culture change that is sweeping the country, and Congress is embracing it,” Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier told NBC News.
The culture change that’s sweeping the country has nothing to do with fashion. If lawmakers from either side of the aisle were truly interested in embracing #MeToo or #TimesUp, they’d do a heck of a lot more than wear black.
As I said of the symbolic fashion statement at the Globes, who cares? What does that change? If you’re a truckstop waitress or migrant worker who’s been sexually abused by her boss, why does what Barbra Streisand or Kate Hudson wore to the Globes matter to you? Likewise, if you’re a staffer whose boss in Congress touched you inappropriately or repeatedly propositioned you for sex, will you feel comforted by Nancy Pelosi’s black pantsuit?
Making this all the more cringeworthy is the way Democrats in Congress have handled allegations of sexual harassment and assault in their own party.
It took weeks to acknowledge the allegations against Conyers, and Pelosi herself fumbled that response, first defending his “iconic” status, then suggesting two accusers were somehow insufficient proof, then finally mustering the courage to suggest the then-hospitalized 88-year-old should probably resign his post.
When it came to Franken, Democrats were unsure what to say. Some thought the claims were unfounded. Others thought they weren’t egregious. Only after public pressure mounted — and eight accusers had come forward — did Democrats organize around a call to resign. On the Senate floor, Franken himself sounded less contrite than miffed that he got caught and was being pushed out.
It was hardly the brave defense of women that the so-called party of women purports to represent. To the contrary, it was flatfooted, calculated and cowardly.
Of course, Republicans have to answer for their own mess, a mess named Roy Moore. Though many Republicans in Congress demanded he step aside in the Alabama Senate race, too many were willing to overlook multiple charges of child molestation in order to win that seat.
But if Democrats think wearing black to Trump’s State of the Union will make their efforts to address sexual misconduct in Congress look any more serious, they are wrong.
Gimmicks like this are little more than shallow virtue-signaling. And it’s hardly the first offense. The same Democratic Women’s Working Group pulled a similar stunt at the last State of the Union address, when they just as meaninglessly wore white clothing they dubbed “suffragette white” to “unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women,” as Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, chair of the working group, said at the time.
If lawmakers want to make a bold statement at the State of the Union, they should invite accusers as their dates for the night and stand side-by-side with them. Not just Conyers’, Franken’s and Moore’s accusers, but President Trump’s and Bill Clinton’s too. How about it?
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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