Democrats have taken two high-profile casualties this week in the war over sexual misconduct, while Republicans, at least for now, are unscathed. That state of affairs doesn’t sit well with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, who worries about principled Dems putting themselves at a general competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis sleazy GOPers.
“Remember ‘when they go low, we go high?’ Yep. So do I,” wrote Lithwick on Wednesday. “I remembered it in the fall of 2016, when Senate Republicans…made it irrevocably clear there would be no hearing for anyone Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court, ever…I remembered it when Trump won, and we realized that that seat would stay stolen.
“I remembered it this week when the Senate passed a tax bill [that] was drafted in the margins rather than adjudicated through normal congressional standards, as, say, Obamacare was,” continued Lithwick. “And I remember it almost daily now,” with John Conyers and Al Franken departing “amid credible allegations of sexual harassment…while Roy Moore continues -- with the president’s and the GOP’s overt endorsement -- his run for Senate amid credible allegations of sexual abuse of children.”
To Lithwick, the “larger concern is that becoming the party of high morality will allow Democrats to live with themselves but that the party is also self-neutering in the face of unprecedented threats, in part to do the right thing and in part to take ammunition away from the right -- a maneuver that never seems to work out these days.”
Lithwick stated that she’s not asking anyone “to become tolerant of awful behavior,” then commented, “Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it?”
Democrats, she declared, need to get real (bolding added):
When it comes to the Senate, we play by the institutional rules and norms as they exist, even as those rules and norms devolve into empty shells. The alternative is a game of righteous ball, in which the object is pride and purity, and Dems are the only ones playing…
Who knows why the GOP has lost its last ethical moorings? But this is a perfectly transactional moment in governance, and what we get in exchange for being good and moral right now is nothing. I’m not saying we should hit pause on #MeToo, or direct any less fury at sexual predators in their every manifestation. But we should understand that while we know that our good faith and reasonableness are virtues, we currently live in a world where it’s also a handicap.
Unilateral disarmament is tantamount to arming the other side. That may be a trade worth making in some cases. But it’s worth at least acknowledging that this is the current calculus. It’s no longer that when they go low, we get to go high. They are permanently living underground. How long can we afford to keep living in the clouds?